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Southeast Asia forum

Planning a trip to SEA and have some questions

Posted by Solius on 8/3/2013 at 06:29

I've recently decided to quit my job and go travelling in SEA. I was wondering if anyone had any advice on things like the best places to go, where to avoid, etc.. and just general tips on travelling as this is the first time I'll be doing something like this so I've no idea where to start planning.

A few questions I have off the top of my head:

I'm thinking I just get a one way ticket out to somewhere and then just go from hostel to hostel from there? Is that how it works?

How much money would I need to spend for about 5 or 6 months out there? I'm thinking of going to Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. At the moment I have £2k saved up, and know I will need more.

When is the best time to go? I really want to go as soon as I can but have read about monsoon season. What exactly happens then and is it just isolated to certain places? I was thinking of going in June/July til late November, early December time.


#1 Solius has been a member since 8/3/2013. Posts: 4

Posted by exacto on 8/3/2013 at 22:04

Hi Solius,

Congratulations on quitting your job and setting out for southeast Asia. Picking an arrival city and then making up your plan as you go along works just fine. That way you can stay in a place as long as you like and move on when you are ready. Just be aware of what your visa needs will be for each country so you can plan ahead and not get caught short.

Typical cost for backpacker-level travel seems to be in the $35 per day range. Some folks do it for less. I tend to spend about $50 per day, which is a very comfortable "flashpacker" level.

Monsoon season varies by region, so if you do a bit of research you can pick a travel route that avoid the biggest rains. Regards.

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Posted by Geer1 on 9/3/2013 at 01:16

I just got back from a 4 month trip through those countries.

I was aiming for $30 a day for everything except for overhead costs like flights, vaccinations, insurance and visas etc. This $30 was imo just enough although I had to make exceptions to do or see some top activities (Fishing Trip, Temples of Angkor, Diving, Mountain Climbing and more that I chose not to do because of price). This was based on me staying in 1 place just long enough to see most of the main sights with the odd extra day to relax and also was based on my lack of social drinking/partying. If you travel slowly with lots of time to relax in places then $30 will be easier as days that you aren't spending money on travelling or entrance fees etc are easier to save money on. If you like to go to bars and drink/party $30 will not be enough you aren't looking at sights etc as well. I often stayed in lower quality housing, took more local transport, travelled at a reasonable pace and ate cheap meals at local style restaurants(little western style food) and was counting dollars almost every day to make sure I would stay on track. So all that said if you are travelling quite slowly 30-35 is probably good, if doing the average sight seeing speed then 40 would make things quite comfortable and would probably even be able to fit in more tours etc.

One comment is that 5-6 months seems quite overkill for just those 4 countries unless you are planning on settling down in a place or two for say a months time. My 4 months included 1 month volunteering and although I could have used a little more time in Thailand and Cambodia to see everything it was a pretty good pace. My recommendation if you wanted to see pretty much everything would probably be 6 weeks in Thailand, 3 weeks in Laos, 3 weeks in Cambodia and 4 maybe 5 weeks in Vietnam which would only be around 4 months. That said you can easily add Myanmar and or Malaysia to this trip as well(even Indonesia, Philippines if you travel a little quicker) if you want to be travelling that long.

Climates are quite tricky as each country and even regions of individual countries are different. Best bet is to set up an idea of your itinerary in each country then figure out how to tie each country together and what country and date to start travelling on in order to have decent weather for most of your trip. Be careful with Vietnam in particular as the central, north and south all are different and you will have to make some sort of trade off most likely. Leaving in the time you are thinking you will have to be careful as I believe that will be common monsoon season in a fair bit of the area(monsoon ends in Oct-Nov in many areas if I remember correctly).

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Posted by Solius on 11/3/2013 at 06:09

Thanks for the advice, really appreciate it. Yeah I do now think 6 months will be too long and am looking at something more like 4 months now.

I've been looking up the weather and it seems September and October are the wettest months, right before it gets popular again. I like the idea of going at peak times but I also like the idea of going when it's quiet and cheaper. So I was thinking maybe going out mid September and coming back mid December so I can experience a bit of both.

Some sites say the rains can just be for an hour a day, is it still pretty hot during the likes of Sept and October? I have this image in my head of it raining every day but I'm sure it's not that bad.

Also, might be a silly question but what do I take with me luggage-wise, just a backpack? How do you wash your clothes and things like that?

