Top 10 Tips For Traveling South-East Asia on a Shoestring

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Traveling South-East Asia truly changed my life in many ways, and I’m always recommending people to plan a trip out this beautiful region of the world.  So many people think that traveling is expensive, but that honestly can’t be further from the truth.  South-East Asia is the perfect place for budget travel, and I’ve learned quite a bit during my time out there.  So if you’re looking for some travel tips for Asia on a shoestring, I’m here to help!


1 )  Travel Slow

To begin, when I was backpacking through South-East Asia, I had all the time in the world.  I arrived in Bangkok on a one-way ticket, and had no set return date.  If you’re in the same situation, then my absolute best tip I can give you is to travel slow.  Stay in each destination a bare minimum of 4-5 nights.  This is going to give you the opportunity to get to know each destination, figure out the best and affordable accommodation, and learn your favorite budget places to eat.  You never know, you might enjoy a place so much you will find yourself getting a job at the local pub-crawl or hostel.  However, if you’re on a ‘Travel Talk Tours’ Thailand Tour then you’ll be on a bit more a time schedule.


2 )  Eat Like The Locals

South-East Asia is the street food capital region of the world.  In almost every place you will visit, there will be night markets with delicious food stalls, and I can guarantee they will always be cheaper than any restaurant.  This is especially crucial if you are in Thailand, which is my personal favorite for street food dining!  I stayed in Chiang Mai for one month, and the food was absolutely incredible!


3 )  Stay at Hostels

This should be an obvious one for anyone looking to save money in Asia.  There are so many incredible and budget friendly options to choose from, and you can find beds for as low as $5 per night.  I always like to do ample amount of research on Hostelworld before I book anything, and try to find a hostel with a lively backpacker atmosphere!  Traveling is all about the people you meet, so you want to be in an environment where it’s easy to meet like-minded travelers


4 )  Practice & Master Bargaining

You’re definitely going to get ripped off once or twice.  Don’t worry — it happens to all of us, but you will need to practice and master your bargaining skills.  The locals in these countries will try and get as much money out of you as possible (especially in Vietnam), so know how much you should be paying for each item, and bargain them down!


5 )  Bring Your Own Drinks

If you were to walk into a restaurant in the U.S or Australia with your own water bottle, you might be told that that’s not allowed or get some awful looks.  Well, in South-East Asia it is completely fine!  I NEVER ordered drinks when I ate out, because the price were always much higher than what you would find at the 7-11 across the street.  It’s a tip that I think can save tons of money throughout your trip in Asia.


6 )  Pre-Game Wisely

South-East Asia is one of the best places to party, but just like anywhere in the world, drink prices will add up.  That’s why I always recommend buying a bottle of a local spirit, and play some drinking games at the hostel before you go out.  It’s a fantastic way to start your night, make some friends, and save some money (since you won’t have to spend a lot out at the bars).


7 )  Don’t Buy Souvenirs

As a long-term solo traveler, I never had the space nor budget for souvenirs.  It’s my personal belief that the best souvenirs and pictures and the memories.  Obviously, if there is something you really want, then definitely get it!  Just be careful, it can be very easy to see all these fancy little tourist shops and want to buy stuff, only to realize you don’t have the space or need for any of it.


8 )  Join The Facebook Groups

While this may not be an actualy money saving tip, these groups are absolutely essential!  You can ask all your important questions here (or feel free to email me), and learn about cool stuff going on in each destination.  I was an active member in the south-east Asia backpacker groups during my time out there, and truly found them useful!

Check out these ones:


9 )  Overnight Busses & Trains / Cheap Flights

While some people may disagree with me on this point, I always found that the overnight busses and trains were a great way to save money.  They can get you from Point A – Point B in a decently comfortable way, and they save you a night of accommodation.  With that being said, South-East Asia has some incredible budget airlines that you can find some great deals on!  If you can take a 2-hour plane ride instead of a 12 hour bus…then why not?


10 )  Download My Free E-Book

If you’ve found these tips helpful, then you will absolutely love my Free E-Book “77 Amazing, Helpful, Money Saving Tips for Backpacking South-East Asia“.  I wrote while I was staying on Perhentian Kecil, Malaysia — and tons of people have said they really love it!  It’s short, easy to read, and you will learn a lot.  *Download link below post*


If you’re ever planning a trip, feel free to email me and ask me any question you can think of.  I love helping people plan their travels!

THANKS FOR READING!


Follow my adventures Around The World on FacebookInstagram, Twitter 

& Add Me On Snapchat: — JonesATW

25 Tips for Backpacking Thailand

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Backpacking Thailand is like enrolling in “Backpacking 101”

It’s the absolute perfect destination for new backpackers.  It’s an amazing country with a little something to offer everyone!  With that being said, going to any new destination can be a little intimidating.

Hopefully these 25 tips will help you along your travels through Thailand.  

1.  Practice and Hone Your Bargaining Skills.  

Almost everything is negotiable in Thailand.  You will most definitely get ripped off at least once or twice, but the more you do it — the better you’ll get.  I always recommend the “walk-away” method.  Figure out what you want to pay, and if they won’t agree then start to leave and see if they will accept then.          

2.  Book in Advance for Big Holidays or festivals.

If you’re planning on going to a Full-Moon party, a music festival, or a famous holiday celebration like Songkran — then you need to take care of your accommodation in advance.  Places book up quick.

Check out my video I made of Songkran 2015 in Chiang Mai.  

3.  Shop Around & Compare Prices

When booking anything, check prices at least 3 or 4 different travel agencies.  This goes for island hopping tours, bus + ferry tickets, and hostels / guesthouses.   You can definitely get a better deal and bargain with them to get the best deal.          

4.  Join Facebook Groups with like-minded travelers.

I’m a member of multiple different Facebook groups for travel throughout South-East Asia.  You can post travel questions, share cool photos, make new friends, etc.

These are all groups that can be helpful and entertaining.

There’s honestly tons more if you just search in Facebook

5.  Bring an Unlocked Smartphone and get a local SIM

Purchase a one-month unlimited data plan.  You have no idea how much it will come in handy.  This goes for directions, looking up information, booking last-minute places, making calls, etc.

You can also tether it to your laptop or tablet, and use it on long bus journeys, train rides, or ferries.  

I personally recommend getting a SIM through the company AIS.  I always used them in Thailand, and it worked perfectly.  


Read:  The Ultimate Travel Guide to Thailand [Instagram Checklist]


6.  Street Food.  Eat it often.  

Thailand is the street food capital of the world (in my opinion).  

It’s very delicious, and also budget friendly to save you much some baht.

If you’re looking for the best cheap places to travel, then coming to Thailand and eating the street food is definitely a solid option.

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7.  Take a Sleeper Train

It’s actually a comfortable train, you save on a night of accommodation, and it’s a good experience.

I’ve taken two, and thoroughly enjoyed it both times.

A popular route is between Chiang Mai and Bangkok.      

8.  Debit & Credit Cards  

These tips are great for anyone planning on traveling a lot in the future.  

Try and plan ahead and have a debit card that refunds all ATM Fees.  I know it’s not very common, but to use any ATM in Thailand cost 180 Baht (Approx $5).  

The U.S best bank for this would be Charles Schwab

The same goes for Credit Cards without a foreign transaction fee.

I’d recommend applying for the Capital One Venture Card      

9.  Avoid Phuket & Koh Samui

They are extremely touristy, expensive, and there are much better places to be spending your time.  I know some people have had some good times there, but I wouldn’t bother.

