Southeast Asia is Where It’s At! Use these 9 Tips to Make your Experience Unforgettable!

Beautiful Sunrise at Borobudur Temple near Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Beautiful Sunrise at Borobudur Temple near Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Southeast Asia is going through something of a travel renaissance. East Asia has the fastest growing tourism industry in the world, and it seems to be every 5th social media post is a picture of someone petting an elephant in Indonesia or visiting one of the many temples scattered around eastern and southeastern Asia. While it’s clear what attracts people to Southeast Asia; rich culture and history, incredible food and low budgets; knowing where to start is another story. With this in mind, Chris and Reg Travel bring to you every tip and detail you need to know to help prepare for, execute and return from your dream Southeast Asian trip.

Use these tips to help plan, orchestrate and enjoy your next trip, or your first trip, to Southeast Asia. No matter what your destination is/are, whether you are a travel veteran or noob, there are some must-follow guidelines regarding what you should bring, such as long sleeves and pants for temples, that are a must, customs and all. And if you need help deciding on what islands to visit check out this post on Penang or Langkawi.

Knowing, for example, that you’ll need to bring DEET virtually everywhere you go, or that the Philippines is often one of the most underrated destinations in Asia or that Taiwan is secretly one of the best food destinations in Southeast Asia will help guide you as a master travel planner to make the best decisions pre-trip, during your trip, and post-trip.

Knowing that Thailand, for example, is the last military controlled state in the world, and other information will be covered in Chris and Reg Travel’s 9 Need-to-Know Tips for Southeast Asian Travel.

How to Pack: Don’t Leave Without These Things!

Tip #1: If There’s Heat, bring the DEET (and maybe even a Sheet)

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), half the world’s population is at risk of malaria. Malaria occurs in warm tropical climates, high in dewpoints and humidity because it allows for the Anopheles Mosquitoes to thrive.

Sparing you the details, one of the best and most accessible ways to keep mosquitoes from biting you is with DEET, the active ingredient in most bug repellants. Another popular way is to take anti-malarial medication but do your research because users sometimes complain of the wide-reaching side effects.

Example of DEET
If there is heat, bring the DEET!

While nowhere near the number of cases in Africa, Southeast Asia is a hotspot for Malaria. Indeed India, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia have the most cases in Southeast Asia because of dense population centers and high dew points. However, don’t let that scare you, just because a country has a high malaria transmission rate does not mean you’re more likely to get malaria, according to a recent study. Taking your medicine and bringing DEET has helped curb the incidence among tourists.

The best bet at curbing your malaria risk is with the old one-two (three) punch:

  1. Take anti-malarial medicine before your trip (it depends on which drug to know how early, so check with your doctor or pharmacist). Popular drugs are Malarone and Chloroquine.
  2. Spray DEET in and around your hotel room. Hotel types vary widely in Southeast Asia, such as semi-open-air rooms on the beaches of Koh Rong to 5-star hotels in Bangkok. If there is even a slight chance of mosquitoes getting in, just take your DEET and spray cracks, window areas, and doors. 
  3. Bring a Sheet (mosquito net). What we really mean is a mosquito net. Many mosquito nets are treated with agents that help repel mosquitoes, but the important thing is to be covered, especially if you are sleeping in an open-air situation. You can find out from your hotel if they have them. But if not, just bring one. If the chance is small that you’ll need one, but you aren’t sure, just bring one.  Here is easy to transport net from Amazon, and if you’re traveling with toddlers then check this one out.

Mosquitoe Net
Mosquito Nets look like this

Also, there are many services and apps that provide you with emergency information for each country you are in. Download International SOS on your iPhone or Android so you have access to all the information you need.

If you are in a situation where you need treatment be sure to know which numbers are the ones you need by having one of these apps.

Don't let an emergency ruin your perfect southeast asia trip
Don’t let an emergency ruin your perfect southeast Asian trip

Last little tip, before you go, check online or with your doctor to see if there are any vaccines you need prior to visiting a country. In Southeast Asia, Yellow Fever is also a risk, but if you’re vaccinated before you go, it’s one less thing to think about. Yellow Fever vaccine lasts a lifetime in most people.

Remember, if there’s heat, bring the DEET (and a Sheet)!

