You think transport for traveling Southeast Asia is limited? You’re wrong.
Here you will learn how traveling Southeast Asia is just as easy as anywhere else. Options are plentiful and getting to your end destination is easier than you think, as explained by guest blogger Michael Gregory of TheWanderingBroski.
You’re going to die
That’s the reaction I received from a friend a couple of years back when talking about my plans to go traveling Southeast Asia for two months.
Now there are a couple of important things to bear in mind;
- That friend had never even been close to travelling Southeast Asia
- I’m writing this post – so I probably didn’t die.
When you travel you’re looking for cheap, comfortable and safe transport. You may be surprised, but in Southeast Asia you can get this – and in abundance.
It may come across as a messy ensemble of different modes of transport, and in some respects it is. However what criss-crosses the Southeast Asia region is a highly efficient network of every type of transport you can think of.
Most importantly the transport for traveling Southeast Asia is linked at every point. If you want to go there you can get there. Better still you can usually do it cheaply and in comfort.
Here’s a comprehensive list of the modes of transport in Southeast Asia and the best times to call on them. Many of these options can commonly be booked through your accommodation.
Transport Options for Traveling Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia has a long colonial history (that’s us western lot taking over countries again). While these colonised countries are now independent the traces of colonialism are still present and the railways are one of the good things we left behind.
There’s a huge train network connecting most major and many less popular destinations. Carriages are generally pretty old but can be comfortable and quaint.
Trains can be extremely cheap method for traveling Southeast Asia. They are also a great way to see the scenery as many go through mountains and forests! Check out seat61.com for extensive information on trains in Southeast Asia.
Night trains are an awesome way of traveling Southeast Asia for 2 main reasons:
- You travel while you sleep which saves time and money
- You get to sleep
On night trains you can choose compartments with 2, 4 or 6 beds. Prices increase with the less people sharing the compartment. The beds are comfy and a good size (I’m 6’4” and I fitted in well).
There’s something therapeutic about lying in bed with the sound of a train travelling along. Night trains run in most countries in Southeast Asia, so check them out.
Oh and did I mention you get to sleep?
Picture of beds in compartment
There are loads of coaches trundling around Southeast Asia to all kinds of destinations. Most are air conditioned, give you a bottle of water and have Wi-Fi. Occasionally some are cramped, humid and sweaty. I took one in Laos that was so humid my sandwiches tuned into a soggy mess.
The moral of the story with coaches is to do a bit of research! They’re often the cheapest option of transportation in Southeast Asia and are relatively quick.
Of the 12 buses I took while traveling Southeast Asia; 10 were fine, 1 was uncomfortable and 1 was awful.
These bad boys are buses with kind of beds. I say kind of beds because they are not completely flat but if you’re less than 6ft you can get a decent sleep. I struggled because I’m a giant but for normal people it is usually ok.
Even though I didn’t really sleep on the night bus it was very modern, clean and had Wi-Fi! With the night buses, like the night trains, you get accommodation for the night and transport in one foul swoop!
These little white vans are whizzing all over Southeast Asia. Carrying around 10 passengers, they’re slightly more comfortable than a coach, slightly faster and a little bit more expensive.
I shared a minivan with around 6 soldiers from the Thai army which was a blast! However a note of warning: check that the minivan is air conditioned first as they will get very hot otherwise.
Minivans are easily bookable from your accommodation or can be found at plenty of minivan stations around Southeast Asia.
You’re thinking of small rust buckets with propellers aren’t you? Well I’m sure you can find loads of them in Asia but there are also a lot of airlines that fly very modern fleets and are very cheap and comfy.
Quite often it’s cheaper (and quicker) to fly to your next destination than getting a train or bus so never count this option out.
For the best airfare deals in Southeast Asia check out Vietnam Airways, Nok Air, Air Asia, Thai Airways and Bangkok Airways.
There are two options when it comes to motorbikes – rent or buy.
If you’re going to buy a motorbike for traveling Southeast Asia it’s best to have a licence as its illegal to ride a motorbike without one. That said I know plenty of people who did it without a licence and were fine. You do hear of accidents, some deaths and see plenty of bandages from exhaust burns.
Read More: How to Buy a Motorbike in Vietnam
I personally didn’t buy a bike but rented a plenty of mopeds to explore the destinations I was staying in. Again this can be considered illegal without a licence but I was only pulled over once and was made to pay a fine of £6.
The Easy Rider is a comparatively expensive option of traveling Southeast Asia but will be a huge highlight of your trip.
You basically have a motorbike and driver to take you on the back, then another motorbike and driver to take your luggage. It’s best to choose these guys on the more scenic routes such as the Hai Van Pass or Nha Trang to Da Lat in Vietnam as they will stop off at all the best scenic areas. The Easy Rider not the fastest mode of transport due to all these stops along the way, but you book it for the experience not the speed.
The original Easy Rider is based in Vietnam but all countries in Southeast Asia have similar motorbike tours.
About the Guest Blogger
Michael is a 25 year old swim teacher and coach from London. With a serious case of the travel bug and a fundamental dislike for the ordinary, he loves to explore cultures that challenge him and go on adventures that will get the adrenaline pumping. Michael enjoys sharing his adventures, tips and of course some humor with the wandering community. Read more of Michael’s unique take on travel at TheWanderingBroski