A Vacation to Singapore & Malaysia [Part 0 – PrePlanning]

Greetings Fellow Travelers !

This is a multi-part series of blogs for our recent vacation (links to all parts are at bottom of this post).

Got bit by the travel bug again and had 3 days consecutive holidays coming up and bundled that with PTO’s, it allowed us (Shweta and me) to take a 10 day trip to Singapore and Malaysia.  Was initially planning out a circuit around Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia  but needed more days if I was going to even scratch the surface of all three.  Decided to drop Thailand.

The trip planning starts 2 weeks in advance.

  • Map out the flights and hotel reservations,
  • Optimize costs (we’re budget-to-midrange travelers).
  • Read trip-advisor reports on hotel conditions,
  • List out potential “things to see”,
  • Check out the political situation & safety in remote areas
  • Check Diseases (hmm.. ZIKA out there… need mosquito repellents).
  • Research best way to get around in trains and buses
  • Place to eat (being vegetarians, can’t ignore this aspect).
  • Book flights and hotels
  • Apply for visas
  • Apply for Forex
  • Planning out a Cost-Optimal Route

The below pics show some rudimentary efforts to ensure a smoother trip. Maybe I’m going overboard with this research but I want to “squeeze out every ounce out of this trip”. Due to the short duration of this trip, we decided to stick to the touristy route without side-trips to remote areas.  I did explore the package tours from Thomas Cook and others.  But I find their markups too high and I prefer the convenience of being in control of the itinerary.

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Went Crazy Trying to Cost-Optimize the Route

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Planning out the Itinerary on an Excel Sheet

I’ll try to keep this blog informative about what we see and any tips for cost or time saving that we can offer. Hopefully you will learn from our mistakes and findings on this trip in case you are headed out there.  Our final route on this trip is mapped out below.

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Final Route Mapped Out

Will keep this blog as pictorial as possible. We took 100’s of pics but don’t worry … we will only try to put up relevant pics here.  A few pics are shamelessly borrowed from the internet to fill in the missing gaps.  You can click on most pics in this blog to see the full sized versions (which are not really full-sized, but reduced down to 1024*768 sizes to preserve your bandwidth).


Tips on Foreign Exchange:

Image result for bangalore airport exchange

  • Avoid (very strongly) getting foreign exchange at an airport during departure.  You will get ridiculous exchange rates.  At Bangalore airport, the commissions are as high as 20% even on popular currencies like USD / Euros. 
  • Best to buy your foreign exchange from local vendors (we used buyforex.com) who provide much more reasonable rates (within 2-3% of the actual market rate).   And if you take a Forex charge card (like a visa debit card),  there are almost 0% commission charges during the purchase (but there will be 2-3% charges upon returning the unused amount after the trip).   I opted to take a Forex charge card for Singapore and I had a few USD’s lying around from previous trips that we can use for the Malaysian part (most vendors in India will not give charge cards for Malaysia and it’s very hard to exchange rupees for ringgit in Malaysia). 
  • If you don’t have Forex by the time you reach your destination,  exchange only just enough money at the arrival airport sufficient for transportation and food till you get to your hotel.  There, find a local money exchange point (or even the hotel you stay at) to exchange money at much better rates.

You can click on any of the below links to jump around in this blog-series.  But would recommend navigating them sequentially.

 

Below pages are still TBDs (work in progress).  Please ignore them for now.

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