Tip #2: Wear Sleeves, Pants for Temples (and ditch the flip-flops)

Southeast Asia is full of extraordinary sites, from mind-blowing large malls to some of the most beautiful futuristic buildings. But, perhaps the most attractive type of structure in Southeast Asia are the temples, there are literally thousands of them. Beautiful architecture and often preserved from hundreds or thousands of years ago, temples are a huge attraction for tourists from all around the world.

A beautiful Sunrise at Angkor Wat
Pink sky highlighting the massive structure at Ankgor Wat

Generally associated with religion, temples are a main attraction in many southeast Asian countries. Temples receive all types of visitors, but originally are intended to be holy sites and places of tradition and practice.

While people who do not use temples for religious purposes are welcomed to visit, it goes without saying that visitors should show the utmost respect for the guidelines and rules upon entering these religious monuments. What are these guidelines, you might ask?

Follow Chris and Reg Travel’s 5 Tips for Temples to ensure a successful temple visit:

  1. No shorts and no short-sleeve shirts are allowed in many temples around the world, including Buddhist temples. If you plan on visiting any Buddhist or Hindu temples, be sure to wear long sleeve shirts and pants. For Hindu temples, it is custom to wear business casual for men and long dresses for women. The point is, do not show any skin that you may otherwise show in public.
  2. No Sandals should be worn in any temple of any kind. In Hindu temples, you take off your shoes. In many Japanese temples, it is also a custom to take off your shoes. Buddhist temples around the world have different customs for shoes, so be sure to know them before you go. You can always pack a pair of flip-flops in your backpack to put on after you leave the temple.
  3. Be Mindful of Photography by asking whether you can take photographs. Never take photographs of people, especially those in the middle of practicing. Never use the flash on your camera and be sure that it is turned off.
  4. Keep Quiet in temples. You will notice no one is yelling or shouting, and people are keeping their voices down. Do this out of respect for people practicing, and out of respect for the temple itself. Being belligerent is extremely distasteful and it speaks poorly to your home country. Remember, in other countries, you represent your entire country, so be sure to be respectful.
  5. Never place yourself above the religious figures (i.e. Buddha) to show respect. It is seen as extremely disrespectful to be physically above the Buddha.

Happy Monk in Myanmar
Monk Smiles in Myanmar

Chris and Reg Travel Fun Fact: You’ll notice when you enter a Buddhist temple that there is always a little step you go over. This causes you to look down and bow, no matter who you are, which is part of the process of entering a temple. This is deliberate. Be sure to notice it instead of tripping and falling.

Trip Execution: The Lowdown on What to Know & Where to Go

Chris and Reg Travel’s Golden Tip #3: Our Stats on Countries (with a little help from our friends!)

Map of Southeast AsiaMap of Southeast Asian Countries

We talked to some of our friends and used our own experiences to come up with some important highlights of countries and prepared this easy guide for helping to decide which countries are the best to go to and for which reasons.

While this is by no means the only resource you should use to help decide, it is helpful to see all the information for countries side-by-side.

Please note that this is intended for travelers and points out things to know for travelers only! We understand that living in that country is a completely different matter entirely.

Metrics Guide

(10 is the best score while 1 is to be avoided)

Budget – Cheap and Quality are the metrics here. The cheapest but highest quality gets high scores.

Enough to Fill 7 Days – If it has enough to fill 7 days then it gets a high score.

Visas – Ease of obtaining a visa, based on a US or UK visa.

Exchange Rate (Money Power) – Does your money get you far? Yes is a high score, no is a low score.

Infrastructure – Good infrastructure gets a high score. (relative score for southeast Asia, not globally)

Language Barrier – Tough language barrier gets a lower score but few scores are below 5.

Beaches/Cities/Temples – No score. This identifies which is the largest pull and highlight to the country.

Political Unrest – Less political danger gets a high score.

Crime– Less Crime danger gets a high score.

Weather – Comfortable weather gets a high score. Keeping in mind that SE Asia is notoriously hot.

Solo-Female Traveler Score – Safe for a female solo traveler gets a high score.


