When travelling, not everything can always go smoothly. Almost every Southeast Asia traveler has experienced illnesses or rip -offs. With a little preparation, you might be able to avoid one or the other problem, but sometimes it’s just bad luck.
Illnesses, rip-offs, accidents: Scenarios that can spoil your Southeast Asia trip
Today we present you 10 scenarios or cases that can go wrong on your journey. Problems or even horror scenarios that could well happen. Of course, this article is not intended to make you panic or prevent you from traveling, but rather to prepare you for possible problems.
Some of these things have happened to us ourselves and while there isn’t always a one-size-fits-all solution, in some cases you can prevent or help yourself. In general, however, it helps if you look up the most important travel information about the destination country in advance. They give you a good overview of recommended vaccinations, travel regulations and valuable tips for your stay.
1. Lost luggage
The first problem can ruin the first few days of your trip, fortunately it happens relatively rarely depending on the airline. I too have had the pleasure of flying to Jakarta before. After a long flight you are standing at the baggage carousel and are glad to take the next taxi to your hotel. But your suitcase, backpack or travel bag is not there. Baggage gone?!
No panic. The first thing you should do is look around. Just because the suitcase isn’t on the now empty baggage carousel doesn’t mean it’s lost. Sometimes, if immigration takes a little longer (e.g. at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok), uncollected suitcases are placed next to the baggage carousel by the airport staff to make room for the next flight.
If your luggage is not there either, you should go immediately to the Lost & Found Office of the airport or your airline, where you will report your loss and describe your luggage in as much detail as possible. It should then usually reappear after 1-3 days .
Of course, the airline will cover the costs of bringing it to your current destination. Until then, depending on the airline, you have a flat rate that you can spend per day without luggage, for example to buy new clothes or cosmetics (be sure to keep the receipts). But before you buy too much, do some research with your airline.
You can find more detailed information on this topic in our article on lost luggage on the flight .
2. Gastrointestinal problems
It can happen quickly, especially in tropical regions: you ate or drank something wrong and shortly afterwards you get gastrointestinal problems. This can range from mild diarrhea to severe stomach cramps. Gastrointestinal problems can quickly spoil your vacation, as you often have to suffer from it for several days.
As with many diseases, the simplest solution is clearly prevention . Basically, however, we can say that the many Asian food stalls, markets and other stalls are much more hygienic than you might think. In more than 4 ½ years of traveling and living in Southeast Asia, Tobi and I can count our gastrointestinal diseases on one hand.
Wash your hands frequently, do not drink tap water, be careful with ice cream, salad, raw vegetables, fish and seafood, protect your immune system. People often warn about ice cubes , but the truth is that most cookshops use ice cubes made from drinking water. At least that’s how it is in Thailand. It is often a myth that ice cubes are made from tap water, since the shop owners in Thailand buy the ice cubes pre-packaged and do not make them themselves. Exceptions are of course always possible. We eat almost exclusively where the locals eat and always use ice in our drink. So far we have never had problems with ice cubes – ever!
By the way, as a little info by the way: According to an article in Süddeutsche , traveler’s diarrhea is more common in higher-class than in middle-class hotels. Does that also apply to restaurants and food stalls?
Of course, it is also important to have a good travel first-aid kit with diarrhea medication . We always take charcoal tablets with us, which you can buy in any pharmacy in this country. Otherwise, you can also find medicine in every tourist location throughout Southeast Asia, whether in supermarkets, pharmacies or in 7-Elevens or other convenience stores.
3. Dengue and Malaria
Dengue fever is unfortunately present throughout Southeast Asia. The fever is transmitted by the diurnal tiger mosquito , among other things , and in extreme cases the disease can put you out of action for several weeks or at least weaken you for weeks. The deadly disease malaria also occurs in some parts of Southeast Asia. It is also transmitted by mosquitoes.
Here, too, prevention applies: It is best not to let mosquitoes bite you at all . Simply put, it’s not always that easy when you’re out and about. Especially in jungle-like and humid areas there are many mosquitoes against which you should protect yourself carefully .
Wear light, long and light-colored clothing if possible . Dark colors are more likely to attract mosquitoes. Of course, you should always apply a good mosquito spray . You don’t necessarily have to bring it with you from Germany, because you can buy mosquito spray everywhere.
Air-conditioned accommodations are significantly safer from mosquitoes than fan-cooled rooms, where the window is often left open. However, most fan rooms have mosquito nets already installed and you don’t need to take them with you on a trip. 90% of the time you won’t need them.
