Plan a Southeast Asia Tour | Fun and Local | Asia Highlights

Plan a Southeast Asia Tour | Fun and Local | Asia Highlights

By Nora OuUpdated May. 14, 2021

Four Reasons Why a Southeast Asia Tour Should Be on Your Bucket List

Walk Under Umbrella Locals Walking on U Bridge, Mandalay, Myanmar

1. Traveling to Southeast Asia is easier than you think, as long as you plan it the right way

The impression that SE Asia is an isolated, laid-back and underprivileged region may discourage some, yet this beautiful region is now embracing modernity more than ever before.

Construction projects involving new highways, airports and hotel accommodation (with A/C and swimming pools) are daily underway. Service quality is not only a concern for those in hospitality but everywhere else as well. Compared to China, the language barrier seems to be in decline, for 'opening-up' is a widespread trend, and more and more use of English is encouraged.

Let's face it, however: a trip to such a vast region might be like driving a new car round an unfamiliar block. You need to figure out how to connect between different points, pass unexpected obstructions, prevent potential hazards and eventually end up safe and sound, contented and confident, back where you started.

All depends on how you plan the trip. An experienced travel agent like Asia Highlights has the know-how and clout to free you from hours of searching blindly on the internet and to ease you into a new destination via delightful surprises rather than dreadful suspense.

2. You can make your every penny count

Despite fluctuations in world markets, exchange rates have been friendly to western tourists in SE Asia. No matter whether you are looking for a luxurious stay with private swimming pool in Hoi An, or a simple standard room on Khao San Road in Bangkok, SE Asia is the right place to spend your money smartly and rewardingly.

While some SE Asian countries, such as Vietnam and Thailand, are constantly nominated as good value-for-money travel destinations, at Asia Highlights we'd recommend you forget the exchange rate for just a moment and broaden your horizons, because you know a good experience is not something on which you can put a price tag.

Having a catered picnic lunch in the woods of Angkor Wat, taking a small private boat along the Mekong River at sunset in Luang Prabang, or kicking back a martini at your private beachfront villa in Hoi An… none of these necessarily means you have to spend a fortune, provided you are in good hands. Our thorough study of your needs and budget, before integration of your trip components, delivers better value for your trip.

3.You can dodge the bigger crowds and soak up the authenticity of unexploited realms

SE Asia's easygoing introversion has protected it perfectly from excessive exposure, providing you with the perfect opportunity to see what's out there, and escape temporarily your more mundane everyday life.

Sure you might bump into a grocer playing Taylor Swift in Siem Reap, or meet two grandpas talking about the international oil price in Ho Chi Minh City, but the fact is that locals are content with and tend to hold onto their own way of life; and this is not likely to be altered by an influx of tourists, at least not in the short-term.

Or from another angle, you can be the beneficiary of cultural diversity. People in Myanmar devote their lives to building new pagodas as merit contributions; locals in Hanoi hang out at street-side cafés at noon of a Monday, instead of working at the office; monks in Luang Prabang march on the streets in the early mornings for daily food, come wind, come weather. All might seem bizarre at first. Once you get beyond frowning, however, such a different and dedicated lifestyle stimulates your mind and creates a better understanding of your own life.

It takes zest and flair to match up the untouched beauty with the comfort of SE Asia. Asia Highlights excels at this. Walk on untracked trails. Blend with the locals. After a trip to SE Asia, you'll return home renewed and rediscovered.

4.You can feel good about yourself, not only in touring but in giving back

As you step onto the Bangkok flight, are you conscious of traveling into someone else's life? You might be the first client your tour guide has ever served; you might witness a boat vendor on the Mekong Delta closing his first deal; your joke might make the day of a restaurant waiter. But people here are working their way to a better life, and there is more you can do to help than simply sharing a laugh.

Memories of a trip are comprised of little fragments. Why not make it even more rewarding? Dining at a training restaurant in Yangon that helps former street kids get proper training, drinking tea at a teahouse in Hoi An run by hearing-impaired locals, or stopping by a local bookstore in Luang Prabang that holds free book parties for village children, you will become directly engaged.

No fear of abusing your sympathy for charity at an orphanage (sad news is some orphangages in SE Asia have become a playact), or taking you shopping to an over-priced local workshop. Asia Highlights believes that the best way for everyone to benefit is to facilitate your meeting with those who will really benefit from meeting you.

Top Places to Travel in SE Asia

Top SE Asian Countries

1. Myanmar – Before it's too late!

Why Myanmar

Myanmar remains isolated compared to its neighbor Thailand, and this has served to preserve its charm. Longing for a better afterlife seems to be in the national psyche and nothing seems to matter more than building a new pagoda. Large areas of land remain unexploited and delightful encounters with exotic lifestyles await you. It's high time to get a taste of it – now – before bigger crowds pour in.


  • Tourist visas: These are valid for 28 days; no extensions. Overstaying costs 3 USD/day/person.
  • Visa-free: Regular passport holders of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Philippines, and Vietnam can travel for up to 28 days free of charge. Extensions are not allowed. Similarly, diplomatic/service passport holders of the above countries AND of Bangladesh, Belarus, China, India, North Korea, South Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, Russia, Singapore and Thailand can travel visa-free for up to 28 days. Extensions are allowed.
  • eVisas: eVisas are available for airport-entry via Yangon, Mandalay or Nap Pyi Taw, or overland-entry via Tachileik, Myawaddy or Kawthaung. Travelers must apply for eVisas online, print out and present approval letters along with their passports on arrival. The fee is 50 USD/person and processing approval letters may take 5-7 working days.
  • Visa-on-arrival: This is only available for entry by international cruise ship. The fee is USD 30/person and the visa is valid for 28 days.

