Ang Thong marine park, Thailand

Lessons Learned Travelling Solo in Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is one of the world’s most popular travel destinations, particularly Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos. These countries each offer unique flavours, sublime natural landscapes, bustling cities and the chance to come in contact with history. Southeast Asia is an exhilarating destination in which to travel solo and it promises to teach you a lot about travelling and yourself. Here are a few of the things you can learn from travelling in Southeast Asia:

How to Travel Safely

There is always some level of risk in travelling overseas. It is important to get travel insurance before you go to Asia in case you need to seek medical attention, your belongings are lost or stolen, or your travel plans are cancelled. Travel insurance can mean you are reimbursed for these unexpected expenses. More important, however, is to choose a travel insurance company that will be able to advise you if you need emergency assistance. Fast Cover, for example, connects you with the Allianz Global Assistance team, which can be contacted 24/7. This definitely comes in handy if you need to go to hospital, say in Thailand, where many doctors are not fluent in English.

Protecting your valuables is also a high priority in Southeast Asia, especially as one of the most common crimes against travellers is theft. Make sure to always have a stash or two of emergency cash, one hidden in your bag and perhaps another in a secure jacket pocket. If you lose your wallet, you won’t be left without any money. It is also wise to invest in a portable locker or a slash-proof bag that you can lock securely to an immovable element in your room, such as a pipe. It is always wise to invest in security.

Siem Reap Angkor temples, Cambodia, south-east Asia

How to spot a scam

There are various scams travellers can experience in Southeast Asia, so it is best to do a little research before you leave to make sure you don’t fall for a scam. Some you will probably recognise as being suspicious from the start, such as running into an unofficial tour guide who wants to show you the temples of Angkor, or taxi drivers who use ‘the meter is broken’ excuse. Other scams are more difficult to spot, such as in Siem Reap, Cambodia, where a young girl with a baby might ask you to buy powdered milk from a supermarket (which will then be returned in exchange for cash when you’ve left). Do your research and make sure you always confirm the price of a product or service before agreeing.

It’s easy to meet people

While it is worthwhile being cautious and on the alert for scams, Southeast Asia is largely a friendly place and there is a lot to be gained by talking to strangers, both locals and other travellers. Get to know the people around you and you will be sure to make friends who will make travelling more fun and exciting. Southeast Asia is a place where you can meet travellers from all around the world. And by talking to locals you will discover better places to eat, local sites to visit and perhaps experiences that aren’t in any guidebook.

Matt entertains the village children, Laos

Street food is amazing

Ignore anyone who warns you off trying the street food in Southeast Asia. If the condition of the food looks good to you, the store is filled with people and you’re sure things like fresh fruit haven’t been cleaned under tap water, then it may just be worth trying. Look out for Khmer curry in Cambodia, pho in Vietnam and fresh pad thai prepared al fresco in northern Thailand. Nothing tastes better so be sure to try it!

It’s budget friendly

Solo travel can be more expensive, especially if you want to book a single room or you take taxi rides alone. But compared to Europe and the western world, Southeast Asia is incredibly cheap! You can live on $20-$30 a day if you aim to keep your costs low.

Fresh fruit - Gaya Street Sunday Market Kota Kinabalu Malaysia

Transport is easy

You can get public transport to pretty much any other destination. You will find travel agencies clearly labelled, with regular buses scheduled. Of course you should research your route beforehand to make sure you won’t be getting a small van when you expect a bus. Many bus companies are in communication with popular hostels and hotels and will pick you up from near your accommodation.

It’s always best to dress modestly

Women should keep modesty in mind when packing, as generally you will be expected to cover most of your body as a mark of respect to local culture. Men should also cover up most of their legs and shoulders. Invest in some lightweight clothes that will keep you well covered so you can avoid being turned away from religious attractions where modesty is required.

Ang Thong marine park, Thailand

How to be independent

You will learn how to be resourceful, create plans, stick to budgets and rely on yourself when you travel in Southeast Asia. Embrace having the time to do what you want!

When you travel alone, you can design a trip tailored to you. Whether you want to relax, come in close contact with ancient and recent history, have an adventure holiday or simply wander, Southeast Asia has a lot to offer.

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