Getting around South East Asia can be tricky, especially if it’s your first time there. But fear not, we’ve got all the info you need to know. The region is not exactly known for its modernised roads and transport, but isn’t that half of the fun of travelling? SE Asia is a real adventure, so just dive right in, but to explore further afield you’ll need to suss out buses, boats, automobiles and more.
From bicycles to trains and everything in between, here’s the South East Asia transport tips you need to know.
Tips For Getting Around South East Asia
1. Download the Grab App to Your Phone
The Asian version of Uber, Grab is the easiest way to book a car taxi or motorbike taxi. Wherever you are, simple go onto to the app and input your location. It’s cheaper than a private taxi that you would hail on the street and you can also pay via your credit or debit card.
2. The Traffic is Insane – But Be Brave!
Mopeds rule most of the cities here, and they whizz by at all times of the day and night. There’s no such thing really as pedestrian crossings, so to cross the road you have to be brave! Don’t worry: wait for small gap in the traffic and just walk slowly and confidently across the road. The drivers WILL go around you – they’re used to it.
3. Book Tickets Online via Bookaway
You can buy tickets for minivans and buses etc on the spot at windows, but who wants to spend their vacation waiting in line? Plus, the bus services in top tourist spots are always busy all year round, especially at peak travel time during weekends and national public holidays.
So, to make travelling around South East Asia easier, you can book tickets for tourist minivans, private buses and taxis in advance via Bookaway here.
4. Download Offline Maps
Download an app such as Maps.me to your phone to have access to maps when there’s no WiFi. It’s essential when arriving in new countries with no connection. Finding hotels. Using taxis. Basically, not getting lost.
5. Don’t Leave Your Passport as a Motorbike Deposit
Motorbiking is one of the most popular options for travelling around Asia. While motorbike and scooter rentals are cheap, it’s worth spending a little more on a bike that’s a newer model and be sure to test the breaks.
We suggest you leave a cash deposit instead of your passport, as if worst comes to worst and you have an accident, there’s often no trauma center in the country. You’ll need to be flown to Thailand and it’s not possible if you’ve no passport!
6. Expect Long Journeys on Public Transport…
Public buses here generally leave on time and are super cheap, but travel time can be pretty long. There’s usually always some sort of delay! Major destinations are easily accessed by public busses, with price ranging from economy to VIP class.
7. Bring Snacks and Entertainment
You can buy some snacks on longer train journeys, but it’s mostly just instant noodles. If you’re going to be taking a long journey we suggest bringing your own food and snacks. While some newer trains do have WiFi, this is still rare. So load up on those podcasts and bring a book.