Travel Guide to the Best Places to Visit in Southeast Asia

Introduction

Filipinos and other travelers from Southeast Asia are lucky to experience cultural beauty in its rawest form without straying too far from home. Thanks to the Framework Agreement on Visa Exemption, citizens of ASEAN member countries are spared from applying for a visa whenever they intend to visit any country in Southeast Asia. You'll be surprised by how much more there is to see and experience in the same continent. You'll love the short flights toward a whole new country jam-packed with crazy adventures.

5 Reasons Why You Should Travel in Southeast Asian Destinations

Southeast Asia is known as one of the most popular tourist hubs in the world. Regardless if you’re going to Southeast Asian countries for the first time or for the 7th time within the span of a few years, you’ll never get enough of what the continent can offer. If you're a backpacker, then it's all the more reason not to miss out on Southeast Asia's experiences.

From its incredible hosts to its lovely destinations, here are five reasons why traveling in Southeast Asia is the way to go:

The Majestic Beaches

It’s no secret that Southeast Asia has some of the best beaches in the world. Since it boasts an array of island-countries, basking in the warm glow of the sun with a bed of natural, powder-white sand is a uniquely SEA adventure. And not to forget the enthralling sight of clear blue seas -- there's nowhere else in the world that does beaches like Southeast Asia, so if you happen to love being clad in a bikini all day, don't skimp on this part of the continent.

You have the option to visit a well-developed beach for nightlife and excellent facilities or go for secret havens that have been relatively untouched by developers. Either way, you’ll surely get your fill of the alluring seas when you visit most Southeast Asian countries.

Ease of Travel

Southeast Asia is one of the most accessible parts of the continent to visit if you live in the Philippines. Travel time is relatively short, and plane fares tend to be cheaper due to the proximity between countries. Because Southeast Asia's cultural nuances are familiar to most Filipinos, getting around neighboring countries will be much easier.

Living in the Philippines is like a training guide to Southeast Asian travel. From booking accommodations to figuring out how local transportation works and haggling in markets, you'll have no trouble fitting in and figuring things out.

But even if you're not all too familiar with Southeast Asian culture, it's still a wonderful place to visit. If you're a first-time traveler or backpacker, you'll fall in love with the locals' hospitality. SEA is a tourist hub, so they're used to seeing all sorts of people and guiding them along to one-of-a-kind adventures. So if you want to travel with little complications, Southeast Asia should be on top of your travel list.

Affordable Travel Costs

One of the best things about visiting Southeast Asian countries is the cost of their goods and services. You'd be hard-pressed to find decent accommodations for less than $200 in western countries, but that’s plenty enough for a couple of days in Southeast Asia. Plus, entrance fees to museums, temples, and pagodas definitely won’t break the bank.

For instance, the entrance fee to the beautiful Fine Arts Museum in Ho Chi Minh City is less than $0.50 for adults, and barely a fraction of the cost for children. Experiences are cheap in Southeast Asia, so its countries are great places to visit when you're on a tight budget. With a small amount of money, you'll have enough to spare for food, adventure sports, and a ton of souvenirs.

Food

What's incredible about Southeast Asia is how it maintains its cultural roots in various aspects of everyday life, including food. The continent's 11 beautiful countries developed different flavors and cuisine that varies for every city, island, and province. Therefore, regardless of where you go, you'll find an incredible selection of dishes unique to their culture and geography.

Visit modern Singapore, and you'll enjoy their Hainanese Chicken and Chili Crab, while nearby Thailand will make you fall in love with their Pad Thai and Tom Kha Kai. Travel a little to the right, and Vietnam will bless your tastebuds with their infamous Pho and Bahn Mi.

Every corner of Southeast Asia is an extraordinary food experience. The best part? They're so affordable, especially if you purchase from street vendors and local eateries. Your stomach will be full with a fusion of cultural flavors, and your wallet won't be crying.

People

It's impossible not to notice that Southeast Asia has some of the friendliest people in the world. This part of the continent is bound together by a sense of family and camaraderie -- quite rare in other destinations around the globe.

Tourists are warmly-welcomed and treated like family as long as you respect their culture and traditions. You won't have a tough time visiting any Southeast Asian destination because someone will always be there to make you feel at ease.

Things to Consider When Traveling Around Southeast Asia

Whether you prefer a rigid schedule that's followed by the minute, or the flexibility and impulse of a free itinerary, your travel experience will be more enjoyable and conflict-free if you organize it well.

As a responsible traveler, you should be amply-prepared before embarking on a trip of any length. Falling short of cash or being unprepared for accidents can be heart-crushing, especially when you're in an unfamiliar place. To help you out, here are some things you should prepare for when traveling around Southeast Asia.

Budget

A flexible budget is an asset when traveling abroad. Ensure that you have enough money, plus contingency, in case you encounter unexpected expenses during the trip. The currency exchange market can be confusing and tricky so having a credit card is a good workaround for faster and easier overseas transactions. Just be aware of your bank's foreign currency fee prior to using your credit card abroad.

A great way to start budgeting is to compartmentalize your expenses. Make a list of the things you'll have to pay for before and during the trip. For instance, plane tickets, down payments, visas, pre-ordered activity fares, vaccination, and travel insurance would fall under your pre-trip expenses. Meanwhile, food, transportation, shopping, and the remaining balance for your accommodation are things you'll have to pay for once you've reached your destination.

As the cost of goods and services may differ from one country to another, look into the average cost of consumables, daily necessities, and transportation to help you set a daily budget as well.

Sort out your priorities and see which of your planned expenditures will place a more significant dent on your savings. You'll want to prepare money for those in advance, as opposed to smaller items such as souvenirs. Allocate a budget for everything you're projected to spend on and set the funds aside so you won't lose track of where they go.

By being vigilant with your budget preparations, you can avoid fiscal anxiety during your trip.

Packing Necessities

When traveling to Southeast Asian countries, you should always pack smart. The climate doesn't drastically change throughout the year, so you won't have to worry about buying extra clothes just for your trip. However, your itinerary can influence your travel closet. Here is a general list of things to bring to SEA.

