13/02/2017

Planning a trip around SE Asia

United Kingdom
My usual trip planning posts are about how I planned my trip after the trip has happened. However, this post is a little different. This time I'm going to tell you how I'm planning my SE Asia trip without having done the trip. I'll probably do a follow up post after the trip to tell you whether my planned route etc worked out but for now I thought I'd write about my planning process.  I always enjoy reading these posts just to see other peoples planning processes as it's always useful to learn new tips and ways of planning a trip.

MY PROCESS 


This planning is still ongoing so I'm going to breakdown the steps I've taken so far and finish off with my current route. This will most likely change but if it does I'll update it.

Planning a trip to SE Asia


 

THE LENGTH OF YOUR TRIP 


When I first started thinking about this trip back in the summer it was more of a hypothetical trip than one that was going to happen so there was no specific time frame. I was just thinking that the trip would last as long as it took us to see everywhere we wanted to and of course, when we got low on money. I'm doing the trip with my university friend Soph who I went interrailing with, we're both doing a TEFL course so we can teach English in Asia and are hoping to go to Vietnam. This was also something to consider when thinking about the length of our trip.

Long story short after lots of different variations such as doing some teaching and then travle after, we eventually ended up with a set time length. Our trip has an end date due which is the 24th of July. Initially, I wanted an open ended trip but after working on a route and places to go it's slightly easier having an end goal. It means we have to do more planning to ensure we fit everything we want in but it also gives me a starting point for deciding where to visit.


DECIDING WHERE TO GO


Like I mentioned in the previous section when I initially starting thinking about this trip I wanted to see as many places as possible. Having a start and end date meant we had to choose where we wanted to go and be more specific. We had to cut some places from our route such as Malaysia and Philippines. If we had included them we would have only had about a week in each which really isn't worth it so we decided it was best to spend longer in the other countries and see as much as possible in them.

planning a trip to SE Asia blog post

 

Looking on google maps


At the moment we're planning on visiting Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Indonesia. This is still quite a jam packed route for the length of time so there may still be changes. To plan the route and order of the countries I started by getting up google maps. Very simple but effective. I wrote down various routes, trying to find the one that made the most sense and was the most efficient for the time we had.

This took longer than I'd imagined, especially as the countries we were going to kept changing. I also looked at flights between countries that we could not cross by land. We decided that we would cross by land where possible. Checking flights helped as I was able to see which countries were the cheapest to fly to from one another, if any of the small flights were looking to be expensive I would try and edit the route to make them cheaper.

Reading travel blogs


Travel blogs were my next point of call. I looked at lots of different SE Asia routes and itineraries. This helped me plan more details. It's a great way to read about travels from a personal point of view. You can read what went wrong/ whether they wished they'd spent more time in a certain country.

how to plan a trip to SE Asia


Deciding how long to stay in each country


This links to the previous point. Obvisouly, you could spend as long or little as you wanted in each country but I wanted to make sure all of the main sights were seen in the time we had. For example, I wanted to make sure we had enough time in Thailand to see both the North and South as well as Bangkok. I also wanted to fit the Full Moon party into our route. This meant that our visit to Thailand had to be planned around this date. Obviously, if the date for the Full Moon party was really awkward I would have chosen just to remove it but at the moment it's fairly easy to work around and fits into our route.

So far we have planned:

3 weeks in Myanmar
1 month in Thailand
10 days in Laos
2 weeks in Cambodia
1 month in Indonesia

If you have any suggestions about changing the length of time in a country let me know as I'm always looking for advice! We've purposely not included Vietnam in the route because we are going there to teach English so will travel around the country during/after this.

Focusing on individual countries


This step is linked to the previous one. After planning the overall route I began focusing on one country at a time. I looked on Instagram and travel blogs to see what you could do in each country and which places people visited. I also started looking at country specific itineraries. I did this in the order of the countries we'd be visiting. So I began with Myanmar. Soph noted down all the places in each country she wanted to see and then I worked it into a route. There are occasionally places/sights that don't really work in the route and would take too much time to travel to so we have to cut them but overall we've managed to fit most things in. This is how it links to the previous step, once I know the places we want to see this allows me to work out how long we need in that country. I then compare this to the other countries to see if the time needed in each fits into the actual time we have for the whole trip.

SE Asia trip planning




 















TRANSPORT 


Flights


The main transport is the flight out to SE Asia. After working on our route for a while we decided that Bangkok would be the best city to fly into. From there we would fly to Myanmar. There will be other small flights that need booking but these will be done after the main flight. I'm planning on booking these before we head off so there's one less thing to worry about while we're out there.


Buses/ trains


Part of planning the itinerary involved looking at transport options and durations for individual countries. This part of planning is sometimes frustrating. Some routes or destinations seem to have very little information about the length of the journey to them or the logistics of getting there. If I'm finding it really hard to find information I just use the google maps duration. It tells you how long it will take in a car so in most cases the journey will probably be longer due to stops but at least it gives me an idea. From this information I start to decide whether the journey will take a whole day, whether it will be overnight or whether it is quick. If it's a whole day then that day becomes a travel day and so is technically a 'lost' day because we can't do any sight seeing etc. If this is the case then I try and add an extra day for that place to compensate. Also, if there are overnight journeys I always try to make the activities the next day either start later or very relaxed. I know personally that I don't sleep well/at all on over night transport so will be dead the next day.


ACCOMMODATION 


Like most of the other steps I found this one varies depending on the length of the trip, where I'm going and how set my end dates are. If I didn't have a set return day then I'd probably not book up as much accommodation pre trip as I am going to. But I'd also not plan my itinerary in such detail and just let the trip flow and see where I end up. But I can't do that so it's back to the detailed planning.

I'm planning on booking all of Myanmar before we go as well as some of Northern Thailand and hopefully some nicer accommodation in Bali. I will also book the Full Moon party accommodation beforehand.

Obviously, some places I may have to just turn up or book whilst I'm there. Sometimes booking online is not the best option, especially if you're going somewhere less touristy. We found this when we went to Sri Lanka and India. We visited Munnar in India but didn't find accommodation until we arrived because the ones online were very pricy and there was very little on offer. After researching we found that a lot of guesthouses don't appear online or charge extra if they are. So we risked it and just turned up. We got a very cheap price and were the only ones in the guesthouse! It was low season so this also helped because most guesthouses were empty or had only a few guests.

This may also be the case for some places we visit on this trip. However, for places I can book I'm using mostly Hostelworld and Booking.com. These are my go to sites for booking accommodation and I have used both on my last three trips. I've also started using Air BnB more, especially when I want somewhere nice but for a good price. We used Air BnB in Prague for my birthday and had a lovely apartment. It was great because we had our own space and a kitchen.

SE Asia trip blog post



 















IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS 


Visas


It's very easy to find updated visa information for each country, as well as other information such as safety and how to respect the countries culture on the GOV.UK website: https://www.gov.uk/
Simply type in the country you want information about and it will take you to a page with lots of information. Doing this allowed me to quickly note down requirements for each country so I know which I did to apply for beforehand and which I can get over there.

Here's a brief breakdown of visas for the countries I'm visiting:

Myanmar: Online visa around $50

Loas: Visa upon arrival $35

Cambodia: Visa on arrival

Thailand: Can enter by land or air for 30 days without a visa. Can only enter twice in one year for 30 days if coming into the country by land.

Indonesia: Purchase at airport $35 (approx.) Duration: 30 days from entry

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So there you go, an insight into how I plan my trips. I'm currently still doing plenty of research for the trip so may do an update post when everything is finalised.

How do your plan your trips?

Sophie 

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