Just skip them.

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10.  Fresh Coconut Water & Fruit Smoothies

It’s very important to keep yourself hydrated while traveling through Thailand.

The fresh coconut water is delicious, healthy, and great for curing hangovers.

There are also fruit juice & smoothie stands all over the place.  They are cheap and tasty.

Drink them often, and stay healthy while traveling.

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11.  Pack Light   

You’re traveling through Thailand, and there really isn’t that much need for a wide-variety of clothes.

Everything you’ll pretty much need can be bought for cheap while traveling as well.

You’ll just need some basic clothes that can be worn in a lot of different settings.

If you’re anything like me though, you’ll spend a lot of time on beaches and islands, and won’t need much.

12. Budget Airlines

While most backpackers prefer to travel overland, sometimes you can find a really cheap flight!  This could particularly come in handy if you need to get up to Chiang Mai quickly.

It can also be annoying traveling on bus and trains because you’ll always have to stop in Bangkok for the longer trips.  It just depends on your itinerary, but getting a budget flight can save some time, money, and energy.

13. Get Massages  

This is probably a no-brainer, but the Thai massages are just so cheap and amazing.  If you are an expert for finding the best deal, you can find them for as cheap as 150 Baht for one-hour.  These aren’t very common anymore, but you’ll never really pay more than 500 Baht for a solid massage experience.  If you’re in Bangkok or Chiang Mai, you could also check out Groupon Thailand.

I always like getting a quick 30-minute foot massage after a long day of walking / sight-seeing.

14.  Try the “Toasties” from 7/11

Trust me.  Just do it.  They are absolutely heavenly.

My personal favorite is the Ham & Cheese Croissant toastie, but there are ton of options.  

 They only cost 25 Baht, they’re insanely delicious, and perfect for a quick snack.

15.  Let’s Talk About Elephant Rides & Tiger Temples.

DON’T DO IT

Elephants aren’t meant to be ridden.  Simple as that.

The Tiger Temples are absolutely atrocious, and drug the poor tigers.  

Check out this great article for 8 Responsible Alternatives to the Tiger Temple.

I actually made the mistake of doing the typical “tourist elephant ride” once during my first time in Thailand, and I still regret it.    


Read:  The Best Hostels in Thailand


16.  Underwater Camera or GoPro

You’ll definitely be wishing you had one if you don’t bring one.  Thailand has some amazing underwater adventures that I’m sure you’ll want to document.    

My GoPro is one of my favorite travel accessories.  It takes some amazing photos, and your Instagram feed will be full of beautiful photos.   

Just jump in! Fan photo ?: @everchanginghorizon

A photo posted by Official Thailand Tourism (@thailandinsider) on

17.  Play Pool

I’ve seriously never played more pool in my life than my time spent backpacking in Thailand.

It can be a great way to meet people, relax around the hostel, or enjoy while enjoying some beers. 

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18.  Bring Sunscreen

 I’m not too sure why, but this essential item can get pretty expensive out in Thailand.  I saw one store trying to sell some sunscreen for 1200 Baht ($35!).

If you do purchase this in Thailand (or any other cosmetic), just be careful it doesn’t have the skin whitener added into it.       

19.  Buy the Lonely Planet Book  

It’s honestly full of useful information, and great to browse through while in transit.  If you don’t buy it, look out for it in hostel book shelves, and check it out.  Can definitely be a great asset. Buy it now               

Wat Tourist…

A photo posted by Dave ✈️ Jones Around the World (@jonesaroundtheworld) on


Read:  3 Week Thailand Itinerary


20.  Get Off The Beaten Path

Make sure you do this at least once or twice.  There’s so many amazing places in Thailand, you don’t want to just be on the same tourist path as everyone else.  Thailand has become a pretty popular touristy destination, but there are still a few places that aren’t often traveled.  

I’d recommend checking out Koh Mook in the Trang province in southern Thailand.  People sometimes stop here on an island hopping tour from Koh Lanta, but it’s a beautiful place to spend a few days depending on how long you have.        

21.  Go to a Music Festival  

There are tons of music festivals in South-East Asia, and quite a few are in Thailand.

I’d recommend going to any of the full-moon parties, Songkran Water Festival in April, or Wonderfruit festival in December for an epic weekend experience.

Yoga Bass during the sunset during Wonderfruit day 2. What an awesome experience. Namaste.

A photo posted by Dave ✈️ Jones Around the World (@jonesaroundtheworld) on

22.  Get a Tattoo 

If that’s your thing?  It’s a pretty popular souvenir, and I’ve seen some pretty cool travel tatoos.

I never got one, but it’s definitely something I want to do when I get back to Thailand.  

Just make sure you plan ahead, and don’t do it when you’re planning on doing a lot of swimming. 

23.  Island Hopping Tours 

In my opinion, these are always a great decision.  They normally only cost around 500 Baht, and include a full-day of snorkeling / sight-seeing in beautiful places.  

Another cool aspect is that you’ll most likely meet some awesome people as well.  If you’re traveling solo, this can be a great opportunity to kick it with some fellow travelers.  

2 Americans, 2 Dutchmen, 1 Boat, 5 islands, 3 bottles of whiskey, and tons of fish. That was one epic snorkeling trip

A photo posted by Dave ✈️ Jones Around the World (@jonesaroundtheworld) on

24.  Stay In Each Destination for at least 4-5 days

This obviously depends on how long you have for your backpacking itinerary in Thailand, but getting from Point A – Point B in Thailand can take much longer than expected.

If you move too quickly, you’ll feel like you’re always in transit instead of enjoying your time in the country.

25.  Stay In Hostels 

Last but not least.  You’re backpacking so you gotta stay at hostels!

Hostels provide the perfect opportunity to meet fellow travelers from around the world.  It’s not about the destination, it’s about the people you meet and spend time with that make traveling so life-changing.

Agoda.com — This is easily my favorite site for finding the cheapest deals on hostels, hotels, and guesthouses in Thailand.

Hostelworld — Really easy to use, great hostel reviews, and you can always find a cheap place.  However, prices can be a bit more expensive than if you were to book in person.

Booking.com — It has tons of options, and is still a great resource for booking a place to sleep.  What is nice is you can often pay in full, or just reserve your spot without any credit card needed.  This can be great for price comparisons.  You never know where you’ll find the cheapest deal.

Hostelbookers — The alternative to Hostelworld.  It’s really great, and sometimes this is where you”ll can find the cheapest price.


BONUS TIP

Down at the bottom of this post you can download my Free E-Book “77 Amazing, Helpful, & Money-Saving Tips for Backpacking South-East Asia” below.  It goes over most of these tips, but includes a lot more information.  It’s a quick and easy read, and free to get just for signing up for my monthly newsletter.

Any questions?  Feel free to shoot me an email or comment down below and I’d be happy to help out.  


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Follow my adventures Around The World on FacebookInstagram, Twitter 

& Add Me On Snapchat: — JonesATW

Backpack Packing Tips

As you all know, I am a big fan of backpacking.  Traveling light is liberating, and far easier to do than you think.  You really do not have to take much with you when you travel.  All you need to do is to follow these simple tips.

Buy a good quality backpack

The first step is to buy a good quality backpack to keep all of your gear dry and safe. It is well worth buying one that is small enough to be carried as cabin luggage. This will save you a lot of time, money and hassle. This list of cabin luggage allowances will help you to work out what size backpack you need to buy, especially if you are planning a trip to the UK or Europe.


