As expected, we did loads of research and loads of website trawling in order to find the best and cheapest flights for us. Based on this we can bring you the following tips:-
- Book ASAP! We booked mid June for November/March flights (as early as possible). A week after booking, (still June), the flights had gone up £50!!!!
- If you go for >3 months then you miss out on some deals
- The Internet is the cheapest place to book – even branches of some websites are more expensive than their website. So chat in the shop first, get the advice, then book online.
- Use your credit card for booking even if small surcharge – the insurance with it is worth it.
- Look at flight times carefully – ours stop in Bombay and some of the flights have 1.5hr wait at Bombay, some 15 hours!!
- Look at the arrival time of your flight – some arrive so late that finding accommodation will be a problem.
We booked with StaTravel who also have highstreet branches with VERY knowledgable people who have all been on similar long haul backpacking trips. We paid £506 return Heathrow LHR to Bangkok BKK. Arriving in Bangkok 8am ish so loads of time to sort a hotel, and arriving back in UK in the morning meaning an easy day to get back to home.
Booking in advance also means you can get a cheap travel-lodge room at Heathrow for £19, where you can get the “hopper” bus (£4.50 each) to the terminal.
RTW flights vs Direct
We were originally looking at a Round-the-world flight ticket, but decided to focus this trip on one area, so RTW wasn’t the right option. Internal flights in SE Asia are fairly cheap so we’ll blag any flights we need when we are there.
We were looking at insurance and interestingly our current insurance seems suitable! We have a Nationwide Flex account and get free European 30 day travel insurance. We’ve upgraded it already to 180 day trip length (+£200), but they will extend it to world-wide for £20. This insurance gives all the necessary health and repatriation and does include things like boating and elephant rides. Much cheaper than any other option and would suggest you check out Nationwide if you have an account.
Visas are complex and a pain in the bum – but you have no choice. Here is what we are going to do:-
TOP TIP: You need to take a few passport photos with you for each crossing, so 8+ of you in total. A photo booth charges £5 for 4. If you take your own photo and use ePassportPhoto http://www.epassportphoto.com/Wizard.aspx?country=GB&photo=0 – then you their online tool will size/position your photo for you and create a downloadable .JPG photo with your pics on. (Just click “no thanks” when it gives you a price, and just download). Ous only had 4x on, but a quick mod in a paint program made 8 pics per sheet. Then simply copy to a USB disk and print off at Boots for £25p! So 16x photos each, would have cost £40 at a photo booth actually cost us £1 🙂
Thailand visas are quite complicated. You can get a Visa on arrival if you want, but this is valid for 30 days only if you fly in. Also, the rules say (and they may check) – you need evidence of onward travel within the visa timeframe which we won’t have (as we fly out after 120 days ). As such, Thailand may not let you in, and as such, the airline may not let you in!
Also, the 2nd part of our trip requires entry via a land crossing, and you only get 14 or 15 days entry over a land border – and we expect we will need more.
Our solution is to buy in advance a double entry tourist visa from the Thai Consulate in Hull. This allows us to enter Thailand twice and have up to 60 days on each entry which is fine for us and we need to to this a month before we go. These are currently £56 + £10 postage each.
Probably visa-on-arrival type approach at the border…
eVisa can be purchased 30 days in advance on line, and you then jut need to print it off and take it with you – see http://www.mfaic.gov.kh/evisa/
To be researched and added laer
We found so much information on the web that by the time you see your travel nurse you know 10x more than they do! We had top ups and fresh vaccines for the following:-
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
We are going to use to use doxycycline anti-Malaria pills. These need a £10 private prescription from your travel clinic, and 150 days work cost only £9. So cheap, and the Mosquitos in the areas we are going are not imune to Doxy.
As we aren’t going “that far” off the beaten track, we’ve opted not to have the Rabies vaccines. These would cost >£300 for us both and in effect only offer an extra day of protection. Worst case, we could get a cab from wherever we are to a hospital, or even fly to a medical centre for less money – and in fact you still need to do that regardless of vaccine… If we were going for long hikes into nowhere then we’d reconsider.