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Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia forum

First Time Traveller... Help?!

Posted by ScottDon20 on 31/5/2015 at 16:45

Hi all,

Finding the task of making an itinerary a bit daunting. I am planning on travelling SE Asia in November, and intend on staying out there for 4 months potentially more depending on money.

I wish to visit the following countries : Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia.

Although there is a lot of information on here, I'm finding the finer details harder to come by, and the logistics of which is the best route to approach my plans.

Any advice on route and transport between my destinations. Im not looking to stray off the beaten track and just do the normal well known sites in each country. Any help would be greatly appreciated, thank you!

#1 ScottDon20 has been a member since 31/5/2015. Posts: 8

Posted by Captain_Bob on 1/6/2015 at 01:12

"Finding the task of making an itinerary a bit daunting"

Four months gives you a lot of wiggle room. All the planning you really need is where to fly in/out, money and visas. Most international flight options would be Bangkok. Check out Air Asia for regional. Vietnam requires a pre-obtained visa from a consulate (land entry) or a pre-approved visa online (air entry).

For example:

#2 Captain_Bob has been a member since 27/5/2006. Location: Thailand. Posts: 1,958

Posted by ScottDon20 on 1/6/2015 at 06:42

Hi Captain_Bob

Thanks so much for your reply. I think the task which I'm finding the hardest is which route to take for my chosen destinations. In which order would you, or anyone else out there suggest tackling these countries for ease of travel and for the best weather possible for each region between Nov-Feb.

The attraction of Laos hasn't enticed me enough to want to incorporate it into my travel plans, and because of this with the route that I have first looked at which entails me arriving in Bangkok then to Cambodia, followed by Vietnam and then travelling back down through Thailand and finally over to Indonesia. I am struggling to work out the logistics, and also the best method of getting from Hanoi to Chiang Mai? If anyone has done something similar or reccomends a different route to the one above please let me know?


#3 ScottDon20 has been a member since 31/5/2015. Posts: 8

Posted by Captain_Bob on 1/6/2015 at 07:40

If it's definitely limited to Nov-Feb I'd say go to Indonesia first thing before it gets rainy. (Dec-Feb is good weather for the other countries) Then fly back to Bangkok and begin your anti-clockwise circuit through Cambodia and Vietnam. From Hanoi you can go (for example) to Sapa, Dien Bien Phu to Muang Khua and Nong Khiaw in Laos, maybe do a side-trip to Luang Prabang . Many SEA travelers consider Laos their favorite country, so consider this route. From Luang Prabang there's the infamous slow boat to the Thai border then 6-hour bus ride to Chiang Mai. The main alternative is simply fly Hanoi-CM with a necessary stop in Bangkok. Check out AirAsia.com.

For getting around it will probably be bus most of the time, and for this just do as the locals do: show up at the bus station and get the next thing going, and it's very cheap. You can also look at trains in Thailand and Vietnam. Check out seat61.com for very thorough info on trains.

For good info on Laos check http://hobomaps.com
and for Cambodia http://www.canbypublications.com

#4 Captain_Bob has been a member since 27/5/2006. Location: Thailand. Posts: 1,958

Posted by daawgon on 1/6/2015 at 14:27

SE Asia is not a single weather pattern at all. For instance, it's gets cold in Northern Vietnam in mid-Dec through mid-Feb. As a first timer, I really think you're biting off a little too much time-wise - 4 months is quite a long time. It would also help if you told us more facts about yourself and your country of residence. Also concerning your money, as a first timer it's easy to make judgement errors or get robbed - considerably more dangerous than savvy travelers who know the ropes.

You're not going to like what I write, but I advise no more than 2 countries and 6 weeks. Keeping it simple more or less guarantees success.

#5 daawgon has been a member since 17/4/2007. Location: Vietnam. Posts: 1,159

Posted by ScottDon20 on 2/6/2015 at 06:14

Hi Daawgon,

I'm aware that weather conditions vary through the different regions. This hasn't been a spur of the moment decision by me, i've researched what I can and thought that I would try and enlist the help of people who have done similar trips.

