Flashpackers – Backpackers on a bigger budget
This Part 2 of 3 parts – A Lot of Valuable Information for Vietnam Travelers
In the 21st century, iPods & laptops make Asian trekking easier.
By Edward Yatscoff
We took a laptop and it was invaluable: for banking; as an alarm clock; checking e-mail and weather; searching for accommodation and sights; updating ourselves on travel warnings and scams; and as a telephone to talk, using Skype, with our children regularly. We also bought land-line time from Skype.
Many eateries, cafés, and just about all hotels/guest houses have free Wi-Fi; sometimes with a shared computer in the lobby. Dedicated Internet places offer Skype, photocopying, printing and CD burning. Bank account passwords and passport copies were uploaded to a server and saved in an e-mail. Internet maps provided locations of train and bus stations. If we got lost, we’d simply hop in a cab.
Only two types of plug-in converters were necessary for China, Korea, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. Both had two cylindrical prongs, with one device smaller than the other. As they say in Southeast Asia: “same, same, but different.”
English books can be found in scattered bookstores or hotel book swaps. Books take up space so an e-book reader was the way to go. It’s small and can download stories in seconds with a decent Wi-Fi signal.
We got our first entry visa online direct from the Cambodian embassy. The remainder were applied for on the fly at foreign embassies. It’s cheaper and faster — except for China; the slowest at four days. They squeeze time-constrained tourists by steering them to an “express” option at double the cost.
Avoid visa-on-arrival letters. Pay close attention to visa time limits as some begin upon entry and others begin as soon as you receive them. The bar code on our Cambodian entry visa didn’t print out at home and caused some concern at the Phnom Penh airport. But they love tourists there and let me use their immigration computer. ASEAN countries are presently ironing out a unified “one visa.”
Do bring duct tape, laundry bar soap and a length of clothesline to hang out wet clothing, although your laundry can be done for a dollar or two per kilogram.
We took U.S. cash and Amex traveller’s cheques, which are useless to a thief. It’s a chore trying to cash them, however, because it requires a passport. We kept our passports and cash bagged in small packets and carried them with us most of the time. Other times we stowed valuables in a vault in the room or at the hotel desk, wrapped in a bag and duct-taped.
My debit card wouldn’t fit into a few ATMs in Vietnam and Cambodia, while others accepted it; however, you get a better rate for U.S. cash. Visa is not widely accepted at smaller hotels, so booking online as you go works well.
Don’t worry about being homeless for a night as there are more hotels off the grid than on. The more you venture farther away from touristy areas, the more you’ll need local currency.
Our budget was $50 to $60 per day or under $2,000 per month (food and accommodation with some transportation). We based it on $20 to $30 hotel rooms, with a flush toilet, private washroom, and pool. For the most part we stayed within the budget; often below it.
by: Mark Lewis
publisher: Rough Guides, published: 2009-10-19
sales rank: 192106
price: $12.21 (new), $11.60 (used)
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