  • Budget: 8.5/10
  • Enough to Fill 7 Days: 10/10
  • Visas: 5/10 (Visas are expensive and they don’t offer transit visas)
  • Exchange Rate (Money Power): 10/10
  • Infrastructure: 7/10
  • Language Barrier: 7/10
  • Beaches/Temples/Cities: All of the above
  • Political Unrest: 7.5/10 (Communist but considered the most capitalist communist country)
  • Crime: 8.5/10
  • Weather: 7.5/10 (They get an occasional typhoon)
  • Solo-Female Traveler Score: 9.5/10


  • Budget: 10/10
  • Enough to Fill 7 Days: 8.5/10
  • Visas: 10/10
  • Exchange Rate (Money Power): 7.5/10
  • Infrastructure: 6/10
  • Language Barrier: 9/10
  • Beaches/Cities/Temples: Temples and some beaches
  • Political Unrest: 8.5/10
  • Crime: 7.5/10 (lots of scams)
  • Weather: 9/10
  • Solo-Female Traveler Score: 9/10


  • Budget: 10/10
  • Enough to Fill 7 Days: 10/10
  • Visas: 9.5/10
  • Exchange Rate (Money Power): 10/10
  • Infrastructure: 9/10
  • Language Barrier: 7/10
  • Beaches/Cities/Temples: All Of The Above.
  • Political Unrest: 7.7/10
  • Crime: 8.5/10
  • Weather: 9/10
  • Solo-Female Traveler Score: 10/10


  • Budget: 7/10 (It’s expensive to fly into)
  • Enough to Fill 7 Days: 7.5/10
  • Visas: 9/10
  • Exchange Rate (Money Power): 9.5/10
  • Infrastructure: 6/10
  • Language Barrier: 8/10
  • Beaches/Cities/Temples: Temples and City* (landlocked)
  • Political Unrest: 9/10
  • Crime: 9/10
  • Weather: 9/10
  • Solo-Female Traveler Score: 9/10


  • Budget: 7/10
  • Enough to Fill 7 Days: 10/10
  • Visas: 7/10
  • Exchange Rate (Money Power): 7.5/10
  • Infrastructure: 7/10 (doesn’t cover the entire country)
  • Language Barrier: 7.5/10
  • Beaches/Cities/Temples: All of the above.
  • Political Unrest: 5.5/10
  • Crime: 8/10
  • Weather: 9/10
  • Solo-Female Traveler Score: 7.7/10


  • Budget: 5/10 (Food can be found cheap but that’s about it)
  • Enough to Fill 7 Days: 7/10 (Depends on what you like)
  • Visas: 10/10
  • Exchange Rate (Money Power): 2/10 (Singapore dollar is close to the US dollar)
  • Infrastructure: 11/10
  • Language Barrier: 10/10
  • Beaches/Cities/Temples: City but there are temples and a cool beach.
  • Political Unrest: 9/10 (just stay away from gum and follow the rules you’ll be fine)
  • Crime: 10/10
  • Weather: 9/10
  • Solo-Female Traveler Score: 10/10


  • Budget: 10/10
  • Enough to Fill 7 Days: 9/10
  • Visas: 10/10
  • Exchange Rate (Money Power): 8.5/10
  • Infrastructure: 8.5/10
  • Language Barrier: 10/10
  • Beaches/Cities/Temples: Beaches and City (some of the best beaches in the world)
  • Political Unrest: 7.7/10 (Just stay away from Mindanao and southern islands)
  • Crime: 7.5/10 (really depends on where you are, and again, stay away from the South)
  • Weather: 9/10
  • Solo-Female Traveler Score: 8.5/10 (Just stay away from the south)


  • Budget: 9.5/10
  • Enough to Fill 7 Days: 10/10
  • Visas: 9.5/10
  • Exchange Rate (Money Power): 9.5/10
  • Infrastructure: 8.7/10 (depends on where you are)
  • Language Barrier: 9/10
  • Beaches/Cities/Temples: All of the above (Some of the best in the world for beaches/temples)
  • Political Unrest: 8.5/10
  • Crime: 8.5/10 (lots of scams)
  • Weather: 9.5/10
  • Solo-Female Traveler Score: 11/10
  • Indonesia Only: Prone to Earthquakes and Tsunamis, stay alert and be smart


