For all those out there wanting to go on a mega journey but not really knowing where to begin – you have come to the right place. This trip of a lifetime has taken months of planning and preparation. I really had to put my Monica cap on for this one (Friends reference for those confused!), but I loved it and so I’m going to share my OCD ways with you.
This is the fun part, the bit where you can stalk all your favourite travel Instagram accounts and decide which places you want to tick off your list! For us we knew from the get go Asia was where we wanted to go, its a place regularly traveled by lots of people (as newbie backpackers this is reassuring) and is full of stunning hidden treasures.
We then delved into each country picking and choosing all the cool places we’d like to see, this took quite a long time. I could only dedicate about 5 hours a week of solid research and it is surprisingly time-consuming. Eventually you’ll need to map out your ‘cool things’ and pick a route, some things might be too off the beaten track and sacrifices will have to be made. Use other blogs to help pick a suitable, easy route through your chosen countries, ensuring there are transport options between each place. I took the whole ‘transport link’ part to a whole new level – if you are more relaxed than me this is not necessary.
Remember to think about border crossings and VISA’s – you will have a time limit to stick too! Most countries are 30 days (or thereabouts) but can be extended for a premium.
Option B is to turn up and wing it. This sounds great but in reality you are going to risk missing out on certain (amazing) things.
Having a plan doesn’t mean you have no freedom! Treat it like guidelines, if you turn up and you don’t like somewhere, move on.
You can see our estimated route here.
I see a lot of blogs that tell you to budget through ‘£X per day’ but I decided not to follow this method. I knew Brad and I would be doing a lot of touristy things that would cost us extra money and would need to be factored in (PADI diving, hot air balloon rides, safari etc…). It’s also important to remember that these countries, whilst very cheap still, are becoming more expensive from the increase in tourism and so information available on the internet regarding living prices will always be out of date.
I split our budget into 3 main parts: living costs, transportation costs and sight seeing. Other costs that should be accounted for such as VISA’s, vaccinations and insurance were not paid for using our ‘travel budget’ but just our normal monthly ‘spending money’.
You can easily put together a spreadsheet that works out how much you are likely to spend over X amount of months on living costs; using average prices for food/water/accommodation/beer. Then incorporate your research of ‘things to do’ and with a small google search you should be able to find out what you can expect to pay for all the attractions you’ll be going too/taking part in. Finally, try and estimate how much you will spend on transportation in each country; think trains, buses, boats and tuk tuk journeys which will all be a huge part of your expenditure.
When on your travels, if you’ve worked out how much you’ll spend in each country/destination you’re travelling too, you can keep control of how much you spend in each place, budgeting appropriately and ensuring you don’t run out of cash early!
Tip: DON’T forget about your insurance (travel and gadget) which can cost over £1000!!
You will need a VISA for each country you enter but do not just assume you can pick this up upon entry to the country and do not assume all countries VISA’s work the same. I did my research into the countries we are visiting so I will list some top things to know for each one below.
- If you want an extended stay VISA you must get this from the embassy in your country, this VISA is activated as soon as it is issued NOT when you enter the country.
- India VISA’s require special passport photos, not UK standard ones so make sure you have these printed before you travel.
- E-VISA is available for shorter duration stays of 60 days or less.
- Use this link to find out more information: VSF Global
- You can get a 15 day free VISA upon entry to the country OR pay $25 for a 30 day VISA.
- It is either very expensive or very difficult to extend your VISA here and if you get caught overstaying you could face some hefty fines.
- It can take 3 days to obtain a registration code which you’ll need to show at the border, you will need a copy of your passport for this too.
- You get issued a free 30 day VISA upon entry to the country, you can leave and re-enter the country multiple times to keep getting this VISA should you wish!
- It is possible to extend your VISA at Thai immigration, it costs $60 dollars for a 60 day VISA.
- You will be charged 500 Baht a day for overstaying your VISA and since it’s so easy NOT to overstay we recommend not doing this.
- E-VISA’s can be bought online which last 28 days and cost $50
- It can take 3 days to process your application and you then have 90 days to enter the country
- Again, big fees (and potentially Police trouble) for overstaying your VISA in this country…
- A 30 day VISA is available upon arrival for $35 (must be paid in dollars) OR apply for a 60 day VISA in advance.
- Possible to extend your VISA for $2 a day in Vientiane for up to 30 days.
- You’ll need 2 free pages in your passport!
- Can obtain a 30 day VISA at the border, and can extend for another 30 days at the embassy if you wish
- The VISA is $30 and the extension is $45
- You’ll need 2 free pages in your passport!
These are essential to your trip because 1. you don’t want to ruin your trip by getting seriously ill and 2. your insurance won’t be valid if you have not taken the ‘necessary precautions’ before entering the country – that means getting your advised jabs!
If you are being tight on the purse strings, shop around, not everyone offers vaccines at the same price and you can save a heck of a lot of money by going to different places just to get the cheap vaccines. A bit more hassle but in my opinion it is worth it.
Some of your recommended vaccines will be available on the NHS so book in with your GP or nurse and get these! Don’t leave this to the last minute, or even the last couple of months. Some vaccines require boosters e.g. Hepatitis A after 6 months, so you need to plan this appropriately. I would also recommend Boots Pharmacy for your vaccines since you can use your advantage card to get Boots points – these can help pay for your sun cream/first aid/anything else you might need.
Rabies Tip: I asked my pharmacist about this when I got the vaccine (I went with Boots for this one) and they told me that when you are given the vaccine it acts like an epipen. It keeps you alive to give you time to get to a hospital so you can have a more powerful shot of vaccine to save your life. You MUST always go to a hospital if an animal bites, scratches or even licks you because you don’t know if that animal has rabies and if you start showing symptoms you’ve already waited too long.
Once I know the answer to this I will fill you in…
Always ALWAYS ensure you have appropriate travel insurance and don’t go for the first one you find. I read many policies before I landed on my chosen cover and I was shocked by how poor some of the cover was – even ones that were RECOMMENDED by TRAVEL BLOGS. Its absolutely vital you read the policy wording thoroughly. Insurance companies are out there to make money and if they can find a loophole in the policy to not pay you/assist you then they will. I also would say google claim reviews to make sure their customer service is not letting them down. At the end of the day if you’re in a foreign country and the worst happens the last thing you need is a dodgy insurance company making things worse.
Me and Brad are covered by coverforyou.com and went for the Platinum coverage with the appropriate ‘activities cover’.
We also took out separate gadget insurance since most, if not all, general travel insurance will have a cap on the most they’ll pay for one item (expect this to be a couple of hundred pounds). We chose Photoguard to insure out laptop/phones/camera gear since it is highly regarded amongst photographers and is one of the only companies that would insure for 12 months worldwide. Some of our equipment is secondhand meaning we don’t have original receipts – Photoguard will accept alternative forms of proof of purchase which is handy!
Now I’m not saying the way I have done things is the right way by any means, but it is A way.
The longer your intended trip the more important it is to KNOW YOUR STUFF. Even cultural values such as covering your shoulders and eating with your right hand in India (because you wipe you bum with your left). Know where you can and can’t go, some places are off limits and you don’t want to risk a run in with the police.