Frequently asked Questions

  • About the Southeast Asia Journeys Booking Experience
  • While on your Southeast Asia Journeys Tour
  • Health and Safety Questions

About the Southeast Asia Journeys Booking Experience

What is Philanthropic Travel or Active Philanthropy?

Southeast Asia Journeys specializes in what we call Active Philanthropy, the idea that when we visit a country or community, our visit has a tangible positive impact. We believe that a tour company not only has a responsibility to guests, but also a responsibility to the countries in which we live and work. Conde Nast Traveler described Southeast Asia Journeys team pioneers in philanthropic travel.

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About the Southeast Asia Journeys Booking Experience

What is a Guided Tour?

What makes a Southeast Asia Journeys tour different from other tours offered online or via travel agencies? We wrote an entire breakdown of what makes a Southeast Asia Journeys tour special here.

How far ahead should I be planning to book a trip?

We recommend that you book anywhere from 3 months to a year before you want to travel. For those people who want to use reward miles on the airlines then a year is a pretty good amount of time to make sure you get your seats and less than three months usually means things get busy. With that said, April just booked a tour for two weeks from today! And it’s going to be a great tour, so last minute tours are possible, but I do think it adds a margin of stress that none of us need!

Why would it be better to book through Southeast Asia Journeys vs. just booking online?

This is a question that people wrestle with a lot since online deals are so prevalent now and really you can book most of your holiday online. I think there are a few good reasons that travelers book through Southeast Asia Journeys versus online and here are my top 10:

1. We are regional experts. This is really #1. We live and breathe Southeast Asia so chances are we’ve stayed in the hotel, tested out the tour and trained the guide, which means no bad surprises for you when you get there. It also means we can offer experiences that aren’t necessarily available to the mass market and are only available to those “in the know.”

2. We often can get better deals. Hotels offer us upgrades, discounts and special offers which we can pass on to our guests.

3. Websites lie. We visit a lot of hotels and are often absolutely shocked at what we get…views are photoshopped, fish eye lenses are used to excess and sometimes the room on the website doesn’t even exist! While sites like Trip Advisor can help you make an informed decision there’s nothing quite like local knowledge and someone who tried it out before you.

4. Our guides! We truly have the best guides in the region, they’re dedicated, kind and love their countries, so they can pass this love on to our guests. They are a key part of our team and they are a major part of the experience.

5. Time is precious. Most people in America get two weeks holiday a year and they want to make it count. As we all know, planning as you go sounds nice in theory, but in reality, it means you waste most of your vacation trying to book a flight, a hotel or figure out what you want to do next. To make the most of your two weeks have it booked ahead of time and then arrive and relax, knowing that other people are making sure it all goes according to plan.

6. Medical emergencies. The truth is that things can go wrong and in the last 11 years we have had guests suffer from heart attacks, broken ribs, broken hips and just in our family alone a large gash on the head, bronchitis and chicken pox! When you get sick while traveling, especially in the third world, it can be incredibly scary and we know this. Our guides, drivers and team are trained to help any guest that finds themselves in need of medical assistance. We know clinics, hospitals and in some cases, the doctors themselves. The bottom line is, when you are feeling your worst, you want the best.

7. Hidden costs. We often have guests telling us about the “great deal” they found at a hotel. If it’s better than what we can get we are really honest and encourage them to book it…often we then hear back from them because the deal wasn’t for that time of year, didn’t include huge amounts in tax or just wasn’t what it appeared to be. This is okay when they figure out ahead of time, but a real bummer when they arrive at the hotel only to be hit with additional costs, with us, our price is THE price, the end.

8. We can take you off the beaten path! While the internet is a pretty amazing trip planning tool, we guarantee that the homestay at Narla’s house, our village tour and even the volunteering opportunities that we can include in a tour, are not options that you can find online. These unique experiences are only available because we have physically investigated and met with locals to create these adventures.

9. Booking travel can be a full-time job. Most of us don’t have enough time for all the things we try to fit into our lives so while planning a trip can be fun, it can also be incredibly time consuming…searching websites, checking rates, figuring out flight schedules, all of this takes time and energy and a lot of our guests would prefer to pass that job on to a professional and just review what we plan to make sure it’s perfect.