Summer clothing. The general climate in the southeastern part of Asia can be rather humid, so packing lightweight and breathable clothing will keep you from melting. Shorts, flowy pants, billowy skirts, dresses, tank tops, and T-shirts are versatile closet essentials. But do carry a jacket or a sweater to cover up your arms in case you'll be visiting a religious site.
If you're a girl, a protip is to prepare your outfits in advance so you can determine what bras and undies you'll have to bring as well. It sucks not to be able to wear a cute tube top because all you brought are sports bras, after all!

Weather protection. No matter when or where you're traveling, the weather is notorious for being unpredictable. Don't underestimate the power of an umbrella, which can save you from getting caught in the rain and the blazing sunlight. If you have plans to hike, a sturdy windbreaker will keep you warm and cozy. A cap and a pair of sunglasses are also chic and practical accessories against harmful UV rays.

Sportswear. Southeast Asia is full of adventure sports and adrenaline-pumping activities, so you'll regret not bringing sweat-absorbing clothing. Bring out your crazy-printed leggings, super cute sports bras, and some practical basketball shorts because you won't be able to resist yoga on the beach, biking around an island, and hiking on the mountains. If you have personal knee pads and plan to bike, bring your own as it's more hygienic.

Beachwear. You should take at least one swimwear with you to Southeast Asia. With the number of islands you'll live in proximity to, watersports will likely be a part of your itinerary. Opt for a more secure swimwear like a rashguard or a tankini if you'll be doing high-energy activities. The last thing you want is a nip slip in a foreign land. But for lounging around, it's your chance to make use of your colorful bikini collection. Even if you aren't going to the beach, your accommodation may contain a private pool, and you never know when you'll encounter a lake after a long hike.

​Footwear. You'll be walking around a lot in Southeast Asia, so it's essential to get your shoe situation in check. Take a comfy pair of sneakers for daily use, appropriate sandals for the beach and long hikes, and water shoes if you need them. Only pack one everyday shoe and whatever niche footwear you'll need.

Don't forget your toiletries. Although most accommodations provide free items upon check-in, opt to bring your towels and toothbrushes just in case. Take any essential toiletries such as medicated shampoos and acne face washes if you need them. Most importantly, bring sunscreen to protect you and your travel buddies from the sun's UV rays.


Travel Itinerary

An organized itinerary is crucial in preparing for a trip. Although it would be exciting to travel freely where your feet lead you, the spontaneity can bite you back in the future, when you find yourself without food, accommodation, or money left to spare. Your itinerary should consist of everything -- from a breakdown of your daily expenses, airfare, and activity budget to a schedule of your day-to-day adventures.

Go ahead and plan the dates and duration of your trip, the ideal months to visit, your plane options, budget per location, and spare money for contingency. With the help of the internet, it wouldn’t be hard to look up prices of goods and services in their local currency and book major trip elements like hotels, transportation packages, and more. Make your trip on Southeast Asian countries as smooth as possible by planning everything in detail.

Whether you choose to create a rigid schedule to keep your travel group in order or a lax one, so you have the freedom of a flexible trip, an itinerary will serve as a backbone to your preparations. It will ensure that you're ready once you step foot into a Southeast Asian wonder.

 

Insurance

Insurance might not be in your planned list of expenses when traveling abroad, but you’ll come to find out just how useful it is to have one. Some people think that they can do without travel insurance as accidents are so rare and probably won’t occur to them on a trip to nearby Southeast Asia.

But travel anxiety is very real, and there will always be a nagging voice in the back of your head, thinking about when the worse comes to worst. What if the harness on my rock climbing gear fails? What if the waves become too strong and drown me? What if my baggage gets lost? These questions are unavoidable, along with the financial anxiety that they implicate.

To give you peace of mind, you should try to avail of several types of travel insurance to safeguard you from the economic and mental shock should you experience unfortunate incidences abroad.

 

Health Insurance

Health insurance is a lifesaver when traveling abroad. A person's health is unpredictable, and even the burliest of men and the healthiest of children can fall ill at any given time. Apart from that, there's very little you can do to avoid accidents. It's all the more stressful if these happen to you abroad, as you never know how high foreign hospital bills can rack up.

You might have a secure local insurance, but do check with them to see whether they cover incidents in a foreign land. If not, don't skimp on travel health insurance. Even in a country as low-cost as Southeast Asia, healthcare is not cheap, especially if you opt for a private hospital. Having the financial backing of health insurance will aid you in carrying that fiscal burden.

 

Credit Card Travel Insurance Benefit

Some credit cards come with complimentary travel insurance coverage. If you already own a credit card, check with your bank to see whether they offer such benefits.

For example, BPI Skymiles offers complimentary travel insurance not only to credit cardholders but also to their supplementary holders. They provide general travel insurance coverage, as long as you purchase your ticket with an eligible card.

Most banks that offer this benefit include insurance for accidents, medical needs, lost or delayed baggage, flight cancellation or delay, and travel assistance. But to make sure, check your bank's travel insurance page and consult with their tellers so you know what you're getting and in what situations you can use the benefits.

Enjoy your vacation without the burden of financial anxiety with the help of your credit card's travel insurance benefit.

| Read: What You Should Know About Credit Card Travel Insurance |

 

Independent Travel Insurance

If you don't already have a credit card that offers travel benefits, and you aren't looking into getting one at the moment, then opt for independent travel insurance. Like credit card travel insurance, a separate coverage will also protect you against health problems, accidents, delayed and lost baggage, flight delays and cancellation, as well as other liabilities depending on your insurance company.

For example, Pacific Cross offers protection against excess land vehicle rental costs, which is excellent if you'll be motorcycling around Bali. Personal liability, funeral and burial expenses, and sports coverage are also some benefits that you can receive with an independent insurance company. These are important as your trip to Southeast Asia will likely involve a lot of adventure sports, so it's a good idea to be safe.

The best benefit of independent travel insurance is that you can choose and control the amount and type of coverage you'll be getting. So if you'll be flying business or higher, or prefer a wider range of benefits, then independent insurance will serve you well.

