So at the moment I'm in the process on planning my big "round the world trip". South East Asia is one of my MUST's. But im dying for some advice at the moment!
My plan so far will take me to Asia at the end of my trip, so about 5 odd months after I start. I'd really like to see Singapore, Cambodia, and Thailand is a must. Vietnam, Laos, and Malaysia are also in there! And I'd love to take a trip over to Japan while near by.
Here comes the advice time.
If I'm planning on spending about 12weeks in the region, two of which will be in Japan, what kind of $$ will I be needing to get by?
Does anyone have any advice on the best way to get round and see SE Asia? I've seen a couple of "hop on hop off" type things in a travel brochure, are they worth it?
I will most likely be on my own here so does anyone have any advice for me? I'm a good looking girl, going to be 23 when I arrive in the continent and wont know anyone....
Also does anyone have any MUST DO/SEE tips for me?
Well, thanks a lot for taking the time to read this. Any advice or tips you can give me will be HUGELY appreciated! --Cheers, Kayla
Cost. Much of SE Asia is quite cheap but Singapore is quite expensive, especially accommodation, and Japan is expensive all round. You can pop in and out of Thailand (a travel hub) and spend upto 90 days there, 30 days at a time, without needing a visa. And Thailand costs as much or as little as you want.
Flights are the best way to get around as distances can be great. There are some budget airlines and cheap flights but they need to be booked early.
A fair bit to see in the region, depending on what you like: Towns, beaches, shops, temples, trekking, people, sights, sites and the like.
Millions of people about in SE Asia travelling on their own. If you want to pick up a companion, it is not too hard to do. Perhaps a like minded female rather than some lecherous male?
The only real tip is check the weather. Nov to April is usually very good. Outside of that you can have prolonged spells of heavy rain, but even just occasional rain can ruin a beach stay.
You can get a Japan Rail pass before entering the country which will enable you to see a fair bit of it.
Don't try and do too much. You are still young and can always go back next year or the year after and see places you missed out.
PS. How much have you seen of your own country? It is one of these strange things that travellers often see more of other countries than their own. I have an extended family in NZ and I don't think any of them have seen half as much of their country as I have.
Most of South East Asia can be very cheap. If you are ok with basic hotels (doesn't mean dirty or unsafe), eat locally as much as possible, and take public transport or cheaper buses, than you can get by fine on as little as $20-30/day. My first 6-week trip to the region 9 years ago was a super budget trip and I managed to live off $15 or so in Thailand, Cambodia, and Malaysia. Nowadays, I tend to go on shorter trips to Thailand and spend more. I still watch my budget, but prefer better than basic hotels, and eat and drink more than I should. I spend more like $30-40/day. On honeymoon in Thailand last summer,we stayed at a mid-range kind of place and easily found ways to spend $60-70/day each. So your budget is up to you. You can easily find ways to save lots of money, but it's also very easy to let shopping and drinking each up your budget.
Japan will cost you significantly more than SEA. Your two weeks there will probably cost as much as your 10 weeks in SEA. Food can be pretty cheap in Japan, but with the cost of trains and accommodations, I think it would be impossible to get by on less than $50/day. I would plan on $75. If you stay only in hostels and take buses even for long journeys, than you could probably cut down on the major expenses.
South East Asia has a great network of trains and buses. They are cheap, easy to book, and for the most part, fairly comfortable (not so much in Indochina). There's also a huge selection of tourist buses, especially in Thailand. They are cheap, and I always found very safe and comfortable. But watch yourself - travelers often report theft and scams. You can find info on these at any hotel or travel agent in Thailand. I haven't been to Vietnam in many years, but when I was there, hop-on-off buses were a good cheap option. I did this, but half way up the country I got tired of the dangerous driving in Vietnam and opted for the train - much more comfy and safe. Whatever way you choose, it's not something to worry about. South East Asia is very very easy to get around, and booking bus and train tickets can all be done once you arrive.
Air is also an option, and as mentioned above, there are tons of cheap airlines in Asia. Air Asia, Jet Star, and Tiger are good places to start looking. These are good if you want to save time over a long distance - say, if you need to get from Hanoi back to Singapore without backtracking through 4 countries. But personally, on a 10-week trip, going it overland is the best way to really get to know the region.
