We have picked up a few useful bits of information that may help others travelling in South East Asia.
Respect, respect, respect
- try to learn a few words of the local language – even if you only learn hello, goodbye and please and thank you – it shows an element of respect. We tend to expect everyone to speak English and this is most definitely not the case in South East Asia. You will be amazed at how this little thing brings a smile to faces;
- be aware of the religious leaning of the areas visited, and respect these beliefs and customs. We have seen so many foreigners blatantly flaunting these and it is extremely rude to do this
Obey the law of the land – just because the locals disregard the laws does not give you licence to do the same – the main point in this regard is the motorbike problem – where people insist on not wearing helmets, not only is this illegal but obviously hazardous as well – it is worth noting that careful driving is perhaps lacking in most of the countries we have visited and the helmet is a necessity not just a legal requirement.
Always check on the taxi services in the country you are travelling to eg. Uber, Grab and similar apps are usually the cheapest and most reliable option. When using local taxis insist on the meter taxi and insist that the meter is switched on. If you order an Uber, or the like, and the ride is accepted but the app don’t be strong armed by local taxi operators who try and intimidate you into thinking that those particular services are not allowed to operate where you are (as in most of the world the locals are trying to get rid of the likes of Uber).
You will find that almost any price is negotiable but be sensible and try not to rip small vendors off – but also be aware that for the first time we actually had someone trying to negotiate a price higher! (advertised price was 130k he quoted us 175k and eventually offered it to us for 150k – needless to say we refused the services – Indonesia).
Carry an emergency medicine kit (anti diarrhea/nausea etc). Prices of medication vary greatly in SEA so make sure that you check prices first and always ask for “cheaper” – these generics are more than acceptable and don’t carry the huge price tags – eg. Immodium 90k for 6 but loperamide (active ingredient in Immodium) 15k for 10 (Indonesia).
Do investigation on the exchange rates before you got to the country to avoid being short changed on foreign exchange. As a rule of thumb we found better rates at the Money Changers on the main roads than at the airport.
Don’t spend all your time complaining about the locals – it is incredible how often we hear people having “digs” at the locals and not only is this really rude and hurtful but also insensitive – YOU ARE THE VISITOR!
Most countries do have plenty of public spaces with free WiFi but it really helps to get a local sim card and there are generally very competitive prepaid packages for tourists – these are readily available at the airports.
If you don’t do anything else on this list remember SUNSCREEN – the sun in SEA is harsh and the sunscreen is expensive (and you cant always be sure that it is genuine) so I suggest bringing trusted sunscreen from your home country.
Lastly – take time to learn a little about the area you are visiting – when you engage with locals (something you should do) and have some knowledge of the area this really makes things easier).