Conjuring images of golden temples, grand colonial buildings and white sand beaches, there are many reasons why Southeast Asia is one of the world's most popular travel destinations.
The region is a melting pot of cultures and offers a diverse range of experiences for travellers of all interests, whether you're eager to hit the bustling night markets of Bangkok or escape to the serene highlands of Vietnam.
Even if you've visited the region before, you'll see a different side of Southeast Asia away from the resorts by taking an ocean or river cruise, giving you the time to savour each unique destination.
The concept of Southeast Asia is strictly geographic, as the countries in the region are so diverse. While the cost of living is generally low by western standards, the city states of Singapore and Brunei are notable exceptions.
- Currencies - every country in Southeast Asia maintains its own currency, though US dollars can be exchanged widely and are the preferred option for travellers in Cambodia and Myanmar. ATMs are plentiful in cities and tourist spots, but they can be harder to find in remote areas and in Myanmar.
- Languages - English is taught in schools and younger people are more likely to speak and understand the language than those from older generations. English fluency is greatest in popular tourist destinations, but if you're venturing off the beaten path, you will likely require the services of a local guide.
- Time Zone - Southeast Asia is mostly based in 2 time zones – UTC+07:00 in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos and UTC+08:00 in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines. The sprawling archipelago of Indonesia spans 3 time zones.
- Weather - Southeast Asia's tropical climate varies between the dry season (typically October to May) and rainy season (June to September).
Did you know..?
Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia that was never colonised by European powers. While modern visitors to Malaysia and Singapore will see the British influence in the wide use of English, French fusion cuisine in Indochina and Spanish street names in the Philippines; the influx of European themed pubs in Thailand's tourist spots is a more recent phenomenon.
Who goes there?
Cruise companies in Southeast Asia offer international ocean cruises and river cruises along the major waterways of the continent.
You'll find cruise lines to suit all budgets and styles based in Asia or arriving from further afield, whether you're tempted by the fine dining and luxury amenities of Princess Cruises or the packed schedule of activities on board Star Cruises voyages to Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
For sightseeing and cultural tours of Southeast Asia's major rivers, trace the Mekong through Cambodia and Vietnam with Heritage Line and Travel IndoChina, or float through the jungles of Borneo with Pandaw River Cruises.
Best time to go?
Cruise season never ends in Southeast Asia, due to the region's warm and comfortable climate all year round. However, some cruises may not operate during the monsoon season between June and September, and some river cruise routes may be cancelled or altered during the dry season if the river bank retreats.
- Singapore - the Lion City is a popular starting point for ocean cruises around the region, thanks to its central location and modern facilities. Spend a few days exploring Singapore's shopping malls and tourist attractions before heading north to discover Malaysia and Thailand, south to the islands of Indonesia or east to wild Borneo and the Philippines.
- Indonesia - most international visitors to Indonesia never make it past Bali, which is to miss out on the diverse experiences this island nation has to offer. Cruise ships depart from Australia and other Asian countries to take in 6 or more islands, where you can enjoy world-class diving, sample authentic Javanese coffee and see giant Komodo dragons in the wild.
- Vietnam - visit the floating markets and pristine beaches of Southern Vietnam on a Mekong River cruise. Stop off at Ho Chi Minh City for shopping and culture before heading north to see the sights of Hanoi. There you can drift among the scenic islands of Ha Long Bay, recognised as 1 of the 7 wonders of nature.
- Cambodia - the Mekong continues into Cambodia, offering access to some of the most remarkable ancient temples and ruins in Asia at Angkor Archaeological Park. If it’s laid-back, sandy beaches you’re after, Sihanoukville is sure to deliver.
Ports of Interest
- Sihanoukville, Cambodia
- Redang Island, Malaysia
- Manila, Philippines
- Malacca, Malaysia
- Komodo, Indonesia
- Koh Samui, Thailand
- Bagan, Myanmar
- Jakarta, Indonesia
- Phnom Penh, Cambodia
- My Tho, Vietnam