The first question we were asked after we returned home from our 8-month backpacking trip through southeast Asia was “so, how was it?!” After we answered, the second questioned that followed without hesitation was “Did you feel safe?”
Since so many friends and family asked us this, we wanted to set the record straight around the question “Is it safe to travel around Southeast Asia?”
Is Southeast Asia Safe To Travel To?
First, define “safe.”
Are you talking cuts and bruises? Are you talking theft? Are you talking safe food and drinking water?
Safety can refer to a lot of things but if you are referring to your overall trip safety, we’ll throw it back onto you. Yes, you. You yourself determines if your trip to Southeast Asia is safe or not.
Let us explain…
Be Aware Of Your Surroundings
Be aware of your surroundings. Simple enough, right? Let us give you an example.
Theft can happen. We’re not even going to pretend that it won’t. For us, we never had any issues with theft in Southeast Asia. Maybe a lost t-shirt every now and again, but nothing of value.
If you’re in a busy place where there are a lot of tourist, understand that there are probably pickpocketers there. Just like any other major city in the world, the countries of Southeast Asia also have pickpocketers.
Our tip is to be smart and don’t be a walking target for pickpocketers. How? Like this..
- Keep your money and valuables zipped up in pant pockets.
- Don’t ever have any belongings in your back pockets.
- If you have a bag or purse, make sure it’s in front of you or the strap goes across your body.
Also, other travelers. Think shared rooms. Other travelers could definitely swipe an item of yours. Don’t leave your belongs sprawled out on your bed for anyone to take. Lock them up (luggage lock) and you’ll be fine.
See, all our tips listed above are things that are in your control to help make your trip go smoothly.
Don’t Flaunt What You Have
When you open your wallet, let’s not show the world how much money you have on you, shall we?
We’re not even talking about someone grabbing your wallet and running away with it. We’re talking the vendor your negotiating with just now say your wad of cash and now knows they can ask you for more money….(DOOF!)
Keep your cash flow to yourself.
Oh, and don’t be a dummy and carry all your money on you. Lock it up at your accommodation or use a debit card to only take out a few days’ worth of cash at a time.
Food & Water
We’ll tell you right now, the tap water is not drinkable in Southeast Asia. However, don’t think for one minute that you’ll have a water shortage. There are endless mini-marts and street stalls that serve bottled water.
The food. It’s amazing. It’s packed full of flavor and ultra-delicious. However, it may not always be handled and prepped in the right way that agree with our stomachs.
Our tip? Come prepared! Our go to whenever we were having tummy troubles (which by the way, was once for each of us over the course of 8-months) was a little magical antibiotic called Ciprofloxacin!
Ciprofloxacin is the wonder drug of antibiotics and the flush your system needs to get you back to feeling normal. All U.S. folks, ask your Doc for a prescription and you can pick it up at your local pharmacy.
If you’re rude, if you’re belligerently drunk and cause problems or if you are just a plan asshole, bad things will happen to you and we hope you learn your lesson 🙂
Basically, don’t call unnecessary attention to yourself and by no means insult their way of life, religion or culture.
If you smile, are patient and you know, just a good person, you’ll have a world of wonderful experiences open up to you.
In addition, try learning a few words in the local language. If you learn how to say “hello”, “goodbye” and “thank you”, you know normal human interactions, you’ll be surprised at how much further you’ll get and how many endless smiles you’ll share.
Keep Your Guard Up
The people in Southeast Asia are among some of the kindest souls we’ve ever met. Always so helpful. Always so smiley. However, a select few will take advantage of the kindness you’ve experienced.
Be it in the form of begging moms or kids or a smiling face stranger offering you a tour around town, be wary of those interactions.
A little skepticism of a person isn’t a bad thing. It’s you being smart and listening to your gut. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s because it probably isn’t.
Don’t Do The Things You Wouldn’t Do At Home
Would you walk down a dark alleyway alone at night in an area you weren’t familiar with back home?? Then why in the “F” would you do that in Southeast Asia?! C’mon now. You’re asking for trouble.
Would you tear apart or damage your home? Again, why do that to your accommodation in Asia?
Would you steal or try and skim on a bill? Agaaaainnnn, why would you do that in Southeast Asia?
Would you buy drugs from a freaking sketchy dude….WHY DO IT IN SOUTHEAST ASIA?!
See our point?
So, Is Southeast Asia Safe to Travel Too?
Overall, yes. However, we can’t predict the future for you. For us, we had one hell of an 8-month trip and only had a few bumps along the way, but nothing that ever caused us harm or ever made us feel “unsafe”.
Think of it this way….
Regardless of where you go, bad things can happen. Be it out your front door, the movie theater or the mall….bad things can happen and people can take advantage of you. The same thing goes for the “other side of the world.”
Just because Southeast Asia is a “developing country” doesn’t make it any more dangerous than your hometown. Plus, what kind of way is that to live? Always in fear? No thanks.
You just have to be more aware of your surroundings and listen to your gut. If you feel uncomfortable, remove yourself from the place or situation.If you give someone an opportunity to take advantage of you, they will. Be smart, be mindful and above all, be kind.
Oh and do us a favor. When it comes time for your friends and family to ask you “Is it safe to travel around Southeast Asia?” go on a give them a smile for us 🙂
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For more travel tips, guides and awesome travel shots, be sure to poke around our site, follow us on Instagram @wanderingstus, Pinterest and on Facebook. Oh, and if you have any questions, let us know in the comment section. We’re happy to answer. Or, just leave us a positive note!
– Lauren & Jesse Stuart (The Stüs)