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Related Experiences : Transportation in Southeast Asia

01 July 2015 | by ASEAN Tourism

Transportation in Southeast Asia - a Guide for Traveling Seniors

KLIA2 Airport, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Image © Fabio Achilli/Creative Commons

When traveling into Southeast Asia, what are your options? Compared to traveling to Europe or North America, Southeast Asia's terrain is completely different. More than half of the region's citizens live along the coast or on islands separated from the mainland. Road and rail travel, while not impossible, is not optimal if you need both comfort and speed.

The upside is this: Southeast Asia is also a hotbed for budget airlines. Air travel in Southeast Asia is only slightly more expensive than intercity bus travel, if booked early enough! Cruise companies - particularly new river cruise upstarts steaming down the Irrawaddy and Mekong Rivers - are also gaining headway in the region, providing new luxury travel options for traveling seniors.

So what's in store for you when traveling into and through Southeast Asia? Consider these travel options:

Airline Travel

Unlike travel in rail-knit Europe or highway-lined North America, cross-border travel in Southeast Asia is hampered by the region's underdeveloped road and railway network. To complicate matters, archipelagic countries like Indonesia and the Philippines cannot be reached by car from the mainland. That leaves air travel as the only way to go, when traveling across multiple destinations in Southeast Asia.

You'll likely fly into Southeast Asia through one of the region's main international flight hubs: Singapore's Changi Airport; Bangkok, Thailand's Suvarnabhumi Airport; and Hong Kong International Airport. From these hubs, you can fly throughout the region on one of Southeast Asia's many low-cost carriers, or LCCs - budget airlines that cost a fraction of what typical airlines charge per seat. (A handy tip: the earlier you book, the better the price. Last-minute bookings cost as much as full-service airline flight.)

Whether you fly full-service or budget, make sure to specify aisle seats or emergency row seats to maximize legroom and minimize cramping or deep-vein thrombosis (a real risk for traveling seniors

KLIA2 Airport, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Image © Fabio Achilli/Creative Commons

When traveling into Southeast Asia, what are your options? Compared to traveling to Europe or North America, Southeast Asia's terrain is completely different. More than half of the region's citizens live along the coast or on islands separated from the mainland. Road and rail travel, while not impossible, is not optimal if you need both comfort and speed.

The upside is this: Southeast Asia is also a hotbed for budget airlines. Air travel in Southeast Asia is only slightly more expensive than intercity bus travel, if booked early enough! Cruise companies - particularly new river cruise upstarts steaming down the Irrawaddy and Mekong Rivers - are also gaining headway in the region, providing new luxury travel options for traveling seniors.

So what's in store for you when traveling into and through Southeast Asia? Consider these travel options:

Airline Travel

Unlike travel in rail-knit Europe or highway-lined North America, cross-border travel in Southeast Asia is hampered by the region's underdeveloped road and railway network. To complicate matters, archipelagic countries like Indonesia and the Philippines cannot be reached by car from the mainland. That leaves air travel as the only way to go, when traveling across multiple destinations in Southeast Asia.

You'll likely fly into Southeast Asia through one of the region's main international flight hubs: Singapore's Changi Airport; Bangkok, Thailand's Suvarnabhumi Airport; and Hong Kong International Airport. From these hubs, you can fly throughout the region on one of Southeast Asia's many low-cost carriers, or LCCs - budget airlines that cost a fraction of what typical airlines charge per seat. (A handy tip: the earlier you book, the better the price. Last-minute bookings cost as much as full-service airline flight.)

Whether you fly full-service or budget, make sure to specify aisle seats or emergency row seats to maximize legroom and minimize cramping or deep-vein thrombosis (a real risk for traveling seniors).

Bus headed to Singapore. Image © Nicolas Lannuzel / Creative Commons

Bus travel

Cross-border bus travel in Southeast Asia is limited to a few key routes and takes longer to complete, but remains a comfortable budget alternative to airlines nonetheless.

A well-developed highway corridor spans the gap between Singapore and Bangkok in Thailand. From Singapore, visitors can travel by bus from Singapore to key cities in Malaysia (including Malacca, Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh and Penang) or go all the way up to Bangkok in Thailand.  

Bangkok is another key bus transport hub, allowing overland travel by bus to Vientiane in Laos and Siem Reap in Cambodia. Travelers in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam can take a very well-worn tourist bus route to and from Phnom Penh as well.

Bus travel is more popular as an intercity transport alternative to air travel. Online booking sites for bus routes have made the process even easier, accepting international credit cards and PayPal for almost instant access to tickets. Cambodia has Camboticket.com; the Philippines has Pinoytravel.com.ph; for Myanmar, it's MyanmarBusTicket.com; and for Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, visitors can book via Easybook.com.

Cruises

Travelers can choose between two kinds of cruise experience in Southeast Asia. The traditional ocean cruise lends itself to Southeast Asia's islands and coastal areas, but a growing number of river cruise experiences takes travelers deep inland along Southeast Asia's most prominent rivers, the Irrawaddy in Myanmar and the Mekong that flows through Cambodia and Vietnam.

The Singapore Cruise Centre is the region's main port for ocean cruises. Cruises departing from here visit ports of call in Melaka, Malaysia; Bali, Indonesia; and Phuket, Thailand. River cruises depart from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam (for Mekong cruises) or from Yangon, Myanmar (for Irrawaddy cruises).

 



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