10. Last, but not least, one of the biggest reasons to book with us is that we can take care of things in those rare emergencies when something goes wrong. Losing a passport, airport closures, flight delays and cancellations will cause stress and panic for most travelers. Our guests however, can simply relax and enjoy their trip, knowing that we will be monitoring the situation and providing them with the best option. Our guests know that they will be taken care of.

For our guest that lost his passport in a cave in Laos, we procured permission and transportation for him to fly Bangkok to get a new passport made. One of our Bangkok guides met him and took him to the embassy to make sure that he was well cared for. When the Bangkok airport closed due to protests, we rerouted guests on new flights, we arranged overland transportation and we adjusted itineraries on the fly to make sure no vacation was ruined. Should any hotel or flight mishap occur, our team is always standing by to make sure it gets solved.

A lot of travelers have felt they didn’t need us, until they really needed us and then they were glad they had us.

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While on your Southeast Asia Journeys Tour

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What are your tipping guidelines?

Please bear in mind these are only guidelines and tipping is not required but always appreciated.

We recommend tipping in the local currency, otherwise the recipient of your tips will need to convert the money before being able to use it.

Try and keep some small notes available for tipping hotel porters etc., and remember that tips are smaller here than in the USA. Minimum wage in Cambodia is about $180 per month – keep tips in perspective. To simplify tipping, we recommend tipping your guide and driver in a lump sum at the end of your time in each location just before you move on to your next destination. Feel free to adjust our guidelines if you have been given better than usual service or to not tip if it has not been justified.

Guide: $20 per day for a group of 1 – 4

Driver: $10 per day for a group of 1 – 4

Room staff: $2+ per day, depending on services

Restaurants: 10-20% at western restaurants, tipping is not expected at local food stalls.

Small services such as carrying bags, room service etc: $1 – $2

Can you accommodate allergies and food preferences?

Absolutely! Please let us know your special meal needs and we’ll be sure to let your guide know ahead of time so your meal needs are met. We’ll also provide you with a translation card so that you can make sure all allergies or aversions are avoided when you’re at meals on your own.

Do you recommend travel insurance?

Yes. While you can’t do anything to prevent an unexpected situation, you can help cover your investment by buying travel insurance. Travel insurance can provide you with the best coverage for medical expenses, trip cancellation/interruption, baggage damage, medical evacuation, and more.

How safe is it to travel Southeast Asia? What measures does your company take to ensure your travelers’ safety?

This is a very common concern, but Southeast Asia is actually an incredibly safe destination and while there are incidences of pickpockets and robberies, violent crime against travelers are incredibly rare. We advise all of our guests to be aware of their surroundings. In the bigger cities, like Bangkok and Saigon, there are problems with theft, just like here in the US. We recommend wallets in front pockets for men and caution taken with backpacks as it’s incredibly easy to steal a wallet out of the top of a backpack if the zip isn’t secure.

In terms of larger scale issues and civil unrest, we have had our share of that in the past, both with the riots in Bangkok and the monk protests in Myanmar. Generally in these situations, we rely on our team on the ground to provide us with the most accurate and current information on the situation. While Bangkok might look like a disaster on the news, for those of us there, we knew the rioting was only in one location and wasn’t affecting the majority of Bangkok and that guests could continue with their travel plans.

When this later became untrue and rioting and violence spread, we changed tours and diverted guests to other areas in Thailand so they could continue to enjoy their vacation away from the volatile situation. The bottom line is that we encourage our guests to be careful with their belongings and then we are careful with them.

What inoculations should I get before visiting Southeast Asia?

Most inoculations these days are optional; you may, however, need proof of yellow fever vaccination if you’re coming from a yellow fever infected area (sub-Sahara Africa and parts of South America).

Please check with your doctor, local health department, a travel doctor or the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to ensure you feel comfortable with the choices you make with regard to optional inoculations. We do recommend you are up to date on your Typhoid vaccine, along with regular vaccinations such as Hepatitis.


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