The essentials

Once you have your backpack all you need to do is to pack. If you want to you can get away with packing just three of every clothing item. This allows you to wear one, have one that is dirty or drying and a spare.

For many people this approach works fine. However, to be on the safe side it is always worth taking at least two extra pairs of underwear and socks, as well as at least one extra top. That way if you are stranded or cannot wash and dry one day you are not stuck. Taking a lightweight jumper or sweatshirt is also a good idea. Usually you can get away with wearing a good pair of shoes, and packing just one spare pair.

You will also need a versatile jacket, and a hat and sunglasses. Make sure that the jacket includes a secure zip up pocket that is big enough to hold your documents, wallet and phone. That way your valuables are safe, and close at hand.


A few extras

It is also a good idea to pack something that you can wear for a special night out. You never know who you will meet, or what you could be invited to do, so it is nice to have a shirt and a smart pair of trousers to wear.

Packing men’s swimwear may seem like a luxury when space is tight, but I would say doing so is actually essential. Swimming is great fun, it is a great way to unwind and get some exercise. When you make friends in a new place, it is nice to be able to enjoy a day on the beach or around the pool without having to go on a special shopping trip. Besides which a pair of swimming trunks or shorts will not take up much space, so there really is no good reason not to pack a pair.


Roll don’t fold

Rolling your clothes instead of folding them will allow you get a lot more into your backpack. Packing in this way has the added advantage of stopping your clothing from creasing as much.


Your electronics

Every modern traveller should take a power pack with them as well as their smartphone, and a good pair of headphones. That way if you are delayed you will be able to recharge your phone’s battery.

As you can see, packing light is not difficult. The more you do it the easier it becomes.

THANKS FOR READING!!


FOLLOW MY ADVENTURES AROUND THE WORLD ON FACEBOOKINSTAGRAM, TWITTER & ADD ME ON SNAPCHAT: — JONESATW

Singapore to Bangkok Overland Backpacking Itinerary

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Introduction

One of the most common routes for backpacking in South-East Asia is traveling from Singapore to Bangkok overland.  It’s an absolute amazing trip with tons of incredible places to see along the way.  From starting out in amazing metropolitan cities like Singapore & Kuala Lumpur, and then breaking away to gorgeous islands — this is definitely going to be a trip you’ll never forget.  This Singapore to Bangkok guide will go over my proposed route, travel tips, helpful websites, and some of my favorite blog posts I’ve written along my travels.

Brief Overview & Itinerary Route

  1. Singapore
  2. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 
  3. Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
  4. Penang, Malaysia
  5. Langkawi, Malaysia
  6. Koh Lipe, Thailand
  7. Koh Lanta, Thailand
  8. Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
  9. Ao Nang / Railey Beach, Thailand
  10. Koh Phangan, Thailand
  11. Koh Tao, Thailand
  12. Bangkok, Thailand

Starting in Singapore (2-3 Days)

Singapore is an absolutely gorgeous city, and it is often overlooked by South-East Asia backpackers.  This tends to be a very popular “layover” destination, and I always hear people who have only seen the airport, or max spent a day in the city.  I would personally recommend staying in this city for at least 2-3 nights!  There’s a lot of amazing things to see, places to visit, and incredible food to eat!

Check out this article written by fellow travel blogger Adventurous Miriam titled,” Top Free Things To Do in Singapore“.  This is a great starting point for planning your travels in this amazing city.

Note:  Singapore is one of the most expensive cities in the world, and definitely the priciest place in South-East Asia.  Try to limit your expenses here, or else you might break your budget here!  My personal advice — don’t go out drinking.  Maybe a beer here or there, but don’t go out partying.  It’s so expensive, and it will be better to save your party energy for other destinations on this itinerary 😉

 

Bus Or Train to Kuala Lumpur (3-4 Days)

From Singapore, it is incredibly easy to get up to the Malaysian Capital, Kuala Lumpur.  Your choice between Train, Bus, or Flight.

Train & Bus Bookings:  Easybook

Welcome to Kuala Lumpur.  This is truly a special place with friendly people, beautiful sights, and delicious food (just like the rest of Malaysia).  During my travels in South-East Asia , I was lucky enough to call this city home for awhile.  The first time I visited Kuala Lumpur I actually didn’t enjoy the city too much, but after spending more time there I discovered how special the city really is.

For more information on Kuala Lumpur, check out the following blog posts I’ve written:

This is one of my favorite cities in South-East Asia, and definitely worth the visit for a few days.  If you’re on a time crunch, you won’t want to spend too much time here.  Just make sure you cover all the city highlights.

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Bus to Cameron Highlands (2-3 days)

The Cameron Highlands is a stunning hill station in central peninsular Malaysia, and has become a popular destination for visitors in Malaysia. Roughly the size of Singapore, the Cameron Highlands covers a large stretch of land, and there’s tons to see, do, and explore.  You’ll fall in love with the beautiful green tea plantations, and will leave you speechless when you visit the highest peak in the Cameron Highlands

For more information on the Cameron Highlands, check out the guide below!

A Backpacker’s Guide to the Cameron Highlands

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Bus to Penang (2-3 Days)

Penang is the cultural hotspot in Malaysia!  You’ll fall in love with it’s busy streets, beautiful artwork, and enchanting history.  Oh, and the food is absolutely amazing.  Most people come to Penang only planning a few day stay, but end up staying much longer than they expected.  You can spend a day on Batu Ferringi beach, hike through the National Park, and take the journey up to Penang Hill for spectacular views of the entire city.        

Best things to do in Penang:

  • Beach day and sunset on Batu Ferringi Beach
  • Spend some time hiking through the National Park
  • Take a visit to Penang Hill for spectacular views of the city
  • Stroll through Georgetown and check out all the artwork
  • Eat at Penang’s famous hawker stalls
View from Penang Hill

View from Penang Hill

 

Ferry from Penang – Langkawi (4-5 Days) 

Officially known as Langkawi the Jewel of Kedah, Langkawi is an archipelago of 104 islands in the Andaman Sea, around 30 km off the mainland coast of northwestern Malaysia.  It’s right at the border of Thailand, and is a popular place to visit for traveller’s going north/south between Malaysia and Thailand.  It is truly an amazing island with amazing things to do, cheap accommodations, tax-free booze, and beautiful landscape.

Check out some of my blog posts on Langkawi:

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Ferry from Langkawi – Koh Lipe, Thailand  *Seasonal (4-5 Days)

After spending some time on Langkawi, you’re ready to journey further north into Thailand.  You’ll start your Thailand Island Hopping adventures in Koh Lipe, which is known as the “Maldives of Thailand”.  Pristine beaches, incredible food, and amazing sunrises & sunsets.

Ferry from Langkawi – Koh Lipe only available from November – May throughout the year.  If you’re traveling during the low season, you’ll have to take the ferry to Satun, Thailand — and catch the bus + ferry combo ticket from mainland Thailand.  Traveling during this time can be a bit expensive, it just depends on your budget and time restrictions.  It might be best to skip this island if you can’t take the direct ferry. 

Check out this amazing post from my friends at Getting Stamped titled, “The Ultimate Guide to Koh Lipe, Thailand.”  This is one of the most informative guides I’ve ever seen, and will answer all your questions about traveling to this beautiful island.

