5 Travel Lessons From Our SE Asia Trip

By David

Since we’re getting ready head out on another adventure in a little over a month, I figured it was time to finally finish this post I started back in October (you are correct, I’m the worst).

When we got back to Chiang Mai after our Borneo, Bali, and Ko Lanta trip, we said we would post about the latest travel lessons we learned. Obviously, that never happened. But now, as we’re gearing up to leave Thailand and become even more nomadic, moving from one country to another every month, it’s the perfect time to go back and remember what we learned and apply them to this next adventure.

So here we go, the 5 travel lessons learned from our SE Asia trip and how they can be applied to where we’re heading next:

1. AirAsia, while cheap, has really stupid rules.

airasia flight delays

Our SE trip got off to a rocky start. The flight out of Chiang Mai was delayed and by the time we got to KL, they had already closed check-in for our onward flight to Kota Kinabalu, Borneo. AirAsia closes check-in 45 minutes before the flight everywhere except KL where they close 1 hour before check-in. We just missed the hour cut-off. We argued and pleaded our case but ultimately had to pay a $120 penalty to switch our flight to the next one out.

The most frustrating thing about it though: Even after getting to KL late, even after arguing with the desk agent who wouldn’t let us check in, even after buying a new ticket and walking defeated and slow to our gate, we still would have made the first flight on time!

So, the lesson: Always check in for flights, AirAsia especially, way ahead of time. AirAsia lets you check in multiple days before your departure — do this. You never know what kind of rule nazis you’ll encounter at the airport. 

2. Maybank has good currency exchange rates.

If you need to exchange money (which I generally try to avoid) and are presented with two options, one of which being Maybank, go with them. They have reasonable exchange rates.

None of the ATMs were working in the Kota Kinabalu airport, so we had to exchange baht for ringgit. The best way to get local currency is to have a bank account that doesn’t charge ATM fees (I use Capital One 360) and just withdraw whatever you need. ATMs have better conversion rates than money exchange counters.

3. Less is more.

Our October trip makes for a nice diamond loop.

Maybe we should have cut one of these places out.

No matter how much we travel, we never seem to remember this one. We just get too excited! But we seriously need to heed our own advice: don’t try to pack as many destinations into a 2-week itinerary as possible. It just wears you out. Slow down, see less, go to less places and enjoy your time.

4. Be prepared to go over budget.

See: Lesson #1.

Also, we were expecting to pay $9 each on the public bus from Krabi Airport to Ko Lanta, but the due to another AirAsia flight delay and a slow border agent, we missed the last bus and had to pay $76 for a taxi.

When we broke down our budget this time around, we made sure to round up by at least $100 for every destination.

5. Be realistic with how much time you have.

When we’re stupidly cramming in extra destinations, we’re simultaneously trying to allot enough time to each place. What tends to happen is, I’ll see an 8pm flight and think we have all day in that place. This is not the case.

An 8pm flight means you have to be at the airport by 6pm which means you have to leave by 5pm (or however long it takes to get there). But you’ll most likely have to check out of your hotel/hostel/guesthouse by noon anyways. Basically my point is: an 8pm flight doesn’t mean you have all day to hang out at the beach or something.

Bonus lesson: We already wrote about this, but when heading to the Gilis from Bali, don’t fly to Lombok and take a boat to the Gilis, just take a boat straight from Bali.

I’ll remember this when we get to Europe and make sure to look at other transport options, instead of just flights.

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One thought on “5 Travel Lessons From Our SE Asia Trip

  1. Pingback: Back in Chiang Mai! | Roses on the Road

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