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Asia is an incredibly vast and diverse continent, boasting many travel experiences unmatched by any other region. From the ancient palaces and beautiful temples of Japan and China to Hong Kong’s and Singapore’s modern and towering skyscrapers, ancient tombs, and the incredible elephant parks in Thailand, Asia is unlike any other continent.
The continent is also home to some of the most vibrant and bustling street markets, including night markets, floating markets, and some of the most picturesque landscapes that are perfect for exploring.
Planning a trip to Asia can be overwhelming, with many countries and cultures to explore. Still, with the right information and resources, you can create the perfect itinerary for your trip.
In this travel guide to Asia, we will provide you with essential tips and insights for visiting some of the best destinations in Asia, including the best things to do, where to stay, how to get around, and travel tips that will ensure that you have the best possible experience.
Asia is an area that is rich in history, culture, and natural beauty and is filled with many incredible places waiting to be explored. Whether you’re a history buff, an outdoor enthusiast, or enjoy bargaining for a great souvenir, there’s no shortage of things to see and do.
From the ancient temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia or Wat Pho in Bangkok to the incredible street food scene in Hanoi, Vietnam, Asia accommodates diverse desires. Here are the best things to do in this fascinating region of Asia:
- Our Travel Guides to Asia
- Best Things to Do in Asia
- 1. Explore the Temples of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia
- 2. Take a Street Food Tour in Hanoi, Vietnam
- 3. Visit the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand
- 4. Go Island Hopping in Railay Beach, Thailand
- Where to stay in Asia
- How to Get Around in Asia
- Use Ride-Hailing Services
- Take Local Transportation
- Rent a Scooter
- Book Private Tours
- Travel Tips for Visiting Asia
- Get Travel Insurance
- Respect Local Customs and Traditions
- Be Aware of Scams
- Pack Appropriately
- Be Prepared for the Weather
- Flying In
Our Travel Guides to Asia
If you’d like to dive deeper into a particular country, here are the locations that we’ve covered:
- United Arab Emirates
Best Things to Do in Asia
1. Explore the Temples of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia
A very popular place to visit is the temple of Angkor Wat. These temples are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and prove the Khmer people’s cultural heritage. Situated in beautiful Siem Reap, Cambodia, these temples have long been popular places for those who enjoy learning more about the history and architecture of Asia.
There are many ancient places to explore, including the majestic Angkor Thom, a Bayon temple, and Ta Prohm, famous for giant tree roots that seem to engulf the ruins.
Many tourists also visit the Royal Independence Gardens, a national park open to the public seven days a week and filled with vibrant scenery just north of the beautiful Siem Reap River. With so many areas to explore, it’s easy to spend many days at Angkor Wat, and with each visit, something new is revealed.
To get the most out of your visit to Angkor Wat, take a guided tour that will offer an in-depth history of the cultural context of the temples. A guided tour will also shine a light on the spiritual significance of the temples, thus making it a more meaningful experience.
Cycling, especially in the dry season, has long been a popular way to explore the temples, and cycling offers a more immersive experience because you can explore the surrounding countryside and nearby villages. If you want to get a birdseye view of the temples, a hot air balloon ride offers a unique and unforgettable experience.
2. Take a Street Food Tour in Hanoi, Vietnam
Hanoi is one of many amazing Asian travel destinations popular for its street food, offering a vibrant and eclectic mix of French, Chinese, and Vietnamese influences.
Taking one of the many street food tours is an excellent way to experience the local food culture and learn about the history and culture behind the various cuisines. From Bun Cha to Banh Mi, each amazing food dish has a story; the local food tour guide can share these stories with you.
A street food tour can take you to local restaurants and vendors you may not discover alone. You can taste amazing food and learn how it is prepared. You can also meet local cooks and caterers who are passionate about their food.
A tour will also allow you to experience the local culture, as you can interact with locals and immerse yourself in Hanoi’s daily life. Depending on where you go, you may even be able to find Western food while on tour.
One dish you should sample on one of the tours in Hanoi is egg coffee, a sweet and creamy coffee made with egg yolks, condensed milk, and sugar. Be sure to take extra money on a tour because you will want to return some of the incredible cuisines to the hotel!
