I’ll never forget the feeling that came over me. It was December 2014, I was in my bed scrolling away on my phone when I came across the travel blogger, YoungAdventuress. I clicked on her blog and the first thing that I saw was a post about traveling solo as a female. After I read that post I had an insane surge of inspiration. It was as if in that moment, all the fears and doubts I had created in my head had no longer existed. I was no longer unsure of my future. I knew with my entire being that I was going to travel the world.
That is why I started this blog. In my head I thought, if someone else’s blog could inspire me that much, could I do the same. Even if it was only one person, it would be worth it.
It turns out, more people than I thought actually read these blogs. People are actually interested in what I have to say- and it’s really fucking cool. I’ve had dozens of people message me for advice over the past two years. A LOT of people have questions about Southeast Asia, and I would gladly write them essays via FB messenger or Instagram answering all of their questions.
The amount of people that have messaged me really made me think that writing this post would be useful and helpful. It seems like traveling around Southeast Asia is only getting more and more popular, so I thought it would beneficial to publicly answer all of the most popular questions I’ve received. Please note- this is MY advice, and things that I’ve felt were helpful for me personally.
What to bring
Q What shoes did you bring? A 1 sturdy pair of sandals. One pair of sneakers, and 1 pair of shitty flip flops that you can wear in the shower.
Q What clothes did you bring? How many pairs of shorts etc? A 2/3 pairs of shorts, 3/4 tank tops, 1 short sleeve shirt, 1 long skirt, 1 sundress or romper, 2/3 bathing suits, long yoga leggings, cropped yoga leggings, and one sweatshirt/jacket. Underwear and socks.
Q Did you bring a raincoat? A Yes, I brought a north face one and lost it eventually. I’d recommend bringing one, but maybe not as expensive.
Q Did you ever bring warm clothes with you? Long sleeves? A No. the only warm things I brought were one sweatshirt/jacket for bus rides/planes, and one pair of long yoga leggings.
Q What clothes do I need for visiting a temple? A Loose clothing that covers your shoulders or knees. I wore a long skirt and a loose fitted short sleeve t-shirt.
Q How did you do laundry when you were there? A Most hostels and hotels offer laundry service and it is really cheap.
Q Backpack or suitcase? What about for during the day? A 100% backpack. Unless you want to roll your suitcase along a beach or dirt path. I used a cross body bag during the day. I would also recommend bringing a small day backpack.
How to get around and where to stay
Q How far in advance do I need to book my accommodation? How do you know where to stay? A I either booked my hostels a couple days in advance or when I arrived. I always had some sort of idea of where I wanted to stay. I used hostelworld.com mostly and sometimes booking.com.
Q How did you get around? Did you mostly fly? A I took a lot of buses in Southeast Asia. They are great and usually really nice. If a bus ride was too long, then I would fly if I could find a cheap flight, which was usually always the case. When I island hopped in Thailand I took ferries.
Q How did you get around the towns or cities one you were there? A You can pretty much rent a motorbike anywhere in Southeast Asia and its really cheap. In the beginning I made friends with people who took me around on the back of theirs, but eventually I learned how to ride one and its really fun- just be careful! Also, most places have tuk tuks which are little roofed side cars bolted to a motorbike. They look like they are going to full apart and send you flying down the street but somehow never do. Big cities will usually have taxis as well, but make sure they are using the meter and are not over charging you, especially in Bangkok. NEVER get into a taxi in Bangkok that does not use a meter.
Q Did you do any tours? How/where did you book them? A I did tours when I needed to, i.e Ha long Bay in Vietnam, or diving and snorkeling in Koh Tao. I would either book them through my hostels or from the travel agencies on the street- whatever was cheaper.
Q How did you know where to go? A I researched. I read a lot of travel blogs, read lonely planet, and listened to where others had been that I met along the way.
Money & Visas
Q Is it hard to find ATMS? Did you exchange money before you arrived? A No. Typically ATMS are everywhere in Southeast Asia. When I flew into the country I would take out cash right away from an ATM in the airport. There are only a few random islands that don’t have ATMS, but you will find out about them somehow before you go.
