I was just wondering, when travelling to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Loas for 4 months, what currency should i use and how should i take my money. I leave on March 19 2010, should i arrange my vaccinations and visas now?
Also if anyone knows what are the laws on drinking and smoking?
Easy ones first. I doubt anyone in SEA cares what age you are if you are willing to pay for your drinks/smokes. That is not a concern. Visas are not difficult either. Thailand will give you 30 days on arrival at their airport. 15 days on arrival when you enter via land border. Buy your Cambodian visa: $20 for 30 days when you hit either the airport or enter via land. Laos is similar. Buy your visa when you arrive. Price varies with your home country, but figure $35 for 30 days. Have plenty of visa photos with you. VietNam will require you to buy your VN visa before arriving at a land border. Get it in Phnom Penh if possible. Cheaper and faster than other countries. Figure $30-35 for 30 days. My blog entry; 'Off to SaiGon' talks about the 'visa on arrival' system. This is for visitors arriving by air. This system is cheaper than if you buy a VN visa in your home country.
I would use a ATM card while in SEA and withdraw money as needed. Travel checks are safer than cash and accepted at every bank or exchange office. I would have some with me as well as a ATM card. Cambodia, Laos and VN use US dollars along with their own currency. Very handy to have some USD as you travel around SEA.
Good luck with your planning and send me a PM if you have questions.
One thing you might overlook in your planning - I suggest you might want to educate yourself about some of the tourist scams in this region. It's no big deal really (some people really get upset), but it helps if you have some knowledge about this. The major offender is Vietnam, but there are also scams wherever there are very poor cultures. Just 2 scams that I'm familiar with:
1. Taxi scam at larger Viet airports and train stations - you ask them to take you to a particular hotel that you've booked, and they take you to another hotel (which pays them). They might tell you that the other hotel is already full or any other false story. My solution - I never take any cab unless it has the Mai Linh (green) sign.
2. Gambling scam throughout the region - someone will approach on the street or in a bar, and tell you a false story about almost anything, but asking for your assistance, and suggest that you accompany them to another location. To make a long story short, they want you to loose bigtime at a card game!
My solution - Be very suspicious, and never accompany strangers anywhere!
Perhaps others at TP can add to this scam list?
(Most people in SE Asia are quite honest, but this temptation to earn an easy buck is very real - certainly, do not let it spoil or cancel your plans)
Agreed with Vegasmike about having USD on you- and brand-new, crisp, untorn bills at that. At the Laos border crossing at Nong Khai, I had a bill with a TINY rip on one side, less than a third the length of my pinkie finger, and I couldn't use it.. had to pay the remainder with Thai baht, and ended up paying an exorbitant fee. As far as how to carry it, have a money belt to tuck into the waist of your pants, but if you're like me, the heat will get to you and you'll end up not wearing it after a week or so A good tip that has saved my butt twice now while travelling, is to carefully fold up some US bills, wrap it in paper, and duct tape it to the bottom of a Dr. Scholl's-type insole in your hiking shoes. I've had my wallet stolen once, and my entire pack stolen another time, and that little bit of cash bailed me out big-time!
As far as vaccinations, I usually have them done a month in advance before my trips... depending on where you're going. Don't forget anti-malarial antibiotics.. unless you plan on only sticking to the big cities (which I hope you don't- the charm in SE Asia is all in the villages!) Drinking and smoking laws are a major joke, I wouldn't worry at all.
A couple things to add to Daawgon's scam list- something that happened to me in Cambodia, where there are ALOT of beggars... a "mom" (who is actually a professional beggar) holds "her" baby (which is very rarely actually hers) and approaches, asking not for money but for milk, or rice, etc. You accompany her to a store and find out the small bag of rice she wants works out to be the equivalent of $15 USD. I refused, because I figured right there it was a scam. Turns out, somebody told me that those beggars always have a deal cut with the owners of those stores, and if you buy the rice for them, as soon as you walk away, they sell it back to the store and both sides get a profit. If you buy any pre-packaged food for any beggar, anywhere, always at least crack the bag open before you give it to them so they can't return it, but can eat it at least.
Also was scammed big time by a taxi driver in VN, make sure you NEVER take a waiting taxi, and never take one that doesn't look 100% official. Always insist on the meter being on, and watch it to see if it increases way faster than it should... they have rigged meters! You can refuse to pay.. in my case, I just got out of the taxi and ran off rather than being ripped off. True, Vietnam is definitely the biggest place for scams. Still a lovely country, just keep your guard up!
Bargain hard over every price! Take tons of pictures! Enjoy yourself
Emily is right about torn USD. They give you crap bills and only accept newer bills with no defects. Not a problem for me as I have hundreds of USD with me and can take the crap bills home. It is a problem for those with limited USD. Inspect USD before accepting them as change. I would take a undergarmet pouch to make it difficult for thieves to ruin your holiday. Many places on KSR in BKK sell them.
A word about Cambodian or VN beggars. There are just too many of them to donate to everyone you encounter. You need to say 'NO!' and keep walking. Esp. in VN. Smile, shake your head 'NO', keep walking. They will give up at some point. I do buy from kids that I chat with and feel deserve my business. I know the price of their product and will pay a bit more so they can make a profit from the sale. Not rip me off, but a profit. I also had plenty of small value bills to give to beggars that I did donate to. Be selective or you will be inundated by beggars. Good luck with your planning.
I don't want to Hijack your thread but I just wanted to know how much you're taking with you on your trip? I have a similar trip in mind but am only just starting out saving up!
All the best.
I am aiming to take £2500 with me, with the plan of spending bare minumum on accommodation and food