Where To? Bangkok
How long? 3 days (don’t worry, I’ll be back)
Status: I was packed like two weeks ago…
13WoW – Destination: Heathrow
It’s 2 weeks until I set off on my travel adventure and I finished packing last week. Yes, you read that right, enjoy that glimpse into what it’s like to be me!
It seems simple when you first decide to go travelling. Step one: Purchase Flights. Step two: Pack. Step three: Go! But it’s not that simple and there were a lot of questions.
Hoping to save other potential travellers time in the future, I am going to go through some of my preparations pre-travelling.
Step One: Purchase Flights
Actually, step one is figuring out where you actually want to go and then when you’ve done that it’s finding out whether it’s realistic for you to go to all those places in the time (and budget) that you have.
My plan at first was not restricted to the locations listed above, wanting to include the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia and all sorts! But after speaking to some lovely people at STA Travel, I had a reality check.
Then the next thing, booking flights. My advice is to look on your own first to gauge an idea on how much flights will be and what the logistics are. It takes a lot of time and is really annoying but it helps you decide on the cheapest times to go and shape out your itinerary. When you are armed with your timeline with where you want to be and when, then approach the travel agents, they have a lot of knowledge and advice they can offer even if you don’t go with them. Having had an idea of prices when speaking to them, they would always try to compete with what I had found. Most companies would match if you could genuinely prove you found a cheaper fare yourself.
Spoke to Flight Centre and STA Travel and in the end went with STA only because they could sort out my internal USA flights as well as my international flights. Everyone seemed friendly and offered honest opinions on the cheapest way to do things. It was Flight Centre who advised me that booking a round trip to Bangkok and then doing USA as a separate trip would actually work out cheaper. And actually, coming back for a day means I have a chance to re-pack my bag and drop any souvenirs off before jetting off again.
So it turns out that the splashing out doesn’t stop at flights, but depending on where you are going and how long you are going for, you are going to have to shed even more cash on visas.
UK Passport holders currently (as at 17/05/2017) get a free 30 day visa on arrival in Thailand.
At first thought this meant I didn’t have to worry about it seeing as I was going to be in Thailand for all of about a day before shooting off to Cambodia/Vietnam and returning to Thailand in July to then get another free 30 day visa at the border.
But after speaking to the Thai embassy (strongly recommend speaking to the embassy where you are going), I was advised I would need a visa due to the round trip booked and my overall stay according to my flights being longer than 30 days. Otherwise would have to have flights out of Thailand within the 30 days to gain the free visa.
Now am having a bit of a mare because I’m not sure if I got the right visa having opted for the Single entry visa (which will expire upon entering Cambodia a day into my trip) rather than the much more expensive multiple point entry visa (£35 or £150… it was a no brainer). So hoping that I will get the 30 day free visa when I try to enter Thailand through Laos but will have to let you guys know how that goes.
Update: I think I could have got away without purchasing the visa above but I had no issues entering and exiting Thailand at all. On the way back from Laos (via train) I had no problems getting back into Thailand.
Have it on good authority (the internet and a couple of friends) that a visa will be obtainable at the border so long as I have at least two passport pictures to hand and around $35. I don’t normally do vague but as I have booked a tour, I know I wont be the only one in need of a visa so am going to just chill on this one.
Update: I had no issues entering Cambodia by foot, but that was all thanks to my G Adventures tour guide (read about it here). I’m sure you could wing it going by public bus or on foot yourself though!
At present, UK Passport holders can enter Vietnam for 15 days without a visa, but this is only until 30 June 2017 when they will be reviewing this and deciding whether or not to extend this. So after seeking advice from the consular, I applied for a Vietnamese visa online. It was ridiculously easy as you didn’t have to send your passport or anything, just fill out their documents and scan them over via email. It was also ridiculously expensive to do it that way. Say goodbye to £80.
There seems to be little information on the internet about getting a visa for Laos other than here. But it looks like UK passports get a 30 day visa on arrival and I should expect to pay around $42. Again, will need to be armed with mug shots.
Update: Getting a visa on arrival by public bus was easy enough, make sure you have plenty of cash as they seem to charge you for the most pointless things (read more here) and try to pay in kip if you have already converted your money by this stage.
UK passport holders do not need a visa but must apply for a visa waiver. Was lucky here though as I had a trip to the US last year and the ESTA visa waiver that I got for $14 actually covers me for 2 years.
As a UK passport holder, you can get an Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA), but if you’re travelling by land or sea, you won’t need an eTA when you enter Canada. However, you must travel with “acceptable travel documents and identification“. I hope that just means my passport… Update: Yes, it did.
Did you think that was it with the expenses? No, there’s more!
You should prepare yourself to spend around £200 – £300 on jabs and travel medicines such as anti-malaria tablets. And you need to make your initial visit to the travel nurse at least 6 months before your trip. My surgery has an online travel questionnaire you complete first before you book your appointment.
Again, was lucky because I had recently visited Ghana and got nearly all of my jabs then. So only needed a Hep A booster. However, I went in too late for my Hep B and Rabies jabs and was instead warned drastically not to go anywhere near animals, not to get any piercings or tattoos and to take my own sterile needles (which I got from amazon) in case I need a jab or stitches whilst I am there.
