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Southeast Asia forum

6 month SE Asia Trip-info appreciated!

Posted by chicoelnino on 2/1/2011 at 08:30

Hi everyone,

Myself and my girlfriend will be heading to SE. Asia in June for 6 months in total. I would like to use this thread to ask questions regarding itineary, travel info, money issues and other general stuff.

First off, we are from Ireland. And we've been asked by some close friends to go to their wedding in Singapore at the start of june. So we aim to head to Singapore and then start our trip after the wedding.

Thing is, we are not sure if its better to fly in and out of Bangkok, and then get a flight to singapore, or to fly in/out of kuala lumpur and travel by bus/train to Singapore?

Regarding money, after we pay for our flights/insurance/vaccines etc, we will have $12,000 between the two of us for the 6 month trip. Will this be enough? We are not party animals and don't drink much. We like basic accommodation as long as its safe, clean and comfortable. The odd bit of flashpacking isn't out of the question :)

At this stage, we are just beginning to research/plan our trip by looking up the likes of travelfish and other forums for info.

One issue we already are very concerned about is the money one. As in how do we bring our money?
From what I've read their seems to be different opinions on how to bring your money - traveller cheques/band cards/credit cards......

I have no problem bringing bank cards but then we will get hammered with transaction fees every time we withdraw, and also the possibility of the bank card getting damaged etc..and not been able to withdraw.

We are experienced travellers, but never been to Asia before. We travelled Africa for 3 months last year, but we brought all our money with us in US dollars and exchanged it as we went...., but we don't want to do that for this trip for obvious reasons.

Any help you guys/girls can provide will be appreciated, and will be a big help in kick starting our 5 months of research.

Ohh, forgot to mention where we would like to visit/travel....

Malaysia(some of it)
Indonesia(some of it)

Thanks again :)

#1 chicoelnino has been a member since 17/9/2010. Posts: 66
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Posted by busylizzy on 2/1/2011 at 10:21

Hi.... in terms of whether it's best to fly in/out of Singapore or Bkk... I don't think that it matters, unless you have the cost advantage of a return flight. But given you are travelling for 6 months, and that most return flight deals require you to return with 2 months or so, I would tend to fly direct to Singapore (for the wedding), then aim to fly out of the city that you expect to end up in. If you don't know, then book it closer to the time. If you flew into KL, you will then have a 4-5 hour bus ride to Singapore.

In terms of money, you nailed it on the head when you said that there different opinions. For what it's worth, this is what I did on my 5-month trip. I got maybe USD$500 in cash (some in $100's, and some in $20's) that I carried with me plus enough Singapore dollars to last me my 3 days there. I also carried an ATM and a credit card (plus a spare one of each, just in case. This turned out to be a good move as I stupidly lost my wallet on the first day, and they held me over until a friend arrived a month later and brought me replacement cards from home).

On arrival in Bali (after Singapore) I converted a small amount of that USD cash into local currency at the airport, to pay for the taxi. I was going to be in Indonesia for 2 months, so needed to find an ATM machine that allowed LARGE withdrawals. This is important - some ATM's that only allowed 1,200,000 rupiah per transaction, and others allowed 3,000,000 - but they were harder to find. This has a big impact on your per-transaction cost.

I mostly relied on ATM's throughout the trip, withdrawing enough cash to get me by for 1-2 weeks, and used the USD only when needed. The bank fees hurt, but it's better than losing 6-months worth of money along the way.

I used my credit card for any large purchases and online bookings. I needed a particularly large amount of USD in Vietnam for a motorbike tour that we were going on, so I went online to transfer enough cash into my credit card (to avoid massive interest) then pulled the USD out at a local bank. It was an easy enough process, and because I got enough to cover the costs for 2 of us, we shared the incurred charges.

Consider opening a joing account with your girlfriend, and get at ATM card each. (This becomes your backup). Draw enough cash out to cover both of you - and split the money between you. That spreads the risk, and reduces the transaction fees (on theory). And always pull out the maximum amount you can.

Carry most of your cash in your money belt, carry some in your wallet (to cover your expenses for the day - avoids flashing big wads of cash around), and tuck some into a secret hiding place in your backpack. I tucked some into the bottom of my toiletry bag - this was for emergencies only, and it ended up coming home with me.

Be careful when leaving Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos - you want to get rid of any local currency before you leave, because it's not worth much (if anything) outside the country.

Hope that helps!

#2 busylizzy has been a member since 31/12/2007. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 2,153
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Posted by eastwest on 2/1/2011 at 10:56


Mostly agree with what lizzy stated on general strategy and $2000 between the two of you will be enough and allows for the occasional splurge.

Do consider opening an account at a bank that has a strong presence in the region (ANZ or any other) because in 6 months you will make a lot of withdrawals. Costs of opening an account is far less than all the transaction fees. ANZ ATMs can be found in most major towns and when withdrawing there it's much cheaper.
If you have an ANZ in Ireland it's even easier or otherwise open account locally in Thailand or Cambodia.
That way you save on those withdrawal fees and you can keep you international card as back-up.

#3 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778
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Posted by chicoelnino on 6/1/2011 at 21:37

thanks for the replies, some good solid info.

I was thinking of going down the route of putting all our money onto a visa credit card as I'm told the transaction fees are not as big as atm cards? And also visa is more widely accepted than mastercard in asia.

I'm sure its possible to get a second credit card(same account) as a back up in case I lost or damaged the first one?

#4 chicoelnino has been a member since 17/9/2010. Posts: 66
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