3 Things To Know About Getting Around Southeast Asia

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Growing up in Melbourne, I learned to see the rest of the world as being far, far away. Travelling to visit my parents’ family in South Africa was a never-ending trip that hardly felt worth it. The excitement of Eurotrips was tampered by jet-lag. I came to the conclusion that Australia’s pretty big anyway, and we might as well go to New Zealand as well before traversing the rest of the world.

One exception was Southeast Asia. A region that is, relatively, close to Australia. While it still takes hours to get to Bali, for example, it is way closer than most other destinations. Southeast Asia, therefore, became my playground. I’ve learned a few things along the way, including just how difficult it can actually be getting around.

Southeast Asia is a big region – far bigger than it looks on the map – and you need to know what you’re getting yourself into before plonking yourself in one location and hoping to figure it out along the way.

Here are 3 important things to know about getting around Southeast Asia.

Be careful who you book with

Recently, I’ve been using the site Bookaway.com to book tickets for transport in the region. There’s a reason for this. Technically, getting around is easy. All you need to do is hop on a train, bus, or ferry, and you’ll make it in a few hours (or days) to your next location.
The truth, however, is that this convenience comes at a cost, and it’s not financial. Transport options are hit-and-miss in Southeast Asia. What seems very manageable beforehand can turn into a nightmare. An old, wonky bus can gift you the most uncomfortable ride you’ve ever experienced.

Bookaway aggregates your options, with all the information you need to know about what exactly each type of transport entails. This information is crucial, and you should take careful note before simply choosing whatever is cheapest or quickest.

Accustom yourself to the distances

As an Australian, I should’ve known better than to assume various places in a country were bound to be close. But to be fair to myself, Southeast Asian countries are not very big on the world map. Unfortunately, the world map happens to be wrong.

Technically, there are inevitable issues when trying to fit the round globe on a flat piece of paper. However, Eurocentricity meant that it was the non-white countries that got the shaft. Therefore, if you think Indonesia is tiny, I can understand why. Before you go there (or anywhere else in SE Asia), make sure you know that it is actually bigger than the Continental US!

Consider your stomach

An inconvenient truth for everyone travelling from Australia to Southeast Asia is that there is a high chance you will regret eating something along the way. If you want to fully immerse yourself in the culture, you’re going to try street food and eat from buffets, and by doing so you are immediately compromising your belly.

This is important when choosing a means of transport. While a few hours in a closed space with no bathrooms may not seem like an issue before your trip, when you are struggling to keep anything down for more than five minutes, those few hours can turn into a special kind of hell. Keep that in mind when making your bookings. Comfort is really important, even if you’re usually good at living on a tiny budget.

Your trip through Southeast Asia will be incredible. However, be careful and make some preparations in advance. It’s not quite as easy as you’d think.