Additionally, travel insurance can be customizable depending on your provider. For instance, most health travel insurance doesn't cover pre-existing ailments. However, some can offer variations of inclusions that can accommodate such conditions. Pacific Cross does cover in-patient care and emergency room use in this scenario, but limited to certain plans. If you're looking for a specific type of coverage, compare benefits on Gobear and consult with insurance agents to ensure that you're getting what you need.

Cambodia

Cambodia is a wonderful country to visit for backpackers, history buffs, and travel groups alike. It houses remnants of ancient religious institutions amidst islands and jungles and casts a cultural brilliance that's unique to the country. You'll be surprised by how much you can do in the gorgeous kingdom of Cambodia.

Things to do in Cambodia

A visit to the infamous Angkor Wat will likely be at the top of your itinerary. It's a grand monument that dates back to the Khmer civilization and is enclosed by a vast land that'll appease the explorer within you. If you aren't a fan of crowds, consider Beng Mealea, a secret jungle temple about 40km east of Angkor Wat's primary cluster. You'll have a blast making friends with the monkeys living in the area -- just don't steal their precious bananas!

For an eerie sight, visit the Killing Fields, a vestige of the country's past, and a unique experience that'll send a chill down your spine. Apart from those, your trip will be incomplete without paying a visit to some Cambodian backpacking classics: Phnom Penh, Tonle Sap, and Battambang. They'll give you a mix of the hustle and bustle of cityscapes and the serene every day of a lake town.

Accommodation

There are plenty of places to stay in Cambodia for a variety of budgets. If you really want to immerse yourself in local living at a low cost, opt for a dorm or hostel, which will only cost you 4 USD per night. Private hostels and guest houses offer personal amenities at just 5-10 USD a night.

If you aren't backpacking and can afford a higher-end option, you can rent a home, apartment, or Airbnb for about 30 USD per night. Luxury accommodations in Cambodia won't rip a hole in your wallet, so the country makes for a very affordable destination.

You'll undoubtedly have money to spare for other expenses, no matter which accommodation you choose.

Food

Cambodia's food is known as Khmer Cuisine, a characteristic explosion of historical flavors that have evolved along with the country's culture. Its distinctive feature is that it's cooked either without or with little chili, perfect for children and adults who failed the spicy noodle challenge.

Khmer cuisine is rare to find abroad, so you'll be surprised by how hearty and delicious it can be. Try street food from local vendors, which will only cost you about 1-2 USD. Local eateries and restaurants serve food at around 3-5USD, while higher-end and western restaurants charge about 15USD.

Stuff yourself full with Bai Sach Chrouk, Lap Khmer, Fish Amok, and Nam Banh Chok. You'll find yourself enjoying local eateries much more than established restaurants because they offer Khmer flavors the way locals love them.

Transportation

You won’t need to shell out a lot to get around Cambodia. They've got tuk-tuks: motorcycle cab vehicles reminiscent of the Filipinos' tricycle, but more compact and comfortable to ride. Beware of drivers who try to scam tourists.

Know the cost of riding tuk-tuks, which is about 2,000 riel or 0.50USD, and 1,200 riel/0.30USD per additional kilometer -- slightly higher than the going rate for locals, but much better than unknowingly shelling out 10USD for a short ride. If you have an international driver's license, you can even rent one out for 15-20USD a day.

Your accommodation's host, reception, or owner should be able to help you arrange transportation if you don't know how to hail one. Cambodia has local ride-hailing apps such as PassApp and ExNet which you can use, but might be barred by the language difference.

Apart from tuk-tuks, you can take buses to travel longer distances, like from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh.

Language and Time Zone

Khmer is Cambodia’s official language. Nearly 90% of its population speaks this language, so it can be challenging to get around if you can't understand it. But tourist hubs should have no problems with communication, as they're used to accommodating people in English. If you go to less-traveled roads, you can get around despite the language barrier if you stumble upon an English-speaking local, or are in communication with your host in case of emergencies.

Cambodia runs on a GMT+7 time zone. That’s only one hour behind the Philippines, so your sleep cycle will still be the same.

Weather / Climate

Like the Philippines, Cambodia's weather tends to go through warm and hot cycles. However, during the monsoon season, you may run into rain showers and storms. If you want to take advantage of the gorgeous beaches in Preach Sihanouk and Koh Rong, go between March to May.

If you don't mind chilly nights strolling around temple ruins, visit between November to February. The weather is relatively stable during these months, and fall within the summer, semestral, and Christmas break, so you'll be able to visit Cambodia any time.

Avoid going from September to early November, lest you run into typhoons and storms that can potentially ruin your trip.

Given Cambodia's climate, pack breathable clothing that you don't mind wearing in the city, the jungle, and the beach. Don't forget to bring something that covers your upper arms and legs to wear in temples. There are usually vendors that sell beautiful shawls nearby but do bring your own just in case.

Connectivity

Cambodia offers a tourist SIM card, which usually provides unlimited data with a soft cap, which means that it's usable beyond the allotted amount, but would be relatively slower. Depending on how much data you need, your mobile data service can get very cheap. For reference, 3.5GB worth of data for 30 days would cost about 5USD, while you can get 1GB for seven days for 2USD.

This SIM is available in most airport arrival terminal ports, and they usually come free of charge. If not, then it'll only cost you 0.50USD.

Medical Services, Credit Card Use, and Travel Insurance

Although Cambodia evokes the image of an ancient civilization, it's a modern place. Most tourist destinations, especially cities, accept credit cards for payment. Think high-end hostels, restaurants, and shopping districts. Street vendors and local shops are unlikely to accept credit cards, though, but there's a lot of ATMs to get by.

Keep in mind, however, that your credit card may charge for international payments. Check with your bank to ensure that you're comfortable with the transaction fee. Local debit cards will also charge for international withdrawals, so ensure that you're prepared to shell out money for that, or bring enough to last you the majority of your trip. Try to withdraw only a few times, so you pay less fees.

When it comes to medical care in Cambodia, you'll be in safe hands as long as you have reliable travel insurance that covers healthcare. You have plenty of options that provide excellent coverage. For instance, Malayan Insurance offers up to 1 million pesos in medical expense allotment for Asia-bound travel. 

