Whether you have been living in Singapore for a while or you are just passing through, you have probably ventured outside of the city at least once. As you are travelling around Southeast Asia, take care not to make these crucial mistakes!
Don’t give large denominations
If you decide to indulge in a spot of shopping at some of Southeast Asia’s incredible markets, then make sure not to pay for your purchases with large denominations of notes. Small change is highly appreciated and you might find that some street stalls will even refuse your money if the denomination is too high. It is also slightly vulgar when you consider that your notes may well be the salary of a street worker for a couple of weeks, so exercise sensitivity and pay in exact change. You can break bigger notes in larger stores, hotels, restaurants and bars.
Watch where to put your toilet paper in Southeast Asia
Sometimes this is a bit hit or miss, as many upmarket stores, restaurants and hotels will allow you to flush your toilet paper but many will not. Certainly in Singapore, we are accustomed to putting toilet paper in the toilet. However, many countries do not have sewage systems that are equipped to deal with paper. If there is a bin next to the toilet, then use it. Many places are beginning to stop offering toilet access to customers because so many travellers have blocked the system with paper and other sanitary objects.
Don’t ask your driver for recommendations
It might seem the perfect way to strike up a conversation with your taxi or tuk tuk driver. However, it is more likely that they have ulterior motives and will recommend places to you based on friends or family who are working there. They will then earn a commission for sending you there. Occasionally, this commission will be added to your bill so watch out for advice, whether it is solicited or not.
Watch out for your left hand
This is considered the ‘dirty’ hand throughout Southeast Asia and is often used for unhygienic things. If you are eating with your hands, try not to eat too much with your left hand and always use your right hand when paying or accepting items from locals.
Avoid hotel laundry
It is usually extremely expensive, but you can get your clothes washed in Southeast Asia for around $1. These locally run launderettes offer excellent service and you can guarantee that your clothes will come back to you smelling better than when they were handed in. Many launderettes dry the clothes outside, thanks to the heat and often frequent power cuts so be careful that the clothes returned to you are actually yours.
Don’t haggle fixed prices
If you see a fixed price on an item, assume this is the price and do not attempt to haggle. Don’t haggle for consumables like water, tobacco, snacks and sweets. If you see street vendors selling products for the same prices, then assume this is what the going rate is. Souvenirs are the best place to try haggling first.
Don’t assume tap water is safe
Largely speaking, tap water should not be drunk in Southeast Asia. If you are washing fruit or vegetables, try to do it with bottled water rather than tap. You can always buy a reusable bottle and fill it regularly from water machines, which are dotted around everywhere. This is particularly useful if you want to reduce your plastic usage.
Don’t lose face or cause anyone else to lose face
Losing face is an extremely important concept in Southeast Asia. Losing your cool, shouting in public, or embarrassing someone is a grave offence and should be avoided. Stay calm, don’t lose your temper even when it is justified and try not to have an outburst. This will also help to solve the problem, as people will be much more likely to help if you have stayed calm.