As we depart for our trip in one week’s time, I thought it might be useful to provide some information on the preparations we had to take prior to our trip. Hopefully, this will assist another eager/nervous/unprepared traveller, and will quell their anxiety somewhat.
Accommodation and Flights
My standards are normally higher than my budget allows, but happily for us, South East Asia is immensely cheap compared to the UK. We have found luxury apartments in Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok for just £20 a night. Seriously, who are those people that insist on staying in shoddy hostels and gross tents, even when good accommodation is so cheap? This isn’t true of Singapore, which is possibly more expensive than at home, but if you shop around a little you will probably find something within your price range.
My first port of call was Airbnb, a site on which you can find rooms, apartments and even couches owned by a local. I have previously used it on trips to Greece, Italy, and Germany, and absolutely adore it. So much so that if I can avoid it, I never stay in hotels. The advantage of having your own apartment is that you can cook your own food, saving a lot of money on expensive meals out. Granted, you may not have a swimming pool (though in many apartments, you can use the one attached to the complex), but what you sacrifice in amenities you make up for in comfort and uniqueness.
I also used sites such as booking.com and Expedia to find the remainder of the accommodation. Once the trip is over, you can have a look at the hotels we stayed at, and my reviews of them on my Tripadvisor profile.
As for flights, Skyscanner has always been my best friend. Although it wasn’t the cheapest option, we ended up going with Emirates, because numerous friends have recommended its excellent service. It was only £50 more expensive than the cheapest option, plus as well as the freebies we apparently gain, we’ll have the experience of flying on an Airbus A380 – you know, those gigantic whale-looking things that soar through the sky.
For our flights between destinations within South East Asia, we are flying with AirAsia for every single flight. We wanted to avoid dodgy airlines such as Lion Air, so were happy to pay a few extra pounds.
We haven’t booked many excursions pre-departure, because most of our destinations have some sort of public transport which allows us to reach the main tourist destinations. The only ones we have booked so far are the Petronas Towers (as it is quite difficult to get tickets at very short notice), and a day trip to the Phi Phi islands from Ao Nang with Krabi Spesialisten, which was recommended by our host and has good reviews on Tripadvisor.
This was the part that caused me the most stress. Growing up in the UK has numerous advantages, so most of the vaccinations I needed to come to the region were provided on the NHS – standard childhood vaccines such as MMR, the DTP, plus additional ones such as Hepatitis A and Typhoid.
Now, had I not been a student during exam season, I could have got Hepatitis B free, too. The combined vaccine Hep A and Hep B is free on the NHS, but I would have had to come back to my GP in Poole every couple of weeks, a no can do in exam season. So I ended up getting the Hep B at the closest Boots, costing me £120 in all.
As for other diseases, I was hoping to avoid shelling out for these at all. I decided against Japanese Encaphalitis, as we will not be going in rural areas (only cities and tourist resorts), so the likelihood of getting it is greatly reduced. Plus, it was something like £90 a dose – way out of the student budget.
I was also going to avoid getting the rabies jabs, but after reading up on rabies on the internet, health paranoia set in. However, I didn’t want to pay £65 for a dose at Boots, so I ended up finding a travel clinic in Vauxhall, Your Travel Clinic, which charged only £30 per dose. The vaccine they gave me was the same one they give at other places – Rabipur – but it was administered intradermally rather than directly into the muscle. I worried that this would not be as effective, but the GP assured me that it provided equal protection against the Rabies virus. The WHO website seemed to confirm this, so I went ahead with the jabs. Apparently they offer it on a wide scale in the US, Australia and New Zealand, and the only reason it is not practiced in the UK more widely is because it requires a doctor to perform it, not a travel nurse or pharmacist. A few other places in the UK offer it, including the Nomad travel clinic, which has branches in most major cities in the UK.
Suitcases and clothing
With every holiday comes yet another excuse to splash out on a new wardrobe. I bought a few things for this trip, as well as the essentials. However, finding the right bag was my main concern. The trip is a month long, and I’m calling it “luxury backpacking”, because although we will be moving around a lot we’ll be staying in nice places the entire time. When I interrailed around Europe, my first wheeled holdall broke before I’d even got off the Eurostar (apparently London tube stations were too much for it), and the next suitcase I bought got a peach pip in the wheel, which broke it. Naturally, I wanted to avoid this happening again.
Since I also hate carrying backpacks, I wanted something with wheels and a handle, so I could drag it around like a suitcase. But I also wanted back straps, in case of rough terrain. I settled for the Newfeel 60L Suitcase, which does both, although it’s worth noting I only intend to carry it when absolutely necessary. Let us hope that it survives four weeks of intensive travel.
So, after months of planning and preparation, we depart in just one week’s time. Although nervous about the flight and the experience in general, I’m sure it’ll be worth it, and of course I’m excited to finally seeing some sun after the exceptionally long winter the UK was cursed with this year.