Many posts on solo travel Asia focus on fairly general advice on travel abroad. As a long-time solo traveler worldwide, I was surprised to find some unique issues.
Here are my five personal tips:
1. Traffic: Watch out for fast-paced traffic, especially motorcycles. Some areas have no stop lights and have traffic zipping by on both sides. Although its rare, the sidewalks can be another field of battle. At noon, in Phnom Penh, walking on the sidewalk, I had a car back into me. I wasn’t hurt at all but was still pretty surprised.
2. Popular local public transportation: Be aware that popular tuk-tuk’s are wide open. Since they are on the same level with fast-moving motorcycles, it would be very easy to have a “hit and run” motorbike relieve you of your valuables. In addition, if you don’t hold-on tight, you may watch your hat or tote bag fall out on the road leaving you with no chance to retrieve it.
3. Dress codes: Both men and women must be modestly dressed when entering temples and royal palaces. Besides removing hats, shoes and sunglasses, shoulders and knees must be covered. (Moreover, women may need to wear pants or a skirt that reaches the ankles.) Some venues will offer a loaner covering. I also recommend packing socks for travel in Asia. The reason? Since you must remove shoes to enter many sites, it is amazing how really hot the marble and other stone entrees can be.
4. Taxis: In one country in Asia, a couple with young children told me of their prior harrowing cab ride. One evening, just before midnight, they were the victim of a runaway taxi driver. Ultimately, when he refused to stop, they jumped out at an intersection. They made their way to a local bar that was about to close. The staff found two motorcycles willing to take one parent and one child on each. That finally worked out but only after one became lost finding the right hotel!
- The bottom line, before leaving home, contact your lodging or local friends for referrals.
- Find out what are the best, reliable companies for a pickup at the airport upon your arrival.
- Always find out ahead of time how much you should pay to your destination.
- If you head out in the evening for dinner or to sample local nightlife, be sure you can get back to your lodging. If you can’t make an arrangement ahead of time, get your driver’s mobile number on the way out.
- In certain countries, I have succeeded in getting the restaurant to call a taxi for me.
5. Getting lost in busy crowded tourist spots can be frustrating. If sightseeing with a friend of guide, start by exchanging mobile phone numbers so stopping for a photo doesn’t mean missing your ride!
6. Sample a variety of tour options. In Bangkok, I tried 4 different ways.
- The first day I joined a small half-day bus tour of Bangkok.
- The second day I went to the ancient Thai capital, Ayutthaya, with a very large bus tour. Just about 53 miles from Bangkok, it was ideal for a full day tour.
- The return from Ayutthaya was via boat. Boat tours within Bangkok were also available from the public boat taxis to the very pricey “James Bond boats”.
- The third day I hired a private guide with the purpose of learning the Bangkok subway route. It worked well enough that the next day I went solo on a self-guided tour via subway! (Wherever you are, always be watchful for pickpockets in subways at all times and especially after dark. As a female solo traveler, I always ask local women at my hotel or in day tours, what is safe for the specific destination.
7.Laws are stringently enforced. The most serious is drug possession/trafficking. However, taking photos in prohibited areas can also result in being detained, and photos deleted.
8. If you choose to drive, be sure to check whether you need an international driver’s license and if you have the right car insurance.
9. Don’t overlook the wide range in climates within Asia. When I flew one Dec. day to SE Asia via Beijing, China was very chilly, around 40 degrees Fahrenheit while the Mekong Delta felt like a July day at home. On return, there was no gate or jetway so that travelers in tee shirts, shorts and flip-flops had to hurry across the tarmac while freezing! In any case, I recommend always traveling with a light jacket or sweater.