No problem. I can't speak as a girl, but I've done a number of solo trips around the region and it's good fun. Trust me, you will run into hundreds of solo travelers every single day, including women, and most of them want to make friends. So be sociable, talk to strangers in hotels, restaurants and on tourist buses, and you will find you will spend very few days actually traveling alone. I would say in my first 6-week trip, I can remember 2 evenings where I ended up eating dinner alone.
I'm sure you've heard of Khao San road in Bangkok before - it's the center of the traveling world in Asia. It's a good place to start your travels in the region because it's full of other travelers and all the resources you need for your trip. It's a great place to get comfortable and meet people before you head out around the region.
Another thing to think about - travel independently, but sometimes, it's great to take a short tour or group activity. Examples: hiking in Kanchanaburi or Chaing Mai, a cooking course, Bangkok floating market tour, Mekong Delta tour, Halong Bay tour, snorkeling trips. These short trips can be booked at your hotel all over the region, and they are an absolute gold mine for meeting like minded solo travelers.
Must sees - Vietnam as a whole is still my favourite country in the region - the North especially. Angkor is magical and not to be missed. The food in Thailand. Luang Prabang. So many highlights really, you'll find them.
Japan doesn't really make much sense if you'll be in SE Asia. The cost involved to fly between SE Asia and NE Asia (Japan and Korea) is not exactly low, and once you're there, transport and accommodation costs will eat up your budget pretty fast.
Indochina is the cheapest part of Asia, and Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and all of NE Asia are quite expensive. Burma is now much more open to travel, but hotel costs are not as cheap and very limited in supply.
I think you need to do more detailed planning - suggest you read about SE Asia over on Travelfish.org
I like Vietnam also, but it is more difficult, and requires considerable research in my opinion (too many have failed to do their homework and come away very angry with Vietnam). Thailand is everyone's favorite because it is more developed and very tropical, and still a bargain. Many people say Laos is like Thailand before it became so developed and popular - a very laid back place to relax.
[ Edit: Edited on 22-Sep-2012, at 08:12 by Daawgon ]
For Vietnam, a must do is taking a cruise on halong bay (rock formations, grottos, fishing villages, hidden beaches and lagoons, etc). Remember there are thousands of boats/junk, and most offer 2 days/1night trip. For budget traveler, it can be quite expensive this type of cruise. however I would do it.
A cooking tour in Hoi An can be appealing to, most people enjoy it (make a bargain in the market, learn some tricks to cook, and eat what you cook).
For Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, you can do key attractions in 3 weeks.
It may sound strange, but 12 weeks is actually not a very long time. Many will agree with me that Vietnam and Thailand can each take 4 weeks of your trip.
Many will say though that you only need to see Siem Reap and Phnom Penh in Cambodia. Usually the people who say that only went to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh in Cambodia. There is a lot to see and do in Cambodia as well. Add in Malaysia, Vietnam and Japan (?)... You're beginning to rush.
My advice is to go slow. Don't plan too much. If you like somewhere stay longer. Change plans whenever you want (one of the joys of being a solo traveler). Often you can see more by not moving than by constantly getting on busses.
And stop by Banlung, Cambodia and say hi.
If budget is a concern, you can skip Singapore and spend longer time in Thailand, Cambodia or Vietnam. Malaysia and Indonesia are good options too. There is a lot more things to do in these countries than in Singapore. I agree with rasheed, don't plan too much. Stay if you're still enjoying, pack up and move when it gets boring already.
Singapore is the most expensive among the countries you chose. But, Singapore is the best. Everything here is good and high standard. You can try to spend 3 nights here. Not very expensive. You can choose hotel cost 300 singapore dollars per room per night. Almost every Sightseeing here is free. Transportation you can use MRT. The cheapest way to travel in Singapore. Or walking. You can walk between these few attraction: marina bay sand, garden by the bay, Clarke quay, merlion park, Singapore river, Chinatown.
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If you're trying to make your budget go further, have a look at Taiwan as a cheaper alternate to Japan. A week or so based in Taipei gets you hot springs, bullet trains, temples and night markets - enough of a dose of oriental culture shock.