Another wonderful way to learn about local culture is to schedule cooking classes during your visit. Many locations, including Hanoi, offer cooking classes for tourists. Be sure to check them out during your visit to Asia!
3. Visit the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Thailand is known for its elephant tourism industry, but unfortunately, many elephants have suffered abuse. An elephant sanctuary like Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, the largest city in northern Thailand, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offers a humane and ethical alternative, providing a sanctuary for rescued elephants in their natural habitat.
The park is home to over 70 elephants, many of whom have been rescued from the tourism and logging industries.
When you are traveling in Asia, the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand, is not only a unique and unforgettable experience but also a chance to support a good cause. The park offers various programs that allow visitors to interact with the elephants, learn about their behavior and habits, and help care for them.
When you visit during the peak season, be sure to book tickets in advance. If you visit Thailand during the rainy season, you may need to check in advance to ensure this national park will operate regularly for tourists.
Adding this to a Southeast Asian itinerary, you can spend a day at the park, learning to feed and bathe the elephants and even take a ride on their backs. The park also offers a chance to learn about the plight of elephants in Thailand and support efforts to protect these majestic animals.
4. Go Island Hopping in Railay Beach, Thailand
Railay Beach is one of the most beautiful destinations in Thailand, and going island hopping along the beautiful beaches is one of the best ways to explore the area’s many attractions. The crystal-clear waters, white sandy beaches, and towering limestone cliffs make this a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and beachgoers.
Those backpacking in Asia often visit the coast to enjoy the relaxing atmosphere and beautiful coastal scenery. Renting a kayak or taking a longtail boat to nearby islands such as Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta are common ways people explore the coastal areas in Thailand.
The islands offer majestic scenic views, a great way to escape the noisy crowds and enjoy the coast’s natural beauty. You can also go snorkeling or scuba diving to explore the vibrant marine life, relax on the beach, and soak up the sun.
There are many secluded coves and hidden tropical beaches to discover in Thailand, and you can even take a sunset cruise to watch the sun go down over the Andaman Sea.
Checking out the gorgeous beaches in Thailand is an unforgettable experience and something that travelers exploring Thailand should do.
Where to stay in Asia
When planning a trip to Asia, choosing where to stay can be one of the most important decisions you make. With so many incredible destinations and accommodation options, deciding where to lay your head at night can be overwhelming.
Here are ten of the best places to stay in Asia, each offering a unique experience and a chance to immerse yourself in the local culture:
- The Reverie Saigon in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- The Oriental Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand
- The Raffles Hotel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
- The Four Seasons Resort in Chiang Mai, Thailand
- The Udaya Resorts and Spa in Bali, Indonesia
- The Park Hyatt in Saigon, Vietnam
- The Shangri-La Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand
- The Rosewood Luang Prabang in Laos
- The Belmond La Résidence d’Angkor in Siem Reap, Cambodia
- The InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort in Vietnam
No matter where you choose to stay in Asia, you’ll find an amazing variety of accommodations for all tastes and budgets. From beautiful historic hotels to quiet, secluded resorts, these top ten places to stay will ensure a memorable and enjoyable trip.
How to Get Around in Asia
Getting around in Asia can be challenging, but when you plan, navigating the region’s many transportation options is easy. Here are some tips included in this Asia travel guide for getting around while you are in Asia:
Use Ride-Hailing Services
Ride-hailing services, including Grab and Go-Jek, have revolutionized transportation in Asian countries, especially big cities like Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Jakarta, and Ho Chi Minh City. These services offer a convenient way to get around, and you can easily book early using a smartphone app.
The prices of ride-hailing services are usually fixed and often cheaper than a taxi, making them a great option for thrifty travelers. Also, the apps offer features such as cashless payment, real-time tracking, and even driver ratings, making the experience more seamless and secure.
One of the great benefits of using ride-hailing services is the ability to avoid language barriers, so you won’t have any issues with communication. The app shows the driver’s name, picture, and even the license tag number, so you can easily identify who your driver is and know that you’re getting into the correct vehicle.
