Southeast Asia forum

The Region Trip vs something like Intrepid Tour

  • biojack

    Joined Travelfish
    15th January, 2012
    Posts: 2

    This is a fantastic website! I have been learning so much in the last two days. I was wondering if anyone would be able to estimate the cost of and time needed to organize my own tour like the Intrepid Great Indochina Loop. I just recently became unemployed and I think this is a great opportunity to travel. If I go to SE Asia I might only be able to do a single trip and I'd like to see a few places in each countries on the loop. I decided to put my belonging in storage and I'd like to get on a plane in a week or two. Now I think that if I had time I'd be able to plan my own using the resources on this site but since I need to move out this week and I have tons of other stuff to deal with the idea of getting something already planned (Intrepid Tour) seems interesting. I believe their entire loop would cost me about US$2300 + $500 for non included meals for 29 days since I'm eligible for a "last minute" deal. It includes pretty much everything else including two flights. Since many here are experts in the SE Asia "lone traveler" field I'm wondering if anyone would be able to provide a rough estimate of that planning a similar trip on your own might cost and how long it might take. It would be great if someone that has done both the Intrepid tour and travel on your own thing could also comment on their experience.

    #1 Posted: 22/1/2012 - 05:07

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  • SBE

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    "I believe their entire loop would cost me about US$2300 + $500 for non included meals for 29 days since I'm eligible for a "last minute" deal. It includes pretty much everything else including two flights."

    No it doesn't. It doesn't include your visa fees!

    http://www.intrepidtravel.com/tripnotes/TKSV/2012-01-01#Visas


    Scroll down the page and see what Intrepid say about the Vietnam visa.

    "When obtaining your visa you should allow 3 weeks for processing, the cost is approximately US$60 to US$100"

    You want to leave in one or two weeks right? Unfortunately Vietnam embassies everywhere will be closed all this week because of the Tet (new year) holiday. How are you going to get your Vietnam visa in time to do this trip with Intrepid?

    Also note what they say about the Laos visa... seems you'll have to pay considerably more than other tourists (up to $60) simply because you're traveling in a group rather than independently. Normal visa fee is $30-$42 depending on your nationality.

    The way I see it, the total cost for this 29 day trip will be in excess of $3000, plus the cost of a return ticket to Bangkok. That's quite a lot for someone who's just become unemployed, especially if you find you can't do the Vietnam part because you haven't managed to get your visa sorted!

    $3000 is enough to travel for two months in SE Asia quite comfortably, and you would be able to get a Vietnam visa in Bangkok because you won't be traveling on such a tight schedule. (Think it normally takes 3 days, probably costs less there than what Intrepid quotes as well.)

    You don't actually need to plan where you'll be every single day in advance either. Much better to travel according to how you feel.Transport is very easy to arrange when you feel like moving on. You'll no doubt find you want to stay longer than planned in some places and cut short stays in others. You just need a general idea of what you might like to see and how long it'll take. Have a look at the suggested itineraries on TF for ideas, they give approximate time frames too.

    http://www.travelfish.org/trip_planner/

    The only problem about spending two months rather than one month is that the airline bringing you to Bangkok will probably demand proof on an onward destination from Thailand within 30 days before they let you board the plane. (Either that or you have to pay for a proper 60 day tourist visa). Proof of an onward destination out of Thailand means a flight ticket out of Thailand (bus or train tickets won't do). Air Asia is the main budget carrier for the region. They have flights to Hanoi, Ho Cho Minh and Phnom Penh which are all on the Intrepid itinerary so maybe you could figure out a logical route involving one of those places.

    Oh and check the weather. I've a feeling it's quite cold and wet in Halong Bay at this time of year!

    #2 Posted: 22/1/2012 - 22:04

  • biojack

    Joined Travelfish
    15th January, 2012
    Posts: 2

    Thanks, this is very useful information. While yesterday I just assumed that the visa would be taken care off as I enter the different countries I did read today that it might be a little more challenging for Vietnam. I guess I could always apply in Bangkok before heading for a week or two in the south and get the visa on my way back. I should point out for those reading this blog that the Intrepid loop actually brings you back all the way to Bangkok.

