Top 10 Things to Know While Backpacking Across Southeast AsiaKnown for its beautiful beaches, mesmerizing historical sights and a touch of adventurousness, Southeast Asia has become one of the favorite destinations for travelers from across the world. The diversity of the region will never fail to mesmerize you, and there's so much to see - that no matter how much time you spend, you'll still feel that you are missing out something!
While a lot of backpackers and globetrotters are setting out to explore Southeast Asia, they often face a culture shock since this part of the world is absolutely different from that of the West. Therefore, it's always good to do a bit of research before setting out.
Here are 10 useful tips that'll help you, if you are setting out for backpacking across Southeast Asia.
Of course, when you are backpacking, it's expected that you'll just have a rucksack with you and that has to be packed efficiently so that you don't miss out anything! The entire Southeast Asia falls under the tropical climatic zone, having hot and humid climate throughout the year, except the months of monsoon. Pack cotton clothes that are comfortable and airy. Don't forget to take your raincoat/ umbrella. Carry sunscreen lotions and shades - these would really help. Remember that the people of this region are somewhat conservative, and over-exposed clothes aren't welcomed enough. While you can wear shorts and swimwears near the beach sides, it's not for everywhere. Carry clothes that'll cover you properly. Get those pair of comfortable shoes as you might have to walk a lot!
Almost everything is negotiable in this region. Bargaining in Southeast Asian countries can be more beneficial than anywhere else in the world! Whether it's related to the prices of goods at a market or the cost you need to bear for a ride in a local transport - you can almost haggle for everything! Shopkeepers, vendors and cab drivers have a tendency to charge more from the Westerners (they'll easily understand from your accent) and you have to show your bargaining brilliance, almost everywhere. You'll find several vendors selling similar products - so don't think much and ask for a lower price! Someone or the other will surely give it to you.
You don't really need to spend a lot of money and go to high-end restaurants for good food. Southeast Asia is a paradise for foodies and each country has a different cuisine. If you want to go for some amazing cheap food, then stroll down the night market where people usually gather for some grabs and drink after the day's work. Whether it's the delicious Pho in Vietnamese markets or the fried insects in Bangkok - your platter will always be full of surprises!
Knowing how to say 'Hello' and 'Thank you' as well a couple of other words in the local languages will surely help you while traveling across the different countries. This will help in breaking the ice and connect you with the inhabitants of the country. While English is largely used in this part of the world, there's no need to worry! There are several tribal groups around Sa Pa in Vietnam, the Torjans of Sulawesi in Indonesia, and others who are unique folks and mingling with them will make your journey more beautiful.
Taking local transport is essential for backpackers - and in the Southeast Asian countries, traveling in local modes would be cheap and comfortable. You'll get to travel with the natives, who can tell you more about where to go and what to see, that websites and guidebooks might never tell you. Often, the driver will take the role of a de facto guide and tell you about the history of a place you are heading towards, The journeys in local transport can be one of the highlights of your trip.
The definition of your journey will change as soon as you get engaged with some philanthropic work for the locals. Although the region is scaling towards development, there are still certain sections in the society who needs help and you can contribute meaningfully towards improving their lives. There are several organizations like Volunteering Solutions, Love Volunteers, GoEco, Volunteer World, We Are Bamboo and others who offer amazing volunteering projects in different Southeast Asian countries. This will not only add more enriching experiences to your trip, but also count in the days ahead. You'll get to broaden your network by connecting with people from all across the world.
It is advisable not to exchange your money at the airport, as it might turn out to be an expensive affair. You can exchange money at authorized foreign exchange merchants or banks in the urban areas. Make sure that you count the money on the spot, and demand the whole amount if anything is missing because often people return less than they should! Also, carry enough cash because you cards might not work everywhere and in rural areas, it's better to avoid depending on the cards.
The entire Southeast Region will open the world of fine architecture of Hindu temples and Buddhist monasteries, existing side by side. Starting from the Wats of Thailand to Angkor in Cambodia and Borobudur in Indonesia - one can never miss out these grand establishments that are hundreds of years old and still holds on to their charm and aura.
The entire stretch has some amazing beaches with golden sand and azure waters with coconut and palm trees adding some colors to the entire view. You can spend hours sitting there, with a bottle of chilled beer or a book - and relax your muscles. You can also try water sports like scuba diving, parasailing, and snorkeling etc.
It's very important to stay healthy while you are on the go. The climate of Southeast Asia is sultry, and therefore you need to drink a lot of water in order to keep yourself hydrated. Also, some places have a lot of mosquitoes and hence, we'd advise you to carry mosquito/insect repellents. Also, while eating out, make sure that you don't get any sort of stomach infection. Consult you doctor before you set out for your journey and make sure to take the necessary vaccinations. Being healthy is the prime need for a happy journey.
Hope you'll have a great time exploring the Southeast Asian countries.