#4 Solius has been a member since 8/3/2013. Posts: 4

Posted by TimmyG on 11/3/2013 at 10:15

I am planning the exact same trip as soon it is possible for me to go. Probably that will be around the same time as you, so starting in de rainy season. While I don't like planning too much, I do have an idea to travel and to avoid the rainy season as much as possible. In August it will be harder to avoid and that's why i will be starting in Bangkok and travel towards Chiang Mai. In 20 or 30 days I will return to Bangkok and fly to Ho Chi Minh City, going upwards in Vietnam, avoiding the rainy season in southern Vietnam (however larger risk for Typhoons). From Hanoi I will travel to Laos, at the time the dry season will be starting (end October / November) and travel downwards to Cambodia. All in all, I think this will take me 3 to 4 months. After that I will choose between Malaysia&Singapore, Myanmar and Sumatra and end my trip on the beaches in southern Thailand.
This might not be the itinerary most people do, but hopefully I will avoid heavy rains this way. As I am already sure that there will be some (maybe extremely) heavy rainy days, I will be prepared. That is the risk when going to SEA at that time.

So the only things I will be planning beforehand are my return ticket from Bangkok, a ticket from Bangkok to HCMC (as a ticket also will be needed for the visum) and the first hostel in Bangkok. After that, all other things i will just go from hostel to hostel.

#5 TimmyG has been a member since 11/3/2013. Posts: 6

Posted by Solius on 11/3/2013 at 10:29

Sounds good. So if I was going out there in late September do you know where would be best to start? I'd probably fly into Bangkok.

#6 Solius has been a member since 8/3/2013. Posts: 4

Posted by TimmyG on 11/3/2013 at 11:03

I think starting somewhere in the north. I think the itinerary Bangkok - Chiang Mai - Luang Prabang - Vientiane - Hanoi - HCMC - Pnom Penh - Siem Reap might be best. I was considering this as well, but I would really like to see southern Laos as well as northern Laos ( Muang Ngoi ) without backtravelling too much. Therefore Hanoi - Sapa - Muang Ngoi - Luang Prabang will be best for me (and it looks like quite an adventure).

#7 TimmyG has been a member since 11/3/2013. Posts: 6

Posted by Geer1 on 11/3/2013 at 11:25

Monsoon season in most of those areas to my understanding is rain almost every day for a few hours in the evening. I am sure it is doable but if you can avoid the rain that would be best(I went from mid Nov to beginning of Mar and had only a couple of days ruined by rain) imo. Unfortunately end of Sept, Oct is monsoon season in pretty much all of SEA. I am guessing northern Thailand and Laos would be more bearable during this time(although travel in Laos will be bad) so if you are set on it I would probably start in Bangkok head north then over into Laos then over to Vietnam down the coast through Cambodia and back into Thailand where you can then go south and if you want into Malaysia and then back to Bangkok.

As for laundry, it is always easy to find places willing to do laundry for around $1/kg. Most guest houses offer this service otherwise there is usually a place just down the street.

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Posted by MADMAC on 11/3/2013 at 23:21

I would go in November. Keep the job and save some more until then. It gets much cooler then, and the rainy season comes to an end in most areas where you are thinking of travelling. It will be hot by the time you leave of course. But mostly dry. We have periods here of continuous rain for up to five days in the rainy season and it can be pretty annoying.

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Posted by Solius on 21/3/2013 at 17:06

So I've booked my flights. I'm flying out to Bangkok on the 4th November and flying back 4th March so four months out there. I'm now focusing on a general itinerary. Is there a generally good route to take?

The main thing I'm trying to work out is I've potentially got a friend who will fly out to meet me over the Christmas period. So I'm looking for the best places to be during Christmas and New Year that hopefully will fit into my itinerary. For example if the best place to be is Thailand I'm guessing I won't be there two months into my trip. So is there a good route with this in mind?

Thanks for all the help so far from everyone who's replied. Really appreciate it.

#10 Solius has been a member since 8/3/2013. Posts: 4

Posted by Geer1 on 21/3/2013 at 20:22

Your trip is almost the exact time frame as mine, I started on Nov 14th and also ended Mar 4th. I went south then flew to Chiang Mai then went east into Laos, down through Laos into Cambodia and then up the coast of Vietnam and then flew from Hanoi back to Bangkok and then back home.

Your trip itinerary depends on the type of things you want to see and do, are you mainly a partier type, want to soak up the culture and local life, check out the different scenery and ruins etc. Do you prefer mountains, jungle or beaches etc. Obviously on a 4 month trip you have time to do some of all of this but you can orient it so you do more of one thing then another. Let us know a little more about your preferences and any target places you want to go and will help try and figure out a good itinerary.

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