If you suddenly have signs of the flu , go to a doctor immediately and have yourself examined. It could be both dengue and malaria. Even though it might just be the flu, you can never be too careful. The medical costs , which you have to pay in advance in all Southeast Asian countries, will be reimbursed by your insurance company after the trip.
4. Other diseases
In addition to dengue and malaria, there are a number of other diseases in Southeast Asian countries. You should be aware that before a trip you have to be vaccinated against the most important diseases (consult a tropical medicine specialist). Refreshing the standard vaccinations is mandatory, as is specific information about the travel destination. This is also mandatory in very busy countries such as Thailand, since infections with contagious diseases can also occur there. But I would like to go into one of these diseases in particular: rabies , which is transmitted by street dogs and wild monkeys.
You can get vaccinated against rabies, but you don’t have to. Tobi and I have been vaccinated against it ourselves, but we also know travelers who don’t want to know anything about a rabies vaccination. The vaccination does not protect you from a doctor’s visit if you are bitten .
In Southeast Asia there are often street dogs on the move, especially in Thailand we meet many dogs. In the Muslim countries like Indonesia (except Bali) or Malaysia , on the other hand, you will see significantly fewer street dogs if you pay attention. Even if there are a few aggressive dogs, most of the four-legged friends we met are absolutely nice and trusting – sometimes even rather fearful. No sign of rabies. The best example is probably the “7-Eleven dogs” known in Thailand. Nevertheless, you should always be careful when petting dogs and approach them rather slowly.
Monkeys can also transmit rabies or other diseases. As cute as the monkeys are in Bali’s or Lombok’s Monkey Forest , on Koh Phi Phi’s Monkey Beach or in the Malaysian jungle. Never forget that these are wild animals whose behavior and expressions are completely different from ours. A “laughing” monkey is anything but friendly or cheerful. A monkey bite can be painful and have a bad outcome, but fortunately it is harmless in most cases. Nevertheless, as with a dog bite, you should see a doctor immediately.
5. Rip off
There are tourist rip-offs all over the world. In Southeast Asia, too, the list of rip-offs is very long and some of them are admittedly very creative. From the classics like seemingly cheap tuk-tuk tours, “Buddha Day” at the Bangkok Royal Palace, rip-off taxis and allegedly damaged rental scooters, there are a number of other scams that are much less obvious.
There is no blanket solution against rip-offs here. However, like everywhere else in the world, you should always act with common sense on your Southeast Asia trip . Don’t trust anyone too much, especially when money is involved, but don’t be overly dismissive or overly cautious either. When it comes to prices , always ask other travelers or locals beforehand and find out beforehand. Talk to other travelers a lot, either online or on site.
A list of common scams in Southeast Asia can be found here . Of course, not all of them are.
If you realize that you’ve just been ripped off, don’t get too upset and just keep enjoying the time. You can’t undo it anyway and take the positive from it because you just learned something. Make the best of it and warn other travelers and backpackers – that’s all you can do.
6. Road traffic accidents
Although road accidents happen all over the world, the number of fatal road accidents is much higher, especially in countries like Thailand. Most often the victims are scooter riders . The reasons are different, but novice drivers often make mistakes because they don’t know the traffic or don’t have their scooter under control properly. Alcohol is often involved in this.
Of course you don’t want to risk an accident, so you should ask yourself the following questions before renting a scooter: “Can I really drive a scooter safely and am I aware of the traffic situation?”. This applies in principle to all countries in Southeast Asia.
The fact that you have a valid driver’s license and should always drive with a helmet needs no further explanation. While the truth is that most rental companies won’t ask you for a driver’s license, that doesn’t mean you can just start driving. What else you should pay attention to in Thailand, for example, we show you here in our article on scooter rentals in Thailand .
There are many factors to consider when riding a scooter in Asia. In addition to a driver’s license and helmet, this also includes driving with foresight, not drinking alcohol and, above all, not speeding and not overestimating yourself! We often see backpackers rent a scooter and think it’s a little travel adventure – even though they’ve never been on 2 wheels before. It is happily raced, overtaken and honked. Such an adventure race often ends up in the hospital.
Of course, it can also happen that you yourself have no influence on a possible accident. It is therefore important to drive with foresight, always be alert, always observe the traffic situation and, if in doubt, always give way to larger vehicles (note that traffic rules have little meaning in most Asian countries ). Always watch out for the roadside . It has happened to me myself that a confused dog suddenly ran out onto the street and almost into my scooter. Unfortunately, years of driving experience don’t help with something like this.
