Traveling Advice for Southeast Asia: An Open Letter to New Travelers

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For anyone traveling throughout Southeast Asia, I have seven pieces of advice for you:

1) If you have any questions about how to travel, google that shit (I did A LOT of that in the beginning of my trip). Or go to lonely planet and read their threads. Having a tablet would have been really helpful – I spent many MANY hours renting time at various computer labs in the beginning of my trip.

2) Ask people who have traveled before for travel advice, but remember that everyone has a different opinion on what makes for a good trip (Some people gave me wack advice. Those are usually the frat-boy-party kind of people).

3) Trust yourself. After 7 years of knowing me, y’all (should) know that I LOVE TO PLAN AHEAD. And I can sometimes worry a lot. For this trip, I did a lot of planning ahead, but most of the time I just went with it.  Sometimes I went to a city with no hostel reservation and just found one. I traveled blindly for a whole day (around a region that speaks little to no english) to find thien’s monastery after taking a train, 2 buses, and hitch-hiking up a mountain. Sometimes it be like that. Some of my most profound personal growth came from having to figure shit out on my own and making things happen, even when you’re scared or you know very little of what to do. I can’t emphasize that enough. Changed my outlook on life! I’m a much more can-do person now.

4) Hostel owners often give the best advice — especially some of the (unfortunately) white/non-local ones, because they’re pretty much permanent tourists like you who aren’t trying to scam you. You don’t know what company to use? You don’t know how to get a Lao visa? Ask them too, don’t just google it. Just be careful of the hostel owners that are trying to come up and make an extra buck (some of the local hostel owners or managers get a commission to recommend you to certain tourist attractions or tour companies. Sometimes it’s because they need the extra money, and sometimes it’s because they just hate tourists because they’ve taken over their homeland. Just be careful of those scams.).

5) Be flexible: your plans and your itinerary will change. Mine changed pretty much every day for the first few weeks. Just go with it and you’ll get the most out of your trip. Be rigid, and it’s not going to be fun. Plus you may miss out on some new experiences and opportunities that come up on the fly.

6) Your lonely planet book on Southeast asia is your BIBLE. Take it with you EVERYWHERE. It got me out of some tough situations.

7) Many places are used to tourists. It’s hella like Disneyland in some cities (especially in Thailand) — the tourists are just running over everything, EVERYWHERE. However, if you’re Asian it’s easier – you blend in better, and they’ll probably be nicer to you. Everyone was very helpful to me out there, even if they spoke very little English.

And as a bonus…last but not least:

8) Don’t hold back. GO BALLS OUT!!! Some experiences won’t ever happen again. Do it for the experience. Do it for the helluvit. Do it just to try it (and be totally open minded). Do it so you can tell good stories to your friends later on. Just have an ounce of caution.


Posted: August 3, 2012

Author: Tiffany

Category: Asia, Blog

Tags: ,


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