On the 3rd of July 2011, I will go on a 32 days adventure in Southeast Asia. This is my first long trip. I have never left the country for more than a week in my entire life so this is kind of a big deal for me.
I Never had Much Money
No. I did not steal money to go on this trip. When I told my sister I wanted to go on a long trip, I did not exactly tell her specifically where I want to conquer. My sister was supportive of this idea and she gave me SGD200.00 to book my air tickets. Boy was I happy and grateful.
Book in Advance
This is always a win-win situation. I booked my first long trip nearly a year in advance. By booking in advance, it gives you the time to do research and save lots of money.
Literally Blown Away
Coincidentally, I received an online newsletter from www.airasia.com regarding their promotion. Now this was almost a year ago. A promotion that would blow anyone’s mind away. All Air Asia flights coded with AK (Malaysia), FD (Thailand) and QZ (Indonesia) had a SGD1.00 promo for all flights excluding taxes. Its not much of a biggie as airport taxes departing from these countries mentioned above are really quite minimal. For example, domestic flights within Peninsular and East Malaysia (taxes) are only RM6.00 and RM9.00 respectively while international taxes is RM25.00 . Probably the poor infrastructure of Kuala Lumpur’s Low Cost Terminal made the taxes cheap.
The flights were so cheap that I ended up booking 15 flights below and therefore I proudly called it my 32 DAYS SOUTHEAST ASIA ADVENTURE. The minimum cost for each sector was only a mere SGD2.50 . Hey, I can’t even buy a Happy Meal with that amount. So what are you waiting for? Sign up for airline newsletters and say hello world.
I will be very honest. Not all of my flights are with Air Asia. So I decided to outsource. Clearly, God was on my side. I managed to swag a deal on Cebu Pacific Air and Vietnam Airlines. Domestic Cebu Pacific Air flight from Clark to Cebu return was only SGD18.00 with luggage. Domestic Vietnam Airlines flight from HCMC-HANOI-DANANG-HCMC on a multi-city option only cost me SGD150.00 with luggage. Why do I say its only SGD150.00? Come on, be realistic. Vietnam Airlines as some might have said that their business class service is of low standard, it is still a legacy airline and that explained the price. The 3 words. RESEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH.
Don’t be a victim of Excess Baggage
Now this has been said perhaps 1,000,001 times. If you think you are going to buy an elephant from Thailand for Daddy-kins back home, then choose the jumbo weight option. Don’t go to the airport and start a brawl with the counter agent if your baggage is overweight. Low Cost airlines give no mercy if you decide to bring along your entire wardrobe. Baggage prices on certain Low cost airlines have risen drastically over the past few months. It may have a negative impact on the brand itself but at least they warned you about excess baggage problems. Bought too much stuff? Don’t worry, you can always send it via post or cargo. Check with individual airlines. Sometimes it is a lot cheaper than paying for excess baggage. I was a victim in 2009. I was made to pay a whopping amount of SGD170 for not adhering to strict baggage policies (Hey Tiger Airways!). So do yourself a favour, buy baggage allowance if you plan to shop. The total amount for my 15 flighta plus baggage allowance and pre-booked meals amounted up to nearly SGD500.00 which is considerably cheap. The cost will be half of the total if you decide to be a nomad with only hand carry baggage.
Short of money eh?
Currently, I am doing my National Service. National Service in Singapore is mandatory for all boys above 18 years old. The duration of this nightmare is 2 years. My vocation allowance is only a mere SGD500.00 . When my sis gave me the SGD200.00 to buy my air tickets, it wasn’t enough to buy baggage allowance but I was still grateful that I have such a nice sister. So what I did was on the 12th of every month, my allowance will be banked in and I immediately buy at least 2 baggage allowance for the flights I have booked. In this way, I need not go broke every month. This simply means I had booked my air tickets way in advance. If you are still in school, find a part time job and follow my tips. Lastly, convince your parents to give you SGD200.00 and if they brush you off for asking money, EARN IT. NOTHING IN THIS WORLD COMES FOR FREE. As I am typing this post, its only 3 weeks till the end of National Service and I am excited!
Just because I mentioned nomad in my last two paragraphs, that does not necessarily mean you have to sleep on the park bench. Do eat the humble pie as you read ahead. Accommodation comes in many varieties. Luxury hotels, budget inns, beach huts, hostels and even hammocks. A traveler like me automatically chooses hostel. The common room or the living room of the hostel is where you can meet and share tips with other travelers which is always the highlight of the trip. Hostels come in many varieties too. Shared beds (not in your wildest dreams), shared rooms, private rooms and ensuite rooms. Beds per night can cost as low as USD3.00.
- Shared Room
The cheapest option will be a shared room. One will have to bunk in with other strangers from another part of the planet. A smile and an ice breaking session will ensure you a ball of a time with your new roommates. Bathroom and toilet are usually outside the room.
- Private Room
A room to yourself and basic amenities. May or may not include an attached bathroom.
- Ensuite Room
This is a shared room too but with attached bathroom and toilet.
I definitely recommend hostels as I love the friendly and homely environment. All you need is a debit or credit card to book. Hostel bookings will require a 5%-10% deposit which is around 50cents-USD5.00 depending on the duration. If you don’t have a debit card, check with your local bank to see if you can apply one and also if your bank does not issue debit cards that link to your savings account, find another bank that does. Alternatively, you can always walk in provided they have beds. Hostels can be found on the following websites:
If hostels doesn’t suit your fancy, prepare to come up with more money to book a hotel. It is always good to be surrounded by luxury but it defeats the purpose if you are planning to meet other travelers. Some 3rd party hotel websites such as Agoda, Sawadee and AirAsiaGo occasionally have deals even cheaper than the cost of per bed in a hostel. Do compare deals as you book and do not forget to sign up for online newsletters on the websites to get the best deals around.
THOU SHALL NOT LEAVE THE COUNTRY WITHOUT TRAVEL INSURANCE
If you can’t afford insurance, you can’t afford to travel. I swear by this powerful statement. I have left the country without travel insurance. So far nothing has happened to me except once in Hainan Island, China when I almost got stuck due to Typhoon Megi and my 3 days trip in Hainan ended in 24 hours. I had to fork out SGD200.00 to get me back home (Hey Tiger Airways!). Lesson learnt. Do not take any chances. Anything can happen such as accidents, theft and flight delays and cancellations. Say, you are going on a water rafting tour in Kota Kinabalu and if there is a mishap, your injured self will be air lifted. The cost of each air lift can amount up to SGD200,000 (no kidding). When buying insurance, do look out for the emergency policies. Insurance companies such as Aviva covers the cost of my baby, which is my laptop!
Lastly, I wish you all the best for your upcoming trips! Shoot me with questions and I will definitely do my best to answer!