  • Budget: 6.5/10 (one of the most expansive SE Asian Countries)
  • Enough to Fill 7 Days: 6/10
  • Visas: 9/10 (for some reason US citizens need 6 blank pages in Passport)
  • Exchange Rate (Money Power): 6/10
  • Infrastructure: 9/10
  • Language Barrier: 9/10
  • Beaches/Cities/Temples: Rainforests
  • Political Unrest: 7/10
  • Crime: 9/10
  • Weather: 8.5/10 (Get the occasional typhoon)
  • Solo-Female Traveler Score: 8/10


  • Budget: 9.5/10 (it is an extremely underrated budget destination, 5-star quality 3-star prices)
  • Enough to Fill 7 Days: 8.5/10
  • Visas: 9/10
  • Exchange Rate (Money Power): 8.5/10
  • Infrastructure: 9/10
  • Language Barrier: 8.3/10
  • Beaches/Cities/Temples: All of the above (Underrated in all respects)
  • Political Unrest: 7.5/10 (while it’s stable, China continues to exert itself and it will boil over)
  • Crime: 9.5/10
  • Weather: 8.5/10 (Get frequent typhoons)
  • Solo-Female Traveler Score: 9/10


  • Budget: 9/10
  • Enough to Fill 7 Days: 8.5/10
  • Visas: 9.5/10
  • Exchange Rate (Money Power): 8.5/10
  • Infrastructure: 9.5/10
  • Language Barrier: 9/10
  • Beaches/Cities/Temples: A little bit of everything, don’t miss the beaches or KL
  • Political Danger: 9ish/10 (just got a beloved PM after removing a disliked PM)
  • Crime Danger: 8.7/10
  • Weather: 9.2/10
  • Solo-Female Traveler Score: 9/10

Are you looking for more information about Malaysia check out our friends over at The Bamboo Traveler and their Malaysia travel itinerary.

Hong Kong

  • Budget: 8/10 (it very much depends on what type of traveler you are)
  • Enough to Fill 7 Days: 9/10
  • Visas: 10/10
  • Exchange Rate (Money Power): 7/10
  • Infrastructure: 10/10
  • Language Barrier: 7.9/10
  • Beaches/Cities/Temples: Cities, but has nice temples.
  • Political Unrest: 8.9/10 (at this exact moment it’s heated, but generally it’s fine, avoid protests)
  • Crime: 9.5/10
  • Weather: 8.5/10 (Gets regular typhoons)
  • Solo-Female Traveler Score: 10/10


  • Budget: 10/10
  • Enough to Fill 7 Days: 8/10
  • Visas: 8/10
  • Exchange Rate (Money Power): 8/10
  • Infrastructure: 6/10
  • Language Barrier: 8.6/10
  • Beaches/Cities/Temples: Temples
  • Political Unrest: 7.5/10
  • Crime: 7.5/10
  • Weather: 7.8/10
  • Solo-Female Traveler Score: 7.7/10
  • Bangladesh Only: Infrastructure is bad, buildings regular collapse killing hundreds. Extremely densely populated.

Sri Lanka

  • Budget: 7.5/10
  • Enough to Fill 7 Days: 8/10 (if you don’t skip the beaches)
  • Visas: 8.6/10
  • Exchange Rate (Money Power): 8/10
  • Infrastructure: 6/10
  • Language Barrier: 6.9/10
  • Beaches/Cities/Temples: Beaches, hands down.
  • Political Unrest: 7.5/10
  • Crime: 7/10
  • Weather: 7.5/10
  • Solo-Female Traveler Score: 7.9/10

Go and visit our friends over at The World in my Pocket to find out more on their trip to Sri Lanka.

Chris and Reg in Southeast Asia
The Angkor Complex

Chris and Reg Travel’s Underrated Destinations List:

The Philippines

This country has some of the best beaches in the world, some of the friendliest people and a surprisingly vibrant capital city in Manila.


The secretly best budget destination. It’s not as budget-friendly as Indonesia, but you can get Japan-level quality food at half the price, and do not skip the street food scene. Taipei is surprisingly vibrant, and there are many cool places to visit.


Can be seen as the hipster of southeast Asian countries, with great coffee, beautiful architecture, the power of French legacy, and great food.

