Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Budget Travel tips to South East Asia - Singapore/ Malaysia,Cambodia etc.

How to go to South- East Asia etc cheaply from India?

a. First make your passport.

b. Buy ticket with the help of :

Portals :

cleartrip.com or
http://www.cosmos.com/Vacations/ (for European tours) or
or directly through Low cost airlines(LCC)/ cheap airlines :
@@ Some of the places you cannot go from India (you have to use LCC Kuala Lumpur). E.g. you cannot buy ticket to say Indonesia from Calcutta, through Tiger airlines.

C 1A. Apply for visa - for Singapore ( IT CAN BE DONE ONLY THROUGH AN AGENT)
I.   2 photos - 3.5  * 4.5 cm - 80% of face appearance (in white background only  ,
II. 6 month Bank statements
III. Identity card of office- for office goers (not required for retired person)
IV. For self employed, you need to show a visiting card
IV. Duly filled up and signed visa form -
That's all, though Singapore is neither Visa free nor Visa for arrival (VOA) for Indians. Right now it is free for Thailand. However it is VOA for Cambodia and Indonesia.
You can see the following useful portal for visa info:
http://www.evisaasia.com/visa-requirement-english/tourist-visa-requirements-for-india-citizens-in-english/ or


C 2. Apply for travel insurance (call Deb at 9088 2040 12 at Kolkata)

C 3. Apply for forex : You should buy hard currency ($) and also have travel card.

Travel card is cheaper. Every time you load it with Indian rupee , they(banker like Axis bank, HDFC etc) will take Rs 165 (Rs 150 + service tax) as loading charges and if you return from your tour then, again, you have to pay around Rs 113 (Rs 100 + service tax) to surrender the card and get back the money. What is good about Travel card is that, it will be cheaper e.g. if the banker sells you dollar at 45.90 , then for travel card they will sell you at (say) 45.10.

Documents required for applying travel card and hard currency are :
Visa copy, E ticket copy, Pan card copy and Passport copy (If your passport is not having current address, then you need to give last 3 months bank's statement).

1. You need to fill up form A2

2. For travel card you have to fill up a form - which can be downloaded from the site of Axis bank (http://www.axisbank.com/personal/cards/travelcurrencycard/Travel-Currency-Card.asp).
For this you don't need to have a bank account with Axis bank.
You can contact Debabrata Panja, 9830 44 22 37 of Axis bank ( for Travel card and forex) who is very helpful and will do the needful for you at your doorstep.

C4 For hostels

Best is http://www.hotelscombined.com for comparison of hotels across various sites

use either Hostel World (http://www.hostelworld.com/) or 
Hostelling International (http://www.hihostels.com/) or

I have used http://www.hostelworld.com , hostelbookers.com and 

For insurance, try World Nomads (http://www.worldnomads.com/), probably the cheapest.

C 1B  Apply for visa - for Malaysia

There is departure tax at airport , normally it is included in the air ticket (in my case - AirAsia)
Same as above

** sometimes it is cheaper to go to Singapore via Malaysia/Bnagkok by Air asia. i.e get a ticket upto Malaysia and catch another flight to go to Singapore from Malaysia(or take a ktmb train from KL to Singapore for Rs 300/450 - cheapest one : 3 different timings, early morning, after noon & overnight.
Train No.
Train Name
Direct Train
Direct Train
Direct Train

Its 6 hours journey by train or there is bus service also. I have booked ticket on-line fromwww.ktmb.com.my

You can try 15-20 days prior to your travel date. I have booked it 15 days before the journey date.
The trains are usually full on weekends. They are good for the cheap & best travel option. KTMB operates 3 trains a day from Sentral KualaLumpur to Singapore.)


Just walk into any KTM train station and buy your ticket (in this case it's the Tanjong Pagar station)
2) ONLINE: at www.ktmb.com.my

Click on 'e-ticketing' and proceed to register as a user.
Next, book your tickets and pay by credit card.
Print out your temporary ticket and collect the real ones at any KTM station.

