Driving in Asia

Nov 29th, 2004, 02:39 PM
  #1  
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Driving in Asia

We are taking a trip from Bangkok, through Cambodia and Vietnam then overland China to Hong Kong.
I'm wondering if it would be unrealistic to rent a car. Has anyone driven this route or in those areas?
Siriuslea is offline  
Nov 29th, 2004, 06:40 PM
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Someone with greater knowledge of these countries than me may reply, hopefully, but my reaction is - courageous decision but probably utterly impractical, if not impossible. For a start, surely you'd have to rent at least one car for each country, and that ignores a probable raft of legal and practical difficulties. Even if you could just rent a car at the Cambodian-Vietnamese border, say, and drop it off at the Vietnam-China border, I for one wouldn't even think of driving in Vietnam, to say nothing of Cambodia. For a start, the traffic fines alone would surely kill you. No need to actually transgress any laws - your very presence would trigger dollar signs in the eyes of every cop you passed. (And what if the horn stopped working?) And in China - well, how quickly can you learn Chinese, for a start? Maybe more intrepid travellers will think me a nervous nellie, but I doubt it.
Neil_Oz is offline  
Nov 29th, 2004, 06:49 PM
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one word: C R A Z Y
rhkkmk is offline  
Nov 30th, 2004, 11:33 AM
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Generally, you cannot drive in China without a driver's licesnce issued by the Chinese authority. I know some car-clubs in Hong Kong has organized trips or rallys into China, but only after a lot of paperwork to get that done.
rkkwan is offline  
Dec 1st, 2004, 08:22 AM
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in a word- DEATHWISH- what were you thinking
BillT is offline  
Dec 9th, 2004, 05:53 AM
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So, no one would drive anywhere along our trip itinerary? Perhaps the solution would be to hire a car and driver.
Siriuslea is offline  
Dec 9th, 2004, 08:42 AM
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Sure, you can hire a car and driver for portions of that trip. (Driving yourself is truly unrealistic) I certainly wouldn't want to do that whole trip by road, however.

Also note that there are places where even your hired car and driver can't cross the borders. You might hire a car to take you to the border, then would have to hire a different car and driver once you walked across the border and passed the border inspections.

You might want to read a bit more about these areas. If you want to go overland, the Lonely Plant guides can give you a lot of information about this (trains and buses).
Kathie is offline  
Dec 9th, 2004, 08:55 AM
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The traffic in Bangkok is absolutely horrendous - I was saying my last rites as the tuk-tuk driver was navigating the clogged streets. I am actually surprised at how few accidents there are in the city given its chaotic roads.

Other Fodorites residing in Thailand can correct me here, but to the best of my knowledge, if a "farang" gets into an accident, chances are he might still be liable, even if the local driver was clearly at fault.

My two satong.
Razzle_Dazzle is offline  
Dec 9th, 2004, 08:56 AM
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P.S. I meant if a foreigner gets behind the wheel in Thailand and gets into an accident.
Razzle_Dazzle is offline  
Dec 9th, 2004, 01:00 PM
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Siriuslea, Razzle_Dazzle is right - you'd be well advised to do some serious research. Buy travel guides for the places you'll be travelling through and read the stuff on "getting around" carefully.

Unless you have a strong urge to meet your ancestors I wouldn't drive in Vietnam. If anyone tells you the accident stats aren't so bad, don't believe them. You can book a/c minibus seats at travel agencies to get from town to town. I wouldn't recommend the public buses unless you're an unusually hardy midget and are prepared to camp out for the night while the driver arranges repairs.
Neil_Oz is offline  
Dec 9th, 2004, 03:53 PM
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I am going to Asia with a seasoned Asia traveler who seems to prefer that we take the entire trip overland on local buses. I myself would prefer to fly to cover greater distance.

I am trying to find a compromise that could speed up our travels. I have looked in many travel guides but few talk about car rentals even though you can find listings for Thrifty etc. in Thailand, etc.

Also articles about rental cars becoming available in China from the major rental companies.

PS On the video game boards I post to, replying to a post with a one word non-helpful answer is called 'flaming', in case the terminology has not reached the fodorites
Siriuslea is offline  
Dec 9th, 2004, 04:29 PM
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I agree with what everyone else has already said. Local buses are fine if you are on a really tight-tight budget but otherwise you have the options of rail travel in many places that can be quite comfortable, no rush ( they usually take a lot longer than buses ), try www.seat61.com for some excellent insights and information about train/rail travel in Asia. Flights are cheap, not just budget carriers but even normal airlines have pretty cheap fares. Paying $25-50 for an air fare for a 1 hour flight beats a 10 hour ride on a bus. Also you can waste a lot of time in travel, if there are sights to see you would only see from the window of a speeding bus, my suggestion would be to get between those places you want to visit speedily and then relax and enjoy each location. The car rental thing, forget it.
JamesA is offline  
Dec 9th, 2004, 06:46 PM
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Finally some good news!
I thought I read in another post that air flights could be $30 but my travel partner insists that they are a minimum of $100 which is a bit out of my price range.
So can anyone recommend where to book these flights, any agency or internet?
Siriuslea is offline  
Dec 9th, 2004, 08:48 PM
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Don't know about Thailand and Cambodia, but in Vietnam and China you're pretty safe to just rock up to a travel agent and book at short notice, and you'll usually get a better deal than booking with so-called discount www sites. You don't mention when you're going, but in China it's a good idea to book ahead if travelling during busy national holiday periods (May Day week, around first week in May; National Day week, around first week October; and New Year, some time February - check exact dates closer to the time).

In China at least you can negotiate, e.g. explain that the price is outside your budget and ask if they have anything cheaper. If nothing better is offered, starting to walk out of the shop will usually get a better deal if one is to be had, but always bargain politely.

Bear in mind that English skills are in fairly short supply in China.

Same with hotels. Unless it's a busy period you can just walk up and get the best deal offering, as much as 50% off rack rate. If you're on a tight budget keep youth hostels in mind too -go to www.HIhostels.com to join international association and research properties.

Don't forget to use the search function on this board for more info. Also, you may like to check out www.lonelyplanet.com's Thorntree forum.
Neil_Oz is offline  
Dec 9th, 2004, 09:56 PM
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I have no idea about the other places but driving in Thailand, other than Bangkok, is not an issue. We have done it several times, based around Chang Mai, Phuket and Krabi. You do have to get an International Driving License. IN the UK they cost £4 from the RAC.

You mentioned Budget and we have used them most of the time. There are several advantages in that they do not charge for additional driver, do not charge for one ways (which could be important in your case), and their vehicles are in good condition.

We do not book direct, but through one of the online agents who offer Budget at a much lower rate than Budget themselves - just Google car hire Thailand.

You obviously need to be careful and sensible, but we like the freedom of stopping whenever we want to and have certainly gone to out of the way places that we would never have visited without a hire car.

If you combine this info with some of the new really cheap air fares, then I think it would be well worth having a car at least some of the time in Thailand.
SueJ is offline  
Dec 9th, 2004, 11:48 PM
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If you 'do' choose to rent a car then make sure that under no circumstances whatsoever have any kin of accident(!)
JamesA is offline  
Dec 10th, 2004, 06:45 AM
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Note that driving in Thailand in MUCH different than driving in Cambodia, VN or China.
Kathie is offline  
Dec 10th, 2004, 07:34 AM
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Siiu--- what your itinuray mabye we can help ya out a litle better.
orgy7 is offline  
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