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Bali, Bangkok and beyond: Tips for travelling to Southeast Asia

Sun-soaked shores, fantastic food, friendly locals and some of the best party towns on the planet – what’s not to love about Southeast Asia? When you’re as close as we are in Australia, there’s every reason to spend your downtime relaxing on Thailand’s beautiful beaches or eating absolutely everything in Halong Bay.

And of course, no holiday is complete without a little romance/getting it on in exotic locations. Even if you’re not planning to sex your way across the Andaman, holiday ‘fun’ can happen when you least expect it. In either case, it’s important to stay safe and healthy while you’re doing it.

So book your tickets, dig out your passport and enjoy Emen8’s top tips for travelling to Southeast Asia.

Mu Cang Chai terraced rice field near Sapa north Vietnam

Tickets, toiletries, testing

Make your health part of your standard travel preparations. While you’re away, you’re not likely to have the same access to STI testing, treatment and prevention options as you do in Australia, so plan accordingly.

Book in to get all of your STI testing done two weeks before you head overseas. This will give you time to get your results back and get treated if necessary, so you’re not boarding the plane with any unwanted stowaways. It’s a good idea to make an appointment for when you get back as well – your hometown regulars will thank you for not passing on any STIs you may have picked up on your travels.

“It’s a good idea to make an appointment for when you get back as well – your hometown regulars will thank you…”

And be sure to ask your doctor about your vaccination status for preventable viruses such Hepatitis A and B, and whether it’s recommended to be vaccinated against other infections such as Tetanus too.

Medications

If you’re using HIV medications or PrEP, make sure you’ve got your prescription renewed and enough medication to last you the entire trip.

It’s a good idea to pack an extra week’s supply in your hand luggage, in case your checked bag goes missing or you run into unexpected delays. Don’t forget you’ll be out of your normal routine, so set reminders on your phone to take your daily dose.

The Australian Government’s Smartraveller website has a lot of other useful information and tips for travelling with prescription medications. One recommendation is to carry a letter from your doctor detailing what the medicine is, how much you’ll be taking and stating the medicine is for your personal use.

Longtale boats on the white beach Phuket Thailand

Pack some safety

Even if you’re not always in the habit of using them, pack condoms and lube. Everyone makes their own choices about safe sex, and it’s important to be prepared for all the options so a big night doesn’t end in big disappointment.

“Even if you’re not planning to sex your way across the Andaman, holiday ‘fun’ can happen when you least expect it.”

Whether you’re hooking up with locals or other travellers, condoms are a good idea in any case. Again, you’re unlikely to have the testing and treatment options available overseas that you might have in Australia, so prevention (with a condom) is definitely a sound option.

Watch what you put in your mouth

Fresh fruit isn’t the only way to get Bali belly.

Now, guys, we really like our oral play — tongue, eggplant and peach emojis all round! But any sex involving your mouth carries a risk of picking up a whole range of infections which are relatively common in Southeast Asia.

Most bacterial gut infections and a lot of viral infections (like hepatitis A and B) can be transmitted on anything contaminated that you put in your mouth, including fingers and any other body parts.

And you may not think of them as STIs, but intestinal parasites (like the one which causes giardia) are passed on through contact with infected faecal matter, which can easily happen during any ass play – particularly rimming and fingering.

Chinatown in metro Manila Philippines

Be sensitive to cultural differences

Beyond learning to use a squat toilet and how to say ‘thank you’ in Khmer, cultural differences are a big part of interacting with guys in other countries.

“Even if you’re not always in the habit of using them, pack condoms and lube.”

Do a bit of research before you leave – other gay and bisexual travellers and online networks are a great source of information. Whether you’re flirting at a bar, cruising a beat or spicing it up with a local, be aware of social cues and always, always be respectful.

Be aware of the law of the land

Nothing will ruin your holiday faster than jail time.

While most countries in Southeast Asia are very welcoming for LGBTIQ travellers, they all have different cultures and different social standards, so it’s worth doing some research.

Some also have laws against homosexuality. Currently, sex between men is illegal in Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar and parts of Indonesia, with penalties ranging from fines to prison terms and even the death penalty. Changes to laws in Brunei that came into effect in April 2019 punish homosexual sex with stoning to death, despite global condemnation. Brunei’s laws apply even when not in the country but travelling on Brunei registered aircraft or vessels.

Many of these countries still have a thriving underground LGBTIQ community and nightlife, but be aware of your surroundings if you’re inclined to public displays of affection. Even if it’s the most romantic beach in the world, kissing a guy there could land you in serious trouble.

If you’re travelling in any of these countries, respect the local laws (even if you don’t agree with them). Be cautious using any online apps and posting on social media, and make sure you check out the Smartraveller guide for LGBTIQ travellers.

Supertree Grove by night at Gardens by the Bay Singapore

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