Sunrise on Koh Lipe. Photo credit

Sunrise on Koh Lipe. Photo credit:  Bambo Corr

 

Ferry from Koh Lipe – Koh Lanta (4-5 Days) 

Also depends on time of the year.  You might have to catch ferry + bus combo ticket up to the Krabi Province. 

After you’ve explored Koh Lipe to your liking, catch a ferry up to your next Thai Island, Koh Lanta.

Check out this awesome travel guide from the crew over at Never Ending Voyage titled, “Finding the Perfect Balance: Our Guide to Koh Lanta“.  This post will go over all the information you need for your time in Koh Lanta.

You’ll fall in love with this incredibly relaxing island.  There’s incredible beaches, a beautiful national park, and loads of other stuff to explore.  My main recommendation would be to hire a moped, and explore the entire island.  It’s the best way to see the island.   You can pack a bag, take breaks at all the beaches, and see how beautiful the island is.

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Ferry from Koh Lanta – Koh Phi Phi (4-5 Days)

When you’re ready to leave Koh Lanta (which can be harder than you think), you’ll be on your way to one of the most beautiful, photogenic, and most well-known places in Thailand — Koh Phi Phi.  Known primarily for the nearby Maya Bay being the film location for the Leonardo DiCaprio hit movie — “The Beach”.

Some people criticize Koh Phi Phi for being too touristy now, and too focused on partying — but it is still an absolute must visit during your time in Thailand.

Read my following blog posts on Koh Phi Phi

Leaving Koh Phi Phi is no easy task.  The party vibe is solid, there is amazing food, and you’re guaranteed to make some amazing new friends!  I personally think it’s the most beautiful area in Thailand!

 

Ferry from Koh Phi Phi – Ao Nang, Railey Beach, & Krabi (4-6 Days)

After spending the past couple weeks on Islands, it’s time to cruise back to the mainland.  Ao Nang is a really beautiful beach area, has a decent nightlife scene, and is definitely worth a visit.  There’s an island hopping tour that goes to nearby places, and a really fun pub crawl at night.

Don’t spend too much time in Ao Nang though — make sure you get over to the beautiful Railey Beach & Ton Sai Bay.

You can also hire a mo-ped and explore Krabi town, and the surrounding highlights.

Read:  The Best Hostels in Thailand

 

Book a Bus + Ferry Combo from Krabi to Koh Phangan (5 Days)

There are loads of travel agencies around Ao Nang and the Krabi that will help you book this ticket.  I typically travel with Lomprayah .  It is by the most established and organized company out there, and enjoy my travels when I book with them.  During peak season, they can sell out tickets.  (Especially prior to a Full Moon Party.)

Koh Phangan is one of the craziest party islands in South-East Asia !  You’ll often hear bad things about the Full Moon Party, but too be honest — it’s a damn good time (if you’re with the right people).  There’s something really fun about getting dressed up in Neon, covering yourself in bodypaint, and dancing all night with fellow backpackers.

To be perfectly honest though, the best party on Koh Phangan isn’t the Full Moon Party.  There’s so many better clubs, venues, and events that you should look into!  If your trip doesn’t align well with a date for the FMP, definitely still go to Koh Phangan!  It’s a great place to spend some time, relax, meet people, party, and enjoy paradise!

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Ferry up to Koh Tao (4-5 Days)

Koh Tao is the very first island I visited in my travels in South-East Asia, and it is by far one of my favorite places in Thailand.  This is a scuba-diver’s paradise, and is the perfect location to get your PADI certifications.  If you don’t want to do the full course, make sure you at least do a “Discover Scuba” one-day course.  It’s one of the most affordable places to try out scuba-diving, and is absolutely beautiful.  When you’re not scuba diving, Koh Tao is an amazing island to explore by moto.  Just choose carefully where you rent it, because this island is notorious for rental places taking advantages of tourists and withholding passports until the pay ridiculous “damage fees”.  Also make sure you do a day-trip to Koh Nang Yuan, Mango View point, The Koh Tao Pub Crawl, and party hard on Sairee Beach!

Read:  7 Amazing Things to do on Koh Tao  

 

Ferry from Koh Tao to Bangkok

You’ve seen the best islands Thailand has to offer, now it’s time to finish your trip in the “Big Mango”.  Bangkok is truly an amazing city, and there’s tons of amazing things to do, see, and explore.  It’s the gateway to South-East Asia, and most backpackers out here find themselves in Bangkok more than once.  The street food is delicious, the people are friendly, and you’ll absolutely love exploring all the temples, malls, and rooftop bars.

ReadWhere to Stay in Bangkok

Read10 Amazing Things to do in Bangkok

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Congratulations!  You’ve just crossed off three amazing countries in South-East Asia, and some of my favorite spots in the world to visit!

Substitutions & Other Destinations

  • The Perhentian Islands:  When you are traveling up through Malaysia, you could easily head over to the stunning Perhentian Islands.  It’s all the way on the east coast of Malaysia, so it’s a bit out of the way for this itinerary- but it would be incredible.  You could get a bus + ferry here from the Cameron Highlands.  Then when you’re ready to leave, take a bus over to Penang to continue the itinerary.
  • Phuket & Koh Samui:  Two of the most popular touristy destinations in Thailand, but I always recommend people to skip them.  They are overcrowded, expensive, and you can find much better places to spend your time.
  • Thailand National ParksKo Yao Nai National Park & Ko Tarutao are both absolutely gorgeous, and could easily be worked into this itinerary during your time on Koh Lipe, and Koh Phi Phi.

Travel Tips & Suggestions

  • Travel slow.  I give a recommended time in each place, but if you’re in not on a time crunch, then take it slow and enjoy your time in each place.  Otherwise, you might be spending a lot of time in transit.
  • Buy a Local Sim Card.  This always comes in handy in Malaysia & Thailand.  There are really cheap data plans.
  • Download my Free-Book.  “77 Amazing, Helpful, Money-Saving Tips for Backpacking South-East Asia” for all my best backpacking tips.
  • Stay in Hostels.  This is such an awesome backpacker route, and the best way to experience these destinations is to interact with other travelers!
  • Eat often!  The food in all three of these countries is absolutely amazing!  There are plenty of places for cheap eats, and all the meals are delicious.

Check out These Articles About This Region

Malaysia Travel Guide: Trip Highlights, Destinations, & Itineraries

The Ultimate Travel Guide to Thailand (Instagram Checklist)

Thanks for reading my Singapore to Bangkok Backpacking Trip Itinerary!

If you’re planning a trip to South-East Asia and have any questions, feel free to Contact Me with any questions you have!  I’ve spent a lot of time backpacking around the area, and love helping people plan their travels!  Also, make sure you sign-up for my Newsletter below to download my FREE E-Book below that is full of amazing tips and information.

Singapore

How To Capture Stunning Cityscapes With Your Drone

Cityscapes are some of the most amazing, breathtaking sights you can capture on your travels. Whenever I take a trip to some urbanized corner of the world, I always make sure to visit the tallest spot in the city that I can find to take photos of the skyline, in an effort to bring back a little piece of that awe and amazement I felt while viewing it with my own eyes.

Undoubtedly, a photo will always pale in comparison to the real thing. But as anyone with a case of wanderlust will tell you, documenting and preserving those sights, sounds, and experiences is an important part of traveling. It gives you something concrete to hold onto, so you can look back on the places you’ve visited and remember what it felt like to be there, in that moment.

