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1. Posted by threekidsintow (Budding Member 7 posts) 51w

Hi folks
We are setting off in February 2016 with three small children (8. 7 & 3) for an 18 month trip around SE Asia. We had a delay for several months due to health concerns, but now it's very real, 8 weeks away and a little daunting. I travelled for several years in my late 20's (circa 1990), but nothing very adventurous since and I'm way out of date. I don't imagine we will be able to do budget or rock up somewhere without at least the first night's accommodation booked.
We will travel by train from Moscow to Beijing and then on to Japan and work our way around at a leisurely pace.
It's a rather broad question, but is there any advice out there that will help us or make things easier e.g spend per day, technology, don't leave the UK without.... etc.

Thanks in advance

Ian

2. Posted by berner256 (Travel Guru 528 posts) 51w

I took the Trans-Mongolian from Beijing to Moscow in May. It's a journey of six days and five nights. The friendly and helpful Chinese crew stays on the train for the return trip to Beijing. The exception is the dining car, which is changed and staffed by each country you pass through.

You'll be wise to bring food with you, as the dining car meals are insubstantial and somewhat expensive. In Russia, the dining car accepts rubles and U.S. dollars. But using the latter is expensive, as you get an atrocious exchange rate. If you happen not to have enough rubles as you travel through Russia, there are ATMs at some stations along the way. There also are food kiosks. The ladies selling food on station platforms are a thing of the past. You'll find the trains aren't loaded with passengers. The Chinese staff tell me that many people now prefer to fly; it's less time consuming; and it's cheaper.

Each carriage has a hot water dispenser that works 'round the clock. That's good for preparing instant noodles, coffee and tea. My silicone collapsible cup, which can hold hot water, came in handy. If you want cold drinking water, you'll have to buy bottled water along the way. Suggest you bring packets of "Crystal Light" or something similar that you can toss into the bottles to keep the kids happy.

The premium cabins have a "shower." But those who had those cabins told me the "shower" didn't work as they had expected. You'll save money by going with the "hard" sleeper instead of the "soft" sleeper. There isn't much difference. A conductor told me to put a blanket underneath the sheet to make the bed more comfortable.

Since there won't be lots of people on the train, you can lower the blinds, lock the compartment; and take a "bath" with some wet wipes. Unlike the Trans-Siberian, you can open the windows along the corridor outside the compartments. Note that toilets are closed as you enter each station. They reopen after you leave. Toilet paper is provided. If it's running low in the bathroom, just ask a conductor for more.

Except for the scenery around Lake Baikal; and in Mongolia and China, you'll see lots of birch trees. So take some books and other things to help pass the time. The electrical outlets don't have enough oomph to charge laptops; and they barely charged cellphones and tablets (it took a long time, if it worked). So bring external battery packs.

Traveling in Asia is easy, so you aren't likely to encounter any significant problems with the kids in tow. The entire family will have a wonderful time. Happy trails!

P.S. There is an excellent supermarket (Youhai Bravo) in the basement of the Henderson Shopping Centre that's within walking distance of the Beijing Railway Station. The Howard Johnson Paragon Hotel, where I stayed, sits above the shopping center, which also has restaurants. The subway is there, too, allowing quick access to other parts of Beijing.

3. Posted by threekidsintow (Budding Member 7 posts) 50w

Thank you Bob. Very much appreciate you taking time to reply. I've added a collapsing cup, crystal light and external batteries to the shopping list as I imagine the tablet is going to be in demand. I Spy was going to be limited to 's' for snow, but we can now add 'b' for birch trees! Thanks again.

4. Posted by berner256 (Travel Guru 528 posts) 50w

My pleasure. Several other things. Unless you plan to stop and travel in Mongolia, it's unwise to convert much money into its currency, the tughrik. The currency can't be used in Russia, nor in China. A Swedish couple was stuck with lots of tughriks.

Train travel is easy in Southeast Asia. I found the following to be a useful site, although the information sometimes can be outdated: http://www.seat61.com/

In covering long distances, it might be cheaper to fly. In some countries, such as Vietnam, it's cheaper to book flights within the country than without. I carry a laptop with me whenever I travel, so it's easy to book transportation and lodging wherever I go. I use a paid Skype account to communicate with folks at home; and to make calls between countries. Toll-free calls are free on Skype. For example, if you need to call your bank at home on its toll-free number, that call is without charge. I discovered this years ago when I had to call Booking.com's London office from India. There are other communications options.