7. Money problems
A scenario that no one would wish for (especially on a long-term trip): suddenly running out of money . This can happen, for example, if you are the victim of a theft or fraud, are mugged or just haphazardly squandered your money.
We recommend that you always have enough money on your credit card. It’s also a good idea to have a 2nd credit card with enough funds in case the first is lost or stolen. In the event of a loss, you should definitely have your bank number ready to block it immediately. Always be careful when withdrawing amounts from the ATM multiple times, otherwise your bank may block the credit card for security reasons . You should also let the bank know before you travel so that they know that you are withdrawing money abroad yourself and they may not be misused.
In addition to credit cards, we also recommend that you always have some cash of 100-200 euros or US dollars with you and always keep it for emergencies. Of course, such important documents and amounts of money do not belong in your luggage – that goes without saying.
Plan a daily budget for your trip that you don’t exceed if possible and always keep an eye on the budget. Even make notes in a pinch, so you always know how much you spent.
If the worst case occurs and you really don’t have any more money, then have your parents or relatives send you money via Western Union etc. (which you may have even left with them beforehand for such cases). Even if the fees are immense, you have the money ready in an emergency and can pick it up in many Western Union branches or 7-Elevens.
There is crime in every country, including Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, etc. Mugging or theft can happen anywhere – whether you’re just being careless or just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Baggage thefts do happen from time to time in Asia, especially in coaches or hostels. As already mentioned in point 7, you should always carry cash and important documents with you and never keep them in your luggage. The same applies to technology such as a photo camera, laptop, GoPro, etc. If you have a hotel room with a safe, you should always keep everything there – although safes are never really 100% secure.
In some places in Southeast Asia there are the so-called “Snatch Thieves” . A motorcyclist and an accomplice sitting in the back look for victims who openly reveal their cell phone, camera or purse or do not hold them properly. If the victim doesn’t suspect anything, they’ll come up behind them and snatch the object from their hands, then flee at full speed. The situation in Vietnam or the Philippines is said to be particularly bad – but to be honest, we never really felt unsafe in Ho Chi Minh City , for example. Nevertheless, you should always pay attention and never carry your technical items towards the street.
Unfortunately, terrorism has become a topic that you will probably also think about before or during your trip these days. There have been a number of terrorist attacks in Southeast Asia in recent years, including Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.
There is no solution to terrorism unless you lock yourself in and don’t leave your home. But you want to travel and see something of the world. Even if unfortunately nothing helps if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, terrorism should never stop you from traveling. While you should always use common sense , over-cautious or even fearful is certainly not the solution either. The world is just too beautiful for that.
There are quite a few areas with an increased risk of terrorism, including Narathiwat , Yala and Pattani in deep southern Thailand or Zamboanga , Mindanao and other places in the Philippines. But even on Bali or Koh Samui you are never 100% safe, just like in Berlin, London or Paris. But would you never visit European cities again because of that? Honestly, I now feel safer in many places in Southeast Asia than in many major European cities.
Nevertheless, it is never a bad idea to do some thorough research before traveling to Southeast Asia, for example on the website of the Federal Foreign Office .
A problem that many long-term travelers and backpackers have: They overstay their visa and often don’t even realize it. When you leave, the trouble comes. Depending on how long you have overstayed the visa, the so-called overstay can be quite expensive. In extreme cases – depending on the country – even harsher penalties cannot be ruled out.
Always keep an eye on your visa and plan ahead! This even starts at the border control, where you check your stamp in your passport to be on the safe side . Even a border guard can make a mistake.
If the departure date is correct, then make a note of it. It is also important to note that in some countries the visa is valid for 30 or 60 days and not for 1 or 2 months ! Sometimes that’s 31 or 61-62 days, so you would have at least one day overstay. In Thailand, this would already cost you 500 baht and it becomes particularly tricky if you want to re-enter the country later. In severe cases of overstays, you could be refused re-entry.
If you want to leave a small island and take a long-haul flight the next day or simply have to leave the country, then it might even make sense to allow yourself a day’s buffer . Especially in the rainy season, storms can occur that bring boat traffic to a standstill. This has already happened , for example, on the Gili Islands .
Even with visa extensions , you always have to take public holidays into account. It has happened that travelers to Indonesia have overstayed their visas because the immigration offices were closed during the fasting month of Ramadan .