Always use your wit and let your nose decide. Apart from that avoid food that you do not know or did not see being prepared. Fruit stalls are popular and you can pick up a refreshing snack there, but also be vigilant how the fruit is being prepared. Avoid fruit that is being washed in the tap water. Peeled fruit is generally fine but make sure it is fresh. A lot of vendors will peel the fruit in front of you what is what we prefer.
Drink only bottled water that is clearly labelled as mineral or drinking water. Most bottling companies place a plastic seal on the bottle cap and you should expect water served to you with the seal on even in restaurants. Avoid drinking Ice Coffee and fruit shakes unless you are confident that ice these come with was made from a drinking water. Remember that freezing does not kill all the bacteria and viruses.
Ask your GP for advice on vaccination you may need to take before your travel. Standard vaccination includes Hepatitis A, Typhoid and Polio. You should have them administered at least 4 weeks before you travel. These vaccines are usually free in the UK when you go through your NHS GP. Please plan ahead and contact them early to book your appointment. It is better to be safe than sorry.
We recommend you use the combination of your debit card and any amount of easily convertible currency (GBP, EUR, USD) you feel comfortable carrying. Generally exchanging money at airports and main communication hubs is the most expensive option. ATMs are generally easily accessible for a fee up to GBP 3 per transaction with exception of smaller islands where you may be charged up to 5% for a withdrawal. We will do our best to advise you on how and where to get local currency before your travel.
English is generally spoken with varying levels of fluency, but with a bit of patience you can get you point across to pretty much anyone. Don’t always expect a philosophical discourse with your driver, but they should be able to give you basic information and advise on places worth seeing.
If you have an unlocked phone we strongly encourage buying a local prepaid SIM card. These are easily available at airports and many other locations across the region. Charges for outgoing calls to Europe or the US are generally a lot cheaper than international roaming plus you can use the internet at very competitive prices through your travel if you choose your plan wisely. We will help you with that.
The easiest and most cost effective method is buying a prepaid sim card with an internet plan for your smart phone or iPad. Internet at lower Edge speeds is widely available in most of the area of countries you will be visiting and 3G is a norm in the cities. Wi-Fi hotspots are available in hotels, but are not a norm. Internet cafes are widely available but may be relatively expensive especially in smaller locations if you are planning on surfing the web for a long time. Best option to our mind is a local SIM card for your phone that will allow you to check your email or check out some info on the web virtually wherever you are.
It is on occasions generally quicker and more comfortable to use a private car instead of a plane as you are not bound by flight schedules and airport transfers eat up a lot of valuable holiday time. If you prefer to handle internal transfers yourself transportation for short trips is easily available at the at the airport. For more distant location we suggest you seek our advice unless you are confident can manage it as you go.
Generally tourist visa is not required for UK citizens as well as citizens of most EU countries for stays up to 30 days in Thailand and 90 days in Malaysia when arriving by plane. Cambodian visa can be obtained for a fee of USD 20 at Phnom Phen and Siem Reap airports and some land borders like Aranyaprathet/Poipet.
When crossing the border by car or on foot you can get only 14 day tourist visa when entering Thailand so it you may be required to apply for a visa before the start of your journey. It is generally advisable to make sure that you meet visa requirements well before your travel.
Suitcase or Backpack
It is worth considering how much will you be travelling and what transportation options will you chose. Generally you should be fine with a suitcase as long as you are being picked up at your destination or you are travelling to easily accessible locations. If you plan to do more hiking and trekking we would suggest you consider the backpack.
It is also a good idea to take small backpack that will be convenient when you wander off to explore, but again that depend on your preference.
It is not a good idea buying these last minute as the discomfort during the break in period may spoil your experience. If you plan to snorkel or scuba dive we suggest that you take at least your own mask, snorkel and some cloths suitable to wear when in water. Taking some coral beach/water shoes with you can also be a good idea as it will allow you explore places with hard coral and provide protection when both in water and on the beach.
Moped & Car Rental
Car rental shops are available in most locations and mopeds are as easy to rent as buying a bag of crisps, but driving experience in Southeast Asia is not for the faint hearted. One needs to remember that driving culture is different to what Europeans are used to. It often happens that road users have little regard to traffic law so if you decide to rent a vehicle you need to have your eyes around your head. If it is your first visit to SE Asia we recommend to see what we are talking about with your own eyes before you make a decision to rent.
Cambodia’s turbulent history has left terrifying reminder of years of war that finally finished only in the late 1990s. Even though deminig efforts have been intense there are areas of higher risk that need to be avoided. To say that the areas you will be visiting are 100% free of landmines would be a lie but where we recommend you to go the risk is marginal as long as you don’t stray away from paths people usually use.
The rule of the thumb that should keep you safe – don’t use a path when you see no footsteps on it. In general temples, villages and jungle hiking trails are safe, but we would not recommend wandering deeper into the rice fields with no guide or going for unguided jungle trips outside of normal trails. If you want to learn more about the landmines in Cambodia we encourage to visit the Landmine Museum near Siem Reap – a charity we work with. They will give you front of the line insight into the current safety level and share unbelievable stories of despair battled by courage and determination that helps Cambodia emerge form the shadow of the war.
Although the region is relatively poor the people are friendly and honest. Buddhist belief system does not allow theft, but as in any country you may expect pick-pocketers in popular places like Bangkok, Pattaya, Pa Tong on Phuket Island, Phi Phi Village or some parts of Krabi coast. These are most popular destinations among typical tourists and do attract criminal element both domestic and foreign. Don’t be fooled by popularity of these locations. Most of them although offering beautiful scenery have been developed for decades and are currently crowded with people due to easily accessible infrastructure and the hype of mainstream tour operators and travel guides that try to squeeze every dollar out of them. If you want to visit these places please be extra diligent about your safety. There is still a plenty of locations that are equally beautiful, but not that overdeveloped apart from increased safety level will ensure you get real Escape the Crowds experience.