Singapore

Singapore is a popular destination because of its proximity and cultural similarities. The island city-state may seem small on the world map, but it's an urban metropolis that's often called a global financial center. Its sky-high towers and multicultural community make it an ideal destination for Filipinos who love cityscapes and metropolitan living.

Things to do in Singapore

When in Singapore, take the opportunity to breathe in the air of cultural diversity. On the top of your itinerary would be the iconic Merlion park -- a perfect place to take some of the most memorable snapshots of your Singaporean trip. For a blend of greenery and modernity, visit the Gardens by the Bay, a 21st-century botanical garden that almost seems fantastical in beauty and technology.

Don't forget shopping! Singapore's an ideal place to go for both luxury and affordable finds. Check out Orchard Road's curation of designer brands and Bugis Street's cheap and trendy fits. After a long day of sightseeing and shopping, stretch your legs and relax at the Boat Quay. Take in the city's sights with a cruise along the Singapore River and appease your hunger with the town's array of food.

You can't miss out on Singapore's nightlife either. From Clarke Quay to Orchard road, there's plenty of after-dark activities in the city. Meanwhile, kids will love Universal Studios and their cartoon exhibitions. If you visit during special occasions, you might catch a seasonal exhibit!

Other notable tourist favorites that you must visit are the Cavanagh Bridge, Peranakan Museum, and Asian Civilizations Museum. Prepare enough money for passes and entrance fees, which you can find on each destination's website or a dedicated booking platform.

Accommodation

Singapore can be a pricey place to visit, so a hotel might not be the best option if you're on a tight budget. Look for guesthouses, hostels, or an affordable Airbnb. You can get a family-sized accommodation with lovely amenities and spectacular views for as little as 10-20USD per night.

Popular budget-friendly places to stay are the Quarters Hostel, Blissful Lost, Hotel G Singapore, and Ibis Singapore on Bencoolen Hotel.

Food

A variety of ethnic groups has influenced Singaporean cuisine, so your tastebuds will enjoy a diverse array of flavors. For a truly local gastronomic experience, visit a Hawker Center, which is essentially a giant food court with multiple stalls serving food, drinks, snacks, and specialty dishes. The ones in Lau Pa Sat and Maxwell Road serve some of the most memorable comfort food.

Try the medicinal Bak Kut Teh to heal your tastebuds, or some chili crabs and satay for a seafood experience along Boat Quay. Regardless, Singapore has plenty of Chinese, Malay, Indonesian, and Indian food that you'll love and never forget.

Transportation

Getting around Singapore is easy, as there are plenty of tourist-friendly options. You can ride a bus and take tours around tourist destinations such as the Marina Bay Sans, Collyer Quay, Botanical Gardens, and Chinatown. You can also take the MRT to travel around the city, which you can pay for with an EZ-link card or a Singapore tourist pass. Both options are viable to travelers, but weigh the pros and cons of each to help you decide what to use.

If you prefer riding a car or taxi, you'll be happy to hear that Grab is operational in Singapore as well! As the majority of the country speaks English, you'll have no problem with hailing a ride on your own.

Language and Time Zone

Most Singaporeans are bilingual and can speak English along with Mandarin, Malay, or Tamil. You'll find that street signs come in multiple languages to accommodate the country's ethnic diversity. But in general, you'll have absolutely no trouble getting around Singapore with English.

Singapore's local timezone is GMT+8, which is the same as the Philippines'. Thus, you won't have to deal with annoying jet-lag!

Weather / Climate

Singapore has wet and dry weather cycles. You'll encounter the most rainfall from September to February, and the dryest season from February to August. Singapore's climate makes it an optimal place to visit all-year-round, but if you aren't fond of the rain, go during the summer or Holy Week break.

You don't have to think too hard about what to wear. Just take your favorite outfits and closet essentials. Do bring an umbrella and a windbreaker to protect you from the sun and rain.

Connectivity


Singapore has a country-wide initiative toward free Wi-Fi access called [email protected] You'll be able to connect to this in most public spaces, including libraries, museums, and tourist destinations. Spread-out areas may have spotty signal, but it's generally great for basic internet usage.

You'll also be able to get free Wi-Fi in airports, 33 MRT stations, and large food chains such as Starbucks, Pizza Hut, and McDonald's. If you prefer mobile data, you can get a SingTel, M1, or StarHub sim card. The tourist sim will only cost you around 11USD for 1GB data, valid for seven days. But if you want unlimited 4G data throughout your trip, you can rent a portable Wi-Fi upon arrival.

Medical Services, Credit Card Use, and Travel Insurance

You can use credit cards almost everywhere in Singapore, except for Hawker stalls and small shops. It's ideal to have one for shopping and emergencies. A good option is the HSBC Platinum Visa Credit Card, which grants accelerated rewards for overseas transactions -- perfect for shopaholics. It also comes with travel incident and inconvenience insurance for extra reassurance.

You can expect top-of-the-line medical care in Singapore. Visit a GP and ask for a referral to public hospitals like the Singapore General Hospital and the Tan Tock Seng Hospital for serious medical concerns. Your travel or medical insurance should be able to cover the costs, depending on your case.

If you haven't decided on one, a good travel insurance option you should look into is Standard Insurance's Travel Protect, which provides up to 500,000 pesos in medical expense benefits. You can get discounts if you're traveling with a group, so it's a great option if you'll be going to Singapore with family and friends.

Malaysia

Malaysia lies in the heart of Southeast Asia and is the very definition of a tropical paradise. In this beautiful country filled with culture and natural reserves, you'll find bliss in its magnificent beaches, rainforests, and other natural marvels. As the country has a very generous visa exemption for tourists, Filipinos can enjoy the beautiful Malayan sights without hefty visa fees for trips that last less than 30 days.

Things to do in Malaysia

Malaysia offers a variety of sights and experiences, from its sky-high metropolis to adventurous islands and gorgeous national parks. You must visit the capital city, Kuala Lumpur, where you can find the iconic Petronas Twin Towers that stand a whopping 451 meters above you.