Q How do I get my visas? Did you get them beforehand or when you got there? A Most countries you can get on arrival, but others you will have to apply beforehand- for example, Vietnam and Myanmar. Always have American dollars (20’s 10’s, and 5’s) to pay for visas on arrival, and make sure to have copies of your passport photo. Most countries won’t accept older versions of American dollars. Make sure they year they were printed in is fairly recent and there are no rips or tears in the bills.
Q How much money will I need? A It depends on how you’re going to travel. I stayed in hostels the entire time and tried to eat/drink cheap. US$3,000 can last you 2-3 months if you’re smart.
Q How many debit cards/ credit cards did you bring? A I had 2 debit cards and 1 credit card. I rarely used my credit card and would always recommend having multiple debt cards with you because you will mostly be paying for everything in cash.
Health & Safety
Q Did you get any vaccinations, what about Malaria pills? A Yes, I got typhoid fever. I never took Malaria pills.
Q Is it safe to travel alone? A Yes. The only time I ever felt unsafe while traveling in Asia was when a foreigner was being creepy towards me at a bar. I found all of the locals to be super nice, and I never once had any local men harass me like they have in America and other parts of the world.
Q Do people speak English? A Yes, a lot of people do. If you’re in a touristy area, then you should have no problem finding someone who speaks English.
Q Any other medicine to bring with you? First aid kit? A I found it really helpful to have bandaids, and my holy grail life savor was Neosporin or antibacterial cream. I can’t tell you how many cuts I got on my feet that almost got infected because I was constantly in sand or walking barefoot. Also, bring diarrhea medication which you will probably 100% need at some point, and my travel doctor also wrote me a prescription for antibiotics just incase I got sick- but I never needed it.
Q Are hostels safe? Did you share a room or always have your own? A I have never felt unsafe in any hostel I stayed in. As long as its verified by hostelworld.com and has good ratings, it should be fine. I always shared a room and got a mix gender room. I personally felt safer with more travelers in the room with me, than in a room by myself. Plus, its easier to make friends when you share a room and its always cheaper!
The fun stuff
Q What was your favorite place? A An impossible question to answer as every place was so unique and incredible. Thailand is always a crowd favorite because its beautiful and has everything from amazing islands/cities to delicious food and an amazing culture. Myanmar was unlike the rest of Southeast Asia as it was way less touristy and had a very unique culture. Vietnam was the first country I went to in Southeast Asia and for that reason it was totally shocking to me but in the best way. It is organized chaos at it’s finest and is just really cool. The Philippines was another less traveled spot but so incredibly beautiful. I saw the most beautiful water I’ve ever seen in my life in the Philippines.
Q Where would you go back to again? A I could always go back to Thailand. It would be easy to spend a couple of months visiting all of the islands again, and I would love to go up to north to Pai because I never made it there and I’ve heard it’s everyone’s favorite place. I would also love to go to the Philippines again because it was so beautiful and theres so much to see, but I feel like I would definitely want to go with someone else and not by myself as its less traveled and harder to get around. I would also like to see southern Vietnam because I only made it as far south as Hoi An.
Q What was your least favorite place? A I spent 2 weeks in Malaysia and I had a blast, but I think that was mainly due to the friends that I met there. I found some places to be a bit overpriced, and the culture wasn’t as clearly defined there compared to other countries. This could be because Malaysia is a mixed race country and has Chinese, Indian, and Malay influences.
Q Was it easy to make friends? Did you get lonely? A It was very easy to make friends. There are so many solo travelers in Southeast Asia and because of that everyone is looking to make friends. Most of the friends I made were the people that I met at my hostels. It typically took spending some time in the common areas of the hostel to start chatting with and meeting people. I definitely had a few moments when I felt lonely but that’s only normal. It forces you to learn how to be by yourself.
Q What was the best part about your trip? A 100% the people that I met. I’ve met people from ALL over the world. People of all ages and stages of their lives, people that know 5 languages and have 3 degrees, to people that finished high school and left home. Married couples, single lads, etc etc the list goes on. Its incredible how a group of people from all different countries with different backgrounds and interests can meet and all get along. Its the coolest thing ever and so rewarding.