There are preconceived notions that it is expensive or that travel to the area is difficult. We hope to dispel these arguments and present reasons why there is no better time than the present to travel to SE Asia.
1. Strong America Dollar
Over the past several years, the American Dollar continues to grow stronger compared with other world economies, including countries in SE Asia. For example, in 2013 you can get 28.6 Thai Baht to 1 US Dollar. Currently, 1 US Dollar will get travelers 35 Thai Baht. In Malaysia, the value is even more with respect to the US Dollar. In 2013, the rate was 1 US Dollar to 2.9 Malaysian Ringgit. Today, it is 1 US Dollar to 4.1 Ringgit. Other countries in SE Asia have similar value changes, making this a fantastic time to travel to SE Asia.
- A meal for 2 people, mid-range restaurant, 3 courses is around 300 Baht. Inexpensive: Plate of Thai food, some rice and a soft drink at an average small restaurant, 40 Baht to 70 Baht.
- A meal for 2 people, mid-range restaurant, 3 courses is around 50 Ringgits. Inexpensive: Meal, inexpensive restaurant is around 9 Ringgits.
- Note: Asian currency declined an average of 8% during 2015 and is predicted to depreciate an additional 4% for calendar year 2016.
2. Affordable Luxury
In line with the strong American dollar, there is great value in travel to SE Asia. It is not unheard of to stay at a 5-star hotel for $100 a night. A comparable hotel in the United States can easily run over $500. If you think a private tour is only for the wealthy, it is not the case in SE Asia. When Tom and I hired a private car and driver in Bali, the entire day, including gasoline, was $35. Food and beverages will not break the bank. If you travel for long periods of time, be sure to take advantage of local laundry services. The most we paid was $25 for two suitcases worth of clothing in Koh Samui. However, the same amount of laundry in Bali cost a mere $4.
3. Increased Flights and Decreased Fares
There is an increase in the number of flights and carriers in Asia. This creates a healthy competition that drives the airfare cost down. China appears to be leading the way with a number of national airlines offering service from the United States to Asia, with connections in the main hubs of Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangdong (depending on the carrier and their hub location). Once in China, there is an easy connection to continue to all areas of SE Asia.
Currently, a flight from LAX to Bangkok runs at a great value of $568 round-trip. In fact, this routing is less expensive than a flight to Roatan, Honduras which is $609 RT or even to Lihue, Kauai at $638 RT. If you prefer to fly an American based carrier, United now operates a nonstop route between San Francisco to Singapore.
4. Cultural Diversity and Preservation
Until recently, much of SE Asia was largely inaccessible to tourists. This preserved key landmarks and cultural destinations from becoming overly commercialized. It is still possible to travel to Siem Reap, Cambodia to tour the Temples of Angkor Wat without too many other tourists if you go a bit further out of town from the typical touristy temples. Be sure to go soon, as Siem Reap is ramping up the business of tourism. If you’re traveling to heavily visited areas in Thailand, it is still easy to get an authentic experience. As we always say, travel as a local. Veer away from tourist dense areas and shop and dine at a local’s market.
For more off the beaten track destinations, consider Laos, Myanmar, and the mountains of Vietnam. In these locations, travelers are able to fully immerse themselves into the culture. This includes tasting authentic local food and purchasing local handmade crafts.
5. Passport and Visa Requirements
It is fairly easy to travel to SE Asia holding a US passport. If Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, or Indonesia is the travel destination, a visa is not required. Travel to Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar require visas. A tourist visa to Cambodia is easy to purchase upon arrival at the airport, whereas Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar require travelers to apply for visas prior to arriving at the airport. As always, be sure to do your research and determine if there are changes to the required documents. Also, bring current passport size photos with you.
There is no better time to travel to SE Asia than the present. With the favorable exchange rate as well as relatively inexpensive prices of hotels, meals, and services, American travelers can get a lot of value for the money. Also, the options for flights have increased dramatically, making the overseas trek more affordable and easily accessible. If you are curious about SE Asia, go now while there is fantastic value to be had.
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