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Traveling to Southeast Asia? Here’s Tips on How to Behave Once You Get There

Written by Shannon Durso

This blog post was updated on August 4, 2021.

New year, new you? If you’re interested in traveling to Southeast Asia this year to begin checking off your bucket list, then there are a few things you should know before you go. It’s obvious that a foreign region such as this one is way different in culture and traditions than where you’re from, so being conscious of what’s appropriate and what’s not in a foreign place will surely go a long way while traveling. Travel etiquette such as how to greet others and how to respectfully dress is a portion of what you need to be aware of before you hop on your cheap international flights.

Read on because we’re about to assist you on how to act to prevent you from pure embarrassment while in Southeast Asia.

The Proper Greeting

Asian woman greeting with hands together

When traveling to a country you’ve never been to before you’ll certainly learn new customs and traits. The first thing every traveler should be familiar with is how to greet someone properly in Southeast Asia. Naturally, most would go for the universal handshake which is usually fine as this is becoming common through most of Southeast Asia but the best approach is to avoid physical contact and see what the other person initiates first. If you’re venturing to Singapore a simple handshake will suffice, but countries such as Cambodia and Thailand commonly greet with their hands together and a slight bow. Muslim countries like Malaysia and Indonesia typically refrain from greeting with physical contact especially when communicating with the opposite sex.

Ready to get away to Southeast Asia? Find cheap international flights now! 

Always Accept Out of Respect

a table filled with food and people eating

Sometimes the best way to understand a new culture is to dig in and taste the traditional dishes. You should know that you probably will never go hungry being that the natives here are super generous with offering food and beverages. Denying an offering may come across as rude so to stay on the safe side, kindly accept and continue to fill your belly up! If you come across an invitation to dinner it may be good to bring a gift such as some fruits or flowers. Oh, and when entering places such as a home don’t forget to remove your shoes at the door.

Keep the Party Animal at Home

3 men drinking at a bar cheering with excitement

It’s probably normal for you to be loud and excited while out at a bar or hanging with friends but you should probably keep that behavior for when you get home to avoid uncomfortable stares. Countries like Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam follow polite, lowkey and peaceful behaviors; so that friend who is always yelling and causing havoc in your hometown local bar may not be the most comfortable person in the room here. Act properly to refrain from being considered disrespectful and unkind.

RELATED: Not sure where to go in Asia? Find Out Which Asian Vacation is Perfect for You!

Modesty is the Best Policy

woman tourist standing in front of statues

While packing for your trip this is probably the most important tip for you to know. For both men and women, keeping the shoulders and torso covered is considered the appropriate way to dress. Avoid packing your daily short shorts and crop tops, but if you plan to hit the beach in Bali or Koh Samui your usual beach attire is fine to wear. Religious sanctuaries such as temples, mosques, and churches usually require attendees to be covered up, and if you’re not in the appropriate attire you will probably be restricted from entering. 

Be Conscious of Politeness

man kneeling and praying in front of large statue in Asia

If you happen to be sitting on the floor with others or alone it is important to remember to never point your feet in the direction of others, a sacred statue or building. The proper way to sit on the floor is to keep the feet tucked beneath you, for men it is appropriate to sit in a lotus position. Places like Malaysia, Singapore, and Bali consider the left hand to be meant for personal hygiene, so when interacting with someone be sure to use your right hand… ALWAYS.

Be Aware of Where You Snap

four tourists taking-picture-in-asia

It’s expected for tourists to be camera crazy and snap a photo every which way they turn but in some places, it may not always be appropriate. Taking selfies, photos of statues and famous sites is usually fine, however, there are some sacred moments that you may get caught up in such as a procession of monks or an important ceremony. Showing disrespect to a ritual is the last thing you want to do so simply beware of your surroundings as you snap away.

Have you taken cheap international flights to Southeast Asia? Did we miss any helpful tips on how to behave when you get there? Let us know in the comments below!

About the author

Shannon Durso

If she’s not searching for the world's coolest destinations she has yet to explore, you can find her writing content at Fareportal or maybe even drooling over a foodies latest post. Shannon’s a Brooklyn native who enjoys good company, new adventures, and a great laugh!

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