Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Six Months in SE Asia: Preparation

All suited up at PDX

Now that I am on the road, I want to write a bit about the planning, preparation, and expenses that went into this trip. I covered this slightly in my first post about the trip, but I will run through the details now.


It took a large number of hours to plan this trip. Originally, I was going to on this trip alone and for 6 weeks, basically spending 3 days in each major city. When my partner jumped on board we lengthened the trip to a year, and added India, China, Australia, and Europe to the itinerary. When it came time to actually plan out the details, the thought of being on the road for a year sounded more tiring than exciting, and we didn’t want to pack for so many different climates, so we narrowed it down to SE Asia and India.

We decided to follow the good weather, starting in Bali in September and concluding in Cambodia at the end of January. I wanted to have all six months planned out by the day, but that didn’t happen. We couldn’t decide what to do with India, and the stress of planning was wearing on me, so we decided to plan out only the first four months of our trip, leaving the last two months wide open.

As we move from place to place, we will learn more about ourselves as travelers. How much time do we like to spend in each place? How tiring is traveling? Do we prefer cities or offbeat places? Once we know our nomadic selves better, it will be easier to plan the last two months of the journey.  I have no idea where we will be in February and March. We could still go to India or Sri Lanka, as we discussed. Or we could return to our favorite places in SE Asia, or visit new ones. It is still a mystery!


  • Logistics
    • First, we bought our plan tickets (one-way) and reserved all of our accommodations in each place. As I worked my way through our itinerary, I booked all major modes of transport (airplanes, boats, trains).  
  • Visas
    • Once the logistics were handled we tackled visas. Indonesia, Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia grant visas on arrival. Singapore and Malaysia don’t require one for us. Myanmar and Vietnam were the only two countries we needed to prepare visas for. This turned out to be incredibly easy. The Vietnam Embassy took only 2 days to process our visas, and Myanmar took four days.
  • Vaccinations
    • This was perhaps the most difficult (and costly) part of the preparation. My partner lived in the U.S. and went to a travel clinic for vaccines. It cost over $1,000 USD for everything, but it was easy. As for me, I was in Japan and could not get the vaccines from my tiny town, so I made two trips to Tokyo for 6 vaccines and I paid around $500 USD. Cheaper, but so much more inconvenient.
  • Medication
    • Most of the medicine we brought was easily purchased at grocery store. Advil, Immodium, Peptobismal, etc. We also bought homeopathic remedies for food poisoning, charcoal tablets, and Zypan, which was harder to find. Unfortunately, we need Malarone for malaria in some of the countries we are visiting, and that was extremely expensive.  
  •  Shopping
    • The most fun part of preparation was definitely the shopping. I bought a new backpack, Crocs, Nikes, a money belt, headphones, a toiletries case, eye mask, portable charger, and other small items for this trip. I ordered most things online from Amazon and bought the rest at REI. I am so glad I spent a month in Portland before this trip, because there is no way I would have been able to purchase these items from my rural village in Japan.


When I prepared a budget for this trip I completely left out the cost of vaccinations, visas, insurance, and gear. These things ended up being a huge percentage of the total cost of our trip. I will list the most significant expenses here:
  • Vaccinations: (Japanes encephalitis x2, Polio, Tetanus, Hepatitus A&B, Typhoid) $500
  • Visas (for two people): Vietnam $200 + $50 in shipping costs, Myanmar $40+$50 in shipping cost, Indonesia $70,
  • Insurance: $240
  • Malarone: $700 (for three months for two people)
  • Homeopathic remedies, Zypan, Charcol tablets: $100
  • Osprey Farpoint 55: $180

Main points:

If you want to plan out the logistic of your trip, start six months in advance.
Set aside money for visas, vaccinations, and medication. It will cost far more than you imagine

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