Advice for an International Trip

A few of my miscellaneous recommendations for international travel to South-East Asia. These are my personal views – please do your research!


First things first – apply for a passport!

If you already have a passport, check that it doesn’t expire for six months from the date of your return. So, for example, if you have a passport that expires on July 1st 2023, you have until January 1st 2023 to return from your trip. Your 5-year passport only has 4 1/2 years on it. Most governments mandate this, and the airlines check, so renew your passport if it expires early.


I find planning fun. Do your research – go to YouTube, explore the travel websites, talk to people who have been there. But take any advice you receive with a grain of salt.

I’m writing this with a presumption that you’ll want to go to Taiwan or Thailand, or more generally South-East Asia. I found that travel in this area varies, from easy (Singapore, Taiwan) to more difficult (Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar).

A good way to think of a trip is a ‘theme‘. For example, I like railways, so I would plan around travelling by rail. Like food? Plan you destination around that. Or a ‘tentpole‘ – that is, organize the the biggest destination first, then fit in other destinations around it. For example, you might want to see the ruined city of Angkor; so make that the focus of your trip, and then plan around it. These two approaches are compatible.

Can you afford it? I find South-East Asia is a cheap region, but it varies by country. Thailand is cheap, Singapore is more expensive. There are ways to mitigate this, for example staying in hostels.

Long time or short time? This will depend on outside factors, for instance the amount of time you can take off work, or the amount of money.

Solo or with friends/partners/buddies? Check to see if their conception of the trip coincides with yours. You will be spending a lot of time and going through a lot of experiences together so choose your friends carefully.

How long do I stay at a location? – I find beginners tend to want to hurry, moving every day or so. It gets so you need a holiday from all the packing and familiarization on your holiday. My recommendation is to move every three or four days, slower if you have a major location.

I recommend working out some rough itineraries; this should help.

What to Bring

This is characteristic to each person; no two individuals are the same. There are many clips on YouTube, for instance this one, each different. Beginners tend to take too much luggage – I recall taking a portable stove with gas cylinder with me on my first trip.

I bring with me for traveling a spare pair of shoes, four shirts/trousers/underwear/socks, pyjamas, a medical kit including my medication, a Chromebook (a small computer), a smaller bag for day use, and a jacket. All this fits into a 40 litre travel backpack.

I first bought a backpack around 80 litres, but now I use 40 litres. It’s easier carrying it, but more importantly, it gets you under the restrictions for cabin baggage. So I now bring my bag onto a flight instead of checking it in; it saves money on the budget airlines.

As well as size, cabin baggage has a weight restriction – I think 7 kilograms on Jetstar. I really should weigh my backpack when I pack. I fall back on wearing my jacket and slip a power supply or miscellaneous electronics into my pocket, immediately before the airline check-in counter, to make my backpack as light as possible.

You do need a backpack – I use a variant of this one – or a hard case. I recommend one that isn’t set up for camping in the bush, that is, suitable for wearing on your back for hours at a time with a single opening at the top. Instead I recommend a backpack that opens all the way around – really a suitcase masquerading as a backpack. A hard case is fine, but check to see if it is within the cabin baggage limit. I find you must be able to walk with all your luggage.

Some travelers store their dirty clothes then send them out to a laundry to wash and iron then. I used to do this too, but now I have a better solution. I buy first thing on my trip a little package of laundry detergent. Each night, before I go to sleep, I wash the day’s clothes in that detergent under a tap, and hang them out to dry overnight. In the tropics the air stays warm, so in the morning I usually have dry clean clothes.

I take a drain stopper, a few clothes hangers (to dry my clothes), a mini clothesline, mini scissors, and needle and thread.


For your first trip, I recommend going to your local General Practitioner, or seeing a specialized travel medical center if the trip is more complicated – for instance this company. They can provide you with immunizations and advice.

I do take a medical kit with me. Companies sell medical kits but in my opinion they are rubbish. Among other things I take with me anti-fungal cream, very useful in the tropics; sunscreen, because other countries put skin-whitening ointment in; and Band-aids / antiseptic salve, because you will get superficial wounds infected. Some people would add anti-diarrhea pills to this list.


I recommend booking on a budget airline, especially when the booking is simple. From Australia some budge airlines are Jetstar (for QANTAS), AirAsia, and Scoot. Be aware that everything must be paid for, including checked luggage and meals. On the other hand, they are extremely cheap.

I have also used major websites like Agoda and TripAdvisor to book, generally for more complicated bookings. These websites ask you to enter the start and finish of your trip, then list all the full-service airlines that connect the two places. Many budget airlines don’t show up on these.

Travel insurance

A must-have, and a precondition of entry to Thailand. A bit of confusion surrounds travel insurance. I think it’s really for catastrophic situations. I once had $AUS200 pickpocketed out of my trousers; I didn’t file a claim. However if I, say, had a serious traffic accident, then I would definitely claim.

I strongly advise reading your fine print carefully on travel insurance cover. I recall some travel insurers regard putting a bag in the hold of a bus as invalidating your cover. Almost none of the travel insurers will pay for a motor-scooter accident if you haven’t a legal motor-scooter licence coming to a SE Asian country.

I also suggest listing all your preexisting conditions on the travel insurance form. I had a stroke many years ago, and found travel insurance companies varied in how to deal with it. One wanted a doctor’s authorization before starting my trip. I eventually used Travel Insurance Direct which asked me a few online questions, recognized that I had my stroke (then) 14 years ago, and approved me immediately.

Where to Stay

Beginners from Australia going to South-East Asia for the first time might expect a hostel-type experience, living in bunk beds, many people to a room. They would be surprised to find a hotel experience for a budget price. Conversely, people going to Australia might find the hostel experience surprising. But hostels are very social places: everyone is new to Australia and the Australian way of life. Youth Hostels Australia links to all YHA hostels, but there are many other independent hostels.

I prefer to initially only make a booking for a few nights at the beginning, and then book a few nights in advance – it gives me flexibility in case my plans change.

There are major websites like Agoda and TripAdvisor I use, mainly for the user feedback and ranking. I also just use Google Maps to book an hotel, especially when it’s a different language.

Mental Health while Travelling

If you watch YouTube or Instagram, travel seems wonderful – tropical beaches, exotic cities, mouth-watering food. But in real life, the weather is hot and humid, as sweaty as if I’ve just played a game of football. Getting a good night’s sleep is hard. It seems like every stallholder is ripping me off. Sometimes it all seems too foreign.

Mental health is a important thing while travelling. Recognize your mental health limits. Don’t be afraid to rest a day or three, and just do nothing (though not too long). I recommend making a routine in one’s day: get up at the same time each day, find the same cafe and eat at it. I find going for walks every day for around half an hour helps. If I find I’m not enjoying the travelling life, then I’ll probably leave the country, coming back when I feel refreshed.

This is close to culture shock. There are books that can help, for instance Culture Shock Thailand.

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