Tip # 4: Go Between October and May

While it is okay to go to Southeast Asia at any time of the year, flights to Southeast Asia from Europe and Asia are much cheaper during October and May.

A friend of ours who lived in Hong Kong noticed that flying into Southeast Asia during these months offered trip fares often at 75% off the cost when compared with the summer months. Additionally, we have traveled to Southeast Asia during this time and the fares were not terrible.

With the exception of the Chinese New Year, traveling to this part of the world is a breeze during this time, with flights out of major US airports like SFO, LAX and JFK roundtrip for $500. Once you’re there, trips from cities like Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Ho Chi Minh City can be as low as $50-$90 (one-way).

Hotels aren’t so bad either during this time.

This allows for budget vacations that can be much cheaper than flying to Europe, northern Asian countries, or even Latin America. While certain countries in Southeast Asia may be affected by the Typhoon season, the weather overall is cooling down (relatively speaking) during this time of the year. Meaning October through May and especially November through February, are the best times of the year to go.

Chris and Reg Shopping in Southeast Asia
It still might be good to have a hat!

Quick Note: Immediately after we finished writing this post, I noticed for the months of August and September, flights to Southeast Asia dropped dramatically, especially when leaving major airports and west-coast airport.

Also remember, it’s always best to buy your international flight about one to two months in advance. Tickets are generally cheapest within this window.

Chris and Reg Travelers Tip: The day you purchase your flight’s matters too! Most people plan their trips and buy flights on the weekend, so airlines inflate flights a little bit to make an extra buck. But they drop them on Monday and Tuesday before they go up again on Wednesday. Be sure to buy your flights on Mondays and Tuesdays for the best deals.

Tip #5: Thailand Fast-Facts

Bangkok is the most visited city in the world, and Thailand is in the top 10 for most visited countries in the world. It is no secret (at least not anymore) that Thailand is a traveler’s paradise, although it used to be! Thailand is attracting visitors from around the world with it being at the top or near the top of many people’s bucket list.

Picturesque Beach in ThailandBeautiful Phuket, Thailand Beach

Thailand has amazing beaches, beautiful temples, multiple incredible cities, and fantastic food. It’s a complete destination no matter how you look at it. But before you go, there are some things you should know so you’re not fooled into thinking it’s a la-la land where you can do whatever you want. There are some important details that should be kept in mind in yet another list.

This time, Our Thailand Fast-Facts:

  1. Thailand is a military state. This means that Thailand’s leaders are not elected, but rather take control themselves. While the current leader is extremely respected and is not a bad person, it is important to keep this in mind. It’s not like western democracies or even communist countries. It’s in its own realm when it comes to political situations.
  2. Thailand is the only SE Asian country never Colonized by Europeans. This means that Thailand is distinctly Thai. Most of its population is Thai and 93% of its people practice Buddhism.
  3. Thailand has more than 1400 Islands. Picking the best island or beach getaway requires research! Find the right one for you. If you’re going to Phuket, be sure to stay on the north side if you’re looking for a more chill, laidback atmosphere. However, if you’re looking for raucous parties then go south.
  4. Not as many people Speak English as you may expect. Because Thailand was not colonized by Europeans, don’t expect everyone to speak English. For example, visiting major monuments in Bangkok, including the Palace, guards there will not speak English and won’t’ be able to help you. Be prepared.
  5. Bangkok is as great as they say. Don’t just take our word for it! Go see for yourself. You can thank us later!
  6. Bangkok traffic is horrendous. Be sure to note the amount of time it will take your Grab (the popular Uber-equivalent) to get to where it is going, it may be faster to walk even if it is more than a mile away.
  7. The beaches are as great as they say. They have some of the best beaches in the world there. Be sure not to miss them.
  8. Sex Trafficking is a real problem. The government and cities have been doing everything they can, but the problem is systemic. Be sure to be aware of this.

All in All, Thailand is one of the most desirable destinations in Southeast Asia, and the world, for many reasons. The tasty food, friendly people, beautiful temples, and wild nightlife bring travelers to the country in droves.

Bangkok, Thailand Chao Phraya RiverBangkok, Chao Phraya River makes a great cruise

Just be sure to be mindful and remember these tips as you prepare for your Thai adventure if that is where you choose to go!