2. Cambodia – More than just Angkor Wat

Why Cambodia

You may have been to countries with a long history like China, destinations full of attractions like Singapore, and locations where locals are hospitable and friendly like Thailand, but you will never find any other place quite like Cambodia. The tear-evoking history of the Khmer Rouge, the splendid art of Angkor Wat, the genuine kindness of the people, and the optimism derived from their faith. See with your own eyes and you can tell others you've experienced far more than just Angkor Wat.


  • Tourist visas are valid for 30 days. Extensions are allowed only once a month and up to 40 days in total. Overstaying costs 6 USD/day/person for the first 5 days and 30 USD/day/person for each subsequent day.
  • Visa-free: Regular passport holders of Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia can travel visa-free for up to 30 days. Similarly, diplomatic/service passport holders of these countries AND of Myanmar, Brunei, China, Hungary, India, North Korea, Peru, Russia and Iran can travel visa-free for up to 30 days.
  • Visa-on-arrival: Available to people from all countries except Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka and Sudan; available for entry at airports of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, checkpoints of Aranyprathet/Poipet (Thailand), Veun Kham/Dom Kralor (Laos), Bavet/Moc Bai (Vietnam), Cham Yeam (Thailand) and Chau Doc (Vietnam); USD 30/person.

3. Vietnam – First time, second time, always the best time

Why Vietnam

A perfect mishmash for a holiday, Vietnam has it all: a taste of the historic past in Hanoi, a relaxing cruise on Halong Bay, a beach break in Hoi An, Nha Trang or Phu Quoc Island, the maze-like river canals of the Mekong Delta. The food is also a highlight, besides the friendly people. Everyone can have a blast in Vietnam, but the privileged few traveling with an expert are more likely to leave with memories lasting a lifetime.


  • Tourist visas are valid for 30 days. Extensions are allowed only once a month and up to 40 days in total. Overstaying costs 6 USD/day/person for the first 5 days and 30 USD/day/person for subsequent days.
  • Visa-free: Regular passport holders of Belarus, Brunei, Cambodia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Norway, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand and the UK can travel visa-free for up to 30 days. Regular passport holders working on public affairs from China, Cuba and North Korea; diplomatic/official passport holders of France and Chile; and regular passport holders with APEC Business Travel Cards from Australia, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru and Taiwan can all travel visa-free for up to 30 days.
  • Visa-on-arrival: Available for all nationalities. First apply online for an approval letter. Receive the approval letter within 1-2 working days, with a service fee of USD 9-30/person. Bring the approval letter for visa-on-arrival at a fee of USD 25/person for 1-month single-entry or 3-month single-entry; USD 50/person for 1-month multiple-entry or 3-month multiple-entry.

When to Visit

With high temperatures all year round, a large part of SE Asia is influenced by tropical monsoons and has distinctive dry and rainy seasons. The following tables will give you some leads for when to travel to SE Asia.

weather data in 2017 of SE Asian Countries

Your Travel Style

SE Asia welcomes you no matter how you want to arrange your trip. Each travel style has its pros and cons.

Traveling in SE Asia on a private tour means

  • Discover your way Everything is designed to meet your own interests, needs and budget
  • FlexibilityYou have our full attention and every detail will be taken care of
  • Better experience:You have our full attention and every detail will be taken care of
  • Price compared to traveling independently You'll probably pay almost the same, but have your problems solved by us
  • Price compared to group tourYou'll probably pay a bit more

Traveling in SE Asia on a group tour means

  • Wallet-friendlySome group tours even include international flights
  • Easiest and fastestDecide your travel dates in just one heartbeat
  • Lack of flexibilityItinerary, dates, meals and hotel rooms are all fixed
  • Uncertain experienceHard to ensure you have fun, with possibility of rushed itinerary and lack of personal care

Traveling in SE Asia independently means

  • Learning and growingEnjoy the delights of actualizing your dreamed-of trip
  • Cultural conflictsWith no one introducing you, some things might seem weird
  • No cloutYou don't have access to an expert who knows the prices and destinations
  • Wasting timeHours, days or even weeks of searching, only to find it can all be done by an expert
  • Extra cautionPreparing yourself mentally and physically for potential hazards

Top Southeast Asia Tour Packages

Asia Highlights' most popular Asian tours

We present our most popular tours according to customers' choices over recent years. You can treat them as inspiration for your private travel and tailor them according to your requirements.

14-Day Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos Tour

14-Day Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos Tour

Sync with Indochina's Heartbeat
15-Day Central Asia Immersion of  Five Stans

15-Day Central Asia Immersion of Five Stans

Tour to Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan

Why Travel with Asia Highlights

  • Tailor-made experience: All of your ideas/needs will be carefully considered to create your ideal trip.
  • Worry-free planning: Every step of your trip, you will be looked after by your 1:1 travel consultant based in Asia.
  • No-risk booking: We refund as much as we can and adapt flexibly to unexpected changes.
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