How to Survive South East Asia

Now many of you may have read Lonely Planet or have spoken to people who have already backpacked Thailand. Some of you are thinking about going yourselves, and you must. These countries whilst open to tourism and very much tourist friendly, still retain their unique culture and natural beauties. They are by no means untouched by tourism but have a good medium between natural life, and easy travelling for tourists. I loved my trip through South East Asia and would recommend it to anyone but it is becoming increasingly popular due to its great attractions, nightlife and cheap travelling options.

As the tourist population increases, locals are becoming more and more sly in the way of increasing profitability, even if it is immoral and at the stake of us. It is good to know the tricks, cons and things that can go wrong, so you can travel at ease. Below are some hints to help.


Tuk Tuk Con’s

Tuk Tuk’s are the asian Taxi, they don’t always run on meters, and they are quite run down, but they give a true cultural experience and can be very cheap and useful ways of getting around. They are also the worst people for taking your money.

1. They can overcharge.

In Thailand, Tuktuk’s usually cost a maximum of 2OBAHT with short journeys as little as 5BAHT. Many will try and charge you 40-50minimum and so it is in your benefit to agree a price and haggle it to below 15BAHT (unless your travelling a long distance in which case it could be a little more, but as a rule this should be enough). This price once agreed, you can always give them more at the end of the journey out of kindness, but it is good to play hard to get at the beginning so that they know not to take you for a ride. They have lots of competition so there should be no difficulty in finding a Tuktuk that will take you for the price you want. At worst, walk away.. they will always call you back. Also, in Thailand some places give Tuktuk’s money for their petrol, so it technically doesn’t cost them petrol money to drive you, just their time.

2. They can try and change the rate at the end of the journey.

The nice tuktuk drivers don’t pull this crap and hate to stereotype but as a rule the older male drivers are far kinder and fairer with their rates and tend to be more honest. Unfortunately not all are so nice. We had a situation where we were driven 5 minutes down the road, and he demanded 50BAHT instead of 5BAHT. He attempted to bully us into paying it and we refused. We handed him 10 BAHT and said you either let us get out here or we pay you nothing and can take us back we will find someone who will take us fairly. He stubbornly took us back to our start point, by which point we realised we had learnt the route to walk there in 10 minutes. Another time this occurred the guy took the money we offered without argument. (We would have given him more the normal rate anyway had he not tried to scam us).

3.They will take you for a ride (around the whole of town).

Tuktuk’s have alot of time on their hands, they have alot of competition and therefore no rush when they pick up a customer. They actually earn more profit the longer they keep you even if you pay the rate you agreed. Many have arrangements with Carpet Shops, Jewellery stores, and other businesses in which they are handed petrol tokens for free petrol if they manage to take tourists there. You may ask to be taken to a temple, but find your route lengthened by drop off points where they tell you to browse mindlessly for 5 minutes. In this 5 minutes store managers attempt to coerce you into buying items from them.

If you are in a rush, politely inform the taxi driver that you cannot afford to loose time and that you are aware of the arrangement but will not accept it. Some will respect you and take you on the route you asked, otherwise you may have to pay them a little extra to keep them on course (bribery works well). Otherwise you could just see and if you find them messing you around, get out and look for another ride.

One one occasion we had a very kind Tuktuk who took us to at least 7 different sights and told us about the agreement rather than tricking us into shops. He said he doesnt have a lot of money and it saves him money if we could pretend for 5 minutes. He apologised and understood if we didn’t want to go. Understanding his financial situation and that appreciating his honesty, we accepted.

4.There are no such thing as ‘OFFICAL’ Tuktuk’s.

If someone of the street acts like a kind local, trying to assist you with not getting scammed.. unfortunately they are sometimes scamming you. Do not believe them if they tell you that some are unofficial and some are official and show you how to identify them. They are ALL privately owned. None will scam you less than the other.

5. Don’t let TukTuk’s Take you to the ‘Official Tourist Information’ Stop.

Again, there is NOTHING official about this place, and don’t feel that because 5 people have pointed on a map to the same place they is honesty to it. They all are aware that it is a scam and they are in it together.

We fell for this and boy did we pay big, it was in actuality a tourist agency. We were reeled into believing trains were hard to book, peak season was hard to deal with and the well spoken agent, and his charisma had us charmed into it, even though I knew never to pre book. even the most well prepared can fall into a trap when they see what they think is an honest face. We ended up pre booking tours and our trip all the way to north of thailand from bangkok and all the way through the laos. In some ways it did make life easier but later when writing down figures, we realised we had been massively overcharged. When going on all the prebooked stuff, we also found everyone with us had fallen into the same trap but had actually been conned out of far more many (we counted ourselves lucky!).

Do not believe the smiling agent, the Tuktuk, or the man that put you on the Tuktuk: THEY ARE ALL LYING. Refuse to go in if the Tuktuk drops you there, or you may find it hard to get back out. Oh and don’t be fooled by the feeling that it must be legitimate because there are so many people in there booking things.. you are all being scammed together you just do not know it.

Other Useful Tips

  • Never prebook tours and tickets. There is an abundance of transport (buses, trains.. ) and do not let people convince you otherwise. Tours are cheaper when you go into tour agencies and haggle instore. do not do it through agents. It also means you can read reviews and ask others before making your purchase rather than being swindled into a crap one.
  • Do not believe people who stand by maps or near maps. They prey on lost tourists, sending you to the wrong places or scamming you out of money. If they are wearing uniform, they can be fake police ect.
  • Temples have not closed the day for a ‘national holiday’. Thats what people say so you get driven around in Tuktuks waiting for it to open when little did you know.. it was open the whole time.
Laos Pink Eye

Now many do not know of this, and many do but don’t get what it is. If you have watched south parks pink eye episode you may get some idea, though it isnt really someone farting in your eye. It is an Bacterial Infection they causes the eye to swell itch, and you guessed it.. turn pink. Some have it lightly whilst others can look so bad that you have to wear sunglasses to hide it.

Many get it in Laos whilst tubing in the Mekong River. I recommend Tubing, it s great fun.. but what we aren’t aware of is that the Mekong River is one of the dirtiest in the world and the bacteria in the water causes Pink Eye. Pink Eye is contagious.

Me and my partner were lucky to survive it. We were the only ones who didn’t get it. Due to shared hostel rooms and beds where linen is washed in cold water even if supposedly ‘clean’ the bacteria can catch.

I recommend wrapping your pillow with a scarf or towel or something you own so that you arent sleeping on the hostel pillows. When you get pink eye don’t panic, its like a club, everyone in the area is a member. Just go to the doctor who will give you drops that should clear it within 3 days.

If you have any questions about the trip or need advise help comment, i would be happy to help!



4 thoughts on “How to Survive South East Asia

  1. use the yellow cab service. they have set rates, AC and you can have the the front desk call them. 020 55281300 and they have english speaking drivers. i’m Lao, and i refuse to ride the with the tuk-tuk-crooks.

      • tampered meters? anything is possible in Asia. if it’ll make you feel better….then no. no…not at all. on average, it’s cheaper that the tuk-tuks and less hassle. i mean those prices i hear them quote foreigners…yikes.

    • Additionally, I know that yellow cabs are better in some ways but for the money saving backpacker can also come off more costly. Otherwise thank you for adding some more advice. It is always valuable to get feedback off of other tourists and locals. I did not take Yellow Cabs in Lao and only have experience of them in the other countries.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s