The cultural differences in Southeast Asia hold an allure for travelers. Southeast Asia is home to exotic street markets filled with the smells of spices and herbs, ornate golden temples guarded by towering warriors, and tiny islands with crystal blue waters.
However, these differences can also be overwhelming. Here are eight tips that will help you prepare and get the most out of your Southeast Asian excursion.
An important step for this and any trip is to open a bank account that eliminates ATM and foreign transaction fees. When traveling, banks often charge you a couple of fees. After a few weeks or several trips, these charges add up to a surprising amount.
However, there are a few banks that make your money work for you while traveling. A personal favorite is Charles Schwab. This bank reimburses both ATM and foreign transaction fees at the end of the month. This means that it is virtually free to use any ATM in the world. Another advantage is that opening an account with them is as easy as making a phone call.
I am always a little concerned when I hear about people traveling without insurance. In the era of technology, people explore the world with expensive laptops, smartphones, and HD cameras making it vital to have these items protected.
Often travel insurance covers these items in case they are stolen or broken. More importantly it will cover any injuries or hospital visits.
Southeast Asia is famous for numerous activities, such as scuba diving, that require you to have insurance. Protecting yourself and your valuables is not only common sense, but also gives you peace of mind.
Getting off the regular tourist track is a highlight of any trip and definitely shouldn't be overlooked in Southeast Asia.
Countries like Thailand are world-renowned for their friendliness and hospitality towards tourists. Leave the touristy streets, eat in hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and strike up conversations with locals. I promise you will not regret it.
Hiring local transportation for the entire day will save a lot of time, money, and headaches when visiting several sights in a single day.
Cabs, Tuk Tuks, and Songthaews in Southeast Asia work on a negotiation system. Hiring a driver for the whole day means haggling once rather than multiple times. Likewise, negotiating a ride at major tourist attractions will always cost more.
It is wise to ask your hotel or hostel staff how much you should expect to pay for daily transportation. This way you have a base price.
A sad fact is that countless animals, including elephants, are horribly exploited for tourists in Asian countries. They are treated badly and often beaten to make them perform.
Participating in activities, such as riding elephants, drives up the demand and keeps these animals in horrible living conditions. We should strive to promote responsible tourism and not participate in these activities.
Locals in Southeast Asia are some of the most welcoming, generous, and caring people I have ever encountered. Everywhere people are smiling, laughing, and are generally sociable. Traveling opens your eyes to how kind people in the world really are, and countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Laos are all great examples.
Southeast Asia has several customs that are different from the western world.
For example, in many Southeast Asian countries it is considered impolite to touch people on the head or leave chopsticks pointing down in the bowl after eating.
Chances are no one will say anything if this is unintentional, but it is important to be mindful of their customs and traditions. Most of these people will never travel to our country; we should make the best impression possible in our unofficial role as Citizen Ambassadors.
Tourist streets and restaurants cater to travelers. This means they sell overpriced food that is more of an attraction than the real taste of the country.
Find small restaurants far away from the touristy areas, and you will get a broader taste of the country's culinary delights for a fraction of the price.
Southeast Asia is a wonderful part of the world that everyone should experience at least once. Using these tips will ensure an unforgettable time that comprises more than just the tourist trail.
What other tips would you add to this list?
Note: Available plans and coverages may have changed since this blog was published.
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Stephen Schreck is a world traveler, nomad, and adventure backpacker. Knowing a life of aimlessly wandering the globe in search of adventures was the only life for him he set out to make his dream his reality. Currently he is trying to conquer his fears and tackle his bucket list. Follow Stephen's adventures at A Backpacker's Tale or on social media on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.
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