5 Things to Know Before Traveling to Southeast Asia

This past summer, I spent 2 weeks in Southeast Asia teaching children English. For the majority of my stay, I was in Siem Reap, Cambodia, but also spent some time in Battambang, Cambodia and Bangkok, Thailand. During those 2 weeks, I learned a lot about Southeast Asian culture; some things I wish I knew before traveling there.

 

1. Aside from the flight cost, traveling in Southeast Asia is incredibly cheap. Hotels won’t cost more than 50 or 60 dollars per night and meals are usually around 6 dollars per person. Souvenirs at local markets are also very cheap. I gave myself a limit of 30 dollars to spend on gifts for 10 of my family members, and I easily achieved that. The taxi service (Tuk-Tuks), which is a carriage attached to a motorbike, won’t be more than 3 dollars for a few people. That being said, if you go to any temples or famous landmarks, such as Angkor Wat, souvenirs will be more expensive. So, don't bring more money than you need!    

 

2. Going off the inexpensiveness, all Cambodians or Thai people are willing to barter for the cost of an item. If they say 6 dollars, you say 3 dollars, and end up settling for 4 or 5 dollars as the final cost. Just be careful not to make a tremendous offer such as asking for 2 dollars when something is originally 7 or 8 dollars. Keeping smaller bills is always the safe way to go as well. Keep them hidden at all times, only taking out a few bills at a time!   

  

3. The people there are also very particular about American money. By this I mean, they won’t accept any money that has a rip in it, or large marks. They see those dollars as “broken money” and to them it isn’t worth anything. I accidently gave a women one dollar that had a rip in it and she thoroughly inspected it and politely handed it back to me and asked for another dollar.

 

4. Probably the most important thing to know is: be cautious of everything you eat and drink!! The water there is undrinkable!! I had to throw away my toothbrush and get a new one because I accidentally rinsed it under the sink water. There are a lot of places in Southeast Asia that are great to eat at (the food is amazing) and are accommodating to foreigners who can’t drink their water. Though there are some risky places. For example, roadside food carts are a no-go! You never know what could've been rinsed or made with the water! On my way back home when we stopped in Bangkok, I ate at a restaurant that we thought was safe, but come to find out, the cucumbers that came with my main meal must have been rinsed under their water. 3 of my friends and I all got the same meal and we all got sick at the airport that night.

 

5. Finally, the one thing that made the trip absolutely amazing was the people I met, specifically the people I met in Cambodia. I have never seen people so happy and joyful, even though most of them have next to nothing. They are so willing to help as best they can and will do anything for you. Getting off the bus to teach and being greeted by 20 or so kids waving, smiling, laughing and running up and giving us hugs was by far the highlight of being there. A few of the children I met and taught even gave me gifts, such as a necklace and and a handmade friendship bracelet, at the end of the 2 weeks. Try to find a local who speaks at least a bit of English, I guarantee you will learn a lot from them! 

 

I would very highly recommend visiting the numerous Southeast Asian countries. Besides seeing many amazing landmarks and temples, I gained so much more personally, through talking to the the people and learning about their lives and their culture.