Tips for booking online:

- Tickets may booked up to 60 days in advance.
- Kuala Lumpur is listed under 'S' as 'Sentral Kuala Lumpur'.
- The 'Label/slot' field refers to your choice of coach - K1,K2,K3
- You can also indicate the seat of your choice
- The best 2nd class sleepers are located in the middle of the coach
- Lower berths, thought slightly more expensive, are wider than upper berths

+6 03 2267 1200 (outside Malaysia)
03 2267 1200 (within Malaysia)

No need for any explanation here except be aware of KTM's office hours which are 08.15 to 17.00
4) BY EMAIL:callcentre@ktmb.com.my

When booking by email, simply specify the dates and class of travel preferred. The reservations centre will reply with a reference number which you will need to quote when you present yourself at the station to pick up and pay for your ticket.
If you reach LCCT (low cost terminal of Air Asia - http://www.malaysiasite.nl/lccteng.htm) late at night, then it is better to stay near Sentral KL for onward journey to Singapore next day by train, since the train station is at Sentral KL. e.g. you can stay at original backpacker travellers In at Jalan sultan (for details and booking google it). In fact i have stayed the night in LCCT airport and took the aerobus only in the morning.That is what most travelers do.
For that either take aerobus (last bus leaves at 1.30 am - time taken is 1 hour) for MYR 8
{A train also goes to Bangkok but have to change at Alor Star & need to wait for 8 hours to take another to Bangkok. Say about 24 hours journey}.
@@ But you may need multiple entry visa (a visa allowing someone to enter a country as often as they like) in Malaysia (@ Rs 1500 - 1750/- depending upon the agent) for that.
Visa fee for Singapore(basically multiple) according to the website is S$30 + service charge of Rs 300 , if you are in Calcutta then agents take around Rs 1750 -1900/-. I paid Rs 1500 for Malaysian and Rs 1750 for Singaporean visa to Alps Tours opposite American consulate in Kolkata- Ph No. 2282 2031.It took around 14 days to get the visa

The information given below is provided by Hemant Abhare, Bangalore.

A very Good hotels in Pantai tengah,Malaysia:
Charlie Motel for Rs 1200/- or Bella Vista Hotel (I liked it best for its offerings (has sea facing rooms too) for around Rs 1500/- (but remember these rates do not include taxes.)

C 1C  Apply for visa - for Cambodia -
For Indian passport holder, getting Cambodian Visa is very easy. It can either be E-visa or VOA(visa on arrival) . I have gone for VOA. It is very easy without any hassles; it should not take more than 15 minutes. I have not seen anybody facing any problem whatsoever. In fact i have been told that in e-visa sometimes they create problems.
The charges are 20 UD $. There is a departure tax also of 25 US $. In our case it was included in the air ticket, like Malaysia.

Go to Foreign ministry website to apply for e-visa : http://www.mfaic.gov.kh/There will be link for going to e-visa section. What you need to have before you apply for e-visa.

Passport photo scan copy
- Credit card
- Tentative date of travel
- Port of entry (you can get info about entry port on the same website. You can enter through specific border points of Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos)

Port of entry is something which you will need to know before, just to make sure that you have your route mapped.
## Most of the people travel to Cambodia via Thailand and most popular port of entry is Poi Pet which is 4 hours from Bangkok.

Steps involved:

- Update your personal information
- Update passport information
- Update date, travel mode (you can feel anything and its okay if you don’t know vehicle no), port of entry
- Update photo
- Pay money

Once you apply for Visa, within 2 days you will get Visa copy on your email. Take a printout and carry it with you while crossing the border. There will be immigration section where they will take your e-visa and will stamp entry date in your passport.

I think this Visa is valid for one month which is more than enough to travel across Cambodia.
I am told that somebody who has applied for e-visa,got his visa in 2 hours!!

From Poi Pet, in 4 hours you can go to Siem Reap. Cambodia is one of my most favorite travel destinations.

For VOA take your tickets and fly to Siem Reap from KL(say). It is super easy and they need just your passport, filled up VOA form, 1 passport size white background photo and in 10-15 minutes the visa is stamped on your passport

According to
Manish Banthia :
Some extras about Siem Reap:

~"Cambodia Backpackers" just walking distance from Pub Street. Moun is also a CSer and gives away free dorms and even free pickups from the airport. Very nice guy, very helpful. Else you also find dorm beds starting $1 at most places.

