Lots of globetrotters and backpackers have journeyed to the fertile and culturally rich Southeast Asia. Known for its beautiful beaches, mesmerizing historical sights and a touch of adventurousness, this comparatively inexpensive travel destination baits thousands amongst thousands of people every year with landmarks like Angkor Wat, Cambodia; the city of Bangkok, Thailand; and the scenic views of Ha Long Bay, Vietnam.
As much as we highly recommend you visit these places, the prudent traveler will do his/her homework as to abide the laws and traditions of these very different countries, as well as be prepared to face the risks, both financial and otherwise that could wind up tarnishing your vacation. These are our top 10 things to know before traveling to Southeast Asia.
1. Almost everything is negotiable, almost
Haggling can be more beneficial in Southeast Asia than in most places in the world. Vendors at most malls and shops do not have price tags and it is common that when you ask for one, the price will be quite high because it looks like you have cash to burn. Don’t be afraid to ask for a lower price since another vendor just a few feet way is sure to be selling the same thing.
2. The food is great, just be careful
Renowned for its amazing cuisine, both on the street and in the restaurants, eating in SE Asia is one of the most exciting parts of going, but be cautious before eating just anything. One tip is to check if you see other patrons dining at a location before you go in. Also, many of these countries have free English-written dining guides. Check them out.
3. Watch your pockets
Whether you are on the back of a motorbike or walking down the street, muggings happen everywhere. Keep your personal belongings near to you at all times, perhaps consider a fanny pack or only bringing along essentials where you’re out of the hotel.
4. There is more to life than ‘backpacker street’
SE Asian countries have become very good at creating mini-tourism hubs of inexpensive hotels or hostels and surrounding them with vendors and bars and everything you need so that you don’t leave.
Granted, in places like Saigon and Bangkok, they are a lot of fun, but make a point to get out and explore other places. You’ll never know what’s waiting just around the corner.