South East Asia is one of the hottest backpacking destinations right now, attracting travellers with its beauty, diversity and affordable prices. Even though these countries have a reputation for being cheap, there are still plenty of interesting ways to spend your money on your travels.
Check out these 15 tips to get ideas on unique ways make your money go even further while travelling through this spectacular part of the world.
Plan your tripDo your research on where you are going
This is pretty much a no-brainer when it comes to travelling but as a first step, you can save huge amounts of money by ensuring you are in the right place at the right time. This applies not only to seasonal considerations such as weather and periods of high and low tourism but also factors such as what’s happening where you’re going and when. You would be totally bummed to find out there was a huge festival you’d like to see the day after your departure date, that the best weather for snorkeling was the month before you are scheduled to arrive, or that that tour you were dying to take only runs during the part of the year when you won’t be there. Research carefully, don't miss a thing and get the very most out of your holiday!
If you are lucky enough to have a lot of travel time up your sleeve, make sure you purchase a ticket that allows you to change your travel plans without having to pay extra. Many tickets available have open-ended options that allow you to make last minute changes. It’s good to plan for unexpected events or changes, particularly in South East Asia. The next place on your itinerary may have a sudden bout of terrible weather, you may find out about a place that you would like to see, or you might just be having such a wonderful time in one location that you want to stay longer. Having the freedom of changing or adding to your itinerary is an invaluable option while travelling.Insurance
Let’s face it, sometimes unexpected things happen, no matter how well prepared or well researched you are. Invest in some good travel insurance to cover yourself should any unforeseen obstacles occur, and for travelling in South East Asia it is a good idea to choose one that includes health cover. This way you can be confident that if you should lose your luggage, any get sick while you’re in an unfamiliar place, you’ll be covered.
Be SavvyBook your own tours and accommodation where possible
Package or all-inclusive tours can take a lot of the hassle out of planning your trip, but that’s half the fun! Packages can also be deceiving about saving you money at times, having you arrive at your destination only to find that you could have booked locally, invested in the local economy and gotten more authentic experience for a fraction of the price! Armed with your Visa credit or debit card and a bit of research, you can plan your own adventure and spend the money you save on a fancy meal, a lush hotel or that little something that will remind you of your awesome holiday.Money
Avoid exchanging or withdrawing too much cash, especially at airports or in touristy parts of a town, as these places tend to offer the lowest rate. Find a bank to exchange money and remember that in many of the more developed popular tourist spots Visa cards are widely accepted. If you do need cash, withdraw small amounts at a time from your Visa card. With over 1 million ATMs around the world, Visa ensures you have the best access to your money when you are on the go.Transport
When getting around in some areas of South East Asia, organizing your own transport is often easier and cheaper than depending on tour operators or taxis. In areas of low traffic, consider bike rental; not only is it more scenic and you can stop when and where you like, you get some exercise too! Walking is the ultimate mode of transport when travelling; you get to plan your own itinerary see more and do more, often having experiences you never would have had otherwise. If you are travelling long distances or need to get somewhere quickly, try local taxis and tour operators, who you can negotiate a price with.Travel buddy
Travelling with someone else is not only fun and can be safer than travelling alone, it also makes your money go that little bit further! Splitting the cost of a hotel room, taxi ride, or a tour booking can make a huge difference to your travel expenses, especially if you decide to abandon your tight budget here and there and splurge on a nice hotel room, fancy meal, or expensive activity. Travel buddies are also handy in case of emergencies; if one of you loses your luggage or your credit card, your buddy can help you out. And with most Visa cards offering a 24-hour emergency replacement card, your buddy can rest assured the arrangement is only temporary.
Even though the art of bargaining is not familiar to most of us, give it a go and see how far your money stretches! This doesn’t just apply to shopping, but whenever you spend money, including when you pay for accommodation and transport. You will be surprised at how quickly you will get used to it and how much extra cash you will have to spend with the savings you make! It’s also actually quite fun once you get the hang of it and gives you a chance to talk with local people, which is always the best way to fully experience the place you are travelling in.Phone calls
Whatever you do, don’t use that hotel phone! Phones in hotels and guest houses usually charge at the highest rate possible so buy a phone card to use, charge up your Skype account using your Visa credit card and call home, friends or make travel conformations for a fraction of the cost. If you are are going to be in one place for an extended period of time or in several neighbouring countries that share the same phone carriers, invest in a cheap pre-paid mobile that you can top-up with your Visa no matter where you are.
In many places, such as Thailand and Bali, you will often find that buying food from supermarkets (especially western chain supermarkets) is often more expensive than eating out, whether it be at small local restaurants or street vendors. For the price of the items to make 1 meal you can usually have several or a huge feast, especially with a group of people. Besides, with some of the most fantastic cuisine in the world, why eat what you eat at home? Indulge yourself with great meals and you will certainly have a happier holiday and more authentic experience.Don’t assume you can tolerate low-budget places till you have tried them out
If a hostel or guest house requires payment in advance (hotels will usually be satisfied with an imprint of your Visa card). It’s good practice to pay for only one night if you are unsure about the quality of your accommodation. If you pay for 3 and it’s horrible the first night and you want to leave, you will have wasted the money for an extra 2 night’s accommodation! At least with your Visa card you can rest assured that if you can't hack the hostels, you'll still have a place to sleep!
If there is an activity that you will be doing that you will be doing a lot or know you will do again, buy your own equipment instead of hiring it. For example, if you will be doing a lot of snorkeling or scuba diving (you’d be crazy not to in South East Asia!), use your Visa card to invest in a good quality mask and snorkel. Not only are these very personal items for size and hygiene purposes, but they are lightweight and easy to travel with. This also applies to things like carrying a sheet with you if you will be staying in hostels.Pack light
The climate in most of South-East Asia is quite tropical, especially during the times of year that people tend to travel there, so you won’t need much in the way of clothing. Also, regardless of your travel budget you will end up buying some things, so you want to allow room for them rather than ending up with a heap of bags that you will have to pay extra baggage penalties for! You can replace almost anything you left behind, and with Visa being accepted at over 30 million merchants in more than 200 countries worldwide you can rest assured you wont be left high and dry. The countries of South East Asia are renowned for their great markets, wholesale and duty free stores that sell almost everything at a fraction of the price that you pay for it at home!Splurge a little
Whether you are travelling on a tight budget or have a nice bundle of savings, remember to spoil yourself just a little! Whether it’s taking a break from hostels to spend a couple nights in a lush hotel, buying yourself a special memento from your favourite spot, or spending a little extra to do something extraordinary, don’t forget that travelling is about having fun and amazing experiences, and sometimes this calls for throwing caution to the wind and splurging just a little! Let Visa give you this freedom.Hero Image - "Balinese Offering" by Original Nomad - flickr.com
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