10 ways to get the most out of a Southeast Asia tour

So you’re off on a journey around Southeast Asia to soak up the sun, sand, spice and spirituality – what could possibly go wrong?!

Well, you’d be surprised. Our travellers nearly always come home with a few regrets – thankfully not the ‘I crashed my moped, concussed myself, lost all my belongings and then got deported’ sort of regrets, but more the kind that revolve around the things they didn’t see or do – things they could have seen and done if they hadn’t been hungover in bed, or at least could have done better.

So we thought we’d put together a list of travelling do’s and don’ts to ensure you suck every last drop of fun out of your Southeast Asian adventure tour – and some of these are even applicable to those travelling independently…


1. DO take a tour

Here’s to the most dysfunctional group known to mankind #thailandsquad

A post shared by Janet Marquez-Luna(@jamalu94) on Dec 13, 2016 at 12:20pm PST

If you’re on a limited time frame or budget, the best way to experience Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and/or Cambodia is on one of our adventure tours.

Our fourteen day Vietnam Adventure covers all of Vietnam’s best destinations like Hanoi, Hue and Nha Trang, as well as some mind-blowing off the beaten path places like Phong Nha Ke Bang and Mai Chau. These tours include transport, accommodation and breakfast, and start from as little as £431!


2. DON’T lie in

Gateways to magical kingdoms

A post shared by Jordan Hammond (@jordhammond) on Oct 3, 2016 at 9:15am PDT


Remember the Thai proverb, “Maa gaawn dai gaawn”, meaning ‘the early bird catches the worm’. Or in this case, the best photos of some of the most gorgeous places on earth, while they’re still free from hoards of tourists wielding selfie-sticks and weird hats. You might be hungover, you might be tired from travelling through the night to get to your chosen destination, you might just be desperate for the lie-in that three hard-earned months of freedom gives you… but getting to Asia’s top tourist spots before the crowds makes a hell of a difference.

Some of the best sunrises in Southeast Asia happen over Koh Phi Phi’s Maya Bay (the Beach), Java’s Borobudur temple, and Bagan, a thousand-year old complex of temples and pagodas in Myanmar. But the absolute must-not-be-missed sunrise spot is Cambodia’s Angkor Wat. This Khmer city is so big, you’ll need to set off before sunrise to squeeze it all in. Beat the crowds without any fuss with our nine day Cambodia Adventure.


3. DO make the most of your free time

Something about a skylight in a cave excites me. Yes, I am a nerd

A post shared by Jordan Hammond (@jordhammond) on Oct 12, 2016 at 5:54am PDT

The beauty of a tour is that it shows you the very best of a country without wasting any time. You can put your feet up rest assured you’ll be taken around the very best sights, sounds and smells on offer. But that doesn’t mean to say you shouldn’t stray from the itinerary during the hours when there’s nothing scheduled.

Instead of lounging at your hostel or hotel, get out and stroll around the local markets, hit up some nightlife recommended by your guide, or hitch a tuk tuk to a temple or monument that isn’t included on the trip itinerary. It’s not a competition, but nobody wants to be the traveller with the least tales to tell at the end of their trip!


4. DO take a cooking class


Thai Cooking class food


Most of our Southeast Asian adventure tours offer the opportunity to take up a traditional cooking class. OK, if you struggle even cooking a basic stir-fry we’re not promising you’ll come away as the next Chef McDang, but these afternoons end up being most travellers’ highlights. Taking a recipe for the perfect green curry, Massaman or Khao Soi home with your to show off to your mates beats the usual Thai souvenirs such as bracelets with swear words stitched onto them, or elephant-clad fisherman trousers.

For the best Thai cooking class, check out our Thailand Adventure .