While ride-hailing services have become ubiquitous in many Southeast Asian cities, it’s important to exercise caution when using them. Be aware of surge pricing during peak hours, and always check the driver’s ratings and reviews before booking a ride. In addition, be mindful of your safety and security, especially when traveling alone or at night.
Take Local Transportation
Taking local public transportation, including buses, trains, tuk-tuk, or rental cars, can be a great way to save money and experience the local culture in Asia. However, it can also be confusing and uncomfortable, especially when traveling during rush hour.
Before taking local transportation, you should research the routes and schedules to ensure you take the correct bus or train. Also, it’s a good idea to be prepared for delays and overcrowded trains and buses, especially in big cities.
One of the many benefits of local transportation is the opportunity to socialize with locals and experience the local way of life firsthand. It is also a perfect way to check out those areas off the beaten path that may not be as easy to access as other modes of transportation.
When taking local transportation in the country, you must be aware of your surroundings and monitor your belongings. Pickpocketing and theft can be common on crowded buses and trains, so taking precautions and keeping valuables close to you is important.
Rent a Scooter
Renting a scooter when you visit Asia can be a thrilling and adventurous way to explore Southeast Asia’s many attractions, especially in areas where public transportation is limited. However, it’s important to have experience riding a scooter, wear a helmet, and follow local traffic laws.
Before renting a scooter, it’s important to research the rental company and make sure its reputation is good. In addition, it’s a good idea to buy travel insurance that covers scooter accidents, as it can be common in any country in Asia.
During the rainy season, you must be cautious of washed-out roadways and flooding. When you ride a scooter, it’s important to be cautious and alert of your surroundings on the road.
Always wear a helmet, follow local traffic laws, and open your eyes to road conditions and hazards. It’s also a good idea to avoid riding at night when visibility can be poor, and roads can be crowded.
While renting a scooter can be a great way to explore Asia, it’s important to weigh the risks and benefits and make an informed decision based on your experience and comfort level.
Book Private Tours
Booking a private tour can be the perfect way to visit Southeast Asia’s many attractions, mainly if you are limited on time or don’t want to navigate the public transportation system. There are several tour guides and travel agencies that offer tours, and you can tailor the itinerary to your interests and personal preferences.
We recommend using GetYourGuide or Viator to find tours in the city or region that you plan to visit. One of the benefits of booking a private tour is the power to customize the experience to your preference.
You will be able to pick which attractions you prefer to visit, the activities you want to do, as well as the pace of the tour. Also, a local guide can provide personal insights about the sights you’re visiting. This is a great way to enhance your overall experience.
Private tours also offer a comfortable, more convenient way to travel, as transportation and logistics are handled. You won’t have to worry about navigating unfamiliar areas or dealing with crowds or long lines. This is especially good when booking food tours in Ho Chi Minh City or planning shopping trips to markets such as Little India or a floating market in Bangkok.
When reserving a private tour, it’s important to carefully research the tour guide to ensure their character is upstanding. Take time to check for reviews and referrals from other customers online, and make sure that the itinerary and rates are crystal clear.
In addition, be clear about your expectations and preferences when communicating with the tour operator. This will ensure that the tour is tailored to your needs and that you have a positive experience. Private tours can be more expensive than other modes of transportation and activities. Still, the added benefits and convenience can be worth the cost, especially for those who want a more personalized and comfortable Asian travel experience.
Travel Tips for Visiting Asia
Visiting any Asian country is an incredible experience, but be prepared and informed before your trip. Here are some travel tips for you to think about for your visit to Asia:
Get Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is a must-have when visiting Asia, as it covers medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and lost or stolen items. As a result, we recommend using VisitorsCoverage to search for and purchase insurance before embarking on your journey.
It’s important to read the policy carefully to ensure it covers the activities you plan to do, such as backpacking in Southeast Asia, scuba diving, motorcycling, or other adventure sports. If you plan on backpacking, use SafetyWing for travel insurance to get the most affordable plan and be covered in all your health insurance needs.
When you choose travel insurance, it’s important to consider coverage limits, deductibles, and exclusions. Some policies may have better prices but may not cover certain activities or destinations, so it’s crucial to research the options and choose a policy that suits your needs.
