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Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia forum

A whole year off for a SE Asia trip! Advice needed!

Posted by MarkSeaton on 16/8/2017 at 02:06

Hello all!
Long story short, I have a year off from March 2018. I was to travel to the UK with a friend... but things change don't they? :)
So I am now looking at spending an extended period in SE Asia doing some 47yo first time solo travel as every time ive been in SE Asia, ive had a brilliant time and met some terrific people.. Ive done Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam recently but only the touristy highlights I would suggest and am very keen to visit those places again for a more in depth looky loo and other places like China, Nepal where ive never been
I am very much a city fellow, tho changing it up is nice. (Went from Hanoi to Luang Prabung to Singapore for instance and loved the slow pace of Laos as a refresher so mix and matchy will be the gist) and will be trying for private rooms in hostels type of accom. Well over hotels, but cant do the dorms no more ;)
So what is the point of this post? I suppose just to get some ideas of must see/do's so I can start putting together a very lose itinerary for myself and any tips on solo travel. Tho the searching around seems to consist only of the excellent advice of just to go for it :)
Gotta say the freedom of solo travel is very exciting and I'm looking forward to it.
Cheers all!

#1 MarkSeaton has been a member since 15/8/2017. Posts: 13

Posted by exacto on 16/8/2017 at 19:30


Sounds like the change in plans isn't completely wanted, but you are definitely putting your best foot forward with a year in Asia, so good on ya!

First off, scroll to the top of this page and click on the Itineraries tab. Have a look through the ideas there and see if it doesn't help you visualize where you might like to go.

Second, I think the most important thing you can do preparing for a long trip like this is get very familiar with the visa requirements for each country, particularly as they can be different depending on which country's passport you are using. Find out if you can get a visa on arrival, how much it is, and what you need to have (like a picture or US dollars or whatever). For example, Thailand has a free 30-day visa exemption for people from most western countries that you can get at the airport or border, but they are starting to enforce limits on those of only a few per year to try and cut down on overstays. In any case, there is good information on Travelfish for various countries, and it won't hurt to check the websites for the countries you wish to visit too.

Third, get as familiar as you can with weather patterns too so you can plan which areas to visit when the weather is good. There is a surprising amount of weather pattern variety in Southeast Asia, and not all places have their monsoon season at the same time. Weather is not completely predicable of course, particularly these days, but a little planning will go a long way towards making the most of your time.

Fourth, get familiar with budget airline options for where you want to visit. With a longer trip, you likely won't need to fly all that much. But a quick trip on Air Asia or one of the other discount airlines can help solve a logistics problem of how to get from Cambodia to Bali, for example, without spending five days en route.

Finally, I'm not convinced that the private rooms at hostels offer good value for money, particularly when compared to regular guest houses or even hotels. If you are looking for a certain type of atmosphere, then I can understand that. But otherwise, I like to stay at guest houses, particularly in the smaller towns, because of the value, style, and better chance of meeting people my own age. In my experience, I've been more likely to meet people on long-haul trips (bus, train) or on day tours than any other way, including hostels.

I hope these suggestions are helpful. Once you get enough information, you'll start to pull together a rough itinerary. I think it is smart to keep that itinerary loose, particularly on a longer trip, so you can stay longer if you like a place and move on if you don't. It also gives you a bit more flexibility should you meet up with someone special.

Good luck. Have fun. Keep us posted on your trip and tell us all about what you find. Cheers.

#2 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,833

Posted by MarkSeaton on 16/8/2017 at 21:28

Nice. Thanks for all that :)
Yeah I am getting a bit of 'guest houses' feedback. Not an option I had considered but I will put that down to lack of knowledge. I did do a guest house in LP and had a great time and met some terrific people.