I'm now using an unlocked dual-SIM GSM smartphone. These are getting cheaper and cheaper; and, if you want, you can buy them overseas and install a local SIM card. They are useful for voice calls, texting and data. If you're lost, simply turn on your phone and use the GPS function. So traveling is easier now than it used to be.

There are lots excellent places to take the kids. Entrance to many botanical gardens and parks are free; and so are the beaches. They -- and you -- will have an amazing time.

[ Edit: Edited on 13-Dec-2015, at 05:35 by berner256 ]

5. Posted by berner256 (Travel Guru 528 posts) 50w

More tips. No need to bring lots of baggage. You can buy things cheaply in Asia (umbrellas, extra backpacks, clothes, etc.). But if you need prescription medication, it's best to bring an ample supply from home. Brand-names and formulations might be different in Asia; and sometimes they are not available in the places where you'll be going.

Talk to your doctor about an antihistamine or steroidal ointment to counteract the swelling and itching of insect bites. Long-sleeve clothes are useful for protection against mosquitos, particularly at dawn and dusk and in shaded areas during daylight hours. I like quick-dry clothes made of synthetics (such as nylon) or blends. I hand wash, so I bring a universal sink stopper. I either use shampoo or detergent bars. The latter are readily available in developing countries such as India and Indonesia. They are cheap and work well. Regular soap works, too. But you might not have to wash much. There are laundries (self-serve laundromats are few and far between); and many hotels/hostels offer laundry service at reasonable cost, particularly if by the pound or kilo.

Since you will be traveling in both cold and warm climes, it's best to avoid carrying bulky winter coats. Try layering, using a raincoat or waterproof shell to protect against wind. Use them with fleece pullovers and/or packable down vests or jackets. There also are lots of lightweight technical wool and wool-blend shirts available. They aren't cheap. But they are versatile. You can use them both in warm and cold weather. Wool does not smell; and doesn't have to be laundered as often. I always carry a wool or wool-blend shirt.

Socks are as important as shoes, particularly if you're going to be on your feet for extended periods. I wear wool-silk socks, which are better than cotton. As mentioned before, wool does not have to be washed as often.

Be sure to bring flip-flops; and an LED flashlight or two. You also can buy them in Asia. Hope this helps.

6. Posted by threekidsintow (Budding Member 7 posts) 50w

It is of enormous help, thank you, particularly the advice on clothing. We had considered using old clothing that would only end up at the charity shop for the leg through Russia/Mongolia in mid winter, which we then wouldn't fret over dumping when we reached warmer climates.

We'll definately look into the antihistamine/steroid cream as I can't imagine telling the kids not to scratch bites will work. Obviously, my biggest worry is their health. They are up to date on their vaccinnations and we'll be checking with a travel clinic before leaving for the latest advice.

Thanks again, you've been most helpful.

7. Posted by berner256 (Travel Guru 528 posts) 50w

It will be cold in northern China when you arrive, as well as in Japan, so you'll need warm clothes for some time. In any case, it's always good to have at least a medium or lightweight fleece jacket or pullover; and a raincoat or shell. Mornings can be chilly in the mountains wherever you go.

One common ailment is digestive. Sometimes the culprit is not bacterial but oily food. You usually can tell if it's bacterial by the symptoms (sometimes explosive!). Immodium will stop everything if you need to. I prefer to let nature run its course. For me, it's usually two or three days. Some people find that Pepto Bismol helps. I use a prescription antibiotic that my doctor recommends: Xifaxan, or rifaximin. It works only in the digestive tract and isn't absorbed by the rest of the body. I carry it in my medicine bag.

When upsets occur, it's better to eat bland foods, such as plain rice. Bananas also help. Avoid oily and spicy food. Keep hydrated.

Hand sanitation is important. Bring and use small bottles of hand sanitizer, which aren't readily available in some places in Asia.

You can combat nausea with soft drinks such as Coca-Cola, which contains phosphoric acid to sharpen flavor. Phosphoric acid is used in many over-the-counter nausea remedies.

Another useful item to have in your medicine bag is a small tube of Vaseline, or petroleum jelly. Apply it to cuts and scrapes. It will stanch bleeding and help protect wounds. Again, happy trails!

8. Posted by threekidsintow (Budding Member 7 posts) 50w

Invaluable. Thank you.

9. Posted by davidhaltson (Budding Member 6 posts) 50w

My pleasure. Several other things. Unless you plan to stop and travel in Mongolia, it's unwise to convert much money into its currency, the tughrik. The currency can't be used in Russia, nor in China. A Swedish couple was stuck with lots of tughriks.

10. Posted by ssneha (Budding Member 8 posts) 50w

Nice tips.