Travelling in Southeast Asia
So you've decided you want to travel. It's all a bit of an overwhelming experience if you haven't done it before, and it can be quite tempting to sign up for one of the pre-packaged travelling trips. You've seen the ones, fun loving students waving to you from the front of glossy magazines enticing you to join them....but you really don't have to be on a group tour to enjoy Southeast Asia. English is very widely spoken, it's very geared up for travellers and it's famously easy to make friends.
Travelling around South East Asia is relatively easy, cheap and safe. We can guarantee you will have far more meaningful experiences doing your own thing than signing up for a herded trip around the region with the modern equivalent of an 18-30s rep!
Related article: Transport in Southeast Asia - how to get around.
Not including your flights to Asia, most of your meals or any of your spending money, a typical packaged "budget" tour with one of these travel companies can cost around:
2 weeks: £800-£1200
4 weeks: £1600-£2000
2 months: up to £5000
Not only does this give you a highly rigid trip with no allowances for personal preferences, but it also means you spend a day or two in each place and you stay/eat/see only the things that they have arranged for you. One of the most attractive aspects of South East Asia is how cheaply you can eat, sleep, explore and adventure.
We are here to show you how ridiculous those packaged costs really are, and show you how you can travel affordably and comfortably around the region. Local people will also benefit, as your money will be going directly into local hotels, restaurants and travel agents, rather than into the pocket of a big corporation. Also, if you are concerned about the social side, South East Asia really is the best place to meet people. Providing you stay in backpacker hostels and/or dorms you are guaranteed to meet some like-minded people along the way. With modern guidebooks containing all the basic information, maps and advice required to travel around Southeast Asia, there really is no need to pay a company to show you around!
Related article: What to pack for Southeast Asia
How much does it cost to travel in SE Asia?
As a rough guide, a return flight from the UK/Europe to Bangkok costs around £400-600. Additionally, for travelling around Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and/or Burma you can estimate per month of travel:
£500-£700 (the budget traveller, including mostly: buses and land travel, dorms, street food/cafes, local experiences).
£800-£1000 (the 'flashpacker', including mostly: double rooms, internal flights, air-con, restaurants, adventure activities).
This includes all of your food, accommodation, activities, transport, and everything else you can think of. When you compare that to the packaged prices, that's a drastic difference in price. This is particularly true when you consider how much more you have to pay on top of the packaged trips for food, drinks, shopping & general spending money!
There are a few differences in pricing around South East Asian countries. For example, Vietnam has slightly more expensive accommodation but air-con is usually included as standard, unlike in Thailand where that comes at an extra premium. Overall, it is easy to stick to these costs in each country, and this estimate covers travel in any of these locations.
Insurance is something you should never, ever travel without. A lot of people presume insurance is just to cover their possessions and they can do without it. Unfortunately we have known too many people to have been injured, fallen ill or have serious things happen to them to not recommend insurance as an absolute MUST. The cost of proper, western standard medical care in Asia is extremely expensive and most hospitals won't treat you until you hand over your insurance details, or pay upfront. Imagine your friend being seriously injured and your travel cash card having £20 left on it? You can get really cheap 'medical only' insurance for as little as £80 for a whole year, so there really is no reason not to buy it.
When choosing a plan, the small print of many policies exclude a myriad of circumstances so it is always worth thoroughly reading it over before purchasing. For example, many policies don't cover you medically if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or theft from your hotel unless there is physical proof of breaking and entering.
Most policies include clauses such as 24 hours to report a crime to the police, and a further time limit to make the claim to the insurance company, so make sure you check this straight away if anything happens during your trip.