~ATMs dispense USDs, so don't bother exchanging currencies to Riels [Though $1=4000 riel is the usual calculation]

~Don't miss out on the "Traditional Apsara Dance", which happens most days in different places. Keep asking the CSers/locals :-)

~Pub Street and Night Market are worth a visit. It is difficult to believe Pub street is in Asia.Amazing place.
ATM's charge 2$ per transaction + the transaction charge that your bank imposes; so factor this in when you withdraw cash!
(In my case my debit card was charged 4 US $ for withdrawal on 16/5/2011.)

Apart from pub street & the night markets, I can recommend "Happy Herbs" pizza place. Ask for extra happy pizza and the owner will know what you need!

C 1D. Apply for visa - for Vietnam -

Well, if you try to find the info online, it is pretty much scattered, so it is possible for you to get confused. Here I am telling you the info, the stuff I did when I travelled to Vietnam.

First of all you need invitation letter to travel to Vietnam for tourist Visa. Don’t get scared, there are plenty of online website/agents, who will take care of this. You just need to pay 20 USD. The one website I used was, http://www.vietnam-visa.com/

Yours truly have done it through http://evietnamvisa.com

How it works?

Go to the website http://evietnamvisa.com . Select appropriate options like, application, type of visa, duration of the stay. Then it was ask you duration of stay, port of entry and other details.
Once you pay the money online, you will get a invitation letter in 2-3 days on your email. It will be scan copy of invitation letter when you can find quite a few names in the list along with your name. Don’t be scared. They just process invitation letter for 10-20 people at once. Inmy case it took only 1 day ! Dont go stamping sevice.

Once you get the invitation letter, all you need to do is to fly to specific airport you mentioned, go to visa on arrival counter and get the stamp. Simple isn’t it?

Now, for the people, who hates flying, like me (or want to experience road travel) can opt for another option, which is to get Visa prior of travel.

You need to do about thing in any case. In case of applying for prior visa you need to first get the same invitation letter from the above mentioned website.

Take this letter to Vietnam embassy, feel the form, pay the fees and you will get your Vietnam Visa in about week or so. Once you get the Visa, you can cross the Vietnam border by land.

C 1E. Apply for visa - for Laos -

There are two options to get Visa viz; VOA or prior visa
Visa on arrival is applicable for Indian passport holder though service is available at only to airports.
Visas can be obtained on arrival only at Wattay and Luang Prabang International Airports and at theFriendship Bridge, Vientiane. All other crossing points require a valid visa on arrival
I guess the fee is something like 30-40 US$ and you get a month entry or three month entry.
(According to Manish Banthia, " I got my VOA at Pakse for $40 and there weren't any exit airport taxes. It was easy and simple. One peculiar thing when I took my flight to Bangkok from Vientiane; the airport people asked me to show $500 in cash, that was so weird.I had only $200 in cash and some Indian Rupees, equivalent to $180. I played the trick and told 'em that the Indian money I have equals more than $350. Even funny, they totally accepted. Thanks to them for not checking online then" )

Prior visa:

There is not much information available online, hence you need to go to embassy to apply for visa.Benefit of having Visa prior, you can cross the border by land from following entry points;

- Two checkpoints in Vientiane Prefecture - Wattay airport and the Mekong River "Friendship Bridge" from Northeast Thailand;
- One at the Luang Prabang International Airport;
- Two in Savannakhet Province: one between Savannakhet town and Mukdahan in Thailand, and one between Densavanh and Laobao in Quang Tri Province, Vietnam;
- One in Northwestern Bokkeo Province at Houai Sai and one at Tonpheung bordering Thailand's Chiang Rai Province;- One at Boten in Luang Namtha Province bordering China;
- One at Thakhek in Khammouane Province bordering Nakhon Phanom Province in Thailand;
- One in Vangtau in Champassak Province bordering Ubon Rathchatani Province in Thailand;
- One in Nam Phao in Borikhamsay Province bordering Cau Treo in Ha Tinh Province in Vietnam.

What you need?