I am going to order my anti-malaria tablets (Doxycycline) online as they are available OTC but I will only need them if I enter certain parts of Cambodia and Laos. With Doxy, it’s cheap but you have to carry on taking the tablets for four weeks once you are out of the affected area. Always take them with food otherwise you can feel very very sick.
The final part to the oh so simple “stage one” is planning your adventures!
I’m travelling alone and so wanted something to kick-start my adventure where I would meet lots of people doing the same thing as me. So booked a tour with G Adventures (through STA Travel). It’s a 10 day adventure that will take me from Bangkok, through Cambodia and into Vietnam and it is £599 (or was when I booked it). If you want to look at the itinerary of this “Cambodia on a Shoestring” tour, you can do so here.
Hint: When you book with G adventures make sure you register on their site because there are a number of details that they require you to complete before they will send you the official voucher. It wasn’t until I called asking for more information that I found out; by then a lot of information was overdue.
The G adventure expert I spoke to was chirpy at first but seemed to get grumpy real fast with all of my questions. He then directed me to the wrong site to register. So in case you need to know, you register here.
That tour starts on 5th June, but I arrive on 4th of June so needed to book somewhere to stay for the night.
South East Asia are famous for their very cheap accommodation and food, so it was easy for me to find my first night’s Hostel @Hua Lamphong for only £9. There were cheaper options but this one stood out and I can’t wait to give you guys a proper review when I get there! I booked this one through booking.com and what I like is that it’s free cancellation up to 3 days before and you don’t pay until you get there.
The only thing I need to do is find out how I’m going to get there…
Step Two: Pack
This step starts with the right backpack. And I have no idea about backpacks, I didn’t even know until recently that they are measured in litres!
After seeking inspiration from other girls’ travel blogs, I saw a “how to travel on a 16L bag” post and thought “yeah, I can do that”! Thankfully a gentleman in Millets was there to talk sense into me and convince me to settle for the Eurohike Pathfinder 35L (£25 down from £35). My boyfriend still does not think it’s big enough, his argument being I won’t need to be carrying it for long periods of time as I will leave it in the hostel most of the time. He makes a fair point but #YOLO!
I nearly splashed out on a waterproof rain cover for my backpack but held back and then found out there is actually one that comes with this bag. Bonus!
I think the biggest struggle with this was deciding what clothes to leave behind, had to remind myself about the shopping heaven that Bangkok would be.
Now, I have a question for anyone really… How do you padlock a backpack?!?!
Anyway, here is my packing list for anyone curious, and you will be pleased to know it fits snugly into my backpack even with the sleeping bag inside!
- Sleeping Bag (Update: Don’t take a sleeping bag!)
- Microfibre Towel
- Waterproof rucksack liner & waterproof phone bag
- Day Pack (Go lightweight foldaway)
- Small Satchel Bag
- Discreet Money Belt
- Water Bottle (Water-to-Go 3 in 1 filter – be aware if you get this that it needs a 15 minute soak before you go)
- Toiletries (incl. hand sanitizer, tea tree oil, suncream, spf lip balm, ear plugs & the usual)
- Make-up, hair, nails & jewellery
- Electricals (incl. phone, chargers, powerbanks, torch, worldwide multi adaptor & personal security alarm)
- First-aid kit & Medication (incl. diorralyte, insect repellent, anti-malerials, sterile needles & the usual)
- Camera (more on this in a minute)
- Modest Clothing
-Windbreaker Waterproof Mack
-Tank top x2
-Mesh top x2
-Maxi skirt x2
-Leggings (I went for sport/yoga leggings as these ones keep you cool)
-Underwear (incl. pop socks)
Made sure all of my clothes can mix and match/do double duty. For PJ’s could wear any of my tank tops, which is why I only took the shorts. The Brave Soul packamac was actually a men’s jacket but for £14.99 (down from £39.99) that didn’t matter to me, and it folds into it’s pocket!
The things that have taken up the most space (other than the sleeping bag) is honestly my toiletries – all those lotions and potions, and one maxi skirt which is really heavy but too good not to take.
I am going to take a moment to say how proud I am of being able to downsize my makeup mag drastically to my top 6:
- Eye Pencil
- Liquid Liner
Yeah, you’re thinking what more could there be? But somehow my normal makeup bag is the size of a large handbag!
Step Three: Go!
Speaking of “go”, I long debated whether or not to get a go-pro or whether to solely rely on my phone for photos. I procrastinated over this so long that by the time I came to make a decision, it was quite clear to me that money would not permit it. So took a bit of a risk and opted for a budget alternative, the Camkong Action Camera HD 1080P. I’m not a camera geek so no idea if it’s a steal being reduced from £109.99 to £34.99 or if it’s reduced because it’s shit. Either way, I suspect I will find out! UPDATE: It’s shit, don’t get it! I got the Ion Snapcam instead which was much better.
Before I go, there are a few essentials that I must sort out:
- Scanning & Photocopying all important documents
- Have at least four passport pictures
- Money – a pre-loaded travel money card, credit card & Cash
- Sim Cards – either upgrade mine, get a world sim or ensure my phone is unlocked to buy a sim there
- Spare phone for emergencies
- Check in online
- Figure out how to lock a bloomin’ rucksack!
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