    I am a little worried about traveling alone since it's my first time in Asia and I'll certainly look like a tourist with my 6'2 frame and my skin almost pure white for not having seen the sun in cold Canada in a long time. I'll also have my relatively big backpack. (Tried to get a small one that I could take as a carry-on but my back is too tall) Would you recommend against taking a larger camera with some fancy lenses? For some reason I feel with a group It would be safer... I'd like to use this trip to enjoy my passion for photography so all this and the fact that I only have a few day to plan worries me a little.

    I'll look into Air Asia. What is the easiest way to book flights and find accommodation if you are not traveling with a phone?

    Also, I guess it is a little more challenging to travel in Asia with only a credit card. For cash, is it easy to find ATMs (bank machine)? For some reason I imagine not seeing to many bank machines outside the big city. Any recommendation?

    I realize I have many questions here that deviate away from my original post... Hopefully that's alright.

    #3 Posted: 22/1/2012 - 22:42

  • SBE

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    No problem it's your thread, ask away.

    'I am a little worried about traveling alone since it's my first time in Asia.

    Don't be, you'll be surprised how easy and safe it is. Loads of people travel solo around SE Asia, even little old ladies, and you're still going to look like a tourist even with a suntan. You won't be the only one about either, particularly if you choose to do a hyper touristy itinerary like the one Intrepid suggests. BTW, some of their place descriptions left me wondering whether they'd actually ever been to the places themselves.

    eg. Day 9-10. Vang Vieng .
    "Get active among the limestone cliffs or simply relish the serenity of Vang Vieng."

    Relish the serenity of Vang Vieng??? WTF. Watch this video of the tourist scene in Vang Vieng and see if the word "serenity" immediately springs into your mind.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8h_9G6jj-QA&feature=gv

    Although it may seem counter intuitive to you, the places where you are surrounded by other westerners are the ones where you tend to be most at risk. Hordes of tourists attract low life looking for easy pickings and silly foreigners who get totally wasted are the easiest targets of all. Plus your risk of getting seriously injured is considerably enhanced if you're stoned and/or drunk. People regularly drown while tubing in Vang Vieng or fracture their skulls on rocks and if you go to islands like Ko Tao or Ko Phangan you'll see a lot of youngsters hobbling about on crutches after motorbike accidents. Basically most the risk is self generated. SE Asia is a very safe part of the world to travel in if you act reasonably sensibly. In my experience the further you are from hordes of fellow tourists, the safer it gets. Don't be afraid to wander off the beaten track if you feel like it.

    Backpack. OK so you already have a large backpack. Try not to fill it up too much then! Even large backpacks don't weigh much if they're half empty. It'll probably have mysteriously filled up by the time you go back home anyway.

    If you're a passionate photographer then yes, I'd say take your good camera with you. A basic point and shoot might be frustrating, particularly if this is your one and only chance to visit SE Asia. The chances of someone stealing it are pretty low if you take basic precautions. Problem with a big camera is that it's bulky and heavy to carry about and not as easy to whip out and take a quick unexpected shot as a small camera. The moment is over by the time you've got the big camera out. Humidity is often high in SE Asia so try and get some silica sachets to put in the camera bag and find some way of protecting it from rain and dust etc. (Eg a large ziplock bag if your camera case isn't a waterproof enough)

    Air Asia. As I tried to explain in my previous post, if you haven't got a return flight home within 30 days, you'd need to book an onward flight and print out a ticket BEFORE you leave Canada. You'll need to show it to your airline before boarding your flight from Canada to Bangkok to prove that you have onward travel out of Thailand on or before the free 30 day entry stamp expires. If for some reason Thai Immigration refused to let you enter the country because you didn't have the correct travel documents (extremely unlikely, they never check) the airline would be obliged to transport you back home again at their expense and they don't want to risk that. Once you're in Asia there's usually no problem... I've never been asked to provide proof of onward travel flying into Thailand from a neighboring country anyway.

    A phone is quite useful for keeping in contact with family, new friends you're bound to meet, booking rooms, contacting your insurance in case of emergencies etc. If you don't already own a phone, you can get cheap new unlocked ones for about $30 in Bangkok and there are loads of second hand phones available. The locals are also very good at unlocking phones. Local simcards are very cheap and you can buy phone credit in any convenience store.