#3 MarkSeaton has been a member since 15/8/2017. Posts: 13

Posted by Trish177 on 19/8/2017 at 14:37

Hi Mark,

I've just returned from a 3 month first time solo trip around South East Asia (Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia) and had an amazing time. Im now planning, like you, to return to Vietnam and Cambodia and spend more time in each to really see both of these countries in depth. I also want to somehow, incorporate a 4 week trip to Nepal into the itinerary somehow, so would be interested to see how your plans progress. At the moment, I'm thinking of heading off at the beginning of Dec this year and take 4 - 5 months in total. I'm also thinking of doing some volunteering while I'm in Vietnam and Cambodia, but not sure where or what just yet.

As for travelling solo - well, I'm a 59yo female and had no problems at all. Like you, decided dorms were no longer for me, but found that private rooms whether in hostels, hotels or homestays were easy to come by and pretty cheap.

Eating alone at night was a little tough in the beginning, but I got used to it, and, as you say, there are aways other travellers to meet and chat with.

Good luck with your plans.

If anyone else out there has any advice on taking in Nepal on this kind of trip I'd be keen to hear it.

#4 Trish177 has been a member since 28/4/2017. Posts: 10

Posted by savorygal on 20/8/2017 at 02:22

6 years ago at the age of 49 I also embarked on a long ( 18 months) solo journey through SEA & India.

I did include Nepal and spent a month there. Trekking is easy enough to arrange when you are there. Because I didn't want to lug around my trekking stuff I mailed a package to myself Poste Restante at the Kathmandu post office. Hardly anyone uses Poste Restante anymore but it worked brilliantly for me.

If you have the budget I would highly recommend Bhutan. It surpassed Nepal by leaps & bounds, IMO

Do look at weather patterns, but don't let it deter you from a place especially if it makes sense logistically. Low season also means lower prices, happier locals and a slower pace.

If you are keen to meet other travelers I would recommend organized day trips, cooking classes and guest houses with comfy communal spaces where travelers will tend to congregate.

Air Asia will be your friend. They have loads of cheap flights that leave from & go to most everywhere in SEA.

Happy travels & do let us know how things go

#5 savorygal has been a member since 16/7/2010. Posts: 176

Posted by exacto on 20/8/2017 at 16:28

savorygal is far too modest to mention it, but as far as I know she still operates a small quality guesthouse with an excellent food component (does it include cooking classes?) on Gili T, just off the coast of Lombok in Indonesia. With a year to spend, I highly recommend setting aside a few weeks on the Gilis. I particularly liked Gili Air, but each of the Gili islands has its own style and its own vibe. Lombok is interesting as it is on the other side of the Wallace line, meaning you get a different set of flora and fauna than in Bali, although I suspect that isn't as true now as when Mr. Wallace determined that boundary in the 1850's. Ta!

#6 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,833

Posted by MarkSeaton on 21/8/2017 at 22:09

Some top advice coming in! Thank you all
Question on Indonesia. I was considering starting there but us Aussies and the Indos are having a bit of a complicated relationship of late :) and DFAT has concerns about safety re terrorism
Others thoughts?

#7 MarkSeaton has been a member since 15/8/2017. Posts: 13

Posted by sandyfreckle on 26/8/2017 at 18:35

I know this post is a little bit sideways from your requested info, but for what it's worth I usually base myself in Chiang Mai as it's a nice place and very convenient location to 'prepare for' and 'recover from' trips to various surrounding countries. I liken it to the centre of a compass with other nice places to visit at all directional points of that compass.