1) 1 completed application form (visit http://www.laoembassy.se/visa.html)
2) 2 photos
3) Valid passport
4) Visa processing fee (SEK 300) foreign currency
Forex converter is given in my blog
According to Manish Banthia :
Some extras about Vientiane:

~Sukuran Pub, by the Mekong River-side is a cool pub to hang out. Lao Beer at 10000KIP :P

~Silom Guest House on Silom Road is a nice, safe and clean place. Something around $10-$15 for a private double bedroom.

~Very near to "Patuxai" and "That Luang" is resto http://www.khopchaideu.com/main.htm and I loved to hang out in this place.

~The tallest building in Vientiane has a cool semi open air whole night discotheque on the 13th floor[one can locate it standing by the river side]

~People and Tuk Tuks charge you as they wish, so bargain and negotiate. The people are actually most lovely.

C 1F. Apply for visa - for Indonesia
see earlier posts
VOA is 25 USD and there is departure tax too. But VOA is fairly simple and super fast without any hassles. The departure tax on May 2011 was Rupaih 40,000 from Bali to Java(Jogja) and Rupaiah 150,000 from Bali to Singapore.
Places of Interest – Borbodur and Bali. Ubud of Bali is one of the most amazing place i have ever visited.
Borobudur is in Jogjakarta/Yogyakarta, so you need to take a flight to jogja which takes like 1 hour from Bali.
Lion Air or mandala Airlines has some cheap tickets.
Bus is other option but then it takes like almost 12 hours to get to jogja and you need to cross bali strait to get to Java island. It sometimes costs the same as flight ticket and mostly of the trip is at night (night bus).From Jogja you can get to Borobudur by taxi or bus. It will take around 1 hour .

C 1F. Apply for visa - for Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka ,its VOA at Colombo for thirty days for Indians, I am told.

C 1G Apply for visa - for Thailand (as on 12.08.2012)
a. 2 Photos
b. Rs 2000 visa charges in cash for 30 days tourist visa
c. Bank statement for 6 months
d. Return ticket
e.proof of hotel booking
visa timing in consulate office Kolkata 9 am to 12 am

** filled up form to be submitted 1st day and get the visa next day within 9 am to 12 am. There is no need to go personally.
Address:Royal Thai Consulate-General, Kolkata
18B, Mandeville Gardens, Ballygunge,
Kolkata 700-019
Tel.:(91-33)2 4403229, 2 4407836, 2 4409723
Fax.:(91-33)2 4406251


Entry date reminder

When applying for a Visa, you’ll need to write an entry date on the application, but backpackers may find it hard to predict the exact date that they’ll arrive. Usually, you can just put down an estimated date. Here’s a tip, pick an earlier date, rather than a later one. If you pick an early date and arrive later, it shouldn’t be a problem, but not the other way around.
If you’re worried about arriving earlier than anticipated, check with the Visa issuer first before you leave. In most cases, the dates can’t be changed, but they can add a remark and things should be fine. Bear in mind that the moment you enter the country, the countdown on your Visa’s validity begins, and you mustn’t make an exit after your Visa has expired!
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Border Crossing Tips

Border crossings can be much more challenging as compared to entry by flight. In most cases, Visa counters aren’t open 24-hours a day at the border. This means, if you arrive during non-office hours, be prepared to wait there!
Basically, there are two main types of border crossings
– ‘international crossings’ and
- ‘local crossings.’
You should also be informed that some border crossings are open only to locals and not foreigners.
One of the most alarming things about border crossings is the scams. Basically, the officials there will ask you for more money for the Visa, etc. Usually, you can worm yourself out of extra payments by saying that you’ve checked with the ministry of foreign affairs and their immigration department, and that you know how much the Visa is exactly. Usually, they won’t make things difficult for you if you know the ins and outs or are prepared.

Don’t be perturbed by this though, border crossings can be fun. Since not many tourist opt for it, things are usually more casual and you have some time to befriend the locals Before attempting a border cross, however, scope the nearest town from the checkpoint and if public transport is available.

Visa for Kids

Many travellers are unsure of whether or not they need to apply for a Visa for their children, but as a rule, if the child has a passport, he or she will need a Visa, regardless of the child’s age. But, if your child does not have a passport yet, please do speak with the Visa issuer and ask about your child’s Visa requirements before you travel. Applying for a children’s Visa is about the same as applying for an adult’s one, although you may need to submit a few additional documents.