I am a fan of architecture, so cityscapes are my favorite photos to shoot on my travels. It’s one of the main reasons I bought myself a drone a few years back—so that I could easily take beautiful aerial shots of the cities I visited.

I’ve been lugging a drone around with me ever since, and though I still primarily shoot with my DSLR, I still enjoy taking awesome aerial photos and videos with my drone whenever I find myself someplace new.

If you would like to take stunning cityscape photos with your drone, here are some of my tips:

Be an excellent drone pilot.

At the risk of stating the obvious, yes, you do need to be excellent in flying your drone. Autopilot features are present in most drones, but it still pays to know how to fly in 100% manual mode to ensure that you can perfectly and safely maneuver your aircraft. After all, each country has different laws and regulations when it comes to drones, so if you plan to use yours to take photos and videos on your travels, you need to have the skills and the know-how to help you adhere to those rules.

Avoid flying in windy conditions.

Even the most expensive, high-end drones will still shake in windy weather, which may ruin your photos. To ensure that you get the best cityscape shot, photograph only in fair weather.

Be prepared for various lighting conditions.

Some would say that cityscapes are best photographed at night. You need to take advantage of those colorful urban city lights, right? Now, contrary to what you might be thinking, you really don’t have to be an expert photographer to be able to take gorgeous cityscape shots at night—just make sure to read up on some of the best tips on night photography before setting out to take photos with your drone.

If you plan on taking photos in the daytime, be sure to have a polarizing filter on-hand to reduce glare, increase saturation, and decrease reflections.

Experiment with the angles.

The best advantage there is to using a drone for cityscape photography is that it allows you to take photos in all sorts of angles. Most drones will allow you to twist and swivel the onboard camera to your heart’s content, so experiment with different angles to find the best one to showcase the beauty of the scene you are trying to capture.

Get creative!

A person’s creativity knows no bounds. Figure out how you can improve your shots by tapping into your creative genius! You can play around with filters, create mysterious silhouettes, or simply get creative in the post-processing stage.

One great example of creative drone photography is Reuben Wu’s ultra-creative landscape work: he attached LED lights to his drone while shooting at night, lending a dramatic and theatrical look to his landscape scenes.

My last tip? You need to remember that there is no perfect formula for taking perfect drone photos. The best techniques will vary depending on the drone, the lighting, and various other factors. To be able to fully use your drone for photography and videography while traveling the world, you need to get to know your drone and learn how to work with it to the best of its ability. Once you know your drone inside-out, the quality of your images will drastically improve.

And yes, you can take my word for it.


This was a guest collaboration with Liz Pekler!

“I am a travel photographer with more than 10 years of experience in the field. Being a freelance blogger enables me to help photography beginners and enthusiasts to tell wonderful stories of their travels as seen through their lenses. It also allows me to share my thoughts about another advocacy of mine: social equality and change.”

77 Amazing, Helpful, and Money-Saving Tips for South-East Asia

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I’ve spent in total over 15 months backpacking around South-East Asia.  I think it’s the absolute best part of the world for long-term travel, and can truly be a life-changing experience.  I got an email the other day asking about advice and general tips for South-East Asia Backpacking trip.  I realized that while I have written about this subject briefly, I haven’t written all my random tips and advice in one place.

I started writing this thinking I would stop at 20.  I ended up getting up to 77.  So instead of publishing at as an extremely long blog post…I decided I would release this as my first E-book.

This is a FREE E-Book to download ! ! 

All you need to do is sign-up for my monthly newsletter (no spam I promise), and you can download the book after you subscribe.

I hope you enjoy the book, and learn some things from reading it.  If you are planning a trip to South-East Asia, feel free to contact me with any questions.

Just fill out the form below to gain instant access to the download page.

One Month In The Philippines: Travel Itinerary

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Spending one month in the Philippines was absolutely one of the best decisions I made during my travels through-out South-East Asia.  After my trip was over, I almost booked a return ticket, because to put it simply:  30 days in the Philippines is not enough!

Did you know that there are over 7,107 islands in the Philippines?  With the fantastic beaches, world-class diving, stunning landscapes, vibrant festivals, and friendly people — a trip to the Philippines will be something you’ll never forget.

Planing a trip the Philippines can be kind of intimidating, because there’s so much you’ll want to see.  I’m here to help you out.

This is the Itinerary I used for my month exploring the Philippines.  I hope you find it useful, and if you ever have any questions — feel free to email me or leave a mentsment at the bottom of the post!


1.  Fly Into Manila

You’ll most likely find the best deals flying into Manila..

Honestly, Manila is one of those cities that backpackers loves to hate.  It’s busy, overcrowded, dirty, and there’s not much to see.  Apparently there is some decent nightlife, but I never experienced it for myself.  I have met people who actually really love Manila, I just didn’t find it all that appealing.  Who knows though, maybe you’ll have a different experience and really enjoy your time there.

If there’s one must-do activity in Manila — you have to go check out Intramuros quarter.  It’s the beautiful old Spanish section of the city, and really fun to explore by foot.

Cathedral in Intramuros

Cathedral in Intramuros





2.  Take The Overnight Ferry from Manila – Coron

This is always the cheapest option on getting to Coron.  For some reason, all the flights to this island tend to be really expensive.  If you happen to be able to find a cheap, then book it.  But the overnight ferry option is a solid budget option.  

There is one main ferry company in The Phillippines — 2Go Travel.  I only used them for this route, but they offer a ton of different routes around the country.

For this Manila – Coron overnight ferry, THEY ONLY DEPART ONCE A WEEK ON FRIDAYS.  

Tip:  When you are looking at flights to Manila, try to book a flight that arrives on a Wednesday or Thursday.  That way you can explore for one day, then get on the overnight ferry on Friday evening.

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3.  Coron, Palawan

I absolutely fell in love with Coron.  It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world.  I was fortunate enough to meet some amazing people the very first night, and had a blast the remaining time I was there.

The island is fantastic, the sunsets are incredible, and it’s a really relaxing area to spend a few days.

Read:  Where To Stay in Coron, Phillippines

Read:  Island Hopping in Coron, Phillippines

Tip:  If you want to be really adventurous, you can hire a boat driver to drop you off on an empty island, and camp there for 2-3 nights.  Arrange a pick-up time, and you’ll be living a real Robinson Crusoe experience.  Make sure you bring enough food, water, and a good book or two!

[ I’d recommend staying in Coron for 3-4 days]

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4.  El Nido, Palawan

When you are in Coron, you’ll see tons of different signs for transportation to El Nido.  Try to bargain them down to a cheaper price, because all the signs are more expensive.  

The crown jewel of Palawan, El Nido is a must see destination during your visit to the Philippines.

It’s a much more lively area than Coron, with some amazing restaurants and fun bars to check out at night.  As you should now, the most important thing you do while in El Nido is book one or two of the island hopping packages.

I’d strongly recommend checking out both tours A & C.  All the tours are amazing, but these two in particular are worth every penny.  

[I’d Recommend Staying in El Nido for 4-6 days]

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5.  Puerto Galera and Puerto Princesa

Since you only have 30 days allowed in the Philippines, you’re not going to be able to see everything.  After El Nido, you could hop down to Puerto Galera for a night or two.  I didn’t do this, but I’ve heard it’s a really amazing place with a chilled out vibe.  There’s also supposed to be some amazing diving here.