    If you don't have a smartphone or a netbook then you can either book flights on a public computer in an internet cafe (bit risky as they're often heaving with viruses etc) or buy through a travel agent (and pay small commission for the service no doubt). Or make friends with someone who owns a laptop...many tourists carry one because there's wifi practically everywhere nowadays.

    There are ATMs everywhere in Thailand, except on some of the islands where you'd need to stock up with Baht before going. Foreign credit cards get charged a 150B fee every time you withdraw money from an ATM in Thailand so it's more economical to withdraw large sums. Can't help much with the other countries. Vietnam is the one country in SE Asia that I haven't got round to visiting yet and I haven't been to Cambodia or Laos for years. The latter two didn't have any ATMs when I was there but I'm pretty sure they have them now. Do a search on the site and better answers to all your money queries should come up!

    #4 Posted: 23/1/2012 - 07:24

  • busylizzy

    Joined Travelfish
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    Location New Zealand
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    You've had some awesome advice from SBE and there's not much for me to add really - but I just wanted to give you a second 'vote' for doing it on your own.

    The Intrepid tours are good for those that are on a time-limited journey - ie they only have 3 weeks of vacation time and just want to have everything organised for them so that they can get on with the journey and not waste time making travel and accom arrangements.

    But if you have the luxury of time, going out on your own is a far better and enriching experience. You have flexibility to change your travel plans as you go, and to get off the beaten trail, etc. And you will save a small fortune in money - which means you can travel for longer!

    ATM's are readily available in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos now. Sometimes you just have to be a bit organised to stock up on cash if you are spending extended time in more remote areas, but it's never a big problem.

    In terms if Vietnam visa - if you arrive by air, you can get a visa on arrival. You can apply for a pre-approval letter days before you are due to arrive, print it out and take it with you to hand over at the airport when you pick up your visa. This won't work if you are travelling with Intrepid obviously, but keep it in mind if you decide to do it on your own. There's plenty of info in the forums about how to get the pre-approval letter.

    Asia is very safe to travel on your own - for both women and men. It's very easy to get around so doing it on your own is very simple. You will probably want to stick to the main tourist routes initially as you get comfortable with the concept of backpacking but you will quickly get the hang of it.

    Yes, bring your SLR camera. I often bring two cameras - my SLR and a smaller point and shoot. In some places, I feel less conspicuous using the smaller camera. It's also easier to carry at all times whereas I sometimes want to leave the bigger SLR behind (eg when going out for dinner). Also, the smaller one records videos which I appreciated sometimes.

    The backpack: As SBE, do NOT be tempted to fill it up just because you can. I learned this lesson the hard way. Each trip now I take less and less. I haven't completely mastered it yet, but I'm definitely getting better and more ruthless about what I bring. It gets very tiresome very quickly lugging a big heavy pack around, especially in the sweltering humid heat, and jumping on/off longboats into the water as you arrive in the islands.

    Many people look at job redundancy/unemployment as a major setback in life. To me, it's an amazing opportunity to take some time out of your often otherwise mundane life to have an adventure! Good on you for grabbing the opportunity!

    OK - so much for not having much to add to SBE's comments!

    #5 Posted: 23/1/2012 - 13:16

  • Shoes4

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    SBE / BusyLizzie - some great advice. Like BioJack I really like this site and all the great tips etc people provide.

    Can I add to BioJack's post with more requests for advice?

    I am a 33 year old female and am travelling from the UK to the region by myself but really don't want to travel alone once there (I just have no one around me who either wants to travel or those who want to can't because of other commitments). I will be arriving in Bangkok mid April (possible during or more likely just after Songkran) and wondering best place to find fellow travellers who I can hook up with for travel around Thailand and into Cambodia. I will have around 6 weeks before I have a flight back to India to go on a trek in the Himalaya and then on homeward to the UK to find a job!

    Should I book at least one night before I arrive, which is what I have done when visiting Bali with a friend years back. My flight lands in around lunchtime so I could also try and find somewhere on the day. Any recommendations greatly appreciated.

