Thailand is a popular budget travel destination. (Photo: Images )
Thailand and Vietnam are popular with travelers on a budget and travelers who are looking for an exotic experience away from home. Both countries have remarkable landscapes and a busy, bustling culture typical of Southeast Asia. As you plan a trip, consider the type of travel experience you are looking for and plan accommodations, transportation and activities accordingly. By taking care of practicalities and planning upfront, you can have a more comfortable trip.
Plan for visa requirements. Thailand allows free visas upon arrival for citizens of many countries, including the United States and Canada; if you arrive at a land border you are granted 15 days and if you arrive by air, the visa is good for 30 days. For Vietnam, you must apply for a visa in advance, either through a Vietnamese consulate or on the ground in Bangkok. Bear in mind that the Bangkok processing center can take three or four days to process a visa; the embassy or consulate will a charge a fee. You will need a passport with at least six months' validity.
Lay out a loose itinerary. Given your amount of time, look into cities of interest and plan so that you will have sufficient time to get from place to place. Choose a mode of transportation that will suit your budget and time constraints; while you can travel very cheaply by train or bus in both Thailand or Vietnam, long journeys can take up the better portion of a day or overnight trip. Leave flexibility in your itinerary to visit an unexpected site, attend an event or follow the advice of other travelers.
Book accommodations and tours. Thailand and Vietnam have a range of accommodation styles, from budget backpacker hostels to luxurious five-star hotels. Keep in mind that many hostels and hotels can book tours for you, making it easier to get to and from the sites. Tours are particularly useful if you are on a limited schedule or if you want a bit of local flavor in your sightseeing; you can also book them when you are in country for lower prices.
Schedule a visit with your doctor to check into immunization and medication needs. If you are traveling during the wet season or visiting islands or jungles, you may need to take a round of malaria medication. Ask your doctor for extra prescriptions to cover medication needs during the entirety of your trip; although Thailand in particular has excellent and inexpensive health care, there is no guarantee that you will be able to get your specific medication. Carry all pills in original, labeled bottles.
Research before you go, particularly if you have never traveled in Southeast Asia. Both Thailand and Vietnam can be chaotic and confusing, particularly at border crossings and when you are in villages where people do not speak English. Read about border crossings, possible scams, danger areas and safety precautions. By anticipating challenges, you will be better able to deal with them.
Stay safe on the road. Thailand and Vietnam have serious problems with poverty, and western tourists can be a temptation to struggling locals or opportunists; keep valuables in a hotel safe or on a money belt under your clothes when you are in transit. Do not drink tap water, only buy street food that is heated in front of you, and get money out of ATMs for the best exchange rate.