I am currently studying and travelling overseas on my gap year. I have spent a few weeks backpacking in Asia and here are my travelling tips.
1. Most travel insurances cover trips starting and ending in the UK and lasting no longer than 31 days. I was shocked by how expensive backpacker’s travel insurance was, as my gap year overseas trip will be longer than 31 days. If you have left your home country, you can still buy travel insurance from Safety Wing or World nomads on a monthly basis or for a set period of time. And don’t forget about vaccination. Book up the vaccination appointment at least 3 weeks before your departure, as it takes time for the vaccine to kick in and start working. After you receive your travel vaccine, make sure you keep your vaccine record slip and ask your GP to update it on your medical records, chances are that you might need to provide these vaccine records when you apply for future overseas internship/work.
2. Buy e-sim for your overseas travel. E-sim is a great way to keep your mobile roaming cost low and have access to your current mobile number without having to switch from one sim card to another. If you need to make local calls, download talk360 app and use your e-sim roaming data to make cheap phone calls through talk360.
3. Transport in southeast Asia can often be unreliable , especially buses. Some buses are run by private individuals instead of bigger companies. My friend and I got on the wrong bus in Vietnam even though I double checked the destination with the driver . I didn’t think he was paying attention to my question. My mum ended up staying up almost all night tracking our location by findmyiphone Some of the public buses have no set time tables, ferries can be delayed or cancelled at the last minute, so always allow extra time when you plan your journey. Sometimes it might take you one ferry ride, two tricycle trips and a train journey to get to where you want to go. On another note, do remember to take a jacket when you hop on the bus, the bus air conditioning was so cold in Vietnam and Philippines.
If you have to take a bus / ferry to catch an early morning flight, make sure you check out the bus stop the day before. I nearly missed my flight in Hongkong because I struggled to find the airport bus stop at 6:20am when there was no one on the street to give me directions.
4. Join the local travel Facebook group when planning your journey, that is how I found out a lot of up-to-date local information about my Southeast Asia backpacking trip. People on the Facebook group were so helpful and gave me a lot of tips about how to plan ahead. I would have easily missed my connecting flight if people in the group hadn’t told me to allow at least a 4-hour layover in Manila airport.
5. Read up about the country’s history and culture before and during your visit, join free walking tours, and make friends with locals. I watched the documentary about Cambodian history after I joined the tour of Killing Field and Toul Sleng Genocide Museum (S21) in Phnom Penh. I also went to two walking tours in Hongkong. I walked away with so much more knowledge of Hongkong and Cambodia. Free walking tours are also a great way to gain more local knowledge, as guides know the best restaurants and pubs for locals.
In addition, making friends with locals is a great way to understand their culture. Always take the time to speak to the people every one else is ignoring – security guards, door men etc. The Filipino friend I met took me to amazing places that were off the tourist radar and no entry fee was required 🙂 I was invited for a free visit to a restricted area of an ancient temple, after I struck up a conversation with the security guard and asked him how he coped with the heat in his uniform. The tour guide I made friends with invited me home for a lovely authentic local meal with his wife and children. Be friendly and kind, and the kindness you give out will come back to you 🙂
6. Useful resources:
onwwardticket.com is useful for booking a very cheap and verified return ticket which will be cancelled within 48 hours. Some countries require the visitor to hold a return flight ticket before visa application or entry, but if you are not sure of your travel plan and want to leave things flexible, a booking confirmation from onwardticket.com comes handy.
12go.asia is great for booking public transport in southeast Asia.
Skyscanner and Google flights are very good for finding the cheapest flight tickets. Trip.com is especially good for booking flight tickets, highspeed rail tickets, tourist attraction entrance tickets and accommodation in China. Not all the hotels in China can accept foreign visitors and the ones that can are listed on Trip.com.
Happy 2024 travelling.
Love Scape xxx