Getting a Visa

For people who rarely travel, getting a Visa seems like such a hassle, but please don’t worry, as you do have several options. Let’s discuss the three approaches that you can explore to obtain a Visa:
i. Apply from an embassy
If you are planning to visit Vietnam, you can apply for Visa at the Vietnamese embassy orconsulate in your country. To search for an embassy near you, just use key words like ‘Vietnam Embassy in (your country).’ If you can’t find one, you can post your passport to a neighbouring country. Do check with the embassy before you post, or ask a travel agent if they can arrange a Visa run, which is basically the same thing, only they go to the embassy for you. With an embassy application, sometimes, you’ll be asked to attend an interview. Once the embassy issues the Visa, it will be stuck onto your passport before you leave the country.
ii. Visa on arrival
Some countries offer a ‘Visa on arrival’ (VOA) or ‘on-ground Visa’ option. The VOA counter will be clearly marked at the airport. Basically, your Visa will be stamped on your passport when you enter the country you are visiting. Usually, you will need to pay a stamping fee.
Some countries, like China, for example, require their citizens to show a valid Visa before flying out from country. In these cases, Vietnam can issue a pre-approval letter, approval code or invitation letter, which will verify that you will get a Visa on arrival.
iii. Electronic Visa

Countries like Cambodia and Australia have electronic Visas or e-Visas. Your application is performed online, and once approved, your Visa can be obtained by email or by downloading it from their website. You just need to print it out and attach it to your passport.

Let’s talk about the forms that Visas take, shall we? Well, some countries issue Visas in the form of stickers, which is about the size of one page in your passport. All you need to do is stick it into your passport, and you’re all set.

Another type of Visa is one stamped directly onto your passport. It usually has a date which states when you’re entering the country and the Visa’s validity period. When you exit the country, they’ll stamp it again with the date of exit.

Last, but not least, is the self-printed Visa, which is usually in the form of an image or just a number that the immigration can use to check your Visa’s authenticity. This also means that you’ll have to make the number ready for immigration counters to cross check with their systems.
Tips for Online Visas

Picture this scenario, you see a blank page on your computer, you press ‘next’ and it takes forever to load. What’s up? If this happens to you while you’re in the process of applying for an online Visa, make sure that you’re not uploading an image that’s not too big in size. Resize your picture and try again. If not, try with another computer or a different web browser such as Google Chrome or Firefox.

Another good tip is to have your passport with you while you’re making an application, you’ll definitely need some of the info in there. If you’re applying for friends, make sure you’ve gotten all their details and pictures before you start. This will save you a lot of grief.
Other than credit card payments, many online Visa portals accept Paypal. At the payment page, they will prompt you to log in to your Paypal account using your email address, and then you can make the payment from there. In some countries, you’ve got to go through an extended program in Paypal to verify your credit card.
Always enter your application in ENGLISH (Roman alphabet), not in Chinese or Japanese characters, and make sure you review all your information, especially your passport number and date of birth.
If you have two nationalities, pick one to enter. Use the one where you’re most likely to be approved. If you were born in the country you wish to visit, but are now holding a foreign passport, please check with their embassy. In Cambodia, for example, you need to apply for a special Visa, not a tourist Visa if you were born there. And, in Vietnam, if you were born there, you’re exempted from getting a Visa.

For all qeries on Asian visa see this site:

To dial a number FROM a CALLING CARD in Malaysia, follow these instructions:

018 or 008
country code (for Singapore, it is 65, Malaysia 60, Indonesia 62, Thailand 66)
area code (Singapore does not have any)
receiver's telephone number


say My phone number in Singspore is (65) 99987955 [Singapore country code =65]
So, to call me, you have to dial 018 - 65 - 99987955 or 008 65 - 99987955
My friend's US number is (818) 7150941 [USA country code = 1, Los Angeles area code = 818]
So, to call My friend, you have to dial 018 - 1 818 - 7150941 or 008 - 1 - 818 -7150941
To call me in India from Singapore 00 – 91 – 9830 xx xx 68.


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