For the adventure-seekers, you won't regret a hike through the Mount Kinabalu National Park, where a trek through dense jungles will reward you with a magnificent view. From the summit, you'll be able to spot the Philippines when the sky is clear.

If you're a mermaid in disguise, you'll enjoy diving in the Perhentian Islands. You'll have fun making friends with the local turtles, sharks, and reef-fish swimming among corals. And if you love immersing yourself in cultural destinations, visit the Sarawak Cultural Village, where you can catch a glimpse of Malaysia's ethnic and indigenous history.

If those aren't enough to appease your craving for adventure, the Taman Negara National Park and Batu Caves offer some of the most spectacular Malaysian views.

Accommodation

From cheap hostels to luxury hotels, you have an array of options for accommodation in Malaysia. If you plan to stay in rural areas, you can rent an affordable guesthouse or hostel. Meanwhile, Kuala Lumpur and Penang have an array of some of the best hotels if your budget allows for them. But you can also find affordable places to stay in the city.

Try booking your accommodations through Booking.com, Agoda, or Airbnb. You'll find options from as little as 3USD to high-end rentals at 100USD.

Food

Much like Singapore, Malaysian cuisine is characteristically fresh and influenced by its diverse ethnic landscape. You'll find a wide range of unique dishes that will undoubtedly delight your palate. Many meals consist of coconut milk, rice, and chili, which create an explosion of tropical flavors in the mouth.

Nasi Lemak is fresh and delicious -- a dish that requires simple preparation but is special to the locals' hearts. If you can't get enough of spice, you'll enjoy bowl after bowl of Laksa. Other Malaysian must-haves include Nasi Dagang and Satay.

But if there's something you won't regret trying, it's the unique Apam Balik -- an Asian peanut pancake turnover that tastes as good as it sounds.

Transportation

You can smoothly go around Malaysia by bus. But if you want a more convenient way to book a ride, you can try to use Skyscanner, 12go, or Bookaway. With these applications, you’ll get access to buses, boats, and ferries. If you want to get around with a private car or taxi, Grab is operational in the country, as well.

Language and Time Zone
Malay is the official language of Malaysia, but you'll also find people speaking in English, Manglish, and other ethnic dialects. You won't have trouble getting around with English, as people in cities and tourist destinations use the language.

Malaysia follows the GMT+8 time zone. As it's the same as the Philippines, you won't have to adjust your body clock at all!

Weather / Climate

Malaysia is quite large; thus, the weather can be different on the islands and either side of the peninsula. However, the country generally follows a hot and wet cycle throughout the year, much like the Philippines.

You'll want to visit the west coast islands such as Langkawi between December to February, while east coast islands such as the Perhentian Islands are the most fun in the summer from June to August.

Kuala Lumpur can be visited any time throughout the year. However, November to February generally have the most rain. It's a good idea to plan your itinerary based on when you'll be visiting.

Connectivity

You have the option to purchase a pocket Wi-Fi or SIM card for personal Wi-Fi access in Malaysia. But don't worry, it won't cost much. You can buy a tourist SIM card with 15GB of mobile data allocation for seven days, for just over 5USD.

Medical Services, Credit Card Use, and Travel Insurance

Just like Singapore, you can use credit cards in the more urban districts of Malaysia. An RCBC Black Card Platinum offers amazing travel benefits that you can enjoy. But remember that credit cards generally incur a small foreign transaction fee, so do use them with caution. If your itinerary consists of jungles and islands, prepare cash-on-hand as small local vendors are unlikely to accept card payments.

In the occasion of medical emergencies, your credit card will prove to be handy, but a reliable travel medical coverage will save you from the financial burden. Prudential Guarantee is a wonderful option with a high international medical coverage, perfect for a worry-free Tarzan adventure across Malaysia's wonders.

Myanmar

Up until recently, Myanmar had been in a half-century bout of isolation. When it opened its doors to the world a couple of years ago, it's become a new backpacker favorite with its extraordinary cultural experience. Now, the off-beaten Southeast Asian track is busier than ever. With the most exquisite tropical islands and sky-high mountains, it’s no wonder people describe this land as a natural wonder.

Things to do in Myanmar

Traveling in Myanmar is quite a different experience. Be prepared to step foot into a land beyond your imagination. The country houses remnants of ancient structures such as the ones in Bagan, Mandalay, and Yangon. Amidst the greenery and lakeside wonders, the afterglow of Myanmar's cultural identity will follow you wherever you go.

But your itinerary will be incomplete without a visit to the golden Shwedagon Pagoda, an elaborate Buddhist temple that has been thought to exist since the 6th century. Even the most experienced travelers will get caught off-guard by its startling beauty.

There's much to marvel in the Inle Lake, where you can spot locals going about their daily lives, with golden fields in the not so far-off distance. And the peak of your discovery will take place at the Myeik Archipelago, where you can dive in the unexplored deep.

Accommodation

Due to the rise of tourism, accommodations in Myanmar aren't as cheap as they were before. If you visit during peak seasons, expect rooms in guesthouses to cost between 15-20USD. But if you go off-season, you can get the same places for just 5USD.

If you prefer an extra dose of comfort, book a higher-end hotel. It won't be the fanciest, but ultimately, you'll enjoy modern amenities such as a pool and room service.

Food

Burmese cuisine is as exotic as Myanmar's destinations. Influenced by nearby countries such as China, India, and Thailand, you can enjoy a variety of flavors from fresh salads to sharp and pungent savories.

What you'll notice is a wide range of salads, which the locals love putting together with just about any fresh ingredient. You can't leave the country without trying a Tea Leaf Salad, which has the perfect balance of sour, bitter, and sweet.

Your gastronomic adventure is incomplete without trying curry made from just about any meat. As Myanmar produces plenty of tea, you'll also regret not spending a cozy afternoon lounging around with milk, tea, and sweet snacks to complement your day.

You can enjoy a variety of snacks and meals from street vendors, local eateries, and restaurants.

Transportation

Myanmar doesn't have a particularly efficient transport system, so it isn't the easiest to get around. But your available options aren't heavy on the wallet.

