If you’re an experienced traveler, you may think it’s no big deal to prepare for a trip to Indochina. Surely it’s just like any other holiday – pack your bags and get on your way.
Well, it can be, however, even those who are travel savvy, but who haven’t yet made their first trip to Indochina, could find themselves caught out if they haven’t done their homework.
With six countries making up Indochina, it’s a region that offers great diversity in culture, history, people, and cuisine. So whether your Indochina tour takes in just one of these – or several – it pays to be ‘in the know’ before you board your flight. Unaware of important cultural differences, more than a few western travelers have found themselves a little surprised, or even overwhelmed, on their Indochina trip.
Keen to enjoy every moment of your tour and create beautiful travel memories? Let’s help you prepare and be Indochina-trip ready!
Pack safe: clothes, shoes, and a raincoat
We’re not trying to supervise your packing; you’re an experienced traveler after all. But Indochina is not the US or UK. It’s different in many and varied ways.
When we think of images of Indochina, we’re often inspired by images of idyllic beaches, luscious tropical forests, lively floating markets, ancient temples of reverence, and exquisite food. And it’s true, Indochina generally, and each country on its own, provides more than enough of all the above.
That said, packing for your Indochina trip isn’t necessarily as simple as throwing a few pairs of shorts and summery singlets into a backpack. In fact, you probably need to pack more thoughtfully for your trip, especially if it means traveling to more than one country. Travel from north to south in the region or vice versa and the same rule applies.
The best tip here is to be prepared. Yes, pack shorts, t-shirts, and flip-flops, but a pair of long pants, lightweight long-sleeve shirt, and pashmina or scarf for women are all essential items for an Indochina trip.
Why? Because a tour in any one of Indochina’s countries will inevitably involve visiting multiple sacred sites. Appropriately covering shoulders and legs is considered a necessary sign of respect. Bear in mind you’ll find practicing Buddhists in every country, including in Myanmar, which is predominantly Muslim, so in all places, dressing accordingly is considered de rigeur. Lightweight longer pants and long sleeve tops protect against overzealous mosquitoes and bugs too, which are a feature of travel in tropical climates.
We’ve already mentioned flip-flops but you’ll need some kind of comfortable closed-toe shoes too; think runners or shoes you can walk in for long distances. With protection and prevention from falls and trips the key, eschew style over comfort every step of the way.
The tropical climate across the region means you’re likely to experience rain at some point during your tour, regardless of whether you travel in the high season or not. This kind of weather means protective rain gear is a must-have item for any Indochina trip. A lightweight rain jacket or coat, as well as quick-dry clothing, can make for comfortable travel when things get misty or wet.
And if you find yourself caught short, arriving without the gear you need, you can relax. There are ample places to source apparel inexpensively for every eventuality on tour. Simply ask your guide for advice about where to shop and you’ll have the solution to your clothing challenge. The bonus? You’ll probably find it at a significantly lower cost than what you would at home.
Hygiene + health: err on the side of caution
While there are differing opinions on what’s needed to travel through Indochina from a hygiene and health perspective, it’s wise for western travelers to err on the side of caution.
The number one reason is nobody wants to be sick on holiday. So, check-in with your general practitioner or specialized travel doctor to confirm your need for vaccinations. Along with your travel visas, started this process early because in some cases, you may need more than one course of injections to be fully covered for your Indochina trip.
As a general rule, vaccinations for waterborne and food diseases, such as hepatitis and typhoid, as well as childhood diseases like rubella, mumps, measles and diphtheria are a good idea for shorter tours. For anything longer and involving more remote traveling in the countryside through any Indochina country, it may be practical – and wise – to get shots for rabies and hepatitis B.
There’s no doubt Indochina is stimulating, lively, and even frenetic in parts. This distinction, along with the general level of hygiene can be a little confronting for western travelers, so come prepared. If it’s your first trip to Indochina, invest in a f