#8 sandyfreckle has been a member since 9/11/2010. Posts: 23

Posted by MarkSeaton on 28/8/2017 at 02:09

Hi Sandy
Yeah I have had this advice from a few people now i.e base yourself somewhere like Bangkok/Chiang Mai and use that as a base to toodle around. Seems a good idea to me
So do you obtain long term accom as a base or just come and go? Ive been looking at visas for Thailand. Any tips there? Details! We need details! :)

#9 MarkSeaton has been a member since 15/8/2017. Posts: 13

Posted by Megaworldasia365 on 28/8/2017 at 02:19

Hi Mark,

From what you've said it seems you've already got a bit of experience in the region and therefore will be familiar with visa requirements, modes of transportation, and idiosyncracies of each country. To make tbe best use of your time I think your main two considerations might be weather patterns and what it is you actually want to do and see. Having lived in region for twenty years I often find visitors asking what my recommendations are for the best places to visit. My reply is always "what do you want to see or do?" If you want to lay on the beach getting a tan and sipping mai tais then no need to go any further afield than Samui, Phuket, or Hua Hin. If you actually want to get out and do and see something worthwhile, then thats a diffetent story altogether. In no particular order, worthwhile activities in the region are:
Jungle trekking
Scuba diving
Looking at waterfalls
Historical sites and temples.
Once you've established what it is you want to do, you can then do some on-line research to find out the best locations for each activity. You also need to consider how the weather can have an impact on something like scuba diving.
Best scuba diving = Philipines (november to april)
Best trekking = Sapa, Vietnam (march to june). Northern Thailand (november to april)
Best caving = phong nha, Vietnam. (March to july). Khammouane province, Laos (november to april).
Best waterfalls = Bolaven Plateau, Laos (jue to october). Ban Gioc, Vietnam (sept to oct). Thi lo su, Thailand (november).
Best temples/historical sites = Siem Reap, Cambodia (november to april). Bagan, Burma (november to april)

Safe travels


#10 Megaworldasia365 has been a member since 26/8/2017. Posts: 25

Posted by savorygal on 31/8/2017 at 06:43

Hi Mark,
This reply is in regards to your question about terrorism in Indonesia.
I feel very safe here and would not worry too much about terrorism. It seems there is nowhere in the world where safety from terrorism is guaranteed, so don't let unnecessary fears ruin your trip.

On the topic of safety/dangers......, I would suggest you research boat companies closely. There are no maritime safety standards here in Indonesia & accidents do happen on a regular basis. Avoid the cheap boats as they will not be well maintained & the crew will not be well trained.

Also, and this is very important, if you want to rent a scooter be sure to have a motorcycle license in your home country otherwise your insurance will not cover you. I can't count how many go fund me pages are set up for travelers who have gotten smashed up in a bike accident and then find out they are not covered. And unlike hospitals in the West, hospitals here have no obligation to treat you if you cannot pay.


#11 savorygal has been a member since 16/7/2010. Posts: 176

Posted by exacto on 31/8/2017 at 17:56

Just to second what savorygal said about travel safety, I've been quite a few places in Indonesia and always felt safe too. Foreign Ministries are by nature extra cautious, and that is reflected in the travel warnings they issue. Using good sense will go a long way to keep you safe both home and abroad. Nothing is 100 percent, but one thing I always do is get through security right away at airports, as the area past security is typically much safer.

Other precautions include avoiding large gatherings, and particularly in Indonesia, not hanging out in the big clubs frequented by foreign travelers. Those are unfortunately easy targets for attacks.

Don't get drunk in public. Don't flash valuables. They can make you a target. Avoid deserted places, particularly after dark. Don't place your day pack in the basket of a hired push bike or scooter. Wear it on your back instead. Avoid overnight bus travel if you can avoid it. Be careful selecting your ferry boat company, just as savorygal says.

Even with all that, I still feel safer in Asia than I do in many cities here in the states. Pay attention to your surroundings. Be friendly. Have fun. Cheers.

#12 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,833

Posted by MarkSeaton on 3/9/2017 at 22:53

Thanks Savorygirl and Exacto
Yep, totally get what you mean. Indo and Oz have always had a bit of a complicated relationship, but an the end of the day, we all cool :)
No problem there, I am well past the 'club' days.
I did get a recommend (now who was it?) to do Bali and Yogyakarta and that seems to me to be the perfect way to start my travels.
Minty :)

#13 MarkSeaton has been a member since 15/8/2017. Posts: 13

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