Insurance may cost a little more money, but it offers peace of mind and financial protection in the event of an unexpected illness or accident, so it’s a wise investment for travelers.
Respect Local Customs and Traditions
Asia is rich in cultural heritage, and it’s important to respect local customs and traditions. This may include modest dress, wearing shoes before entering temples, and not showing affection publicly. It’s also important to consider local customs when socializing with residents visiting Asia, including using proper greetings and respecting elders.
One of the best ways to show respect for local customs is to learn about them before your trip. Research the cultural norms and traditions of the country or region you’ll be visiting and try to follow them. By doing so, you’ll not only show respect for the local culture, but you’ll also have a more meaningful and authentic Asian travel experience.
Be Aware of Scams
Scams are unfortunately usual in Asia, and it’s wise to be aware of them to avoid being taken advantage of. Some of the most common scams include overpriced tours, fake currency, and counterfeit goods.
It’s important to be observant and cautious when doing business with strangers, especially those who approach you on the street or when shopping at the street stalls in the markets.
When packing for Asia, it’s important to keep in mind the climate is hot and humid. Lightweight, breathable clothing is important to stay comfortable in the heat (like these options from Patagonia), and it’s a good idea to pack a mix of long and short-sleeved shirts, shorts, and pants. It’s also important to pack sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat to protect your skin from the sun.
One very important thing to pack is mosquito repellent, and it’s smart to bring a mosquito net if you’re staying in budget accommodations, as they may not have screens on the windows. When packing for travel in one of these popular countries, it’s a good idea to pack light to have room in your luggage for souvenirs you may pick up on your trip.
In addition to packing for Asia’s hot and humid climate, it’s important to consider the local customs of the region. For example, many temples and other religious sites require visitors to dress modestly and cover their shoulders and knees. Packing a light scarf to cover up with in these situations is wise.
Another important item to pack is a reusable water bottle, as heat and humidity can cause dehydration. It’s important to fill up your water bottle at your hotel or hostel before venturing to explore and avoid drinking tap water.
If outdoor activities or water sports, such as hiking or hanging out on the beach, are on your itinerary, pack the right gear before heading out. This may include hiking boots, swimwear, or even a waterproof bag to hold personal belongings or souvenirs picked up along the way.
Finally, it’s always a smart idea to research the specific countries you plan on visiting so you are prepared for any unique challenges or cultural differences you may come across. With a little preparation and the right gear, you can enjoy all Asia offers while staying comfortable and safe.
Be Prepared for the Weather
Being prepared for the weather in any Asian country can greatly enhance your travel experience. Make sure to pack lightweight, breathable clothing for the hot and humid climate, as well as sun protection such as sunglasses, sunscreen, and a hat. Staying hydrated and taking breaks in air-conditioned spaces will help you acclimate to tropical conditions.
Additionally, consider downloading a reliable weather app to keep track of weather updates and potential hazards during your trip, whether it is peak season or the rainy season.
By taking these precautions and staying informed, you’ll be better equipped to handle unpredictable weather conditions, ensuring a safe and enjoyable journey throughout the enchanting region of Asia.
You can also catch cheap flights to major airports to visit major cities and points of interest in Asia, including flights to South Korea, the Middle East, south Asia, east Asia, and Central Asia, and central Vietnam cities including Da Nang, Hue, Mekong Delta, and Dong Hoi, which are all popular major cities in Vietnam.
If you want cheap flight alerts directly to your email inbox, sign up for Going (Formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights) to get flight deals without the hassle of searching for them manually.
It is also easy to find cheap tickets to visit tourist favorites, including Mount Everest in Nepal, Khao Sok National Park in southern Thailand, and the Changdeokgung Palace in South Korea, among other Asian tourist favorites.
You can fly into North Korea, but you must be prepared to have everything carefully planned and approved by the North Korean government before making travel plans. Visa requirements for North Korea and nearly all of Asia are very stringent for travelers, but your itinerary won’t be subject to government involvement in most of Asia.
Overall, choosing the right mode of transportation and activities during your Asia travel depends on your preferences, experience, and comfort level. You can decide best for a safe and enjoyable trip by researching and weighing the options.
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- About the Author
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Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he’d heard.
Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he’s learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.
He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.