I am a 22 yr old Male, from Wales in the UK and intend on doing the majority of the trip solo. By the time of November I plan on having £5,000 for the trip. Thanks for your concern and advice. I'm at the age where I believe this is a good/prime opportunity for me to travel. I'm in a job rather than a career and i'm still at home and have very few commitments.


#6 ScottDon20 has been a member since 31/5/2015. Posts: 8

Posted by ScottDon20 on 2/6/2015 at 06:51

With my budget prepared I will be in hostel dorms as well as private rooms. I will purposely look for places which are popular with other young people, in the hope of meeting up with other like minded people.

Thanks again,

#7 ScottDon20 has been a member since 31/5/2015. Posts: 8

Posted by MADMAC on 2/6/2015 at 11:40

I respect Daawgon, a good, experienced guy, but I disagree with him here. If you've got the money, why not come for a while? There's no drawback to a four month trip, unless you're the type who gets homesick. I left my home for the first time, and was gone for six years. It's not that hard to do.

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

Posted by ScottDon20 on 2/6/2015 at 15:04

Thanks for both opinions.

I'm looking to book in the near future and was wondering if there is much incentive to pre book internal flights or to do it whilst out there? I understand the benefits of doing it whilst out there as it allows more flexibility but is there a cost incentive to prebook?


#9 ScottDon20 has been a member since 31/5/2015. Posts: 8

Posted by MADMAC on 2/6/2015 at 22:23

In general pre-booking is cheaper and there is some cost savings. Drawback, of course, is it ties down your movement to a specific time and place. So let's say you pre-book a flight out of Hanoi for a date you anticipated being there, and two days out you are not close to Hanoi yet, now you simply have to pull pitch and go through the train or bus ride from hell to get there to make your flight. For me, that's a big negative. I'd book about a week out where you still get reasonable cost but without tying yourself down too early.

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

Posted by Gogomobile on 4/6/2015 at 06:50

6 to 8 weeks would allow you to live it up. 4 months on a budget gets tiring. Depends on the individual though. I know somebody who went for 6 weeks and got bored. They just werent the travelling type and didnt plan too well. I could travel for 10 years if I had the funds.

#11 Gogomobile has been a member since 14/4/2015. Posts: 412

Posted by TerroirTravel on 5/6/2015 at 09:58

Hi ScottDon,

You sound a bit like I did before I embarked on an extended SE Asia trip. I arrived in Bangkok in November, went north and back for a month (not really a beach gal), then to Cambodia for a month, then into Vietnam for 3 more months.

One thing I will tell you that I wish I had done differently- I over planned. Getting around is so much easier than you think. If you arrange everything from your comfy chair, you'll miss out on the adventure part.

Fortunately, I only booked things solidly over Xmas, New Years and Tet. The rest I left to figure out as I went. You might meet fellow travelers that inspire you to go to a place not on your radar, or you might like a place more (or less) than you thought, and want to stay longer or get out sooner.

So what ended up working for me is this: from where I was on a certain day, figure out where to go next. Figure out how to get there, and book the first night. I used booking.com and every single time I showed up at a place, the reservation was there. I don't like wandering around new towns looking for a suitable place. If it didn't suit, I could move tomorrow after I've gotten my bearings.

Internet is everywhere, and free. I had an iPad, and could figure out where and how at any time. The seat61.com site is a godsend.

I had a lovely time on $50 USD per day (including ground travel, but not to and from Asia) and I always got a private room, because that was important to me, and that was about $15-$20 of the days budget. £5000 is looking like $7,620 USD right now, so I'd say 4 months in dorm settings, easily enough money.

I recommend a train over a bus if that's a possibility. Buy from the company rather than tourist agent if possible. A train ticket can easily double If not bought at the station, same with the bus.

One thing that stuck with me was talking to a uk citizen at a homestay in Cambodia, and I asked her "what was the most surprising thing you've encountered", and she quickly replied "how easy it all is".

#12 TerroirTravel has been a member since 1/2/2014. Posts: 76

Posted by ScottDon20 on 6/6/2015 at 08:10

Wow, thanks for all the responses. Since your posts I have been busy planning roughly the first part of my trip to Indonesia, and will make sure to post it all on here as I don't want to miss out on anything.

