Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
April and Andrea at dinner with Mr Nam, a Vietnam War Veteran, and his beautiful family, a Journeys Within Exclusive Tour.
We visit hotels like this, so you don't have to!
Our wonderful guide Khoa in Vietnam introduces Brandon to Longan rice whiskey!
No one wants to get sick on vacation, but in developing countries it's even more important to know where to go and who to ask for!
A homestay in Cambodia...definitely not available online!
Our amazing team at our directors meeting in Cambodia - 6 countries, 1 team!
About the Journeys Within Booking Experience
What is Philanthropic Travel or Active Philanthropy?
Journeys Within 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 Journeys Within as “a pioneer in philanthropic travel.” Read more about our Community Support efforts.
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 Journeys Within vs. just booking online?
This is a question I think 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 Journeys Within 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. I visit a lot of hotels and am often absolutely shocked at what I get...views are photo shopped, 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. The truth is that 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 8 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. I've had two babies in Thailand, taken guests to hospital in Cambodia, gotten my kid stitches in Vietnam and had a wound cleaned in Laos. 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 take you on ONLY off the beaten path! While the internet is a pretty amazing trip planning tool I guarantee that the homestay at Narla's house, our village tour and even the volunteering we can include in a tour, aren' online, these are only available because we're there and we have found the unique 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 for when things go wrong. When our guest dropped his passport in a cave and had to get a new passport in Laos or when the Bangkok airport was closed or when a flight is delayed or cancelled you'll see a lot of people panicking...our guests however will know what the options are and will be taken care of. We got permission to fly the guest to Bangkok to get a new passport where our guide met him and took him to the embassy and made sure he was well cared for. When the airport closed we got guests new flights, we arranged overland transportation and we adjusted itineraries on the fly to make sure no vacation was ruined and any hotel or flight mishap our team is there 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 :)
While on your Journeys Within Tour
What are your tipping guidelines?
*Please bear in mind these are only guidelines and tipping is not required but always appreciated.
*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 $2 per day – keep tips in perspective).
Here are some guidelines, but feel free to adjust them 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: $5 - $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.
Health and Safety Questions
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. Journeys Within offers travel insurance from CSA Travel and you can get a quote by clicking here: CSATravelPro - Journeys Within or call CSA toll free (800) 873-9855 with the Journeys Within Agent ID 05547301.
How safe is it to travel Southeast Asia? What measures does your company take to insure 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 is 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 last 5 years, both with the riots in Bangkok and the monk protests in Myanmar. Generally in these situations we rely on our team in the location. 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 (tel: 1-888-232 6348 or www.cdc.gov) 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.
Journeys Within Pricing Questions
Can you provide a price breakdown?
We do not give price breakdowns. The reason is that we have found through the years that, if we do so, we spend so much time having to explain every cost that we would have to charge considerably more for arranging the trips then we do now. Even more important, in almost all cases cost breakdowns would not help our clients choose a better vacation or a better value.
The way we see it, our job is to concentrate on all the details and try to give our clients their ideal vacation at the best possible price. The travelers' job is to look at their holiday as a whole and decide whether our proposal will provide the vacation they want at a price they can afford.
The best way for us to help travelers make the right decisions is to give them the most accurate descriptions possible of the experience, and a clear explanation of what is and is not included in the cost. A detailed breakdown takes attention away from the overall quality of the experience.
We acknowledge that we may occasionally inadvertently over-charge. If the price we are quoting seems excessive, please say so. Someone other than the person who prepared the original quote will recheck it. If there is an error we will make the adjustment. (We have also been known to accidentally leave out charges that should have been included. If we discover that this is the case after the first payment, we will not charge you.) We are also aware of the possibility that the quote may be more than you want to spend. Please let us know if this case and, if feasible, we will quote a more affordable itinerary.
Traveling in Southeast Asia General Questions:
What's the best time of year to visit Southeast Asia when you're trying to make your money go as far as possible? Is there a season when the deals are best but the weather isn't too hot?
I think my preference is the rainy season just before high season...so September or October. Once November hits it's high season and the rates all go up. In September and October you still get low season rates, but it isn't as hot as April or May. The other plus side about this time is that it's one of the most beautiful times in Southeast Asia as everything is green and lush and the ponds and rice paddies are full of water. The downside is that travel to more rural areas can be a bit tricky as dirt roads quickly become mud bogs and you do need to have a flexible schedule in case a rain storm blows in. We've had quite a few honeymoons during September and it's a great time...explore in the morning and head to your room in the afternoon for some hard hugging during the rain :)
Do I need to get my visa ahead of time? Can Journeys Within make the visa arrangments for me?
Most of the countries in Southeast Asia require visas, some of which can be obtained on arrival, but some require you to apply before you arrive in their country. Check below to see what you will need to enter and depart each country. (We do our best to stay up to date but these requirements can be changed at any time. We will try to let you know if changes occur.)
Issued on arrival valid for 30 days forms on arrival no charge
Issued on arrival valid for 30 days form, passport photo US$20
Issued on arrival valid for 30 days form, passport photo US$35 (or Baht)
Visa required prior to arrival, you can get this through your local consualte or Journeys Within can arrange for your visa on arrival.
Visa required prior to travel in Myanmar, contact embassy or agency for instructions
valid for 28 days forms, passport photos check with Embassy
What type of electrial plugs do they have in Southeast Asia?
Southeast Asia runs on 220v, so for Americans, only electrical appliances that can be switched to 220v or which can cope with 220v instead of the USA's 110v should be brought with you. Most hairdryers will not cope, but it is possible to buy travel hairdryers, travel irons, etc. that can be switched to the appropriate voltage and most upper end hotels will have them in the rooms or available. Most laptops, cameras and video cameras can use either voltage. Please check that yours can before plugging it in! Plug adaptors will be needed in all countries as they have two-pin sockets in a variety of shapes.
What are the airline baggage weight limits?
For most air carriers within Southeast Asia, the luggage limit is 20 kg (~44 lbs for checked baggage) per person for economy-class flights. Air Asia however charges for baggage and only allows 15kg per person. You may purchase up to 15kg more if your bags are bigger though.