    Also do you know if there is somewhere in BKK I can leave extra luggage I won't need whilst travelling - I will have some extra clothes and gifts for friends in India etc. which I don't want to lug around.

    Nimisha

    #6 Posted: 21/3/2012 - 12:11

  • Shoes4

    Click here to learn more about Shoes4
    Joined Travelfish
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    Location United Kingdom
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    SBE / BusyLizzie - some great advice. Like BioJack I really like this site and all the great tips etc people provide.

    Can I add to BioJack's post with more requests for advice?

    I am a 33 year old female and am travelling from the UK to the region by myself but really don't want to travel alone once there (I just have no one around me who either wants to travel or those who want to can't because of other commitments). I will be arriving in Bangkok mid April (possible during or more likely just after Songkran) and wondering best place to find fellow travellers who I can hook up with for travel around Thailand and into Cambodia. I will have around 6 weeks before I have a flight back to India to go on a trek in the Himalaya and then on homeward to the UK to find a job!

    Should I book at least one night before I arrive, which is what I have done when visiting Bali with a friend years back. My flight lands in around lunchtime so I could also try and find somewhere on the day. Any recommendations greatly appreciated.

    Also do you know if there is somewhere in BKK I can leave extra luggage I won't need whilst travelling - I will have some extra clothes and gifts for friends in India etc. which I don't want to lug around.

    Nimisha

    #7 Posted: 21/3/2012 - 12:20

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6375
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    "Relish the serenity of Vang Vieng ??? WTF. Watch this video of the tourist scene in Vang Vieng and see if the word "serenity" immediately springs into your mind."

    OK, this was really hillarious. I read serenity too and thought - it's not the word I would have used. Other words like psychotic, drunken, inebriated, high... all come to mind.

    #8 Posted: 21/3/2012 - 12:59

  • busylizzy

    Joined Travelfish
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    Location New Zealand
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    "Should I book at least one night before I arrive "

    It depends on your comfort level of traipsing around, how tired you will be after a long flight, etc. Personally, when arriving in the big cities (esp after a longhaul flight) I like to know where I'm going. I understand that it's easy enough to find a walk-in place in the Khao San Road area, but that's an area that I avoid

    "...somewhere in BKK I can leave extra luggage "

    There is storage at the airport but it's expensive (100bt/day I think), and not ideal for anything more than a day. There have been several threads about this in the past, and I think people have mentioned storage lockers, etc. Have a search in the Thailand forum and you should find them.

    "..wondering best place to find fellow travellers who I can hook up"


    I'm not the best one for this advice... However, in Bangkok, I guess it's the Khao San Road area which is where all the other backpackers hang out. If you stay there, you are bound to meet plenty others. Hopefully someone else will chime in here with more useful advice. Oh yeah - and you could always post in the'Companions' forum on this website and meet up with another Travelfisher.

    #9 Posted: 21/3/2012 - 14:05

  • Shoes4

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    Thanks Lizzie.

    " ...Khao San Road area, but that's an area that I avoid"

    I've heard a few people say they'd avoid KSR. In that case where would might you stay if you were new to the city. I should be breaking my journey and only have a four hour or so flight ahead of landing in BKK.

    #10 Posted: 26/3/2012 - 16:14

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  • busylizzy

    Joined Travelfish
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    On my first, I stayed at a hotel in Chinatown area - which was an interesting area to explore, and some awesome food opps (I forget the hotel now, but I booked it before I left home).

    Lately, I've stayed at Pinnacle Lumpinee when I can get a good deal on Agoda or Asiarooms booking sites. It's just a normal hotel, but I like the location (near Lumpinee Park, close to MRT, etc. More a flashpacker experience than backpacker though. There's nothing special about it and not a great place to meet other travellers. I was just too lazy to find an alteranative and it's where my friend wanted to stay.

    Another place recommended by others that I am keen to check out is KT Guest House - but this is probably not the best option if you are new to Bkk and want to see the standard touristy stuff to it's location.

    Not very helpful, I'm afraid... hopefully others will jump in!

    #11 Posted: 26/3/2012 - 16:52

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