During T3 we undertook a team based internship in Malaysia. We had the opportunity to spend 2 weeks working for a host organisation in Penang as well as undertaking some independent travel. The following is our ‘Top 5’ things you need to know when travelling South-East Asia:
Bring tissues with you everywhere
In the western world, we tend to take things for granted, and sometimes nothing can prepare us for the customs of another culture. When you think everyone in the world uses the same style of toilet as you, you thought wrong. Be prepared to use a squat pod in some places in Asia which are basically a hole in the ground surrounded by a porcelain bowl. The majority of these pods use a spray hose to wipe and do not have toilet paper either so it is so important to bring one with you wherever you go! You can never be too cautious!
Always buy bottled water
Drinking tap water is not an option unless you have the strongest immune system in the world so opting to drinking bottled water is the option. You should also be careful that if eating fresh fruits and vegetables that they are not washed with the local water. In cases that you are exposed to eating food washed from local water or happen to drink it (e.g. ice cubes) the best travel tip is to carry some Imodium or diarrhea tablets in the case of an upset stomach.
Taxis and tuk-tuks (shared taxis with no meters) usually rip foreigners off for their money and also cost more than the average local transportation. In comparison, the price could be doubled or even tripled so if using these daily, then you may have less spending money than you thought! A cheaper way that has become popular in Asia is using a GrabTaxi. It’s an application similar to Uber and you will find yourself saving money with the same (maybe better) services of a taxi!
Packing light is the way to go
Southeast Asia is hot all year round so don’t bother bringing fancy clothes and bring clothes you would wear in summer otherwise you will be sweating like crazy! Number one tip is to bring a pair of thongs as you will be wearing these everywhere! Pack light with singlets and shorts that you can mix and match around. Do consider local customs though and be prepared to cover-up as required. The extra space in your suitcase can be designated for all the cheap shopping items you will buy at night markets!
Almost everything is negotiable
Being a foreigner to Southeast Asian countries may mean that you have money to spend. When approaching markets with no price tag on the item then it is likely that the vendor will create a price higher for you so don’t be afraid to negotiate and bargain the price down to at least half of what they are asking. You will find that it is a little hard at first but practice makes perfect and you will most likely be able to negotiate a price to your liking in the end.
The students participating in the Malaysia Team Internship were supported via the New Colombo Plan. The New Colombo Plan mobility program is open to Australian Undergraduate students who wish to undertake work-based experiences in the Indo-Pacific region. The Program is part of the Australian Government’s aim to facilitate young people’s engagement in the region.
If you would like to learn more about the New Colombo Plan Scholarship Program, visit the Department of Foreign Affairs website.