Large towns will have city buses, motorcycle taxis, bicycle rickshaws, and animal-pulled carts. Meanwhile, you can hitch a ride on a motorcycle taxi as a means of local transport from most places in the country.

There's a standard rate of about K200 (less than 10 pesos) for buses that go along main avenues. But you'll have to haggle your way through taxis. Don't get scammed and know the rates, which is about K500-1500, depending on the distance. Regardless, it won't dent your wallet at all.

Language and Time Zone

Right now, most citizens of Myanmar use Burmese as their primary language.  Although English isn't widely-used, locals are friendly and will try to help you out despite the language barrier. As the country is getting used to the influx of tourists, the locals are becoming more accustomed to communicating with them as well.

Myanmar's time zone is GMT+6:30, which makes it an hour and a half behind the Philippines. It won't be a big adjustment to your sleeping schedule, so you won't have to worry about getting used to the slight shift in time.

Weather / Climate

Myanmar has a typical tropical monsoon climate. October to March is a great period to visit to ensure good weather. However, the peak season for tourism is from November to February, as the weather is warm but not overbearingly hot. If you want to avoid the tourist rush, go a month earlier or after.

You can still enjoy the country from March to May when Myanmar's summer shines high above its golden plains. But be wary, as the monsoon season starts in June. Generally, it's a great country to visit in the Christmas, summer, semestral, and Holy Week break -- perfect for Filipino travelers!

Bring light and breathable clothing that'll keep you fresh in the warm weather. Pack a shawl or clothing that covers up your arms and legs to wear when visiting temples. Generally, avoid wearing anything too short or too open as respect to local culture.

Connectivity

Your accommodation and popular restaurants might offer free Wi-Fi, but you'll quickly learn that the signal is pretty bad. You'll have better luck purchasing a SIM card with mobile data, which you can get for less than 1USD a day.

Medical Services, Credit Card Use, and Travel Insurance

When in Myanmar, it's best to bring enough cash to last you the entire trip. Although large hotels, travel agencies, and airlines accept credit cards, its usage still only caters to the tourism industry. Virtually everywhere else in the country relies on cash transactions, so bring enough plus contingency.

Healthcare in Myanmar isn't the best, but it's slowly improving as it takes steps toward technological improvement. For the safest trip, go with a healthy physical and mental constitution. But on the occasion that your health fails or an accident occurs, your travel insurance's health coverage will help you with medical nuances, such as hospital transfers and the like.

Thailand

If there's a place in Southeast Asia that draws you in with its impeccable cultural heritage, beaches, and a neverending array of jungles, it's Thailand. Its breathtaking landscapes have tempted millions of travelers, and you're left to wonder what's there to see. Thus, Thailand is a wonderful travel destination for Filipinos curious to experience the golden country.

Things to do in Thailand

Bangkok is pulsing and energetic, and getting lost in the middle of it will give you a certain sense of excitement and exhilaration. Venture to the little streets in-between to experience another face of Bangkok -- you won't be disappointed. When the moon rises, you'll see yet another image of the city, thrilling with the excitement of its local nightlife.

For a breath of cultural air, visit the ancient city of Chiang Mai, where you can see some of the country's oldest and most enamored temples. Nearby, an elephant sanctuary greets people from all over the world with their majestic beauties.

Spend some time in Phuket if you're not one to stick around in cities. It houses some of the country's most beautiful beaches. You can take a cooking class, make friends with tigers, hang around the beach, and pay respects at the Phuket Big Buddha.

Apart from those, Thailand has more adventure sports to offer for the backpacker and thrill-seeker within you. You can hike, dive, trek through jungles, zip-line, and rock climb in paradise.

Accommodation

You have a variety of options for both affordable and luxury accommodations in Thailand. Depending on what type of room you choose, you can pay as little as 6USD a night for dorm rooms to over 40USD a night for luxury hotel rooms.

Note that although some places are very cheap, they may not have the best amenities. To balance it out, you can choose a mid-range option, such as an Airbnb, for a comfortable and tourist-friendly place to stay.

Food

If your tastebuds can't resist the thrill of spicy food, then you'll have a blast trying some of Thailand's extra spicy cuisine. Try Som Tum, a hot green papaya salad that can turn your palate upside down with its refreshingly clean and spicy notes.

But if you can't handle the otherworldly spice, you still have plenty of Thai classics that'll appease your hunger and culinary senses. The Gaeng Deng is a mildly-spiced curry that you can customize to become vegan-friendly. Pad Thai is stir-fried heaven that's light, fresh, and an unforgettable favorite.

The best way to truly eat like a local -- and a backpacker -- is to keep it simple with small eateries and street stalls. But you've got plenty of high-end restaurants to choose from, too.

Transportation

If you want to go local, ride a tuk-tuk. The three-wheeled motorcycle cab is an indigenous and fun experience that'll make you feel like a traveler.

Trains are also available, depending on your destination. But if you prefer a more comfortable way of getting around major cities, you can use Grab and other ride-hailing apps.

But your best bet is to rely on Thailand's highly reliable bus system. You can go from Bangkok to almost anywhere else in the country. It's a great alternative to taking a plane from the central city to a long-distance destination such as Phuket. It's also a more affordable and tourist-friendly option.

For rural areas, a Songthaew is a small pick-up truck that's great for getting around as well. The cost of transportation in Thailand is cheap, so you can travel as often as you like.

Language and Time Zone

Thailand's locals speak Thai, but tourist-dense locations won't have trouble helping you get around. You might run into a backpacker or two anywhere in the country as well, and they'll be happy to help you out.

Thailand follows a GMT+7 time zone, which is an hour earlier than the Philippine Standard Time.

Weather / Climate

Thailand has its bouts of rainy and dry weather. It's best to visit during the cold and dry season between November to early April to make the most out of the excellent climate. Avoid going during the rainy season between July to the end of October.

It never gets too hot and humid in Thailand, so the weather is relatively pleasant. Pack summer clothing and a few things to keep you warm. Bring something that covers up your arms and legs for temple visits, and beachwear and sportswear if you'll be going to the beach or doing adventure sports.

