I am sharing these practical tips to all you travelers or planning to travel to the Far East. These are based from previous experience on my trips to the Far East (and being an Asian).
1. Check the weather of your desired destination – this is a MUST!
Not too many travelers would like to enjoy a sudden gust of 100kph wind blowing you almost off the ground. Well, I may be over-estimating the wind speed but the Far East is well known for its torrential rains from the months of July stretching to December depending on your exact destination. If your intention is to enjoy a sun-frolicking day, then consider the period of February – April as this is summer time. I am no weather girl but I had been deluded in Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok in the middle of my leisure trip and that was around October. Instead of enjoying my sight-seeing, I tip-toed my way through the puddles holding a very, very big umbrella! One time in Hong Kong (many moons ago), my mom, brother and I joined the day excursion for a visit to the Ocean Park. However, it was just few days after they had their signal # 8 (considered to be dangerous) storm and had the park closed. That was a bummer! There goes my trip!!! Urggh…So, please check your favorite weather station and plan your trip accordingly. Unless you don’t mind being soaked and all, feel free to travel anytime.
2. Know the visa formalities.
Most of the Europeans and those coming from Canada and America will get their visas on arrival. However, this is not always the case due to some travel advisory alert that may arise at the moment. Contact the consulate of the country you will visit and check for the formalities. As a former travel agent, I always advise my clients to check for any visa formalities before they plan their trip just to be sure. It’s better to be safe than “deported”…hehehehe!
3. Have your travel documents ready in advance.
One thing that really irritates me is not having complete documentation handy. There was this time when we were all travelling to Manila for a vacation and someone left the “plane” ticket at home. For the love of sweet chocolate!!! We had to turn around to collect the ticket and almost missed our flight. Never, ever attempt a last minute thing. Always check if your passport is valid (normally, at least valid for 6 months at the time of travel). Buy a travel insurance (ask for your local travel agents). Secure your visas. Get travellers cheques if you must but most ATM debit and credit cards are widely accepted. Keep just enough cash for your initial expenses like taxi fare if you don’t have any transfers. Have the rest of your money changed on your destination. To secure all your documents and cards in one place, please invest on a nice leather passport case which can hold cards and cheques.
Also, before you actually travel, keep extra photocopies of the following: passport and visa page, credit and debit cards that you will carry, driver’s license, travel insurance/hotel/car hire or airport transfers vouchers, any identity card you will take with you. Keep the copies in a nice envelope which you can fold and stash in your hand carry bag. This is quite essential. I almost lost my wallet somewhere in the train station in Hong Kong and was frantic because I did not have any copies of my documents. Good thing my wallet was still there otherwise my entire trip would have been ruined because of my carelessness. Just be prepared. Enough said…
4. Don’t worry about accommodation.
Why did I suggest that? Well, most hotel properties in the Far East region is not expensive compared to their counterparts in Europe and America. If you’re paying 100$ a night on a 2* property in Europe or America, that 100$ is good enough for a 4* to 5* hotel in the Far East.
Most of the hotels have spacious rooms and nice amenities. I will not direct you to any particular
website but there are many sites to visit if you want to check for an affordable sleeping quarter. Just be sure to book way in advance and check for special promos. Sometimes, it is better to book online than call the hotel directly because of special internet deals these hotels have.
5. Travel light and securely!
Try not to wear fancy jewelleries please as the Far East also boasts good quality jewelleries. Also, you can never tell when you’ll be picked-pocket or snatched. We all know that wherever you may go, there will be “petty” crimes. So, don’t become a target. Leave your fancy stuff at home. As for clothing, bring light clothes if the weather permits. Pack only 2-3 shirts, 1 sturdy jeans, 1 shorts, your sneakers, 1 light sweater, few undergarments. Don’t pack your bag to the brim. Why you might ask? Because, there are so many good bargain hunts in the Far East and I am pretty sure that you won’t leave the country empty-handed. Just buy there whatever is essential like extra undergarments or cool printed tees and extra jeans while you’re hunting for souvenirs. Bring few medications for “loose motion”and colds. Know the vaccination
requirements of your destination and have yourself inoculated. Also, leave your contact details and itinerary to your family just for emergency purposes. Jot down the emergency numbers of your destination and your country’s local consulate office there. Again, better to be safe than sorry…
6. Learn a word or two…Ni hao!
Locals are very much ecstatic when they hear you say hi or hello in their native tongue. Just learn a few useful phrases like asking for directions and haggling for a good price. English is widely spoken by the younger generations so don’t worry.
7. Visit historical places, museums, art galleries, and of course, drop by the flea markets
You may want to have a feel of their culture, so join excursions on famous and historic places, art galleries, and museums. Then proceed to the local malls and markets for your retail therapy.
8. Check out the local cuisine
If you had a “feel” of their culture and arts, why not have a “taste” of their local cuisine? Dining out is very affordable in the Far East so try out the local restaurants and skip on the ever ubiquitous McDonald’s and Burger King chains. I have nothing against these fast food chains but try to skip them only for this trip; unless you are in a rush and don’t have much time to spare for a delectable dish. What we did before when we travelled to Singapore and Malaysia was to have dinner in a restaurant and buy stuff from the groceries during the day. It saved us money and at the same time we had a taste of what their country had to offer.
9. Know the local conditions and laws of your destination
Like the common adage, people do foolish stuff in a foreign country. DON’T! Learn their laws and regulations and follow strictly. There has been, in many occasions, arrests on carrying illegal substances or people carrying packages for friends who know somebody on that destination which may contain suspicious items. Please ensure that the medications you will carry are within the allowed regulation. If you have to carry
a prescription drug, please secure a medical certificate from your family physician and bring it along. If you’re the kind who enjoys night clubbing, please take somebody with you or go with a group and try your best not to get too inebriated or not to end on a bar-brawl. Remember, this is a leisure trip and leisure you should get.
10. Have a good sleep before the travel
Knowing that you have secured everything, packed lightly, kept enough money to finance your trip, left all information required to your family and learned enough about the country you are visiting, then it is time to relax and sleep. Report for your flight at least 3 hours prior to departure time. Some travel agents say 2 hours but for me, I’d rather be early than late because you’ll never know when a problem will arise like the system is down, there’s a heavy traffic, a sudden rain or hail. The early bird catches the worm.
Have fun and take a load of photos of your fun-filled trip to the Far East!!!