Tip #6: Tourist Zones are Packed so Take a Look Outside of Them Sometimes

Tourism in Southeast Asia is a huge industry, and they know it. Many of the places you go, you may get this feeling like you’re being pulled along a tourist route, and it’s true, you are. Tourism is often some of these countries’ main industries, so they want to get every cent possible out of you. Be sure to follow this tourist track and see all of the sites along the way.

But it is important when you’re going to any country to be sure to see what they don’t put right in front of you. Seeing rural parts of a country is eye-opening, and we’ve found it less easy to do so in Southeast Asia because the country organizes itself so that it is easier to get to the tourist sites, and harder to get away from them.

Food Carts in Hanoi
Women pulling Street Food Banana carts around Hanoi

For example, in Cambodia, most travelers are sure to hit Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat. The entire city of Siem Reap more or less caters to tourists. But, as true with any country with famous tourist sites and tourist zones, native Cambodians who have set up this tourist infrastructure do not live the same way outside of tourist zones.

Step outside of them and you’ll see something different.

If you plan on doing this, be sure to be prepared, and be respectful. Often times the best food, and most interesting interactions can happen once you step out of your comfort zone and into the real life of the locals.

You’re Home From Your Perfect Southeast Asian Trip….Now what?

Southeast Asian Beauty
Beautiful Southeast Asia!

Tip #7: Continue Your Education at Home!

You’ve just gone on an amazing vacation, learned so much, and exposed yourself to a new way of living.

Now it is important to keep that in mind and continue to learn about the country once you’ve returned home. Seek out the country’s food, interact with expatriates, and continue to be respectful.

If you’re from the U.S. then you know that the U.S. is made up of many different cultures and ethnicities. If you were born here, it’s important to reach out to people who are not as familiar with the country, just as you were less familiar in their country and help them acclimate and understand what America is about. The same is true in Canada and the U.K.

Diverse Interactions between members of the community
Celebrate diversity in your local community!

If there is a diaspora or large population of immigrants from a specific country in your city or area, reach out to them. They will appreciate it. If you have visited the country they are from, they will appreciate speaking to someone in the country they are acclimating to who has been to their home country. And if you haven’t visited their country, they will appreciate someone reaching out to them from the country they are trying to acclimate to, who hasn’t been to their country. And it can be a great way to learn about a potential new destination for your next trip!

It’s important to stay humble to continue learning about the world and all its different cultures. It’s also important to become curious about the next culture or country you’ve had on your mind.

Tip #8: Reflect

One way to help tip #7 is to reflect on your experiences. You can start a blog, podcast, or write a book or diary discussing your interpretation of what transpired. We love to write and create videos of the destinations we have been to as a way of processing what happened. Even if it helps one person make a decision about their travel destinations, we feel fulfilled.

Get a pen and notebook and write to reflect on experiences!
Writing is a great way to process a trip to another country

Whether you chose to write about your experiences online or personally, the process of reflection helps continue your education and it’s imperative to continue this process. It’s something every traveler does, veteran or noob.

Another great way to reflect is to do it with the travel community. Many people are thinking about their past trips or future trips just like you are, and sharing opinions, experiences and advice helps make the community stronger and helps you reflect on your experiences! We do it every time we come back from vacation, and we love to interact with the community. It helps us process the trip and helps fellow travelers make good decisions.

Interacting with the community is part of the travel experience!

Tip #9: Plan Your Next Trip!

After you’ve had some time to reflect on your last trip, it’s time to start thinking about your next one. Whether it’s a few weeks, few months, or longer away, it’s good to prepare for trips and learn about the parts of the world you want to visit. Perhaps you want to go back to Southeast Asia, or maybe it’s time to finally get to Africa.

Where ever you decide to go, be sure to think about that trip like you did for this trip so you can make better decisions about what to see, where to go, and how to travel and respect the countries and regions of the world you visit.

We will continue to provide advice for traveling to different parts of the world, and will be doing a European guide soon! Be sure to stay tuned. Chris and Reg Travel loves to help travelers of all experiences in their travel planning and we also love to hear back from readers once they’ve come back!

Don’t just take our word for it! Take a look at the 5 best destinations to visit in Southeast Asia!

This article has links to products and services we love, which we may make a commission from.

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