Connectivity

You’ll be able to get a good tourist SIM in Thailand and have plenty of options. For reference, you can get unlimited 1Mbps mobile data for seven days for approximately 7USD. You can get the SIM directly from the airport.

Medical Services, Credit Card Use, and Travel Insurance

Credit cards and cash are both extensively used in Thailand, so you have the option to use either. But small local shops and street vendors don't accept card payments, so it's a good idea to bring enough cash for food and activities.

As Thailand is one of Asia's top destinations for medical tourism, you'll get the best healthcare when you run into any accidents or personal health issues. Your travel insurance should be able to cover your medical bill as long as you fall within their plan's limitation. If you're still deciding on what to get, FPG Insurance has a strong presence in Southeast Asia and offers fantastic benefits.

Laos

Laos is a hidden gem among Southeast Asian wonders. Its mountainous regions adorned with ancient Buddhist monasteries and remnants of its forlorn past offer a thrill like no other. Its lush and vibrant sceneries hypnotize the traveler's soul and welcome you to its lovely abode.

Things to do in Laos

If there's anything you should know about traveling to Laos, it's to stay on the beaten path. With the vestige of war spread amock in off-limit sites and incidences of tourist theft common, this is a land for the experienced travelers and backpackers unafraid of the harsh world.

But as long as you stay cautious, Laos is a beautiful experience that will leave you with no regrets.

The Luang Prabang is a fragment of Laos' ancient kingdom and retains a strong cultural identity. You'll enjoy its vivid arts and crafts scene that's characteristically indigenous. Meanwhile, the town of Van Vieng houses exotic wildlife limestone landscapes, tea plantations, and mountain views.

Perhaps the highlight of your trip, the Four Thousand Islands, is a sleepy, dreamy, and relaxing escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. You can go kayaking, cycling, fishing, and marvel at the Khone Phapheng Waterfall -- the largest in Asia, and a sight to behold.

Accommodation

Accommodations are relatively cheap in Laos, but there are more comfortable high-end options as well. Dorm rooms and hostel rooms will cost you 5-9USD per night, while private rooms can go over 20USD. For more luxurious accommodations, you opt for an Airbnb or four-star hotels that can cost up to 50 USD a night.

Food

Lao cuisine is a stark contrast to its serene landscape, with vivid and colorful food prepared with plenty of chili, herbs, and spices. It's rare to find this cuisine anywhere else in the world, so take advantage of your trip and go on a culinary journey across Laos.

A staple dish for the Laos local is Larb. But to the Filipino traveler, it's an exotic and substantial meat salad that leaves your tastebuds curious. It's fresh, raw, and served with a variety of sauces, vegetables, and citrus.

The Feu is the Laos version of Pho, and you'll love the broth painstakingly simmered for hours. But Lao cuisine is incomplete without sticky rice. Try the Khao Jee, a variation of the traditional sticky rice that's grilled over charcoal. The crispy exterior is a unique flavor only Laos can offer.

Some favorites include the Laab Moo and the Yall Dib, among others. Opt for street vendors and local eateries, where you'll spend no more than 3USD a meal. But if you're feeling fancy, there are higher-end food options that can cost up to 15USD.

Transportation

Since Laos is landlocked and roads are poor, traveling and getting around the country might seem like a challenge. But you'll come to find that the local tuk-tuks similar to the ones in Cambodia and Myanmar are convenient local transport staples.

For long-distance travel, you'll find a line-up of buses to ride for inter-country travel and getting to far-off destinations such as the Four Thousand Islands.

Language and Time Zone

The primary language used in Laos is Lao, but you'll be surprised to find that many locals can speak English well. It might be harder in rural areas, but you'll have no trouble getting around the cities.

Its time zone is GMT+7, an hour behind the Philippines.

Weather / Climate

Laos has a typical Southeast Asian wet and dry climate rotation. It's best to visit from November to April when the weather is the dryest and avoid going from May to October, lest you run into heavy rainfall.

Wear light and breathable clothing to account for the heat and humidity, but don't bring expensive gadgets and jewelry. Do bring something that covers your arms and legs to wear when visiting religious sites.

Connectivity

Generally, you can find free Wi-Fi in guesthouses and hotels. You can purchase a tourist SIM card with 1GB of mobile data valid for seven days for just over 5USD. For an unlimited plan, you can rent a pocket Wi-Fi device, but it'll cost you a little over 15USD a day.

Medical Services, Credit Card Use, and Travel Insurance

Very few places accept credit cards in Laos, so it's best to take enough cash for the entire trip. As for healthcare, you're better off going to nearby Thailand for any medical emergencies. Contact your travel medical insurance agent to know how logistics would work in case of accidents.  

Indonesia

Home to 17,000 islands, Indonesia calls out to adventurers who seek all sorts of thrilling experiences. It's impossible to explore every depth of the country's beauty in just one week -- you'll have to spend months in an enthralling journey around the Indonesian archipelago.

Things to do in Indonesia

The Komodo National Park is perhaps one of the world's most precious treasures. The dizzying journey around the exotic home to the famed Komodo dragons revolve around its namesake, the Rinca and Padar island, and everywhere else in-between. It's a balance between land and marine adventures that you'll never forget.

Next up are the Gili Islands, a tropical escape away from the busier Bali. You'll fall in love with some of the most beautiful beaches and warm turquoise water. Get ready with your watersports gear because you won't be able to resist the temptation of a surf lesson or two.

And if you crave the busy nightlife and social after-dark tourist activities, Bali will always welcome you with open arms and a ton of cocktails. Meanwhile, the grand Borobudur is a residue of an ancient Mahayana Temple that offers a picturesque, one-of-a-kind sight.

Accommodation

Indonesia has a lot of tourist-friendly accommodations to offer. You can find rooms for as little as 7USD, and luxury villas for over 100USD a night. There's a wide array of Airbnb's and hostels for you to choose from, as well.

Consider the Mandapa, Padma Resort Ubus, or the Komaneka at Tanggayuda, which are popular tourist options.