5. DON’T be scared of trying the local food

Long awaited and made by three gorgeous 8 year olds manning a food cart #yangon #myanmar #streetfood #pork #noodle #soup #instafood #bowlofhappiness

A post shared by Kim Durbridge (@kimswanderlist) on Apr 4, 2014 at 8:18am PDT


We all know one of the biggest pleasures of travel (and general life) is eating. Some unmissable street food is Vietnamese pho, which you can find almost everywhere for as little as £1, Northern Thailand’s speciality of Khao Soi – a delicious curry based noodle soup flavoured with sweet basil, lemongrass and chilli, and Cambodia’s sweet treat, Amok curry, filled with seafood straight from the Mekong.


6. DO listen to your tour guide


Quiet solace amongst the chaos.

A post shared by Jordan Hammond (@jordhammond) on Jan 23, 2017 at 9:27am PST


If you’re anything like us here at STA Travel, you’ll have already devised an entire Spotify playlist for your travels so you can gaze out of the bus window listening to Moby’s ‘Porcelain’ whilst green rice terraces and swaying palms fly past. Or, also like us, you’ll be napping off last night’s exploits with your cheek firmly pressed against afore-mentioned window. But care to pull your earphones out for a few minutes when you hear your tour guide clear their throat, and you’ll discover a whole wealth of knowledge about the country you’re in. From Thailand’s weirdest and most wonderful traditions, to Vietnam’s fascinating history, your guide’s information will help your trip resonate so much more.


7. DO socialise with the locals

Spent two days in the Sapa mountains with Mu, her husband, their three beautiful children and their dog, puppies, kittens, chicks and pigs. Feeling so lucky and humbled to have been welcomed into their world #sapa #vietnam #hmong #villagelife #instatravel #travelgram #lonelyplanet

A post shared by Kim Durbridge(@kimswanderlist) on May 17, 2014 at 3:18am PDT

You’d be surprised how far a smile goes while you’re travelling. The most authentic tastes of a country come from the people who call them home – so say hello, don’t be afraid to ask questions if you both speak the same language, and laugh along with their jokes even if you don’t. You could even end up getting invite back for dinner with a family or be given a special gift.

For the very best of the local life, take a trip though Northern Thailand, where you’ll trek to local tribal villages and stay in homestays.


8. DON’T turn down a night out… nomatter where you are in Asia

…Apart from maybe if it’s to a shifty local’s house, and they’re trying to entice you with a laminated menu of interestingly named massages. That has the potential to get a bit weird. But all of our Southeast Asia tours include a fair share of legitimate alcohol based activities, (the best of which is the Thai Islands Full Moon Adventure). Some nights out are included in the trip itinerary, whilst others, you’ll no doubt be roped into by your awesome new travel friends once the days activities are over.
The streets (and beaches… and jungles) of southeast Asia come alive at night, so even if you don’t feel like drinking, or dancing, get out of your hostel and soak it all up, if only for an hour. Don’t forget – you came to Asia tomake long-lasting memories (and a friend or two) after-all… and does a good night’s sleep result in these?


9. …But whatever you get up to, DON’T be hungover

I can confirm the fish did devour her, my bad!

A post shared by Jordan Hammond (@jordhammond) on Oct 5, 2016 at 9:33am PDT


Nobody wants to miss the boat or bus because they were too sick from Sangsom to leave their hostel bed. Take it from us – we know what it’s like first hand to be stranded on Koh Phangan with no friends, shorts, or means of transport off the island for 24 hours because we fell asleep under a palm tree at a Half Moon party.

Have fun, but say no to that last buket or shot – you’ll thank yourself for it on the next day of your adventure.


10. DO travel light

If all else fails and you are biblically hungover, you need to make sure you’ve packed lightly enough to be able to lug your belongings down the stairs of the hostel and onto your next mode of transport. Don’t take belongings you won’t need or can’t carry, and always throw everything in your backpack the night before an early start so you get that extra fifteen minutes in bed.

Keen to explore more? Travel vicariously through our Southeast Asia destination guide now, or check out our Busabout Asia tours here.