The boy and I are planning a long trip next year. I’m convinced that an RTW ticket is the way to go, but he insists that individual flights – supplemented by overland travel – would be better. The most important thing for us is flexibility in terms of how long we stay in certain places. Does an RTW restrict this in any way? Any thoughts or advice would be appreciated.
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Kia, a few thoughts about some of the best way’s to get from one place to another. I will write specifically about Asia for now. We have great low cost airlines here in S.E. Asia such as Air Asia, Bangkok Air, Nok etc. Air Asia has the largest number of destinations from either Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok. They fly all over S.E Asia, but also China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India. If you you plan ahead like you are doing you can get fantstic deals. It does mean sticking to a schedule, but can save big bucks. You can use JetStar, Tiger and AirAsia to get to Australia. If you plan ahead cheap, but always consider the extra’s? Baggage, seat assignment, food, and any special needs. Like EasyJet and Ryan Air in Europe, you get charged for everything extra.
In Japan, China, South Korea, Taiwan the trains are really great and in most cases can be less stressful and so fast. I’ve done the train and plane thing for domestic travel here in Asia many times. The trains are so stress free and if you consider the location of train stations, as compared to airports, the trains will make life easier. In S.E. Asia forget about most trains if you want speed (maybe 60 kph average). I live in Bangkok now and I do take the overnight trains sometimes, but OMG. Lately an 8 hour trip from Bangkok to Chiang Mai take 12 hours and from the south (beach area’s) I never know when I will get home. It’s cheap, but?
Another alternative mode of transport that works well here in Thailand and Vietnam are buses. You can do overnight VIP buses and they are cheap and usually on-time. You lay back, AC, TV (?) they feed you as part of the ticket, and give you snacks. This way with the overnight you save on a hotel and get to the new location first thing in the morning. Done buses in Laos, and Cambodia, which were actually great. Burma is still ramping up, but has improved bus transport a great deal in the last 5 or 6 years. Day’s of really cheap places in Burma are getting harder to find, as more people visit, but really worth a trip. It’s still a challange to travel there, but it’s fun!
You can also take a barge on the Mekong River. Slow, relaxing, cheap, no need for a hotel and you will see river life at it’s best. The barges go through Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, and I think Cambodia. Lot’s of backpacing folks do this and really love it if you have the time. Great tan too!!!!!
So in some way’s, at least for me, it’s like the movie, “Trains, Planes and Automobiles” but you can add buses and barges. Hope this helps with at least a portion of your exciting trip around the world!!!! I have other thoughts, but I will leave that for another time.
It depends where you plan to go.
The best way for me to reach South East Asia was via Athens(It’s full of bucket shops for cheap travel tickets..)
I bought a ticket Athens-Cairo-Mumbai with Egyptian Airlines (250$ | one way)
From there , you travel by train or with domestic Indian airline company to Calcuta…with another cheap flight (Air Buthan 100$..for Bangkok)
Bangkok or Chiang Mai is even better to travel down south, to Bali (or to Los Angeles with a stop over in Tokyo(not free)…if you want to go back to North America like me)
I started my trip with France-Italy-Greece..on the road (Train&boat)
It’s denetely the best way ..more flexible ,cheaper.
Think carefully about the overland route from India. At this time, you cannot get a visa for Pakistan once you leave your country of permanent residence, and you will not get a visa for travel that is more than a few months into the future. The alternative overland route from India is via Nepal and China, but this has its own complications, not the least of which are the everchanging rules for getting a visa for China. And if you plan to exit from China into Central Asia, such a Kyrgyzstan, you have to conceal that fact as the Chinese do not like travellers to go into Xinjiang province, the westernmost region that abuts the Central Asian republics.
One bright spot, however, is that since mid-2012 Kyrgyzstan has abolished the need for visas for travellers spending no more than 60 days in the country.
Thanks, Daniel. That’s really helpful. Our route is quite ambitious if I’m honest (South America, then across the Pacific, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, then up to India, possibly via Indonesia and then overland back to Europe!), hence why I’m keen to figure out if an RTW ticket or small hops would be better in terms of flexibility.
You will not regret spending more time in this part of the world. As for reservations you can make them a day ahead for the most part. Buses can be done same day as they are usually leaving often. If you do the overnight VIP bus, I would do a day ahead. It’s a good way to go. Transport here is so easy and the wndows at the bus station are marked by destination in English and the folks at the train station usually speak some English.
Burma is great and not to be missed. The people are so nice and the politics are changing. Still some ethical issues, but if you can put that aside you will be in for a treat and you will be in old S.E. Asia with a British twist in Yangon. Bagan is well worth the trip and worth 2-3 days. On my first trip there they would not let me leave the country because my name was not on the list for the flight (I had changed the flight at the travel agent), but they eventually let me out. Now very different and a Visa on Arrival is possible, but check as they change the rules often. Otherwise, just go to the Consulate here in Bangkok and get your visa in a day or two.
Try to book a hotel/hostel before you get there, as the days of just showing up are gone and this is a destination more on the beaten path now. Don’t miss Ankor Wat in Cambodia, the Killing Fields, the school that became a prison, and the skulls of those killed. It will make the eperience very vivid and changes you a bit!
> Time of my life
Thank you for all the great (in-depth!) advice. I have visited Thailand and Cambodia, but alas only spent 10-14 days in each country and, as I’m sure you know, ‘holidays’ are never quite the same as proper travelling. How far in advance would you advise booking train and bus tickets across SE Asia in general?
I would love to visit Burma. Obviously, there are some ethical issues to contend with, but since tourism is now open there, it would be amazing to visit. Bagan is at the top of my list. If you have any other must-see places there, let me know!
Check out the specialised operators before you commit. I think that your itinerary as you describe it, is offered by http://www.roundtheworldflights.com/ (Disclosure: I have written articles for that site). Do check the site out anyway. It offers advice on planning your trip, etc.
I have done a RTW myself and, yes, I had to decide in advance where I’d stay and how long for, but I found that a good exercise. After all, I had a limited budget so the fixed RTW dates forced me to plan things properly. Else I might have lingered in the first part of my itinerary for too long and blown my budget far too early.
Good tip – thank you! I hadn’t thought of that.
Thank you for the advice. My trip is a while off yet (2014!) but this is useful info to know beforehand. I figured I could either get visas on the road or way in advance so your tip about Pakistan is really helpful.