Puerto Princesa is the main city in Palawan, and it’s also where you’ll be flying to your next destination.

One of the main attractions in Puerto Princesa is visiting the famous “Underground River”.  I decided to skip this because I found it to be rather expensive, and I heard from a couple people they weren’t too impressed.  The choice is yours.


6.  Cebu City & Bohol

Book your flights well-in-advance from Puerto Princesa – Cebu with Cebu Pacific Airlines.  

When it comes to Cebu City, there are a few things to see in the actual city.  I actually didn’t do too much sight-seeing in the city itself, but used Cebu as a jumping off point to explore the rest of the island or neighboring islands.  

I’d definitely recommend taking the ferry over to Bohol Island.  You can spend a day or two there, but it’s also a decent place just to take a day trip.

Read:  Chocolate Hills & Tarsier Monkeys: Bohol Island, The Philippines

After you’ve spent a few days exploring the city and a day or two on Bohol Island, you’ll make your way down to check out some more of the highlights of The Philippines.

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7.  Moalboal & Oslob

Getting around Cebu Island is as easy as getting to the bus station.  They aren’t the most comfortable rides, but they get you from point A – point B for very cheap!

I’d recommend you check out Moalboal first.  There’s an incredible beach, and it will provide absolutely stunning sunsets.  Moalboal is also known for having some excellent diving if you are looking to dive.  

Absolute Must Visit:  Kawasan Waterfalls (about a 20 minute drive from Moalboal city)

Read: Chasing Waterfalls on Cebu Island, Phillippines

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After watching a sunset and checking out the amazing Kawasan falls, you’re ready to head down to Oslob to cross off a big bucket-list item:  SWIMMING WITH WHALE SHARKS!

This the main draw that brings people down to Oslob, and you really have to do it!  For the small cost of around $25 USD, you get to swim with massive whale sharks.  The entire experience was incredible, and it’s one of the highlights of my travels in South-East Asia.

Read:  Swimming with Whale Sharks:  Oslob, Cebu

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8.  Flight to Boracay

After you’ve explored the southern parts of Cebu Island, Bohol Island, and the city itself — it’s time to book your flight from Cebu City – Boracay.  

 Boracay is the paradise island of your dreams — or so it used to be.  This beautiful island has become a major tourist destination, resulting it in to become the most over-developed part of The Philippines.

With that being said — is it still worth it to visit Boracay?  Absolutely yes.  

The island is gorgeous, there’s plenty to do, and the nightlife is amazing.

Read:  The 5 Best Party Islands in South-East Asia

If you’re going to Boracay, then you should definitely also check out Sabina’s incredible blogpost “Boracay On a Budget“.  She gives an incredible overview of the island, and was a great resource to have when planning my trip to Boracay.

Boracay has two airports (Caticlan & Kalibo).  You’ll most likely fly to Kalibo because flights are substantially cheaper.  Kalibo airport has international departures, and is the perfect place to end your trip in The Philippines.        

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Possible Substitutions

Banaue Rice Terraces:   If you get into Manila, and don’t want to spend too many days there.  Look into taking the overnight bus up to the Rice Terraces.  I didn’t have time to explore it during my month, but it’s definitely highly recommended!

Skip Boracay:  Although it is a very beautiful island, and a great place to party — you might want to think about skipping Boracay.  The island is decently expensive, and can be a pain in the ass to get there.  Kalibo airport is 2 hours away.  So you have to take a van, a boat, and a taxi, just to get to your hostel.

Siquijor Island:  If you do skip Boracay island, that frees up time to explore some of the islands around Cebu.  While your down in Oslob, you could hop down to the beautiful and spiritual island of Siquijor. The island has a fascinating story, and is home to some of the best beaches and sunsets in the Philippines.

Siargio Island:  If you like to surf, then I’m sure you’ve heard about this island.  This is at the top of my list of places to see during my next visit to the Philippines, but unfortunately I didn’t have the time to get there.  There’s not much else to do on the island, but if you’re looking for a laid-back surfing hotspot, then you’ll definitely enjoy your time there.

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Philippines Travel Tips

Book All Your Flights in Advance.  This country is not as easy to get around, and if you wait until the last minute — you will have to pay ridiculous amounts for flights.  This is the only country I really recommend that, because with 30 days, you will want to see as much as possible.

Meet and Travel with the Locals.  When are you are traveling the Philippines, you’ll realize that you’ll meet more young local backpackers than you would in any other country in South-East Asia.  The Filipino community really loves to travel!  They also are extremely friendly, welcoming, and typically speak amazing English!  

Research Festivals Before You Go:  The Philippines is known for having some amazing festivals.  As a starting point, check out this list of the Top Ten Festivals in The Philippines.  Just be careful, sometimes if you go during a big festival, accommodation prices can sky rocket.

Try out Couchsurfing.  As I mentioned above, Filipino people are really awesome, and they are very active when it comes to the popular travel community website Couchsurfing.  There are weekly meet-ups in the bigger cities, and it would be a really cool experience!

Don’t skip Palawan:  It’s definitely one of the most beautiful and picturesque places in the world!  It’s defintiely not as “off-the-beaten-path” as it used to be, but skipping it would be a mistake.

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No matter where you go, or itinerary you customize for your trip, you will most definitely fall in love with the Philippines.  It’s one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever visited, and I can’t wait to get back there myself.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you found this one month itinerary for the Philippines useful!  Definitely check out my posts on the Philippines!

Safe Travels!!! 🙂




THANKS FOR READING!


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Labuan Bajo to Lombok Overland Travel

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Getting from Labuan Bajo to Lombok overland takes 24 hours, and is not a journey that one would normally describe as enjoyable.  But I myself went through it to save some money, and it was not as bad as I thought it was going to.

I had just finished my incredible 4-day / 4-night Komodo Island trip, and I had experienced the best snorkeling of my entire life…but the time had come for me to leave Labuan Bajo.  My original plan was just to fly back to Bali or Lombok, but I had done little research.

The only problem was that I needed to get back to Lombok, and the flights were over $100 !

I knew that there was an overland option, and I was not too excited about it…but I realized that I had no urge to spend another 3 days on a boat…and as a budget traveler I couldn’t possibly spend that much money on a domestic 1 hour flight.  I booked my ticket, and was ready for the next 24 hour travel day.

Price :  320,000 IDR.  The listed price is around 350-400,000 but you can bargain them down to 320-330,000.  

Departure:  9:00 A.M…Check in at 8:30 A.M.

The ticket booklet you get for the journey. DO NOT LOSE.

The ticket booklet you get for the journey. DO NOT LOSE.

Part 1 — Labuan Bajo – Sape

I showed my ticket, boarded the ferry, and the journey had officially began.  For some reason, I believed that the ferry would be empty, and this particular journey was a fresh start with all new people.  I was completely wrong.  The boat was already packed with people.  I failed to realize that this boat had arrived earlier that day from somewhere further east in Indonesia.  

I walked up the stairs, and found a large area with a ton of beds.  All of them occupied with sleeping families and kids running around.  I went one floor up, and found the inside sitting area.  There was one or two TV’s playing movies, a small little cafe to get food, and loads of chairs.  I had two backpacks, and they were kind of big, so I continued to the top floor for the outside area.

I found the perfect place to drop my bags, pull out my laptop, and get some work done.  To my surprise, the entire top deck was really chill.  Not too many people, and you can always find a seat in the shade.  I spent the entire ferry ride on the top area, and would recommend it to everyone.

