How To Travel Smart in ASEAN Countries

As you know, it’s pretty rare to find me writing a post with such a short title like this, but here I am. This time, I want to share some tips about how to travel smart in ASEAN countries because, who’s a better person to tell you if not me, someone who’s a part of the tribes?

And for those who are not familiar with ASEAN, then let me tell you a piece of my knowledge. ASEAN stands for the Association of South East Asian Nation, an intergovernmental organization in this part of the world. And no matter how our people say otherwise, we’re pretty much similar from one and another.

I mean, if we’re so different, then why the heck people looked at me as if I was a trashy Filipino who could barely speak Tagalog in Manila?

The Perks of Traveling in ASEAN Countries

To be fair, if there’s any reason why you go traveling to the region, I think one thing that will come in mind is the fact that it’s pretty easy and cheap to get around. That, unless you get stuck to stay in Singapore for so long. In that case, my deepest condolence to your wallet. πŸ˜›

I mean, with some airlines that fly through big airport hubs like Changi and KLIA, we’ve got so many options to fly around the area. And there are so many budget airlines that you can opt for your mode of transportation from one country to another.

Not to mention that the area is relatively easy to get around by yourself without having to rely on tour agent. Not only that, because Southeast Asia also offers you a million interesting experiences. From a basic pic in MerlionΒ to Kinabatangan River to see the orangutan, you definitely could arrange it by yourself! πŸ™‚

Plus, the weather around here is basically more friendly for travel that most of us are located in the tropical zone so there’s no need to pack your winter coat unless you want everyone to pass judgment on you everytime you. You can check the packing list for Southeast Asia to get to know further about it.

Not only that, because the region is definitely the first choice to be your next destination if you come from one of the 10 country members due to the free-visa policy. I mean, if there’s anything that I know about being a part of ASEAN, then I suppose unless you’re a BSM (Brunei-Singapore-Malaysia) passport holder, you won’t have too many options for your travel destination when you’re broke.

With visa and all requirements for our weak passports, traveling around the world is not exactly a privilege when you barely have money to survive in this mean world.

Now that I sound depressed with my destiny, let’s move on to the cherry on top!

How To Travel Smart in ASEAN Countries - The BeauTraveler

Traveling Smart Around ASEAN

So many things that make ASEAN countries the favorite sport to go for vacation. Cheap prices, rich cultures, great scenery for nature, and sometimes for those people who love summer (which I am unfortunately not!), as exaggerated as it sounds, this area is a good way to go to skip the winter.

It’s no brainer to travel around ASEAN countries, but then again I still see some rather annoying questions on some traveling groups of which I’m a member.

Questions like, is it safe to travel in Vietnam? Is it okay to travel in Myanmar with the Rohingya issue going on? What about Indonesia with all bombs exploded here and there?!

I might come across as an insensitive person when it comes to everything that has something to do with feelings in general, but those questions kind of hurt me in some way. So, in this opportunity, I would like to answer such questions as well. You know, killing two birds with one stone. Hmm.

1. Take Advantage of The Cheap Prices Around the Region

There are a million ways to get cheap flight tickets to get around ASEAN countries. First of all, some budget airlines that operate in the region periodically have some promo that could offer you a decent destination with just as low as paying for the airport tax only.

Yes, no kidding… You could get less than $10 for a flight ticket from Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur!

Apart from that, you can always find some valid travel discount codes easily. Not only around South East Asia, but even around Asia in general. When there is a will, there is a way. And in this case, you can find the best deal in your destination to save some money along the way.

When you visit the right place in the right time, you can even get some best deal for things like Universal Studio or Disneyland!

Expedia, just like pretty much in some other part of the world, is one of the platforms where you could get the best deal for the flights. As for any other attractions, I’d recommend Klook as they provide some good deals in the region for a lot of activities around Asia. It’s quite easy to find Expedia promotion codes and Klook discount codes throughout some service as well.

