With the onset of winter for most of the northern hemisphere many people are wondering how long is the situation in Thailand going to be a concern and what are the options for Asia Cheap flights that they can use to still have that much needed warn respite from winter in Asia.
When looking for the cheaper flights to Asia, I make a point of checking several airports and several airlines. Invariably, if you are coming out of the USA from Los Angeles (LAX) or San Francisco (SFO) and many times from Seattle, the best bets are China Air and Eva air and recently it seems Asiana Air, which is also offering some really cheap flights to Bangkok, if you value the frequent flyer miles in to your calculations.
Today the best choice I can see as an option to Bangkok Thailand for cheap flights is Singapore. KL and Singapore are slightly more expensive for a flight in early Feb with a two to three week stay. I was getting rates that were $50 USD higher for Singapore and a bit more for KL. Before this current situation, I was looking at these two airports and on a couple of occasions I was rewarded with cheaper flights out of Asia. One time I even flew from Bangkok to Singapore with a 2 hour layover and then back into Bangkok to catch a cheap flight out of South East Asia.
Saigon is also one that I check. I have gotten a flight out Saigon at the last minute that was several hundred dollars cheaper than the usual routes. The big problem with Vietnam is that you need to have a visa before you get there, and if you transit in both directions, they make you buy two visas and you can not get them at the same time, a major pain in the seat cushion. You can also check Tokyo, but the budget carriers are not players in that market, so the big boys can have there way. Hong Kong also seems to be expensive with no exposure to Air Asia, Tiger Air or Cebu Pacific which are the best for containing costs for traveling Asia on the cheapest flights.
So for the winter season if you were going to take a pass on Thailand this year where would you travel to instead? I would be looking at Cambodia, Philippines & Vietnam. Cambodia is now one of the safest countries in the region, if you ignore traffic accidents. The beaches of Sihanoukville now offer everything that you can get in Thailand, and they are excited to have you there. Vietnam also has a problem with traffic accidents, but is also very safe for tourists, but not quite as friendly and slightly more expensive. The Philippines has allot of crime in the cities, but if you are on the beaches you are more likely to have a great time as the locals are very friendly, and the prices are reasonable outside of their high season, which I think more refers to the hotel owners rather that the number of tourists. There has been allot of press on the troubles that they have on the very southern islands, but people that I know that have traveled there recently say this is old news.
I would also really be looking hard at Indonesia, except for the fact that they are in their monsoon season. For those that disagree with the boycott of Myanmar (Burma), would also be very high on my list. Northern Malaysia would be on my list if I was looking for mostly beaches. The Perhentian Islands offer some of the cheapest beach resorts in Asia. All of these choices offer relative safety, lots of culture, and cheap prices.
Before this crisis there was a burnout on Thailand as the cost of staying there keeps on climbing, and there is no increase in value. Bali compared to Phuket for a good head to head comparison for a long stay, if you are on a tight budget, Bali is a much better deal with allot more culture and with the exception of the internet, a much better infrastructure. The only big negatives there in Indonesia is the visas, and the traffic police which see foreigners as mobile ATM’s. If you make the mistake of complaining that they are unfairly targeting you, they double or quadruple the normal “tea money” which only aggravates the tourists even more. If you are very safety concerned Bali is the safest place in Asia hands down.
Lots of choices it will be interesting to look back at the end of the winter season to see how this plays out. Everyone hopes that Thailand will get back to normal to make this all moot.