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Part 2- Mini-Van Ride to Dara

This isn’t the longest leg of the journey, but it definitely was the most uncomfortable.  The vans are in poor condition. and if you’re tall like I am, be prepared to be squished.  

The ride however is pretty scenic driving through Sumbawa island, and you’ll see lush green mountains, and nice small villages.  This part is only 2-3 hours depending on traffic.  Have an ipod ready.

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Part 3 – Overnight Bus to Ferry Port

This is the longest part of the journey, but if you’ve been backpacking South-East Asia, then you are no stranger to overnight bus rides.  The bus wasn’t too comfortable, and you won’t have your own 2 seats, but it get’s the job done.

Make sure you buy some snacks and some water.  Also — sleeping pills are your friend.

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Final Part 4 – Ferry + Bus to Mataram, Lombok

For this part of the journey, the bus you slept on overnight will accompany you on the ferry over to Lombok island.  So you can leave your bigger backpack on the bus, and it’s just a short 1-2 hour ferry ride.  There is a movie playing, but I didn’t care to watch it.

The views from the boat can be really beautiful, but the actual boat is pretty crappy.  So it’s as comfortable as the first ferry, but it’s a short journey.

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Where To Next

When you get dropped off at Mataram, one of the largest cities in Lombok, you have a couple options of where to go next.

  • Kuta, Lombok — A popular destinations for surfers with great waves and decent nightlife
  • The Gili Islands — Probably the most beautiful place in the world.
  • Sengiggi Beach — A nice area with a few different beaches to explore by moto.  Lots of resorts and budget accomodations to choose from.
  • Mt. Rinjani — Hike Indonesia’s 2nd largest peak, for what is guaranteed to be one of the most intense hikes of your life.

My personal recommendation would be to hear straight to Bangsal Harbor, and get on the first boat to Gili Air or Gili Trawangan!  [divider]

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3 Week Thailand Itinerary

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Looking for a 3 week Thailand itinerary?  Look no further.  I’m here to help.  Thailand, AKA, “The Land of Smiles” is a trip you’ll never forget.  From the vibrant culture, amazing scenery, and affordable prices; you’re guaranteed to fall in love with this amazing country.  

While 3 weeks is not too long to spend in the country, it still gives plenty of time to see what this country has to offer.  I think everyone is different, and could easily design a trip that directly reflects their exact idea of perfection, but I think this itinerary can give you a starting point for the highlights and schedule.

*Note – This itinerary starts and ends from two different airports.  Setting up an itinerary like this can be very useful, save you time and money, and is better since you don’t have to revisit the same place twice. 

Week 1)  The Hustle & Bustle of Chiang Mai & Bangkok  

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You’ll begin your adventure in Thailand’s second biggest city; Chiang Mai.  It’s a perfect introduction into the country, and you’ll immediately fall in love with the people, the food, the culture, and the affordability.  Spend a few days around the city, exploring the many temples, bustling night markets, and eating more pad thai you ever had.  

Depending on what you are looking for; you can voyage over to Chiang Rai to visit the beautiful White Palace, or head over to Pai for some hippie relaxation and backpacker fun.  

From Chiang Mai, take the sleeper train down to Bangkok.  It saves a night of accommodation, is a really fun experience, and avoids the hassle of taxis to the airport.  (If you do choose to Fly, check out AirAsia, NokAir, or ThaiSmile).   




Week 2) The Gulf Of Thailand Islands (Koh Tao & Koh Phangan)

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After experiencing the two major cities in Thailand, it’s time for you to get to your first Thai Island.  You’ll book a ticket online (3 days in advance), or through one of the many travel agencies along Khao San Road.

This is where you’ll catch your 9:00 P.M departure on Lomprayah Ferry to Koh Tao, Thailand.  Truly a chilled out island, with a wild party side, but above all, diving comes first.  If you feel like it, sign up to get your scuba diving PADI certificaiton through one of the many schools on the island.  (Keep in mind, this does take 3-4 days).  

If you’re not in the mood to do diving, feel free to spend a brief 2 days on Koh Tao, before making your journey over to Koh Phangan, Thailand, the location of the infamous Full Moon Party.  If there isn’t a FMP during your schedule, or you don’t care to go to one; I’d still recommend checking out the island.


Read:  The Best 5 Party Islands in South-East Asia


On Koh Phangan, there are tons of amazing beaches, cool hikes, a WipeOut course, and AMAZING parties.  I like to call it the “Ibiza of South-East-Asia”.  Big DJ’s rarely play, but the music is always amazing!  You have 7 days between Koh Tao and Koh Phangan.

Note:  You might have noticed I’ve left out Koh Samui.  Well, I honestly think it can and should be skipped.  It’s very heavily touristic and overly priced.  But if it’s a destination you really want to see, you’ll need to hop from island to island quicker.  




Week 3)  Andaman Islands (Krabi, Ao Nang, Koh Phi Phi, Phuket)

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From Koh Phangan (Or Samui), book a ferry + van ticket combo to Krabi, Thailand through one of the many agents on the island.  Just remember to shop around for the best price.  

For the first 2/3 days explore Ton Sai Bay, Railey Beach, and Ao Nang beach area.  All of these areas are located extremely close to each other, and are a great way to meet other backpackers.  I’d also highly recommend rock-climbing in Railey!

From there, it’s time to make your journey to the paradise known as Koh Phi Phi.  Fair warning, this is a PARTY island!  It’s incredibly beautiful, with an amazing island hopping tour, but it is notoriously known for having some of the wildest parties at night.


Read:  The Absolute Best Thing to To On Koh Phi Phi


After spending a few days checking out Koh Phi Phi, then you’ll make your way over to Phuket.  You can spend a day or two there, but it’s another very touristy part of Thailand.  From there you can either catch your flight home, or back to Chiang Mai or Bangkok (Wherever your next flight is).

Between the busy cities and beautiful islands, this is guaranteed to be an amazing trip in Thailand.  This is a pretty great route, and you get to see a lot of the country.  Hope you found this information useful.  Make sure to check out some of my other Thailand posts.

Further Reading:

THANKS FOR READING!  Feel free to shoot me any questions you have!


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20 Money-Saving Tips For Backpacking South-East Asia

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Walk it out.  

I had to start with an obvious one, and easily one of the most practical.  C’mon, you’re in a new area of the world, and one of the best ways to experience it is to walk around, explore different neighborhoods, and see how the locals live.  

Bring Your Own Drinks to Eat

In America, if you go to a restaurant with your own water bottle or soda, you’ll get a death stare from the waiter or waitress.  In South-East Asia, I try to avoid paying for drinks at restaurants.  The people working don’t really care, and when they ask what you want to drink, just point to your water bottle, and say I think I’ll stick with water.  

Bargain 

If you’re planning a trip to SEA, you better be ready to bargain your ass off.  I guarantee you at the beginning of your travels you’ll get ripped off once or twice, but then eventually you’ll get the hang of it.  There are many different techniques, but I always like to stick to my price, and if I don’t like it…walk away.  They’ll normally chase after you, or say “okay, my friend, okay okay”.  

Explore The Options  

When booking tours, transportation packages, hostels, etc; ask around at many different places and look for the best price.  Prices will fluctuate greatly between tour places, and it can be hard to figure out what the best price you’ll be able to get.  But you can’t just book the first deal you think you come across.  

