Sunday, September 11, 2011

Getting Around in Southeast Asia

Guest post by Sachin

Getting around in Southeast Asia can be quite a challenge for the uninitiated—check out our helpful hints on how to stay sane while getting from A to B!

If you are planning a trip around Southeast Asia, you are in for a treat. The culture, the food, the people and the scenery are all completely amazing, and whether you’re staying in luxury resorts, camping on the beach, or chilling out in laidback Vietnam hotels, you’re bound to have the experience of a lifetime. When it comes to getting from place to place in Southeast Asia, your options are somewhat different to what you may be used to. Crossing the road in many of its major cities is equivalent to taking your life into your hands, and it’s not uncommon to see entire families riding on one motorbike. Things are different here, so allow us to fill you in on a few facts about getting around in Southeast Asia.


Crossing the Road

If you’re in a small village or backwater rural community, crossing the road won’t be an issue. Hell, there may not even be any roads to cross! When it comes to Southeast Asia’s bigger cities, however, things are a lot less safe. Cars, mopeds and rickshaws speed past at alarming speeds, following what appears to be their own strange interpretation of the road rules. The way to do it (so the locals say) is to look straight ahead of you, pick a point on the other side of the road, and walk calmly and steadily towards it. If you wait for a ‘good time’ to cross you’ll end up waiting all day, and if you hesitate while crossing you’re more likely to get into an accident. Trust us, once you’ve done it a few times, it’ll become second nature!

Getting Around Town

A tuk-tuk (or rickshaw) is often the preferred method of getting around in towns in Southeast Asia. These are a kind of undercover bike which are either motorized or pedaled manually by a (very fit) driver. These are inexpensive and culturally interesting, so we’d recommend a ride at least once!

Boating

A lot of places in Southeast Asia---particularly some of the most popular tourist spots—are only accessible by boat or plane. Islands in Thailand are best reached by boat, as are places in Indonesia. Be wary of over-crowding, however, and choose a reputable ferry or speedboat company, as there have been several tragedies involving boating accidents of late.

Driving

In short—don’t do it. It’s possible of course, and in places like Singapore or Malaysia it’s possible to rent cars and drive yourself around without too much hassle (some hotels in Malaysia will actually provide cars with drivers). In other places, however, traffic borders on total anarchy, so unless you’re up for a very challenging trip, we’d recommend hiring a driver that comes with the car!

Trekking

Southeast Asia boasts some gorgeous jungles and rainforests, and is the perfect location to bust out those hiking boots and mosquito repellent and go on a trek in the jungle. If you want to combine an even more novel form of transport with this, why not ride on the back of an elephant as part of a tour?

Getting around Southeast Asia is certainly a little different to simply renting a car and driving yourself. Because of the cultural differences (as well as the differences in infrastructure) most places in the region require more creative solutions to getting around! This is all part of the experience, and we’re betting you’ll return with one or two transport tales that will form the best memories of your trip!

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  5. thanks for the tips, the road crossing sounds particularly terrifying!

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