Traveling to a new place is thrilling, and once that travel bug bites, it's hard to get rid of the itch to travel. But it can also be frustrating if you're not prepared. When we travel, we tend to rely on both our previous experience abroad and tips from people who have been to where we're going before us. Thus the idea for this post. Maybe these tips will help you plan ahead when it comes to your next travels through SE Asia.
1. Bring flip flops for your hotel room and shower.
If you're anything like me, you simply prefer to walk around unfamiliar places with some sort of footwear. It's not just about cleanliness, it is also about the kind of floor it is. In every place we stayed, the floors were tile, and even when I'm at home with my tile floors, I like to wear footwear. These floors might have been the cleanest floors around, but I just felt more comfortable if I didn't have to walk around barefoot (especially in the bathroom). If you don't feel this way, you can ignore this tip.
Depending on where you stay, your hotel might provide you with flip flops, but even still, they are just reused for each new guest. So, in my opinion, from a cleanliness perspective, that's just as bad as the floor. Therefore, for your own comfort and peace of mind, bring your own!
2. If you want to pay with US dollars, make sure they are in pristine condition.
We don't usually use US dollars abroad. It just doesn't make sense to us. While some places throughout Europe accept Euros, British Pounds, and US Dollars, we think it's silly to use anything other than the local currency.
That being said, we learned that in Siem Reap, Cambodia, they actually prefer to receive US Dollars rather than the local currency. Especially in the touristy parts of town, the prices on menus and signs are even printed in US dollars, and if you pay in Cambodian riel, you might actually receive change back in a combination of riel and dollars. It's the most bizarre thing.
But the reason for our tip is to be sure the US dollars you take with you (or get out of the ATM) are in near perfect condition. Even if you get US dollars from the ATM in Siem Reap, if they aren't in perfect condition, vendors will not accept them.
3. Drink lots of water or you will get dehydrated.
This tip is pretty self-explanatory.
Especially if you're in SE Asia over the summer, you need to remind yourself to drink lots of water. Because of the heat and sunshine, you sweat so much, therefore, it's very easy to find yourself completely dehydrated.
Bonus tip: buy bottled water. Don't drink the tap water. You'll thank me later.
4. Buy local SIM cards.
I'll be honest. This one blew my mind. Because most of our travel experience has been through Europe where we just do without our phones because the rates for temporary plans can be expensive (or non-existent) and the purchase of SIM cards is more regulated, we've never purchased a traveler's SIM card.
However, on this trip, we got simple traveler's SIM cards in each country that gave us a fixed amount of data for a set duration (i.e. 2GB for 7 days). It was great! We chose to get these simply to make our lives easier. A couple of us had to be more or less connected to the outside world for work and school, so having a data plan (mostly) ensured that we were able to remain connected even without WIFI. It also gave us a means of doing some quick research as we were out and about for things like finding a restaurant that was close and had good reviews, checking the exchange rate, looking up closing times for various sites we wanted to see, etc.
The best news is they are insanely cheap. Like all 3 or 4 we purchased throughout the trip combined (one for each country we visited) cost less than a monthly phone bill in the US.
5. In addition to those flip flops, pack shoes that slip on and off easily.
If you're headed to SE Asia, you're more than likely going to see your fair share of temples and stupas. Especially in Myanmar, you are required to remove your shoes before going inside a temple or climbing up on a stupa. If you have to stop to tie/untie your shoes every time you visit a temple, you'll be tying your shoes all day! My chacos were perfect for this! You might think because you're walking all day that tennis shoes make the most sense, but having something like sandals means you won't lose your mind with all the tying and untying!
Do you have any tips for traveling in Southeast Asia? Share it with us. We'd love to hear from you!