Before I’m getting all into my travel stories I thought it would be a good start to talk about the planning phase, because it’s super important. I love planning! For me it is a huge part of the traveling itself and I believe that a good planning is always essential for having a great trip. So let’s see how I’ve planned my first visit to Asia!
Step 1. : Find your travel destination
There are usually two options when it comes to travel. Either you know the exact place you want to visit and you are flexible with the date or you have a specific date and you are searching for the right place to travel to. If the first option is valid for you, you should jump switch up Step 2 with Step 3!
Since we had some nice long weekends in the end of October it was the second option for us. This way we could have a 16 days long holiday with using only 6 days from our personal vacation days. Sounds awesome, right?
I’ve never been to Asia before so I was sure I wanted to start looking in that direction. But let me tell you something: October is not the best time for visiting Asia (Southeast Asia in particular) because the weather is very mixed-up. Most of the popular places are already in the rainy season and on top of that, I wanted to visit something easier first. And by easier I mean something more touristy to avoid the huge culture shock.
It gave me a really hard time finding the best place. After I’ve been through countless weather reports it turned out that the rainy season only starts in November in Bali. That means if we are lucky enough, the weather can still be good in the end of October. We’ve all seen the incredible photos of Bali all over Instagram, so there was no question left. We are going to Bali!
Step 2. : Find the best flight ticket
My favourite website is Skyscanner when it comes to flight tickets. I usually check many variable options: first I check the direct routes, then I check all the nearby airports both for departures and arrivals. Most of the time you can find cheaper tickets if you are a bit flexible with your locations!
I managed to find a reasonably priced flight ticket between Budapest and Singapore. Since I wanted to visit Singapore anyway, it was a really good starting point. There are a lot of budget airline with cheap flight tickets if you wanna fly between Asian countries. Because of that, we decided to add another stop to our journey: Kuala Lumpur!
In the end I booked a return ticket from Budapest to Singapore, then a one-way ticket from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, another one from Kuala Lumpur to Bali, and one more from Bali to Singapore. Believe it or not, having all of these tickets were still cheaper than buying a return ticket to Bali directly. Not to mention that this way we could have visited three places instead of one!
Step 3. : Things to check before booking your flight
Already found the perfect flight ticket? That’s amazing, but stop for a second! There are some things you need to check before actually booking your flight.
Always check your passport before booking anything! You need to have a valid passport that will remain valid for at least six months after the end of your trip. Also make sure that you have enough free space for visas and your passport is in good condition in general.
Check if you need a visa for entering your dream destination! There are some countries in Asia where you can enter visa-free, but there are some others where you need to obtain for a visa. Sometimes you can get it at the airports but there are some cases when you need to apply in advance. Make sure you have enough time for the approval process!
There are no officially required vaccinations in Asia so it’s totally up to you if you want to immunize yourself or not. However, keep in mind that some vaccinations require a series of shots spread across months to achieve complete immunity. In this case you need to start the vaccination process well ahead of time.
Check the weather reports carefully! As I said before, the weather in Asia can be really tricky and it can easily ruin your dream holiday. Make sure you don’t pick the monsoon season for your travels unless you love watching the pouring rain from your hotel window all day long..
Get an overview about the hotels and apartments, especially the price ranges. It happened to me that I booked a really cheap flight ticket and I was so proud of myself until I checked the prices of the hotels.. Ouch. If you already have your flight ticket there is nothing you can do at this point, so make sure to get a good picture in advance! This step is not about actually booking hotels, just about getting a feel of how expensive a place will be.
Step 4. : Plan your itinerary
Now that you have taken care of your flight ticket and all the necessary checkpoints, it’s time to actually plan your itinerary! I’m an avid planner myself and I live by the saying: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”.
I have a huge fear or missing out (FOMO) so I always wanna be everywhere and see everything. Clearly when you have a limited time, this is not possible, but with a good planning you can easily maximize your time and have the best trip ever!
If you don’t feel like planning at all, you can easily just skip this point and travel with the flow. There are lots advantages of being this flexible and it works really well if you’re on a long-term trip. But if you have only a short period of time as I usually do, I strongly advise you to plan your itinerary in advance, at least the bigger parts.
- Collect all the spots you wanna visit and make a list of them. There are many different sources for inspiration: travel blogs, Instagram, Tripadvisor, just to name a few.
- While you are searching for the must-see places, you should also make notes about the opening times and how much time do you need at each location.
- Prioritize your list. Put a star right next to the places you really, really wanna see. Chances are you will have to drop some items from your list if you won’t have enough time to see them all, this will ease your decision.
- If you are done with your list, open your Google maps, create a list for your destination and save all the places there. (Check out this article if you don’t know how to do that.) If you are a visual person like me you will love this! But even if you’re not, it’s still really useful to see how far those places are from each other so you can be realistic about your plans.
You know exactly how many days you will have on your trip, so now it’s time to decide what you wanna do each day. I usually try to plan 1 or 2 major sights on a day and then add all the minor ones nearby. How many sights you can pack into a day, it totally depends on you. Just be aware of the opening times, and make sure to allow some time for transportation between locations.
Step 5. : Choose your bases
While having one base for the entire trip sounds easy and hassle free and it might work really well if you’re only visiting a single city, but if you’re planning to visit a bigger area I recommend choosing multiple bases during your stay. Try to plan your stays according to your daily itinerary to cut down on transit time so you can have more time for the fun activities.
Picking a hotel in an unfamiliar destination can feel like a gamble, especially in Asia. That’s where reviews come in handy! I usually use Booking.com or AirBnB on my trips and I always read a ton of reviews before I book anything.
Location is the most important factor for me but I also like to feel comfortable when I get back after a busy day of exploring. I never aim for the cheapest options, I always try to get the best value for my money. Usually I don’t spend much time at the place anyway, so most of the time I book middle-range accommodations which suites all the above requirements.
But if I know I will have some time to relax then I always try to squeeze in some luxury treatments as well. In this case my best strategy is to book 1 or 2 nights at a really nice place and cut down the budget a bit on the other ones.
This way it won’t hurt my overall budget that much but I still get to experience all the amazing services a luxury hotel can offer. That’s what I call a win-win!
Step 6. : Getting around
Transportation in Asia can be really overwhelming as it often seems chaotic, especially compared to the European and American standards. To save yourself from the hassle, the best thing to do is think in advance.
While the bigger cities like Singapore or Kuala Lumpur have a decent public transportation system, there is no such thing in Bali. The cheapest and most popular way of transportation is renting a scooter. However, if you don’t have an experience in scooter riding I wouldn’t recommend it.
Cars, scooters, chickens, dogs, all sharing the same lane and they are coming from every direction possible. No matter where you go in Bali, the streets are always full with scooters and the roads are often in a really bad condition. Scooter accidents are not exceptional, and trust me, you don’t want to spend your holiday lying in the hospital (if there’s any).
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against scooters at all. I’m just saying you have to be really, really prepared and have a ton of experience before trying to get around this way.
Since we never rode a scooter before I opted for another (and much safer) way of transportation. I decided to hire a private driver. Best decision ever! Yes, it was more expensive than having a scooter, but it took away all the stress from our trip since we could arrange everything with our driver well in advance. He helped us putting together our itinerary so we could arrive to Bali with everything already taken care of.
Step 7. : Enjoy your trip
After you’re done with your detailed planning there is only one thing left to do: count down the days and enjoy your trip to the fullest! You did an amazing job planning your holiday, so I’m sure you will have the best time ever!