Traveling Southeast Asia

A first-timer’s guide on what to take

Before traveling anywhere, you’ll need to do some research on what to pack. Chances are the climate, culture and amenities are all going to be completely different to what you’re used to at home. If you’re heading to Southeast Asia, here’s a basic guide to what you’ll need as a Westerner.

Medication

A couple weeks before you leave, you’ll almost certainly need to start a course of anti-malaria tablets, which you’ll also take throughout your stay.

You’ll also want diarrhea medication – tap water might be ok depending on where you are, but your body will take a while to adjust. Even if you don’t drink tap water at all, a bad curry could have you man-down for a couple days. Pack the meds and hope you don’t need them.

Clothes

Most of Southeast Asia is hot and humid. Pack loose, comfortable clothes – shorts and t-shirts are probably best, a swimsuit is essential. Take your sneakers for the days when you’re doing a lot of walking, as you definitely will. Flip-flops and comfortable sandals are also on the must-pack list.

Also bring a raincoat or poncho – at some point you will get caught in the rain. When it rains there, you don’t always get much warning. This is another reason why you should pack lightweight, quick drying clothes so that you won’t run out if a couple pairs get wet. The same goes for shoes.

Toiletries

Tissues, tissues and more tissues – you’ll be hard pressed to find a public restroom with toilet paper. You can pack tissues or toilet paper beforehand or buy on arrival, but they’re likely to become one of your most prized possessions, at least after your first encounter with the bum-gun.

Bug repellant. Mosquitoes are pretty prolific and probably bigger than the tiny nuisances you’re used to. Take bug-spray or a stick of repellant and don’t forget to use it.

Deodorant, preferably an antiperspirant. You’ll still sweat but you’ll feel a little more comfortable and you won’t smell quite so bad.

Planning

Hang onto your notebook, phone – whatever has your trip plan in it. If you need to contact places you’re staying or people you’ve made travel arrangements with, it’s your go-to method for planning. If your accommodation falls through, or you’d just rather not have to worry about it, consider renting an RV from a reputable website.

What not to take

Valuables – camera, ok, diamond necklace, not ok. Anything you can’t replace, don’t take with, you’ll survive without it.

Don’t take anything across the border that you didn’t pack yourself. I recently heard a horror story of a woman whose ‘friend’ asked her to collect some books while she was in Taiwan. The books were a ploy to smuggle heroin out of the country and she spent 16 years in jail – in Taiwan.

Even if you don’t speak the language, struggle with the currency and can’t sleep because of the heat or the bugs, it’ll be an amazing experience. Take lots of pictures, eat strange food, meet new people. Dive into the culture and come home with some amazing stories.

How to choose the perfect tour of Vietnam

Vietnam's bustling streets are an assault on the senses

Vietnam is an incredible country to visit. It has all the mystery of Southeast Asia, the familiarity that comes from its colonial history and the scars and stories of a hard-fought war. If you want to go on a holiday to Vietnam make sure you catch its history and incredible natural beauty.

All-inclusive tour packages

There are two ways to look at how to choose a tour. The first is to consider what you’re getting for your money when you book to go on a holiday to Vietnam. There are huge variations in prices, but also in the quality of the package you get.

Smart travellers, or those visiting the region for the first time, usually appreciate an all-inclusive package that takes the stress out of holiday planning. Choose well and you can get a deal which covers all of your international airfares, all of your domestic transportation, departure taxes and current fuel surcharges. A good tour operator will also deal with all of your accommodation, visa fees, meals and any entrance fees, guides and daily tours.

Where to visit when you go on a holiday to Vietnam

The second consideration when choosing a great tour of Vietnam is exactly where your guides will take you. Vietnam is a country of extremes so choose carefully and you can get the perfect experience for your tastes.

Going to Hanoi is an amazing experience for the senses. It has 1,000 years of history to enjoy as you soak in the echoes of its position as the seat of Vietnam’s imperial power. Motorbikes and traders buzz through the streets and there’s lights, smells and curiosities that will keep your mind aflame and your feet on the move.  The Old Quarter should be on everyone’s list to see at least once in their lives – it’s full of ancient, narrow streets and there’s gorgeous street food wherever you turn.

The Cu Chi tunnels are a poignant flashback to Vietnam’s history of conflict. The tunnels of Củ Chi run forward and back across a huge area underneath Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and form part of a much larger network of underground pathways. These passages were the core of military campaigns during the Vietnam War and served as an important base for the Viet Cong. Be prepared to get muddy as you walk in their shoes and experience the trails yourself.

Vietnam’s best tourist sites

The Mekong River is part of the lifeblood of Vietnam and is a green and luscious location for a tour stop. It’s a treasure trove of life and photo opportunities and there are still unique animal species being discovered in its flora, fauna and expanses of water. You can take a boat trip, or jungle hike, through its orchards and rice paddies and see the industry that produces one-third of the country’s food.

This is just a taste of Vietnam’s delights. There’s still the wonders of the temples at Angkor, the rice terraces of Sapa, and the stunning vistas of Halong Bay. Choose wisely and Vietnam can be the best trip you’ve ever taken.