The Buffalo Tours’ team is full of seasoned travellers, destination experts and professed food fanatics – but noone knows travel and tours in Southeast Asia quite like our tour guides. That’s why, when it comes to the travel basics, we go to our on-the-ground travel experts. Thankfully, we have a whole team of them!
This time around in our Tips from a Tour Guide series, we talked to our top Vietnam tour guide Nguyen Minh Thang who’s spent 10 years exploring Southeast Asia alongside our guests. From rural homestays to city excursions, Thang has the scoop on how to make the most out of every travel style. This time around, we asked him what he thinks are the top 5 things pack for our Highlights tours, and why they’re a suitcase necessity!
1. Trekking Boots
“Our highlights tours are designed to showcase the authentic culture of the country, which means they often go off of the beaten track and into more rural areas,” says Thang. “That means you need to have comfortable shoes that you can hike or trek in.”
He recommends bringing any trekking gear you might need in less-developed areas, with your shoes the most important element. This is especially important for homestay tours, he says, since the trade-off for experiencing the lifestyle of a local family is often the creature comforts of a hotel. “Sometimes you will have limited lighting, so a torch or a headlamp is also a good idea.”
“This is the item that is most asked for by our clients,” Thang says. “Most European countries have three-prong sockets, but in Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries, we usually only have two.”
Although it’s often easy to plug things in for a charge in bigger cities and towns, finding adapters once you’re travelling can be a pain. “Buy this in your home country to save lots of time and frustration, and you can make sure to find adapters that are dual wattage to protect from power surges,” he says. Although this one is an important item to stash in your suitcase, Thang also says that the Buffalo team is happy to help you find an adapter once you’ve arrived if it slipped your mind!
3. A Light Jacket
“Even though most of Southeast Asia has a tropical climate during the summer, some parts of the region can get very cold in other times of the year,” says Thang. “Especially in the evening after the sun goes down, sometimes it can be colder than you would expect, so a light jacket that isn’t heavy and is easy to pack will help you stay comfortable no matter where you travel.”
But more than just protection against dropping temperatures, light jackets are great for protection against the elements in general. “Long trousers and light jackets are good for protection against insects and direct sunlight, and very handy for visits to pagodas and religious sights.” As a warning, Thang adds: “Southeast Asia rains throughout the year, so make it a waterproof jacket for even better protection.”
4. Plastic/Waterproof Bags
“If you are travelling in Southeast Asia on a highlights tour, you’re going to face some water,” says Thang. “With often unpredictable heavy rain and changes in weather, it’s a good idea to have plastic bags – even sandwich bags – to protect your electronics like phones and cameras from moisture.”
That extends to other bags, too, especially small daypacks you might bring on a day tour around a city or a kayaking or boat trip. “Our highlights trips have a lot of different activities, but plenty of them take place outside or require transfers outdoors. Having plenty of things to keep your electronics safe is a good idea even if you don’t have many adventure activities planned.”
5. Re-hydration Salts/Energy Supplements
“We don’t usually have very strenuous activities on our Highlights tours unless our clients specifically ask for them, but Southeast Asia is sometimes hot and sunny,” says Thang, adding: “If you bring re-hydration salts like Oresol or energy supplements and snacks to regain energy, this will help you stay hydrated and energetic even if you’re sweating.”
These supplements aren’t just useful for strenuous activity. They’re also great for your health along your trip, too. “Some of these salts are also good if you get a bit of traveller’s tummy,” says Thang, reminding that even though all of that street food is delicious, it can sometimes take a bit of adjustment, and things like Oresol can help.
Ready for an excuse to pack your bags and head to Southeast Asia? Check out our Highlights Tours to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar (Burma) and explore the very best of the region!