Not only that, because some destinations in Asia are quite well-known as ‘heaven on earth’ for those who love shopping. From Chatuchak Market in Bangkok to the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, from the cheapest to the most expensive ones… You can have it all around ASEAN! πŸ˜€

2. Get Something that You Know May Entertain You Along the Way (When You Have No Choice to Do Anything But!)

Sure, some of you may find South East Asia as an exotic destination to go for holiday. For exactly the same reason, you don’t wanna miss out for anything and you think that you won’t need that book you’ve wanted to read for so long. It’s all up to you, but I think you need to think twice in some destinations like Jakarta or Manila.

If you think you could handle traffic jam well enough, please mind that one of my Japanese friends who lived in KL used to say that the traffic jam in Jakarta couldn’t be as bad as in KL. What happened was, she got frustrated with the fact that it took her almost an hour by car to reach the mall where we were supposed to have dinner together.

The mall was only around 4 km away from her hotel.

Some people think traffic jam is acceptable every now and then, until they have to deal with the traffic in Jakarta or Manila.

Also check:Β 21 Breathtaking Places to Visit in the Philippines


The traffic jam in some capital cities around here, may come off as a shock for you. Not to mention about the fact that public transportation provided may not be as advanced as you thought it would be. For me, I usually have at least a book to read. And also my iPod.

Okay, I could hear some of you asking, “What is it? 2010? iPod? Really?”

There are some perks that I’ve got from having an iPod. First of all, the battery stays longer than my one night stand phone and I could just focus on the music played rather than getting distracted by a new message. Hmm.

I bought my iPod with my first salary from the first job I got after I graduated college.

After all, traffic jam may seem a little better when you get to listen to your favorite music right? πŸ˜‰

3. Try to Blend with the People and Respect Their Culture

If there’s anything that I’m familiar with from traveling around the area (and being a South East Asian myself), I suppose it’s the fact it is so easy to get along with the people.

I mean, I could randomly wait for a bike taxi to pick me up and then the next thing I knew, I got engaged in a conversation with some total stranger who’s waiting for her boyfriend to pick her up. And I’m not even considered as an introvert!

People here are so friendly, that it takes only a smile to befriend them if language is not a problem.

Yangon Circular Railway with their locals.

The thing is, in some parts of the region, the culture here is so strong that may cause a culture shock for both locals and tourists. For example, no matter how much I agree with the statement about women could wear anything they want, there’s some places here that still praise patriarchy and it’s hard to make that statement a common sense.

If I had a dollar everytime I got catcalled by some random guy when I wore a decent dress in Jakarta, I’d probably be sipping some fancy alcohol drink in Carribbean. And not writing this, being miserable at home. πŸ˜›

Sometimes you gotta lower your pride and follow the instruction to wear something that the locals find ‘appropriate’. You don’t want to risk yourself from having something unwanted happen to you right?

4. Cash Me Outside Howbow Dah

Okay, so I actually use this tagline just so it’s a little eye-catching or whatever… But then again, if your question is, “Is it better to bring some cash or withdraw some money when traveling around South East Asia?” then here’s my answer… It’s always better to have some extra cash in your hidden spot just in case.

If so, you can bring USD because in most places around here, the value of USD could give you some benefits compared to when you withdraw some money and get charged for it.

I personally would avoid anything that requires me to use my credit card for the transaction and so far, it works well for me. Just mind your secret stash though. You know, just in case.

5. Watch What You Eat, But Don’t Get Too Paranoid!

Not to scare people off, but when it comes to local food, especially those in hawker stall, sometimes you just need to watch what you have as it might not work well for your tummy.

And nope, I don’t underestimate your ability to take any kind of food in the world, but for the love of God, just take some precaution alright? We’ve got some of the best food in the world, but no one wants to suffer from food poisoning the day after. 😐

This photo was taken 3 years ago. I’m no longer that tiny. *lol*

While you need to be careful of what you eat, you don’t really need to be way too paranoid. For example, I once traveled with someone who would only go to McDonald’s because she was too afraid to try the local food. And during a short layover, she chose to buy a pack of instant noodle instead. She strictly avoids to try the local food.

