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Tips on How to See More and Stay Safe in Asia

Tips on How To stay safe In Asia

Want to explore ancient pagodas, trek through remote jungles or laze on the most beautiful beaches in the world? Then Southeast Asia is the ideal destination. However, with clashes between China and Vietnam along the northern border and the continuation of martial law in Thailand, it pays to be cautious. This is the land where they’ll sell you cheap beer for hours on end and think nothing of sending you into a kayak in deep, murky waters at nightfall without a life preserver.

1. Check land border crossings

While traveling overland is a great way to see a country and experience the landscape, some destinations restrict which crossings foreigners can use. A few Southeast Asian countries have selectively closed certain checkpoints to tourists, whilst others prohibit any entry via land-crossing. For example, if you’re planning on traveling to Myanmar this way you’ll find that some crossings are closed and the ones that do permit you to enter the country are in areas where low-level armed conflict is currently taking place. So check with the Australian Foreign Office website for up-to-date information and consider taking a flight, which can often work out to be just as economical and enjoyable.

2. Watch out for scams.

This is true of every major city everywhere in the world. 99.1% of the people in Southeast Asia, particularly Thailand, are fantastic people and will drop everything to help you. But there are still the occasional scams on unwitting tourists — particularly in the tourist areas of cities. Different regions will have different scams, so read up before you arrive.

A few of the common ones in Bangkok: Taxi drivers not turning on the meter; telling you an attraction like the Grand Temple is “closed” and taking you somewhere else for a “private tour” with their friend where you’ll have to spend an exorbitant amount.

3. Watch your drinks

It sounds obvious to say this, but don’t leave your drinks unattended and keep an eye on them at all times while backpacking Southeast Asia. The general rule is if you don’t see it being made, don’t drink it. My friends and I learned this the hard way when we accepted drinks from a stranger in Thailand that turned out to be laced with something. Luckily, none of us had consumed enough for anything bad to happen before we realized something was up, but the situation could have ended very badly.

I have also heard tonnes of stories about drinks being spiked at Koh Phangan’s famous Full Moon Parties. Sometimes the people making the drinks will lace them with amphetamines to keep you partying (and drinking) all night, and sometimes it’s somebody with more sinister intentions. And let’s not forget the people who die in Indonesia every year as a result of methanol poisoning from cheap alcohol.

4.Avoid the Red Light Areas

Thailand is famous for its red light districts. From Bangkok to Phuket to Pattaya, lots of people come here for the sex and the seediness of these areas.  However, it is in these areas that most of the bad things in Thailand happen. From robberies to drugging to getting ripped off, everything happens here. If you want to avoid these things, avoid these areas. They aren’t worth visiting. I’ve had friends detained in bars by scary men for refusing to pay an overcharged bill. 

5. Stay on Top of the News

Political turmoil can pop up in different parts of Southeast Asia, such as the recent protests in Bangkok. These protests and demonstrations do not target foreigners, but you don’t want to be caught up in the middle of them as they can turn violent.

When determining your travel itinerary, you should do some research into the political climate of those particular countries. If you discover that riots or protests are taking place in one of your desired destinations you might want to change your travel plans. If you are not sure, look for a travel or expat blogger who lives in the destination and email them to ask what the situation is really like there.

6. Get travel insurance

Plan to get travel insurance when visiting the region, because health risks in Southeast Asia don’t entirely diminish even if you’ve had your vaccines. As Southeast Asia trips often include adventures like indulging in street food, zip-lining, scuba diving, jungle treks, and motorcycle rentals, it’s wise to have a policy in place.



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