Are you planning a holiday in Asia? Be warned: You will be hooked by the delicious dishes, welcoming cultures and unreal beaches! However, Asian cultures are very different from western ones, and many Asian countries are still developing—so you may run into some unexpected challenges.
How can you make the most out of your trip to Asia and avoid any unexpected unpleasantness? Read on for the top 5 tips to make your Asian holiday a magical one.
1. Get Your Visas Sorted
Most Asian countries require more than just a stamp in your passport before they let you stroll in.
Some, such as Thailand, offer visa-free entry for most tourists. Others, like Laos and Cambodia, will issue you a visa at the border after you go through a few steps. Countries such as India, China, and Vietnam require you to apply for and receive your visa before arrival.
If you’re planning to hop from one country to the next, make sure you check the visa requirements for every country on your list well before your journey. You can find up-to-date requirements for UK travellers here. Remember to double-check again before you leave. In the era of COVID-19, entry requirements can change on a dime.
2. Consider the Season
Considering a summer holiday in Southeast Asia? The beaches will be divine, right? Not so fast. Summer in the west is raining season in most of South/Southeast Asia. While it may only rain an hour or so a day in some areas, others may get pounded with monsoon-style rains for days on end. Not exactly the type of weather for shooting those make-my-friends-jealous beach videos!
How about hopping over in late winter or early spring? This tends to be the hottest time of year in much of Southeast Asia. We’re talking 38˚ and above every day. Instead, this might be the perfect time to visit China or Japan.
Check the weather as you plan your trip to determine your route and prevent any stuck-in-the-hotel blues!
3. How to Stay Healthy
Falling ill while travelling in Asia is a common worry. But in reality, the risk is quite low. If you keep to populated areas, your risk of catching malaria and dengue is extremely low. And, as long as you don’t eat undercooked food at local markets, you’ll be fine to indulge in street food and local cuisine at restaurants (there are some exceptions—see below). Here are a few tips to help you stay healthy on your trip:
- Don’t drink tap water in any Asian country (besides S. Korea, Japan, and Singapore)
- Avoid street food in India
- Don’t drink alcohol that is suspiciously cheap or homemade
- Use hand sanitiser often
- Give yourself adequate time to recover from jet lag
- Wear sun cream constantly and stay hydrated
- Don’t mess with monkeys (they’re not nice like in the movies!)
Before departing, consider getting travel insurance just in case you need to see a doctor. A month of coverage typically costs around £30-£50.
4. Drive at Your Own Risk
The roads in many Asian countries can be treacherous if you don’t know how to drive like a local. For example, Thailand is the deadliest country on Earth for motorcyclists. Laos is about as bad, and Cambodia and Malaysia are barely safer. However, many tourists are enticed to rent a motorbike due to the low cost (as low as £50 a month) and the freedom it affords.
If you’re taking a holiday in Asia, consider skipping the bike rental and taking private cars instead. An entire day of sightseeing in a private car (with a driver) will likely cost you less than £30. Plus, you’ll enjoy air conditioning and the comforts of a modern sedan.
Going long distance? Flying is almost always the best way to travel between cities. Domestic flights often cost less than £20 one-way. Flying is far quicker than taking the roads and more comfortable than travelling by rail.
5. Respect Local Laws and Customs
No matter where you go on holiday, it’s important to remember that you are a guest in another country. Due to the cultural differences in Asian countries, it’s important to be aware of local customs to ensure you’re being polite and respecting the law. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Unlike in the west, Buddhist countries do not consider the Buddha to be an accessory, which means it’s not acceptable to wear clothing or jewellery depicting the Buddha or to show off your Buddha tattoo.
- Countries with single-party governments, such as China, won’t take kindly to you openly speaking out against the state. Keep your activities focused on leisure.
- Most Asian countries have extremely strict drug laws. Trying to buy or carry seemingly innocent substances such as cannabis may land you in big legal trouble.
- Despite what many westerners think, Asian cultures tend to be modest and conservative. Remember to dress and act respectfully, especially in religious spaces.
One Final Tip: Have a Blast!
Asian destinations are popular with travellers because they are safe, beautiful and relatively hassle-free. You won’t need to study too much before you go. Just follow the tips above and be open to new experiences. You’ll have a blast in Asia!