After sharing here the first 8 best travel tips for a beginners trip to Southeast Asia, it’s time now to unveil the remaining 7 tips.
#9. Respect is gold
Don’t lose your personal standards and believes just because you’re on vacation outside your country. By this I mean, show respect for each religion belief (you’ll find a large range even in a single region). To get inside and visit the majority of temples you’ll have to cover your shoulders and legs as well as take off your shoes, which might be awkward, but just do it, don’t question. Additionally and on a personal note, I avoid taking part of activities directly related to animal exploitation (elephant rides, tiger zoos, monkey entertainment, etc.). Hot tips: Contribute to the local economy/community whenever possible. A small gesture of yours will deliver great impact on people’s lives. Remember you’re still a guest in their country, so be simple, stay humble and don’t play the crappy money buys everything superiority card.
#10. It’s raining men
SE Asia is pretty big so don’t assume high temperatures and good weather in every country. Even from region to region within one country you can find extremely different weather variations, from serious heat, heavy downpours, high levels of humidity to temporary typhoons. European summer months can be easily the worst time to visit an asian country (like Philippines). The southwest Monsoon usually begins between May or June reaching its pick between August and October – such as typhoon season in Vietnam or Philippines. Take into consideration north nd south regions temperatures and also that the Monsoon that can be quite heavy and sabotage your entire trip. Hot tip: Give it always a previous double check search according to the region you intend to visit. Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore are pretty stable throughout the entire year with their tropical equatorial climate but Thailand weather can be quite outrageous.
#11. Don’t get thirsty
This is a pretty common advice you’ll find everywhere but anyway, avoid drinking tap water. It’s that piece of advice you should follow just in case. Bottled water is really cheap and don’t forget to use it in your daily routine when: brushing your teeth or putting ice on drinks. You might hear mixed opinions but this is a no-break rule and it always worked out fine for me. Hot tips: Bring with you or buy a reusable drink bottle to avoid abusing plastic water bottles. Keep it eco-friendly. Take advantage of the cheap fresh coconut water sold everywhere, it also keeps your hydration levels up.
#12. (Don’t) follow the leader
Don’t be afraid of not hitting all the must do’s. My advice is to combine the must see’s with a good 70% off the beaten track. That’s the best way to know the real culture otherwise you’ll just be following the tourist hoards. Some places can be heavily crowded with literally hundreds of people pushing you just to take the selfie of their lives (#NothingElseMatters). And you’ll notice some places are a bit overrated, so my suggestion is for you to gather some previous information about you want to see exactly. Hot tips: To have a reliable look & feel of an exact place you want to visit, watch amateur Youtube videos. Pictures always look good if taken from a particular perspective (everything has its best angles) and Instagram’s mission is to turn every crappy photo into a masterpiece, so rely on video or in case you prefer pictures, go for the unedited/no filter ones.
#13. Ride on, dear fella
Riding a motorcycle in SE, it’s as mandatory as conveniently necessary. You get everywhere quickly and cheaply. The rent cost per day isn’t more than 5,00€ and for the gas you pay less than 0,60€. Driving at night is also safe. This might sound surprising but no international driving license is needed. Pay just some attention to the gaps and sinkholes on the road pavement. Hot tips: Shocking as it sounds use and abuse of your motorcycle horn. What is a clear sign of disrespect in Western countries is definitely courteous and mean that you care in Asia. Leave your fears at home and hit the traffic madness the very best you can, without thinking too much. It looks pretty chaotic but surprisingly it works. Don’t overthink the driving rules since the rules there are pretty much based on first come, first serve. Just blend in the mix and you’ll be fine.
#14. Please don’t stop, shop till you drop – the must list
There are some absolutely worth to buy items – being the best gifts too. Some of them are pure coconut oil, Tiger balm, bamboo straws, natural soaps, ceramic and wood decor stuff, natural scented body scrubs (basically all type of spa products), incense, silver and jade jewelry, spices and herbs (especially vanilla beans and saffron which are way cheaper), durian cheaps, jasmin tea, leather bags, silk and/or tailor made clothing (just bring the pictures of your dream outfit), quirky flavored snacks (mint M&M’s, green tea KitKat, blueberry or cappuccino Lay’s chips, pumpkin pie spice Pringles), 100% dark indonesian organic chocolate, among many other options. This is a never ending topic, I could keep writing forever. Hot tips: A sarong is definitely a good purchase as you’ll need it to get inside the temples to cover your arms and legs. Note that the open air markets are not necessarily cheaper if located in touristic areas (for example Ubud in Bali). Explore as well the big malls where you’ll find dedicated floors to a specific product category (the shoes floor, bags, electronic devices, etc.). For more expensive stuff such as jewelry or genuine decor pieces, ask for an unbiased local’s first, so you don’t get fooled.
#15. Bargain like royalty
Don’t like to haggle? Don’t stress about it, it’s a learning process. Forget the western price standards, asian prices are the ultimate deal so bring your A game, smile, don’t be shy and put some personality on it, cause every vendor expects this bargaining process and even enjoys it. Always offer at least 50% less of the given price and start from there. Don’t rush, be calm, don’t loose focus and show some confidence, otherwise, you’ll be ripped you off! Easy target, easy money. Hot tips: Do always a quick research price on the product you want to buy and never buy it from the first vendor, you’ll find tons selling the same item. Be respectful but if at the end you’re not comfortable with the price, politely be ready to walk away (this should be your final move!). Sometimes the deal is closed right after this moment so don’t do the walk of shame before the vendor calls you. If nothing happens, it was fun, onto the next one!
You might also like: 15 best travel tips for a first trip to Southeast Asia – Part I