Power in Numbers

I know a lot of people travel SEA solo, but it’s so much easier to get better discounts on things when you are with a group of people.  In Thailand, if something is going to cost 700 Baht, you can probably talk them down to 500 or 550 Baht if you have a group of 4 or more people.  

It’s All About Street Food

You’re in Asia.  Eat like the locals!  You’d be amazed at some of the prices you can find at local food markets, hawker stalls, and street shops.  This definitely is the most important in Singapore.  You can spend $20 at a restaurant, or go to Little India and spend $3 for a huge meal.  Often times, my favorite meals I’ve had in restaurants are from the streets.  

Plan Ahead

I know a lot of people would argue with me about this, but the fact remains that if you plan ahead, you’re normally going to get a better deal.  Obviously, this can change in different situations, but I’ve found I spend more money when I wait to the last minute.  It can be really nice to just “go with the flow”, but if you don’t have a general plan, you might spend more cash than you needed to getting from point A or B, or sleeping at a more costly guesthouse or hostel.           

Don’t Tip

I know.  I know.  “Jones, what the hell is wrong with you?”  Well, let me explain.  As an American I find myself tipping way too much out in Asia.  It really isn’t that customary, and can save you a lot of money in the long run.  Especially with cab drivers, massages, waiters, etc.  Unless you found their services to be amazing, you enjoyed a good conversation, or you just overall had a great time; don’t feel obliged to leave a tip.      

Pre-Game like a King

This goes for everywhere in the world, but is just as great of a money saver in Asia.  Guess what?  Drinks in clubs and bars are more expensive than at 7/11.  Save extra cash by splitting a bottle of cheap whiskey or a couple beers before going out.

Cut Down on the Boozing

I know this can be a hard one; it’s south-east Asia.  Everywhere you go there’s gonna be great parties with a bunch of backpackers.  I’ll admit I normally go to all of these parties, but the costs of alcohol really do add up.  Try to pick and choose your parties, and not attend everyone.  

It’s More Fun In Hostels

Hostels are going to be cheaper than hotels about 90% of the time.  If you’re traveling with people, it might make more sense to all just split a room, but I think it’s still better to choose hostels.  You meet people, which is one of the best parts about traveling!  Just check out Hostelworld.com, sort by price, and pick one of the cheaper ones.  Definitely make sure it’s in a decent location though, and read some reviews before booking.  

Research And Save

One of the most important tips I could give is to research where you are going, what activities there are to do, and how much these should cost.  For example, if you’re flying into an Airport you’ve never been before, look up the cheapest way to get into the city center.  You don’t need to waste money on Taxis.  As well, ask other travelers how much they paid for certain things.  You don’t want to overpay because you didn’t know ahead of time.  

Don’t buy Souvenirs

You’re friends and family are gonna have to live with the fact that you can’t spend a bunch of money on little trinkets, and carry them around in your backpack for the next few months.  The best souvenirs are pictures, memories, and new relationships.  

Avoid Western Food

I understand that after a couple weeks of eating nothing but Fried Rice, Noodles, and Curry you are going to want something that reminds you of home.  Every once in awhile, Treat yo self!  But western food is going to be much more expensive than the local dishes.  Try and google the specialties of where you are, and try it.  

Never Pay To Use The Bathroom

I remember my first time to Europe, being shocked when asked for money to use a bathroom.  Well, guess what— it happens in Asia as well.  Unless it’s an emergency, you do not need to pay them.  I’ve used this one before — “Can I just go in and wash my hands?”  They normally say yes, but if they don’t, just find a nearby restaurant or cafe that has a bathroom, and pretend your’e a customer.  

Try The Local Snack Food

There will be plenty of times when you only have a couple minutes before a long bus ride, ferry ride, or flight.  When at a supermarket or 7/11, try the local snacks.  If every time you need to buy a snack, you grab the Pringles, Oreos, and Toblerone, you’re gonna be spending a lot.  Each country has their own variety of snack food, and a lot of it is pretty damn good.  

Sleeper Trains / Overnight Buses

On a lot of routes around SEA, you’re going to have many different options on transportation.  A good tip is to look into if they have a Sleeper train or overnight bus.  I’m a big fan of sleeper trains, and have never had a bad experience on them.  They save you a night of accommodation, and are just an enjoyable way to travel.  Long bus rides can be annoying, but sometimes they are necessary.  

Take Advantage of Flight Deals

You’d be surprised how cheap some airfare flights can be.  I found a flight one time for as low as $12.  You have to take into consideration of getting to the airport, and baggage fees (if you need to check a bag), but airlines have specials all the time.  Follow their pages on Facebook, and look for great deals.  Flying might not always be the cheapest option, but sometimes it is.  It will save you a lot of time and energy.  

Never Book “Transportation & Accommodation” Packages from Travel Agents.  

I’d say almost 99% of the time you will be able to do it cheaper yourself.  You can always find a cheap bus or train somewhere, and hostels are in every major destination in Asia.  They might try and sell you to think it’s a good deal, but I’d still avoid them.  Do it yourself.  

Only Eat When You’re Hungry… (Duh)

This could just be me, because I’m a fat kid at heart, but if I’m bored— I look to eat.  Just recently I started trying to save money by only eating when I really was hungry.  It can be hard when you’re just chilling on a beach all day, and don’t have much to do; so you think, who’s down to get some food?  Just wait until your’e actually hungry.    

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Could You Be A Cruising Convert ?

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The long-time stereotype about cruising has been that it’s either for families or retirees, but this couldn’t be further from the truth, as cruises have taken off as one of the most, fun and vibrant holiday choices filled with great outdoor activities like surfing and rock climbing, as well as the hottest nightlife scenes.

The ability to stop and explore multiple destinations also makes cruising appealing for anyone who enjoys getting out to explore or relaxing on some of the finest beaches. So if you thought that cruising was all just games of shuffleboard with old age pensioners and all-you-can-eat-buffets, here are few things that might have you heading for the docks.

Cruises targeted at 20s and 30s

More and more cruise lines are specifically targeting these age groups for specialty cruises that feature multiple night clubs and bar options, pool parties and other world-class events, pairing up with some internationally renowned DJs to provide the ultimate entertainment. The famous Coachella music festival has thrown its hat in the ring, with a cruise that took passengers on an indie rock fest tour of the Caribbean. For those who don’t have the cash to splurge on one of the festival’s luxe $9,000 “Sky Suites”, there are also great opportunities to enjoy the top clubbing in the world with a Mediterranean cruise that stops in some of the Med’s biggest nightspots, like Ibiza and Magaluf.

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Thrilling activities

For those who think that cruising is nothing more than sitting on the deck and taking in the rays, you’ll be happy to hear that today’s cruise liners have some great outdoor activities in store for you. Whether you’re interested in surfing, rock climbing, golfing, or even ice-skating, the cruise life will get you out of your deck chair and having fun. At most cruising destinations, you’ll also find the opportunity to get out and enjoy all the best water sports, like jet skiing, surfing, parasailing and more.

Cruising in groups

If you thought the cruising scene was a boring mix of cliques, then you’ll be happy to hear that there are more and more groups and organizations that are looking to bring together fun people to cruise and party. Most cruisers are always up for meeting new people and toasting new friends, but these group cruises are specially designed to get the party started.

Cruising might once have sounded like a holiday with limited options, but today cruises open up all the best opportunities any vacationer could ask for.

Images by Don McCullough and _Bunn_ used under the Creative Commons License.

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