Obviously we hope that The Wandering Canucks will become indispensable to you as your travel go-to but I’m sure you have your favourites already. The one website that has helped me plan my SE Asia trips beyond all others is called ‘The Man in Seat 61.’ This incredible website was started by one man, Mark Smith, with a passion for train travel. It has now expanded to be the go-to site for any land travel, offering up to date bus timetables, prices, ferry guides and train options. The map below has been a well-used and well-loved guide for me planning trips in that area though I’ve used their information in Europe too. Although it is clearly possible to go off the beaten-track, if you have limited time and a limited budget, sometimes it helps to get an idea of how far you can get and at what cost.
In 2009, I flew into Chiang Mai, Thailand and travelled overland down to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We took out sweet time and was out there for around 6.5 weeks, travelling by ferry, train and bus (each with varying degrees of success and cleanliness). A few summers later in 2011, I flew into Bangkok and followed the well-trodden loop up to Laos, down the coast of Vietnam, up through Siem Reap in Cambodia and back to Bangkok. Again, the trip was around 6 weeks. The below map and the Seat61 website became my own personal ‘how to’. I knew exactly what train to get and roughly how much it would cost me. I knew the time it would take me to get from X to Y and if it would be worth spending the extra £2 to upgrade.
Of course, secondhand information should always be treated with the caution. The website is kept very up to date and never pointed me far wrong, but things do change. It’s never wise to rely on something 100% and get caught out, especially in a foreign country and even more so as women (or a woman) travelling alone.
Ariel (as mentioned in a few of her posts on this site) has had some great experiences using a travel agent but I’ve always gone the other way. For those of you who are on a budget and tend to ‘do-it-yourself’ (like me), Seat61.com is a great starting block for planning your travels. I’ve never been one to book every hostel (I normally do it the town before just in case my plans change) but unless you are blessed with unlimited time, I think it’s helpful to have a rough idea of your route and how feasible it is.
What’s your travel-planning go to?