Most Useful Apps & Tips for Travelling Southeast Asia
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Most Useful Apps & Tips for Travelling Southeast Asia

Travelling in Southeast Asia offers a blend of vibrant cultures, breathtaking landscapes and rich histories waiting to be explored. Experiences are catered to every traveler's desires, from bustling city streets with ancient temples to pristine beaches with turquoise waters. Whether you're seeking adrenaline-pumping adventures, culinary delights, spiritual enlightenment or simply a moment of serenity, Southeast Asia promises unforgettable adventures.

A common difficulty many Southeast Asia travellers have is the language barrier and learning how to get around. We've put together a list of apps and other useful tips to make sure your travels are filled with adventure rather than frustration. We have noted which ones are available only in certain countries and which ones internationally.

Heading to the Philippines? Check out our complete guide to visiting El Nido and Coron, Palawan. Or to Thailand? Check out our full guide to exploring Khao Sok National Park.

End of the boat with limestone cliffs in the back at Cheow Lan Lake, Khao Sok National Park, Thailand
Cheow Lan Lake, Khao Sok National Park

Useful Apps For Travelling Southeast Asia:

Preparing for your trip with these apps and setting up accounts prior to travelling is a great way to maximize your vacation. Also because most registration step or adding payment method requires a code to be sent to your phone number for verification.

Google Lens (International). Lens is an incredibly useful app and one of our most used when we travel. Simply point your camera at foreign text and Google will translate the words to English or any language of choice. Very helpful for ordering food, deciding on your purchases or reading signs on the go. Pro tip: Download the foreign language ahead of time so you can translate even if offline.

comparison of purchase using Google Lens to translate foreign language.
Google Lens to translate

AloSim (International). If they're compatible with your phone, eSIMs make accessing the internet while travelling incredibly easy - much more convenient than searching for a sim card on arrival and mostly cheaper. There are numerous eSIM companies out there, but AloSim is our favourite.

Hushed (International). Your AloSim comes with a free 30-day Hushed trial allowing you to obtain a phone number (local or international). This is a Wi-Fi calling number for private calls and sending text messages, which is missing from other eSIMs and makes navigating a new country so much easier.

LINE (Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia). A messaging app popular for its free voice and video calls, social networking and digital wallet services. Many businesses will use this or WhatsApp for official communication.

Grab (Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam). Grab is the ride-hailing and food delivery app that replaces Uber in most of Southeast Asia. Prices are localized, meaning short rides can cost just a couple dollars.

busy street of southeast asia surrounded by buildings, tuktuks, taxis and people

Go Taxi (Japan). Go is the taxi-hailing app in Japan. It's a useful app in case you travel away from a city without a subway network.

Suica (Japan). Suica and Pasmo are the two best options for quickly making payments in Japan. Either card will allow you to load the card with cash, and then quickly make payments for transit, convenience stores and even some local shops with a simple tap.

Navitime (Japan). Navitime is the Japanese app for finding public transit routes with an emphasis on train routes. You can even enter any popular rail passes you own and it will tell you which routes are included.

Tabelog (Japan). Tabelog is a popular app in Japan for finding the best food that the country has to offer. While most of the world may rate a restaurant 5 stars if they enjoy their Big Mac, Japanese connoisseurs are much more specific about their ratings. Any restaurants listed above a 3.5 in the app will be incredible, while any above 4 stars may be one of the best meals you'll have in your life. Since the app is only on the Japanese app store, simply visit the English website to start searching for your next dining destination.

Japanese dish in a restaurant found with Tabelog, a Japanese app for finding dining places
Dining in Japan

Naver Maps (South Korea). A mapping app providing navigation, public transit information and real-time traffic updates. Note that Google Maps doesn't work in South Korea.

KakaoTalk (South Korea). A messaging app with various features including free calls, group chats, stickers, and mobile payment services. KakaoTaxi is the related app for ride-hailing in South Korea.

Gyeongbokgung Palace with mountain and temple reflection reached by Naver Maps in Southeast Asia
Gyeongbokgung Palace, South Korea

Agoda (Southeast Asia). Agoda is the most popular hotel site all across Southeast Asia. Prices are often lower than any other app. It's always good to have a backup like Expedia and Booking.

pool surrounded by plants and wooden cabins of Gili One Resort in Gili Trawangan, Lombok, booked thru booking
Gili One Resort, Gili Trawangan, Lombok

Klook (Southeast Asia), GetYourGuide (International). These two apps are by far the most popular services for booking tours and transport between places. Purchases made through the app can often be cheaper than buying direct from the vendor.

