Tips For Accommodation

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After booking your flights, the second most important thing to do is ensure you have a place to stay. We found that the best prices were from hotels.com and agoda.com. Both had a wide selection of hotels to choose from and provided helpful reviews and discounts. When you’re booking accommodations, you should do it as soon as you book your flights because you can often get a discount for booking a room a certain number of days in advance.

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One thing to note is that different websites offer different benefits at the hotel such as breakfast and free wi-fi. Often you’ll see two identical rooms but the prices are different. Click on the “amenities” link if there is one next to the room and read the description. For our trip, if the room price was not too different between the breakfast and no-breakfast package, we spent the extra few dollars and got breakfast. Many hotels just had the breakfast included as part of the room price. For the hotels we didn’t book breakfast for (Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, and Bangkok, Thailand, it wasn’t too hard to walk down the street and find something to eat for breakfast, so don’t feel obligated to get a room package with breakfast. We did find it more convenient when there was breakfast, but it wasn’t essential.

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The way we selected rooms was by using Trip Advisor to check ratings and reviews, and then we took the hotel name and booked it on Agoda or Hotels.com because the pricing was better. When choosing hotels, we looked at the photos (be weary of hotels that have a lot of photos of the grounds but none of the inside of the rooms. Especially the bathrooms and the bed areas…), the rating of stars, the reviews, and the price. When it comes to reviews, the best thing is to disregard the reviews that have a “5” and the reviews with a rating of “1”. These people tend to be extremists in my opinion, they either loved all of it or hated all of it and everything was the absolute worst. What we did was read the reviews of “3” and “4” because I find that those individual tend to be more honest with their reviews. The 3’s are essentially saying “so-so” and they’re more likely to give you concrete reasons for being torn in their decision. They’ll typically give a good balance of the good and bad of the hotel unlike those who rate a “5” or a “1”. The reviewers who leave a “4” are also valuable because they liked most things, but there was something that made them hold back from giving it a 5, and they will likely be honest about it. It may be something that bothers you as well and may make you want to avoid that hotel, so be sure to read up.

Another thing with reviews is to read the most recent ones. Check the dates as some people write their reviews over a year after they travel and in that time the hotel could have gone through major upgrades and renovations (e.g., someone “travelled in” Feb 2013, but the review was “posted in” July 2014. Over a year has passed and some of what was said may have been resolved in that time, so just use caution. Lastly, take all reviews with a grain of salt. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. I think sometimes hotel staff go in and write reviews…

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One last tip, if you see a hotel where the management has replied to the recent reviews, that is also a good sign. I like to see that the management has taken an interest and is listening. It also helped me to avoid a few hotels because the managers were quite rude and condescending in their response to visitor comments/reviews. If they’re willing to be a jerk online, then how do you think they’ll act in person when/if you have an issue during your stay?

Lastly, remember to print the confirmation of every hotel you book because often you will be asked for it when you arrive at the hotel. They will also ask for your passport and the passport of all others staying in your room as well as the credit card of the person who made the booking (for incidentals) at check in. This was surprising to me at first, but I got used to it after the second hotel. Printing the confirmation will also allow you to have the address of the hotel on hand, and will help the taxi/tuk-tuk driver out when you use their services from the airport.

By: Wayne Thomas 

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Indochina 2014

Indochina—I’d read many blogs and articles about this region, but it had never occurred to me before that I’d be traveling there! Now, I can say I have been to Indochina! And even better than that, I got to visit this region with my best mate, Wayne! 😀

The reason I am writing about this trip is to give you, the reader, some sort of a starting reference point. Yes, you. I know you have been searching Google for information on how to travel in and around Indochinese countries like Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia, and sights such as Phi Phi Islands, Angkor Wat, Choeung ek museum, etc. Hopefully this blog will help you with your trip Indochina trip planning! I will present this blog in parts so that you can find the section with the exact information that interests you!

Part 1: TRIP PREPARATION

We started our 2 week trip in Vietnam then hopped over to Cambodia and wrapped it up in Thailand. As a reference, I flew from Indonesia, and Wayne flew from South Korea. Initially, this is how we broke it down:

  • 3 days in Vietnam
  • 4 days in Cambodia and
  • 7 days in Thailand,
  • 14 days total

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Before I go into detail, first let’s talk about how we got there.

Flights

If you are looking to save some money on the flight, I highly recommend that you find a budget airline to get to Vietnam. Asia has many dependable budget airlines. I flew from Jakarta, Indonesia using a Singaporean based airline called TigerAir. Booking your ticket at least 2 months in advance for high season will be the best way to go about it. Alternatively, you can subscribe to their newsletter and wait for their promotional emails (just a head’s-up, you have to pay for seats on this airline so don’t be surprised. Or you can just skip the seat selection and avoid the charge on that. That’s what I did on my flight home and it saved me a few bucks).

Baggage 

BEFORE you fly, it is critical that you remember to weigh your suitcase AND carry-on backpack/cabin bag!

If your suitcase’s weight is close to your limited weight allowance, don’t play with it, head to their website and upsize your baggage limit. Why? Sometimes your suitcase will weigh more in the airport (I don’t want to badmouth any airline or airport here but I have experienced it several times). And if the weight is more than you are allowed to bring, they will happily charge you extra for that.

If you are the backpack type, make sure your backpack is not heavier than what is allowed. For TigerAir, it is 10 Kgs. For AirAsia, it’s 7 Kgs. For further information, I suggest you consult your airline’s website or give them a call. Just make sure that your backpack is at least 1 KG less than the allowance. Why? Again. You never know how that airport scale will work… If by chance, your backpack weighs more than the allowance, just purchase their additional baggage allowance. Here’s why…

In Phuket, we saw one unfortunate guy paying more than $100USD for his huge backpack which, of course, from the looks of it already passed the allowed weight. We were right behind him in the line so after he left, I asked the lady at the counter and she said he had to pay extra for for excess cabin baggage weight, it worked out to $18 USD per kg in excess of the allowance for AirAsia. So there you have it. Weigh. ALL. Of. Your. Bags.

After you book your flight, check if you have a layover somewhere in the middle. If you are like me and have a layover somewhere, I suggest you to bring some local money in case you want to buy food or souvenirs in the duty free areas.

If you’re flight searching and you see that the cost to fly directly to Ho Chi Minh is too expensive. You can take a flight to Bangkok and then take off from there to Ho Chi Minh City on your next flight. That’s what Wayne did and it’s much cheaper (less that $50 USD) than a direct flight from Seoul to Ho Chi Minh City.

After you finish booking your flight(s). You should make a checklist of things to bring with you. Aside from the usual clothing, before you go, I’d recommend you to download an offline map application on your phone. We used one called “Ulmon Pro CityMaps2Go” on our iPhones and it worked marvelously! If you want to use this app, you’ll have to download the map for cities separately (with no additional cost). What made this app great is the ability to use it without an Internet connection. You just have to enable location services on your phone and you’ll be able to see your current location. It helped us a lot when we’re trying to find places to see, food to eat, and get back to our hotel.

Ok. I think this is enough for one post. Next post I’ll be sharing about our first stop: Vietnam. See ya!