After having a rubbish 2012 and an even worse new years, ive decided to spend 2013 saving up to go travelling next year, hopefully with my boyfriend. I have never done anything like this before, but really need to get it out of my system. I am 23 and want to see a bit of the world before I settle down and do all the grown up stuff.
I have a rough idea of where I would like to go. Start off in India, get a flight over to Bangkok and travel Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia within a couple of months and then from Cambodia, fly over to Indonesia for a short while before returning to the UK. I plan on my trip lasting for around 3-4 months and ideally would like to set a budget of £5,000 (each) - does this sound realistic?
I have found a website which offer tour packages which I am quite interested in, as I like the idea of having a bit of structure and guidance throughout my trip. The following is an example of something I have found but because ive never been travelling, I dont know if this is a rip off and if I would be able to do it off my own back for less money! http://www.gap360.com/delhi-kathmandu-adventure
We don't mind staying in half decent hostels throughout the trip, but in Thailand - we would like to splash out a bit and also stay at a Muay Thai camp for a few weeks.
I'd just like to know whether I should stay clear of these tour package websites and if ive set myself a realistic budget for the places I want to visit? Any other info or tips would be much appreciated
I usually recommend that people budget a minimum of $100 (~£65) per day for accommodation, food and activities. If you're a partier, add more. If you plan on doing any expensive activities, add more.
To give you an idea on some costs:
All over SE Asia you can find a nice, air-conditioned private room in a guesthouse for $10-15 (£6-10) a night. Hostels are cheaper. Meals are dirt cheap as well.
As for India, another option to consider is hiring a private car and driver while you're there. We paid about $650-700 for 10 days with a car and driver, including accommodation, on a trip around Rajasthan, Agra and Delhi. The tour you linked to is definitely on the pricey side, but it's not outrageous. I would verify that all of the train transportation is included in the cost though - that wasn't made clear on the website. For any travel in India you need to be very clear about what is or isn't included in the costs of anything you book. They love to throw extra costs at you along the way.
Since you would be splitting many costs with your boyfriend, I think for £5,000 each you would be comfortable going for 3 months. It may be a bit of stretch to go 4 months on that budget depending on your interests. Flights would be an additional cost on top of that £5,000.
In regards to package tours, that's entirely subjective. Some people love them, some people hate them. I personally don't mind them, but it's definitely not the same as independent travel. It's nice not having to worry about the logistics of transportation and accommodation (especially in a country like India), but the experience is quite different. Travelling with a group of foreigners rather than doing what the locals do doesn't really allow you to dig in to the place you're visiting.
Thank you for your advice
I am just at the start of my planning stage so have a whole year to work out the trip and get lots of tips and advice.
Im a little weary of India, just because I dont know anyone thats ever travelled there before. Thailand etc is a different story!
I have no interest in ever visiting India but if I were to I would certainly utilise a travel package (with talesbackpack's advice in mind). As far as Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam & Indonesia, easily doable independently.
Many people, on this site & others, post questions that are general in nature. Advice from an individual is subjective. Information on the internet (save for some specific detail) is available to all who seek it ie transport, accom., attractions, local tours, restaurants, bars etc. Search and work out what is doable for you & your boyfriend.
Some other sites worth accessing are tripadvisor, travelfish, virtual tourist, train & bus timetable sites (where applicable) & travel agent sites can be a good source of info (particularly if they show itineraries) as well.
Good luck & safe travels.
My opinion is that £5,000 will be enough. I did Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Indonesia in 2009/2010 and I think I was spending about £200 a week and that was going out every night, staying in decent places, eating out every day, etc. If I had reeled it in I could have lived a lot cheaper, I remember getting by in Ko Phan Ngan on about £7 a day (including accommodation!) for a week or so.
I would say for South-East Asia just to do it off your own back. I had never left Europe before I went, but found it so easy to meet people and travel independently in that area – I think it would be cheaper and much more rewarding way to do things.
Can’t comment on India as I never made it there.
India can definitely be challenging, but it's worth it. You may want to consider travelling through SE Asia first to get your travel legs under you before you attempt India. Even if you go with a package trip, you need to have your wits about you in that country.
In my opinion, the three main things you need to be aware of are:
1) Personal space - there is none. In a country of a billion people, you will always have someone in your space. Also, as a western woman you'll receive a lot of unwanted attention. You need to be prepared to deal with it. I definitely perfected my "f*ck off and leave me alone" face while I was there
2) Health. Specifically the food. You need to be very aware of everything that you put in your mouth. We ended up cutting our trip short because of food poisoning. My ex and I would get sick every couple of days (luckily never at the same time, so one of us was always able to look after the other). I eventually adjusted and figured things out, but my ex couldn't cope with it.
3) Time. It's relative. Leave yourself a lot of time on travel days because delays and cancellations are standard procedure. If you try to rush things you'll just end up stressed and frustrated.
From talking to others who have been to India, I've found that the better prepared you are for the challenging nature of the country, the more you'll enjoy your time there. Just knowing that it can be difficult is often enough
I have to admit, India does scare me a little! Which is why I think we will opt for a tour package with a guide to see us through, and because the tour is only for 15 days - I get to see some of the highlights without having to stay for weeks and weeks in a daunting place!
My best friend is returning from a 3 month trip to Thailand, Laos etc so I am hoping she will be able to give me some good tips too.
But thank you again for your replies - definitely helped me
South East Asia and India are both very cheap, and if you watch your budget, there is no reason that you can't go for 4-5 months on 5000. The way I travel, I know I could last 7 or 8 months.
South East Asia is very easy to travel in, and you will find thousands of fellow travellers roaming around the region doing the same thing as you independently. Its a well worn path and not one that presents many challenges to the solo traveler.
India is a bit more challenging, but more for the craziness, crowdedness, in-your-face poverty, and relentless sales tactics (id: ripoffs). The logistics of finding trains and buses, hotels and a place to eat are surprisingly easy - just as easy as South East Asia. In that sense, it's not overly challenging for the solo traveler and the challenges that do arise just make traveling in India that much more rewarding and interesting. So I would say save your money, skip the guided tour, and throw yourself into going solo around India.
If you can, do South East Asia first. it's a much easier place to get used to traveling in Asia, and India won't come as much of a shock. By the time you get to India you'll be a seasoned traveler.
Especially with places like Ho-Chi-Minh City, keep your valuables well hidden. That includes your compact camera if it isn't in your hand. 2 attempts were made to remove my digital compact camera from my camera pouch strapped on my waist. They were very skillful. One to distract you, the other did the deed. Since it happened to me more than once. Shame on me. It happend about 10 years ago. Since the economy had gotten better, maybe the situation is a bit better now. I solved the problem by buying a bulky DSLR.
Wary of helpful and friendly people, especially in tourist destinations. Bangkok is notorious in that respect. Ignore them.
Siem Reap is the safest place in terms of scams, etc. Perhaps because it's a small place. USD are accepted everywhere here.
Don't be surprise Indian want to take a photo with you. I love it.