Island with palm trees, white sand beach, boats and different hues of blue water in Pass Island, Coron, Palawan, Philippines
Pass Island, Coron, Palawan

Useful Tips For Travelling Southeast Asia:

Now that you have the apps, let's look into the useful tips to consider before your trip to Southeast Asia:

Cash versus credit card. Southeast Asia is certainly a more cash-based economy than North America, so you will want to plan for this. Some countries in Southeast Asia will still accept credit card at certain restaurants, however we found that the best prices were in shops which are cash only. Bring extra cash or be prepared to withdraw from your checking account.

American express card with the hotel and pool booked thru points of travel hacking.

Credit card fees. If you've been following us for a while, you know we are big on credit cards and its perks where we mostly get free flights and free stays. One thing we always consider for an international trip is getting a travel card without foreign exchange fees. Pro tip: If you're paying with your debit or credit card internationally, always ensure you pay in the local currency to avoid additional fees.

Be wary of scams. In many Asian countries, unfortunately, you will be approached daily by people trying to separate you from your money, either through honest sales or actual scams. Be vigilant. Read reviews or simply ask fellow travelers.

True story: We were moving from Gili T to the main island of Lombok. Upon arrival to Bangsal Port, the boat crew said they'd carry our bags off the boat. On the dock, another group of people picked up our bags (which had wheels) after we told them we don't need it to be carried (including our bags full of electronics) and we are literally running after them, but they didn't stop until they have loaded it in a van. We immediately said no, that we don't need transport, and grabbed our bags out of the car. This is a common scam here we learned after looking at Google Reviews, they force you to take their van service and pay excessively. Based on our research, the bus is just a few meters away for a couple of dollars. So, heads up, be vigilant. Try to have a plan in every step of your journey, because as soon as you're unsure about something, someone will come along and take advantage of you.

beach in Gili Trawangan, Lombok with painted surfboards used as signs
Gili Trawangan, Lombok, Indonesia

Check entry requirements. As a Canadian citizen, Brad never had to apply for a tourist visa until we went to Asia. Both Indonesia and Vietnam required one, although they were easy to apply for online. Japan does not require visa but requires an online form to be filled out. Do note these to save time at the airport and have a hassle-free entry. Also, some require your passport to be valid 6 months beyond your date of entry along with proof of onward travel.

Be aware of the climate. Many parts of Southeast Asia have a rainy season, and a hot/dry season, so time your travel well. November to February is most people's favourite time to visit Southeast Asia during dry season, but be mindful of 35°-40°C weather. March to June will still be dry, but temperatures and humidity will be higher. Also be aware of burning season, which is when farmers burn old crops, typically during February to April, and has a seriously negative effect on smog and air pollution levels. During these months, avoid northern Laos and Thailand, which includes Chiang Mai, a popular destination. Malaysia and Indonesia have their own burning season, typically from September to October.

man walking at the beach with towering limestone cliffs and different hues of blue water on a summer day in El nido, Palawan, Philippines
Talisay Beach, El Nido, Philippines

Tap water. Unless you're in Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong or Singapore, never drink tap water without boiling it first. Better yet, buy bottled. Also, be cautious of iced drinks.

Wall chargers. Just about every country in Southeast Asia has a different power outlet. Bring a travel adapter such as this to avoid any issues, especially if you are hopping countries. You wouldn't want to be scrambling to find an adapter to charge your dying phone or laptop.

Authentic Dining. Dining is always a big part of the travel experience. Ask and check out where where locals eat , chances are it is cheaper and more authentic. However, just a word of caution, be careful with eating raw vegetables for salads.

man eating at the streets with locals in Vietnam
Southeast Asia Dining

Tipping Etiquette. Tipping is not customary in many Southeast Asian countries, but small tips for exceptional service are appreciated. It is a big no-no in Japan and tipping can be offensive.

Bargaining. Bargaining is common in markets. Some cultures might find it awkward but in Southeast Asia, it is totally fine and encouraged. We were even offered bargaining prices in a spa for a couple's massage. In Bali, Vietnam and Thailand we found that the 'true' prices could be less than half of what's advertised.

colorful outdoor stalls selling souvenirs in Southeast Asia Markets
Southeast Asia Markets

Be Open-Minded. Southeast Asia is full of surprises. You might even have a culture shock. Embrace the unexpected and go with the flow. Be friendly and open to conversations - to locals and fellow travelers. The people you meet can enrich your travel experience immensely.

Final Thoughts

We hope these apps and tips help you in planning your best trip to Southeast Asia. If you have any questions, send us a message or give us a follow on Instagram.

Looking for your next Southeast Asian destinations? Check out our full guide to exploring Khao Sok National Park. You will also find the Palawan Guide for 2024 helpful.

Or perhaps, a trip to Europe? Check out our one week itineraries for Croatia and Crete, Greece.

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