Photo: Street food Phetchaburi Soi 10, Bangkok.

Southeast Asia forum

The cheapest way to get around South East Asia?

Posted by sarahjmac on 19/3/2013 at 14:32

Hi there

I'm planning to go to South East Asia in mid-August/September time, I'll be travelling on my own and as I'm starting to plan my trip I could really do with some advice about transport. I am planning to fly to Thailand then travel to Laos, Cambodia, back to Thailand (possibly) then down to Malaysia, Bali and I will eventually be off to Australia.

Now I'm planning to be sensible with my money and will try and make it stretch as far as possible so I can visit and explore more places than just splashing out. I imagine I will be out there for 3-4 months but this is just an estimate.

So my questions are..

Am I being realistic trying to visit all these places?
What are some good/inexpensive routes to take?
What routes are worth spending a little more money on?
And what sort of budget would you recommend on this sort of trip? (not including once I have got to Australia)
Any general advice about getting around for a female solo traveller!


#1 sarahjmac has been a member since 6/3/2013. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 4

Posted by JaiYen88 on 19/3/2013 at 15:45

You can see plenty in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia in 2 or 3 months. Just fly into Bangkok and you can get trains / buses everywhere after that.

Budget-wise, you can get on very well with €1000 / month, but you could do it for much less. It depends if you are going to be doing a lot of tourist activities like riding elephants etc., and buying lots of souvenirs. All over Thailand, Lao and Cambodia you can get meals for €1-€4 and accommodation for €4 - €10. Of course you can pay more for more luxury! Most bus / train journeys will cost max. €15 for 12 - 14 hour overnight journeys, less for shorter ones.

You might want to use your 30 day visa for Thailand first, because crossing into Thailand overland gets you a 15 day visa, whereas arriving by air gets you 30days, so a good idea could be to go from Bangkok to the south of Thailand, maybe to some islands in the Gulf (Koh Tao, Pha-Ngan, Samui), or in the Andaman Sea (Koh Phi Phi, Lanta, Phuket), then see some places on the mainland around Krabi / Surat Thani.

Then you could head back north on an AirAsia flight or train, rest in Bangkok for a night or two then head north, either to Chiang Mai in northwest Thailand or Vientiane in Laos. Heading north from Vientiane you could stop in Vang Vieng, then go on to Luang Prabang , then make your way south again to Vientiane by bus if you wanted to explore the southern half of Laos. Alternatively you could fly from Luang Prabang straight to Siem Reap in Cambodia with Lao Airlines, which is expensive but saves a lot of time and effort if you wanted to get there quick.

In Cambodia you could see Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville and maybe go to an island like Koh Rong, before heading back to Bangkok for an onward flight / train to Malaysia!

#2 JaiYen88 has been a member since 25/4/2012. Posts: 110

Posted by sarahjmac on 20/3/2013 at 07:00

Thanks so much for the advice, I'm looking into all the places you have suggested for me! I will definitely do Thailand first due to the 30 day Visa then I'm thinking of going up to Laos, down to Cambodia (by bus/trains) and back to Bangkok where I will get a train to Kuala Lumpur and eventually Singapore. Then I want to fly to Bali and stay there for a while before flying to Australia to start my adventures there.

Thank you for your time and effort in replying to me :)

#3 sarahjmac has been a member since 6/3/2013. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 4

Posted by JaiYen88 on 20/3/2013 at 09:49

Hey no problem, glad to help!

I just noticed that you're going in August / September, which I must warn you is the height of the rainy season in Thai/Lao/Cambodia...

Rainy season doesn't mean you can't go out or that it's flooded all the time, but it will make an impact on how much you can see and do, and how long it takes you to get around. For example, in Lao in September, it will be grey skies and raining pretty much every day (short downpours rather than constant drizzle like we're used to), and this will have an effect on roads and travel times since it's a mountainous country and the roads aren't in great condition.

The rainy season varies slightly from place to place, for example the Gulf of Thailand experiences a later rainy season that say the Andaman sea, or Bangkok. So in August, you're likely to have sunshine in Koh Tao while it pours rain in Phuket only a couple of hundred kms away!

My advice here would be to think carefully about your route, since there are a few concerns about travelling in rainy season. Nothing life-or-death, but they will make a significant difference to your experience. The three main things are: increased difficulty getting around, both long and short distances, due to potential flooding, increased mosquitoes which is annoying for obvious reasons, and occasionally being stuck inside due to heavy rain. All the main tourist spots (everywhere I have mentioned is well on the beaten track) have decent infrastructure so you aren't going to be dealing with anything too major, but chances are you will be affected by the rain to some degree.

Here's a website with an interactive map where you can get an idea of the weather, country by country, month by month:

There's really nothing to be worried about, I just thought you should be aware of what to expect.
Hope I haven't dampened your spirits (sorry I had to) :)

#4 JaiYen88 has been a member since 25/4/2012. Posts: 110

Posted by sarahjmac on 20/3/2013 at 11:44

You haven't dampened my spirits, don't worry! I did actually think about the weather when I began planning but I think I got so unbelievably excited and carried away that I seemed to forget all about it! I know weather can be hit and miss but as you said it may be worthwhile re-routing so I can get the most out of my travels.

Perhaps starting by flying into Bali (Mid September - October)
Then flying to Singapore, explore Malaysia (Most of October)
Making my way up by train to get to Thailand (Late October - Mid November)
Visiting Laos And Cambodia (Mid November - Mid December)
Make my way back to Bangkok to fly to Australia.

These dates are just a vague idea and will probably change once I'm out there, but perhaps doing my route backwards means I am more likely to miss the worst of the weather? (Knowing my luck the rain will probably follow me wherever I go but it's worth a try!)

One of the things I'm getting slightly confused about is the Visa for Thailand. As with this route I will be entering on land and I won't get a 30 day visa and I also will probably need to reenter Thailand to catch a flight to Australia. I understand they do a double entry Visa?

Thanks again!

#5 sarahjmac has been a member since 6/3/2013. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 4

Posted by MADMAC on 20/3/2013 at 12:08

Well the chepapest way would be to walk. But I'm not sure that's realistic.

#6 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by sarahjmac on 20/3/2013 at 12:12

Thanks, I will bear that in mind.

#7 sarahjmac has been a member since 6/3/2013. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 4

Posted by JaiYen88 on 20/3/2013 at 23:34

Starting in Bali then working your way north could work out very nicely! It makes a lot of sense since the worst of rainy season is over by the time you reach Thailand etc.

Re the visa, if you are spending a month or more in Thailand you can do a visa run whenever each 15 day stamp runs out. For example you could spend 2 weeks in the south of Thailand after coming from Malaysia, then do a run into Myanmar at Ranong (read about that here From there you could work your way up and perhaps nip out to a border crossing somewhere else to extend for another 15 days if you want to stay longer.

As far as I know a double-entry visa will require a visit to a Thai embassy or consulate, but the information is a bit confusing on where you can apply for these. I have read that the Thai government have restricted who can issue 60 days visas to stop people living in Thailand indefinitely on tourist visas, meaning that it's difficult to get them in neighbouring countries. So have a read around, but the simplest thing might just be to do one or two visa runs every 15 days!

#8 JaiYen88 has been a member since 25/4/2012. Posts: 110

Posted by MADMAC on 20/3/2013 at 23:43

Kind of like this:

#9 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

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