I mean, sure it’s your choice… But to be frank, when you skip trying the local cuisine, you miss something to learn about the local culture in general.

Yes, I understand there are some restrictions that you’ve got, be it’s because you’re a vegan or a Muslim trying to keep everything halal for you, but with a little effort to communicate, it won’t be as bad. I mean, isn’t interacting with the local that way beneficial for you at some point as well?

Is It Safe to Travel Around South East Asia?

Back to the question about whether it is ‘safe’ to travel around the countries. The most annoying question that I’ve ever found throughout travel niche.

Well, let’s be fair, bad things happen almost everywhere around the world. The definition of ‘safe’ could probably different for one persona and the other. So, if you ask me, sure it could be a little bias. But then again, wherever you go, you should be cautious for anything that might happen. Either it’s good or bad.

Like, when it comes to safety, hiking at Ao Nang in Thailand could be as safe as shopping in Bangkok. But then again, no one could guarantee that Singapore is the safest place in the region if your fate tells otherwise.

After all, that’s what makes traveling interesting, because that’s how it makes you grow as a person. There may be something different in the place you travel to if you compare it with back home, but isn’t that the point you’re going out of your comfort zone?

So, wherever you go, try to avoid any judgement just based on one article you see somewhere, unless of course it’s a war zone. Travel smart, and be safe wherever you are! πŸ˜‰


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11 thoughts on “How To Travel Smart in ASEAN Countries

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more! After living here in SE Asia nearly 5 years, that is 100% the most annoyingly redundant (and ignorant!) comment I get from friends and family back home – “Oh my god, isn’t it unsafe to go to X country / X place / X city?” The ironic thing is that there are WAY more dangerous areas of my home country (USA) compared to nearly every country in SE Asia. As you said – bad things happen everywhere. But you can minimize bad things happening to you by using good judgment. Great read! πŸ™‚

    1. yes, it’s quite annoying to get asked this kind of question indeed. but as an indonesian, the most annoying thing i got whenever i saw questions about traveling around the region around here would be the part when people listed bali in the name of countries. my heart cried a little, because i found that situation quite often. πŸ˜›

  2. I have plans to travel to a SE Asian country in several weeks! Great tip about the safety of the food there. You are right to be careful, but not too paranoid. I love the food in SE Asia, but one must be cautious about the water , especially if you come from the States, Canada, or Europe. From my experience, drinking bottled water is safest or boiling the city’s water. As a general rule, I don’t eat anything from open markets or fruit that hasn’t been washed thoroughly. Other than that, I would try the local food, because it is often more delicious (in my opinion) than some of the food back home. And, also from personal experience, I can attest that the traffic IS very bad in Jakarta! It’s kind of like being on a road where there’s lots of construction, minus the construction. However, there are many beautiful scenic sites throughout SE Asia, and a lot of delicious food. I, for one, can’t wait to go visit!

    1. oh yesss, tap water in south east asia countries is mostly not drinkable. i gotta check whether it is drinkable in singapore, but i never did. always g to the bottled water just to be safe. and you’ve been to jakarta?! lol, i know right, it’s quite hellish around the city. there’s an anecdote here about how you could survive driving anywhere else in the world if you could manage to drive in jakarta without complaining. seeing the situation, i think it’s true. πŸ˜€

  3. I had no idea that it could be that cheap to travel from one place to another! This is definitely something I’ll remember when we start planning for our vacation next year.

    I always hide some cash inside my shoe underneath the sole when I’m in foreign countries. worked pretty great for me these least couple of years.

  4. You have really added some of the great tips here to travel and enjoy the same time. VoucherCodesHK is one of the best place to compare some of the coolest offers and discount deals to visit and explore some amazing activities in hong kong.

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