Food

Indonesian food is simple, addicting, and the very definition of comfort. You won't be able to get enough of the savory and fresh Nasi Goreng that tempts with the simplest ingredients.

Meanwhile, the Nasi Rawon Sop Buntut is light, easy on the appetite, and a fantastic way to enjoy ox meat. You won't find yourself short of grilled delicacies, either. The Sate Padang is a cult favorite -- skewers of meat that provide a gastronomical pleasure like no other.

Transportation

Getting around Indonesia is quite an experience. Hop from island to island with dedicated ferries, hustle around the city with taxi and ride-hailing services such as Grab, and travel on land with Jakarta's extensive network of buses called the Busway.

In tourist hubs like Bali, you'll find convenient tourist shuttles ready to service you.

Language and Time Zone

Locals use Indonesian as a primary language, but many also use English to communicate. As Indonesia receives such a large volume of tourists, you won't have trouble getting around.

Indonesia's time zone is GMT+1, which is an hour behind the Philippines. You won't have to suffer from jet-lag at all!

Weather / Climate

Indonesian climate is, you guessed it, a tropical monsoon, much like the Philippines'. It's a good idea to visit between May and September when the sun shines above, and the rainfall strays away.

Wear what you usually would. Bring light, breezy, and airy clothing perfect for the hot weather. As you're likely to go from island to island, don't forget to bring your favorite swimwear for the best Instagram photos!

Connectivity

You can purchase affordable tourist SIM cards in Indonesia once you land at the airport. You can get 11GB of data for about 6USD, so it's a great deal for a short trip.

Tourist destinations, accommodations, cafes, and restaurants will also have free Wi-Fi that you can enjoy.

Medical Services, Credit Card Use, and Travel Insurance

You can use a credit card in most of Indonesia's urban areas. However, small kiosks and street vendors can only accept cash payment.

Your trip to Indonesia is only fun when you've prepared for the worst. If you haven't decided on travel insurance yet, consider Pioneer Insurance. Their ASEAN plan is perfect in ensuring that your trip to beautiful Indonesia is stress-free and medically-covered.

The Philippines

A sophisticated country with a thousand faces, the Philippines is characterized by its urban metropolis, lush greenery, and island archipelago. Its beauty lies in its friendly locals and the strong presence of its colonial heritage.

Things to do in the Philippines

The Philippines has too many wonders to explore that a short trip won't be enough to experience its dynamic beauty. Palawan and Boracay will make your heart beat a hundred times a second with thrilling water and adventure sports, tropical paradise, and impeccable sights to discover.

For an urban experience like no other, its bustling metropolis, BGC, is a wonderful tourist destination for the millennial soul who finds solace in cityscapes and cafe tours. Visit the old Philippines by taking a step into Intramuros, where fragments of its colonial heritage remain.

And for those who can't get enough of indigenous landscapes, visit Kalibo or the Ifugao Rice terraces, where you can find jaw-dropping views and unique cultural elements. For a modern dose of culture, Chinatown, Ayala Museum, and Rizal Park are some easily-accessible destinations you can't miss.

Accommodation

The Philippines houses a variety of accommodations, from affordable hostels to mid-range Airbnbs and high-end luxury hotels. You can find a room for as little as 5USD a night to as much as over 100USD a night. It all depends on how you choose to enjoy your trip.

Food

Philippine cuisine is diverse, exciting, and influenced by its multitude of ethnic groups and colonial history. You'll find hearty servings of meat, rice, and paired sauces that appease your culinary desire in an explosion of complementary flavors.

You have to try Balut, a hard-boiled duck embryo that's more delicious than it sounds. In various parts of the country, you'll find variations of Lechon, a giant pork dish that's addicting and unforgettable.

Some other favorites include Sinigang, Chicken Adobo, and Sisig, all of which are meat-heavy and equally lovable. You can enjoy street food, local eateries, and family-owned and high-end restaurants.

Transportation

Your transportation options vary depending on where you go. In Metro Manila, you'll be able to ride the iconic Philippine jeepneys, tricycles, trains, and taxis. You can even use ride-hailing apps such as Grab and Angkas, to get around.

Buses will take you to more remote destinations all around the country, where tricycles and jeepneys are more commonly available.

Language and Time Zone

Although the country has an array of dialects, most use Filipino as a primary language. But don't get fooled. English is just as used by the locals, so you won't have any trouble communicating with anyone.

The Philippine time zone is GMT+8.

Weather / Climate

The Philippines follows the typical Southeast Asian tropical monsoon. The best months to visit are from November to April, when the weather is relatively dry. However, note that March to April is the peak summer period, and you may find it to be sweltering hot and uncomfortable.

The colder months of December to February are a wonderfully temperate, so it's the perfect time to visit. Avoid going from May to October at all costs, lest you run into an unpleasant typhoon.

As the weather is rather hot and humid, pack light and breezy summer clothing. You'll want swimwear and workout gear to take to beaches and adventure sports.

Connectivity

Upon your arrival in the Philippines, you can get a free tourist SIM at the airport kiosks set-up by major telco companies. You'll have to load it up with data to use throughout your trip. You can get 1GB of data for three days for 1USD, and you can freely purchase more load when needed.                                 

Medical Services, Credit Card Use, and Travel Insurance

You can use both cash and credit cards in the Philippines. However, street vendors and local eateries will not accept card payments. So when you visit rural areas or explore the local urban scene, carry enough cash to cover your daily expenses.

Healthcare is relatively good, and your travel medical insurance should be able to cover any mishaps within your plan's limitation. If you're a Filipino and plan to travel domestically, Prudential Guarantee has robust local travel insurance that'll be beneficial to you. But if you're still unsure, Gobear is a great platform for comparing insurance benefits.

Get a Travel Insurance and Health Insurance Plan To Supplement Your ASEAN Trip

Southeast Asia is a complex, diverse, and extraordinary experience that will leave you with memories that would last a lifetime. But as with any trip, your safety should still be your primary concern. Travel insurance with strong medical benefits will protect you from the risk of accidents and health complications that may occur during a thrilling trip to the great SEA. Financial protection begins at GoBear.

Last update on Nov 25, 2020