Thursday, February 12, 2009

(Not just) South East Asia Travel Tips

Hi there..
No haven't been traveling yet this year, but my aunt and uncle are cruising to south east Asia in a few weeks. I sat down to write her a note of little tips we found out both before and during our trip, and realized that others might find it helpful too, so here they are.
Feel free to email me if you have a specific question I can answer,
Happy Travels,

My hints for cruising in South East Asia:
Generally no worries on the ship. We ate and drank the water on the ship with no problems.
Use the sanitizers (they are in or near most of the restaurants) before eating anything on the ship. Don't forget every handrail you touch has been touched by many people. Just doing this will protect you from most flus and colds.

When off the ship:

1. Don't eat anything raw(salad fruit etc) that has been cut open or washed. You don't want to eat anything washed in local water unless it's cooked.
2. Bananas and oranges etc. are OK if not peeled.
3. Don't drink any beverages that served to you in an opened bottle/can including water. When ordering ask for it unopened, most places know this, but it doesn't hurt to ask.
4. Don't use ice cubes.
5. Take pepto bismal, and immodium, gravol with you just in case you do eat something that doesn't agree with you.
6. Use sunscreen.
7. Take insect repellent. Wear light clothing that covers you all over for touring. Some places are really buggy and mosquitoes may carry malarial disease. Take socks with you just in case, to use if it's really buggy (Cambodia was) they (the bugs)love ankles. Also in some temples you have to remove your shoes, and I preferred to wear socks to bare feet.
8. Take a small bottle of hand sanitizer in your purse/backpack. You'll have to pack these things in your checked luggage, not carry on.
9. Carry a small amount of tissue (toilet tissue or kleenex) with you. Many bathrooms including rest stops DO NOT have toilet paper. I found out the hard way and had to beg for some from a fellow shipmate.
10. In some places there are only Asian style toilets or squatty potties, in other words, you can't sit. You have to squat, the fixture is in the floor. So try to use the rest stops that they take you to. Usually, but not always, they have European style toilets.
11. Have you gone to a tropical medicine travel doctor? They give out most of this free advice with a consultation; recommendations for innoculations and prescriptions if necessary.
12. Take your normal medicines, and the ones I mentioned above. Some places don't have regular tylenol etc. and paying for them on the ship is very expensive. Seeing the doctor on the ship is expensive too. Make sure you have travel health coverage for your whole trip.
13. Take snack, protein or fruit bars and bottled water on your excursions, in case you don't want to eat locally. Sometimes the excursions go a lot longer than expected. In some cases we got back to the ship at 10 o'clock at night. The buffet was usually open for those who were hungry and late but sometimes were too tired to eat.
14. We only took tours that were offered by the ship. The reason is; if any other tour is late for any reason, the ship will NOT wait for you, and you have to pay out of your pocket to reach the next port. If you are on a trip from the ship, and are late they must wait for you. (This happened at least 4 times on our trips. Traffic in some cities is very heavy and the ships are not always docked or moored near the cities. Also, buses break down at times, and you don't want to have to arrange a hotel, flights etc to get back to the ship.) Generally these tours were well organized and were not overly expensive.
15. If you are nice when approached by beggars, kids, people selling stuff near the buses - they won't leave you alone. I tried to say no, thanks, maybe later, and if you do that, they are relentless. I told one little boy, maybe later, and guess what? He was back at the bus when we were leaving and said "Lady it's later!" I then said no thanks, and he called me a liar. Actually what he said was "Liar, liar pants on fire". No kidding. So, you have to say NO! not rudely, but firmly. I found that difficult, but it's really worse when they follow you around the temples etc. Also if you give one kid something, you will have 12 more kids following you. Small kids are the worst, they are dirty and sad looking and rub their stomachs, then when your back is turned, (this really happened to us) they start laughing and mocking the tourists. They are well trained and know how to push your buttons. If you really want to help them, shop for souvenirs in local shops and businesses to help their economy, tip your tour guide - this will help them more in the long run. Some people gave them candy and chocolate - but I didn't feel comfortable doing this. In some places they are extremely concerned about child molestation/sex trade, and you don't want your kindness to be in any way misconstrued.
16. Wear your cash and credit cards, inside your clothing (money belt) and take out a small amount before getting off the bus/ship so you won't have to open your wallet in public. Don't show your cash anywhere in public.

I hope this is helpful,