I am looking for any tips / advice you can give as I know nothing!
I am taking 3 months out to travel SE Asia - I have never been here before! I am looking to go next January if this is a good time to go (gives me times to save and plan!) and will have a budget of around £4000 but can stretch a little further if needed.
I am a little nervous about going it alone but from what I see so far I should hopefully not have a problem meeting people?? And as a solo female traveller I will be safe enough??
I guess I just don't know where to start! I would like to plan a rough itenerary of where I want to go and what I want to see (I don't know what these things are yet!) but also want to just take it as it comes and have some flexibility in regards to how long I stay in one place / decide on new places to see etc.
Are there any must see places? Best places to go to meet up with other travellers? Am I best booking travel / accommodation as I go or try plan some in advance?
I am really at the very beginning of planning my trip so any advice on any aspects of it would be gratefully received!
I plan on flying to Bangkok but I haven't got further than that so far...
There is no need to be nervous.
Thailand is arguably the easiest "foreign" destination on the planet for a budget traveller. Their tourist infrastructure is fabulous. The country has hosted countless millions upon millions of backpackers before you, it's a very well trodden path.
It's filled to the brim with first time travellers so it's easy to meet loads of people in the very same boat as yourself. Simply head to Khao San Road and take it from there.
Start your research by purchasing a guide book. Thailand is covered in great detail by a multitude of guide books like Lonely Plant, D&K Eyewitness, etc. It's by far your cheapest/easiest way to get a handle on the country, then you can come back with specific questions.
Have fun with your research, it's a great destination for a new traveller.
Using a laptop or tablet (something with a screen larger than a smart phone) take the time to read over some of the hundreds of posts for solo traveler. There is a wealth of information on this forum. With a laptop or desktop computer you have room on the screen for several windows where you can make hotel comparisons while checking locations on maps. Etc. Etc.
There are many posts for solo woman travelers but most of the advice males get also apply. As far as safety goes your greatest threat may be from guests you allow into your hotel room!
Don't rely on a single debit - cash card for your spending money! Lose that card or damage it you will be out of spending money! Read some of the many posts for having access to spending money.
You must research your visa requirements. Visa requirements depend on the country passport you use to enter Thailand, how long you will be there and sometimes if you have a flight out of Thailand within 30 days. (No tourist visa, staying past 30 days and no return ticket you might not be able to leave your home airport!) Read posts for "Proof of Onward Travel.)
If you are flying long distance (maybe N. America or Europe) round trip to Bangkok might save you money compared to buying 2 one way flights! Round trip means you must decide on a departure date. Having a departure date makes it easier to plan a budget. Do the math!
If you find that your daily budget keeps you in really crappy places eating lousy meals - stay a shorter amount of time and live and eat better for the same amount of money!
For most countries in Asia you cannot work without a work permit. So the money you have at the beginning of your trip is what you live off of!
Have a credit card for emergencies that might come up. Health/medical insurance is recommended.
Thanks so much for your comments guys! I have started to look through some of the posts on here and there's so much useful information! I guess I just have no clue what kind of route I am going to take and how I am going to get around - lots of reading to do! I have my basic wish list of places but only very broad - Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, The Philippines, Bali, a stay in SIngapore - would like to get all these in if possible but totally open to changing route or recommendations of what worth / not worth (if any!) seeing..
If you're looking for a route to follow, just check the itineraries of several tour companies. Many follow the same routes; but there could be differences. Read the descriptions. Then go online for the suggestions of independent travelers, who might have recommendations of places to go where the tour companies don't. Try Travellerspoint, as well as TripAdvisor; and other sources. There are lots of destinations; and it can be bewildering.
Before you pick and choose, draw up a list of your priorities -- what you really want to see and do. That will help winnow the choices. Then use the Travellerspoint mapping tool to plot a route. Sometimes it makes sense to back track; sometimes it doesn't, wasting time and money. Consider the transportation choices. Sometimes flying isn't as expensive as traveling by land, particularly if you have to cover great distances. Then look for accommodations. You don't have to book all of them at once, just places that might be in great demand, or when you don't want the hassle of trying to find accommodations, such as arriving late at night. Flexibility and spontaneity are important. They can enhance your experiences on the road.
Finally, while it's good to prepare; don't overdo it. Just go, take it all in; and have fun!
Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, The Philippines, Bali, a stay in SIngapore - would like to get all these in if possible....
Personally it would drive me insane trying to cover that amount of real estate in only three months, but that's just me, I'm a slow traveller.
Have fun with your research.
Thanks so much for your posts!!
After starting to look up popular routes and must see things, I do see your point Terry and don't want to try cram so much in that I don't actually get to fully embrace the places I go to. I'd like to try and get the balance of seeing as much as I can whilst also taking the time to sit back and enjoy the ride so to speak! I am going to add an extra 2 weeks at the end purely for chilling on some amazing beach with no more travelling (within reason of course, a bit of island hopping might be ok!!)..
So lots more research required on what is a must see!
Transport wise I don't want to waste lots of time on buses etc if only a little more expensive to fly. Is it feasible to just book flights as I go depending on where I decide or is it better to have certain things booked in advance?
You'll need more time, in my opinion, if you want to go to the Philippines and Indonesia. There are lots of islands. Better to focus on Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore.
Flying isn't particularly expensive in Asia. There are several discount airlines. One of the biggest is Air Asia. You can buy tickets online. There are others, including Tiger Airways. Buying tickets for internal flights in Indonesia, on airlines such as Wings, Lion and Merpati, can be problematic from outside the country. But flights on Garuda are easily bookable overseas, though Garuda's fares usually are more expensive. In the Philippines, Cebu Pacific is a large discount carrier.
You can book flights as you go, but it's better to have some inkling of when you want to travel to each destination. It will be cheaper if you book in advance. Note that some countries require that you show proof that you have transportation out of the country. One of the sticklers of this requirement is the Philippines; and some airlines also require you to show proof before they let you board. So, stay one or two steps ahead. Before you arrive in one country, know where you're headed next; and approximately when. Plan accordingly.
If flying within Vietnam, it's often cheaper to buy tickets inside the country with Vietnam Airlines.
Sometimes it's better to take a bus, or a train, for the scenery; and for the experience. For trains, check this Web site: http://www.seat61.com/
There's always the temptation to do too much. But, hey, give it a go. If you find you're running out of time, so be it. There's always the next time.
Keep an eye to weather conditions for the country you intend to visit. If in Thailand and Philippines during the weeks from just before Christmas to two or three weeks after New Years holidays hotel bookings are tight and the most expensive time of the year! Some hotels are booked months ahead of time. Flights from distant countries can also be higher priced. High season!
Something to think about maybe do Indonesia and the Philippines together. Look at a map - you will have to fly for some of the connections. Lots of islands.
Malaysia and Singapore you can do together. Singapore is the MOST expensive city in Asia now! More expensive than Japan! Malaysia is a little cheaper. Trains, buses, discount airlines connect Malaysia with Singapore.
From Thailand you can go overland to Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia and from Laos and Cambodia overland to Vietnam.
You can always return again! Take the time to enjoy where you are instead of keeping an eye on your watch for the next transportation departure to another place.
VISAS! Different countries different rules! Entering with one way flights can be a problem for short stays. (Proof of Onward Travel.) Don't brush this off!
I also have flown round trip from Bangkok to the Philippines and vice versa. Each time they asked for "Proof of Onward Travel" when entering free without a tourist visa.
[ Edit: Edited on 13-Feb-2016, at 15:21 by karazyal ]
Very risky to travel alone. Bangkok is a dangerous place.