It’s a little over a week before I’m Southeast Asia bound. There has been so much to do to prepare for this trip –physically, mentally, and emotionally. Below is a to-do list of all my planning for backpacking Southeast Asia.
Immunization Shots & Pills
I made an appointment at the Tulane Travel Clinic to get immunizations, malaria pills, etc. Appointments last a couple hours and they accept non-Tulane students. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 504-988-1947. The appointment cost $115 and the immunizations cost almost $200. Fortunately, my health insurance covered most of my prescriptions. The doctor prescribed plenty of preventative and treatment antibiotics for malaria, diarrhea, and altitude sickness. Let’s hope these pills mostly stay in their bottles.
Advanced visa applications are required in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and Myanmar. Once approved, the visa will be issued upon your arrival. Each costs anywhere from $10-$50 and requires a passport-sized headshot photo. Be sure to apply at least 3 business days prior to your arrival to allow for processing.
- Myanmar: $50, http://evisa.moip.gov.mm/NewApplication.aspx
- Vietnam: $10 plus $39 at border, vietnam-evisa.org, vietnamvisapro.com
- Cambodia: $20, evisa.gov.kh
- Laos: $35, issued upon arrival, pay only in USD
- Indonesia: free if flying in and out of Bali up to 30 days
I called to alert my cell phone company of my travel plans, thinking I would purchase a SIM card in each country for my iPhone5s. However, Verizon has a new policy where all their iPhones are unlocked and will work in any country. I opted for the $40/month plan that includes a monthly allowance of 100 minutes, 100MB of data, 100 outgoing texts, and unlimited incoming texts. The pay-as-you-go plan sounded very expensive, and I feel safer knowing I can access my maps application in desperate times without wifi. I do not think AT&T has this type of policy, but it wouldn’t hurt to call and ask.
Traveler’s insurance covers canceled flights, lost luggage as well as many outdoor activities I know I’ll be doing when abroad. The most popular seems to be with World Nomads, so I purchased a basic plan for $206. I may have to bump up to the premium plan now that I am considering scuba diving. Alternatively, DAN offers scuba-specific insurance on a trip or annual basis.
Bank & Currency
Alerting my Capital One debit card to my travels was super easy since I’m already an avid online banking user. Plus my debit card was already set up repay me ATM and foreign transactions fees. I was able to chat with a rep while typing this post! For my credit card, I had to call the number on the back and use the automated service. I’m bringing both a MasterCard and Visa abroad with me since some countries prefer one over the other. As for currency, most countries in Southeast Asia accept US dollars and exchanging cash for baht, kip, or dong in the airport is the way to get the best rates.
Researching and shopping for supplies has been by far the most time-consuming. Between researching needs based on weather, climate, and country, comparing brands, online shopping, going to several stores, returning items, and digging through drawers in my parents’ house, aggregating all the necessary supplies has been a huge hassle. But it will be well worth it when I’m abroad and prepared! My next post will be a breakdown of everything I’m packing. Here are the stores and online shops I hit up, plus some helpful packing blogs:
- Her Packing List
- USA Today
- Massey’s (if you sign up for their enewsletter, they send you a coupon code for 15% off one item)
- Dick’s Sporting Goods
- Academy Sports
- eBags (free shipping – perfect for trying on several backpacks)
- Flight 001
- Travel Smith
- Make copies of ID, passport & insurance cards – leave one copy at home
- Take headshot photos at Walgreens
- Email or Facebook message everyone who has been to any of these countries for advice
- Enroll in STEP program
- Add address and phone number of all US embassies to my phone
Fortunately, I now have a travel buddy to brainstorm and plot with. I purchased the Rough Guide to Southeast Asia on a Budget and it has been hugely helpful for a newbie like me. I can even recommend it over Lonely Planet’s version. Each country’s chapter begins with a brief overview of the history, currency, traditions, and major scenic highlights. In addition to furiously reading and highlighting away, I’ve found several blogs to be useful for planning cross-country routes and daily activities. Here are some of my favorites:
- Trip Advisor (duh)
- Travel Fish
- The Blonde Abroad
- Together in Thailand
- Nomadic Matt
- Backpackers Thailand
- David’s Been Here
- Indie Traveller
- My Funky Travel
- Indiana Jo
- No Place to Be
I know this can’t possibly be everything, but these are the major items I’ve had to cross off my to-do list over the past couple months. I hope this helps inspire others to learn that international trip planning is totally doable, even if you have a full-time job. Sometimes the planning for Southeast Asia and anticipation is almost as much fun as the trip itself.