TerroirTravel, I will also be away over Xmas and NewYears and will likely be in Cambodia at that time. Is there anything I should look out for, or do at the time of these holidays?


#13 ScottDon20 has been a member since 31/5/2015. Posts: 8

Posted by antoniamitchell on 7/6/2015 at 02:26

Hi Scott,

One thing to keep in mind is that Christmas and NY is a very popular time for tourists to visit BUT it is just an ordinary working day to the locals, so don't expect much in the way of Christmas themed stuff on. Yes, you'll see a few decorations hung here and there (I ate my Christmas day dinner at a Chinese seafood restaurant in Thailand where the waitresses were all wearing Santa hats) but don't expect it to be a big deal like it is at home. You probably already know this, but don't be surprised when you experience it if it makes you feel discombobulated and homesick (I remember spending most of Christmas morning listening to Tim Michin's White Wine in the Sun and crying, because I missed my family so much and it felt so isolating being the only person about who cared that it was Christmas. Then I went to the beach, so that was okay (grin)). My advice (assuming that this will be your first Christmas away from family) is to make sure that you have something really fun lined up to do that day, to keep you from dwelling on any homesickness.

As this period is peak tourist season, places will be busy. This means that, if you want to stay somewhere specific or very small, it's a good idea to pre-book to avoid showing up to discover it's full. But if you don't want to stay somewhere specific or small, you can still just rock up and find a place. You just might have to try a few more places to find room than you would at quieter times of year, that's all.

In my experience, I pre-booked my guesthouse for Christmas as I wanted to stay in a specific small place (a tiny guesthouse with 2 rooms that had large balconies overlooking the sea in Prachup Khiri Khan), but didn't bother for NY (by which time I was in Langkawi, which has a hundred guesthouses and hotels).

With regards to types of accommodation, there aren't that many hostels in many parts of Asia, but it's still super easy to meet other travelers there. Chat to people sitting at the next table at the restaurant or cafe, across the aisle on the bus or train, or hanging out in the lobby of your guesthouse. Trust me - you will have no trouble finding other people to hang with in most places, especially if you're staying on the beaten track.

Money wise, £5000 is more than enough to cover your basic costs: you can fairly easily cover accommodation, meals, local transportation and sightseeing for £20-25 per day (some people do it for less, some spend more). Allocate £1000 for your flights and insurance, and that still leaves you with £1000+ left over for drinks, more expensive activities and contingencies.

Have fun!

#14 antoniamitchell has been a member since 13/5/2012. Posts: 569

Posted by MADMAC on 7/6/2015 at 15:01

As for Christmas, it really depends on your personality type. I wasn't homesick at all. By now you probably know yourself reasonably well in this regard.

On budget, watch the booze and women. Don't go crazy in hedonistic pursuits and you should be OK, as Antonia indicates.

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

Posted by TerroirTravel on 8/6/2015 at 00:27

I also don't really care about holidays, so homesickness wasn't a problem for me either.

Being a "planner", I pre-arranged 10 days in Siem Reap that covered both Xmas and New Years. I thought, probably wrongly, that travel during that period would be hard, and best avoided. Some would say that's too much, but it gave me the freedom to explore other directions than just north to the Angkor complex, and to meet some new friends. I also have a real need for downtime and alone time. I recognize this, and plan accordingly. I got so much more from extended stays than I did from "2 days here..... 2 days here.....etc" I may have stopped in fewer places, but I got to know them a little better, was able to talk to the people at the guesthouses, and have a semi-reliable tuk tuk driver when I needed one.

I don't recall anything special going on that was western holiday related, it was life as usual. But the light display of santa's sleigh being pulled by elephants was pretty cute.

Funny story- I stayed in a guesthouse for $15/day just across the river, private room and bath. One day I decided to just stay in and watch a movie. What was on the satellite TV? Tomb Raider.

So like madmac said, know yourself and what you need, and accommodate that.

#16 TerroirTravel has been a member since 1/2/2014. Posts: 76

Posted by yuvraj121 on 2/9/2015 at 08:42

Thailand is the best place to visit this season. It has amazing tourist places, beaches, eatery places, and many more.

#17 yuvraj121 has been a member since 28/10/2014. Posts: 3

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