Home to the majestic Himalayas, the great wall of China, Taj Mahal, Ankor Wat temple, many virgin & impossibly beautiful places, some sacred & mysterious lands, rare wildlife, countries where people still wear their traditional dresses with pride and more, Asia is truly an amalgamation of diverse cultures, landscapes, and different ethnicities.
Most importantly Asia is the spiritual centre of the world, with an ancient soul, a welcoming heart and a wild side. Traditionally & Culturally rich, diverse and intriguing region. While there are fast paced modern cities, on one hand, there are idyllic islands and remote villages still engulfed in their traditions & religious idiosyncrasies on the other. It’s a land of paradox- Rich and poor, beautiful and dirty, calm and chaotic, spiritual and troublesome.
As quoted by Hubert H Humphrey,’ Asia is rich in culture, rich in people, and rich in resources. It is also rich in troubles.’
This region is comparatively cheaper and ideal for long term travel. Most first time travelers to Asia choose the South East Asia region namely Singapore – Indonesia- Malaysia -Thailand-Laos- Myanmar (Burma) – Vietnam- Cambodia. Some choose to cover only one of the huge countries like India and China.
Depending on your interests, time at hand and travel type, you decide on places. We have given itinerary suggestions for family and couples for 10-15 days below.
Asia has the following popular destinations.
India Myanmar (Burma) China Nepal Bhutan Indonesia Thailand Singapore Malaysia
Cambodia Vietnam Laos Philippines Taiwan Srilanka Maldives South Korea Japan
P. S- The middle east region is not included here considering the ease of travel within each of the regions. The middle east travel guide is separate.
India and China would be the most populated and biggest countries in Asian continent requiring more time for traveling. Nepal and Bhutan can be clubbed together if you have at least 12-15 days in hand. Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia can be clubbed together considering these countries are small and next to each other but you would need minimum 20-25 days to do justice to each place. If you have more number of days , Cambodia and Vietnam also fall in the same belt and they can be done together.
Laos is in the middle landlocked by Vietnam, Thailand, and Myanmar.
Srilanka and Maldives are near India. Srilanka though a small country requires 5 days atleast and Maldives, smaller of the two, is a well-known luxury beach destination- (your days would depend on how many you would like to relax by the side of the beach drinking coconut water)
For families and working couples, long term travel gets difficult at times and hence we have suggested itineraries for 10-15 days below for travel in Asia.
Basics- Quick facts
Asia is largest and most populated continent with 60% of total world’s population.
Population – 4.4 billion plus approx. Most populated regions China, India all come in Asia.
Language – Not just each country has its own language, but also within each country, there are various regional languages. Most spoken languages are Mandarin Chinese, English, Indonesian, Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Vietnamese, and Thai. One can survive with English in most countries, however, would recommend learning a few necessary words in the regional language for better travel experience
Currency- Currency also differs for each country, however, USD is widely accepted and can be exchanged easily.
Asia has the most varied landscape, most diverse culture, and highest population among all regions.
Some of the oldest civilizations were born in Asia.
7 of the most densely populated cities in the world come in Asia
Tigers, Giant Panda, Indian rhino, Asian Elephants are all found in Asia
Each asian country is unique in its own way for example
- India-Land of spirituality where food, bollywood and cricket bring people together.
- Burma- This is where you find women with really long necks.
- Bhutan- This is where environment too has constitutional rights and tobacco is totally banned
- Indonesia- Largest archipelago country in the world, people save for years for funeral procession as that’s the biggest affair, goes on for 7 days.
- Nepal- 8 out of 10 highest mountains are in Nepal including Mount Everest
- China-Most populated, one of the oldest civilizations synonym to great wall of China and marital arts.
- Japan- Oldest population, Zen buddhism, sushi and pop culture.
- Combodia- This is where lies Ankor Wat temple .
Food & Culture
Asia is home to some of the world’s oldest civilizations and birthplace of many religions.
Most predominant religions in Asia are Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and Confucianism.
Architecture & Art
The extraordinary art and architecture of Asian region include Temples, palaces, forts and mosques inspired by Hinduism, Buddhism and Islamic religion. The art is primarily focused either on the Spiritual side of life or natural things in the world. You would typically see the display of mythological stories or motifs inspired by nature in most places.
There are four main characteristics of Asian art – Silk paintings often with a story behind, Sculptures of Gods and Goddesses, Woodblock prints common in China and Japan and Batik printing. Carpet Art also comes from Asia but its origin was in middle eastern region before it became popular in countries like India
Customs and Traditions
Asians tend to be highly group and community oriented people where strong emphasis is given to the family as a major source of identity and support. Most Asian societies have a paternalistic approach. Social order, Religion, Values, Respect for elders including ancestors and language all play important role in defining the traditions among Asians.
The traditions of Asia are usually colorful and many times difficult to understand for outsiders coming from the west. Fares and festivals are big and they are celebrated with fanfare. Some Festivals are to celebrate seasons where dependency on agriculture is high, some festivals are religion based, some are regional and folk while some are dedicated to ancestors.
For example- Holi (festival of colors) and Diwali (Festivals of light) are celebrated in India, Chinese new year also known as spring festival is to honor deities and ancestors, Thaipusam is celebrated in Malaysia, Lantern festival in Taiwan , Songkra Festival in Thailand, Winter light festival in Japan and there are many more. Attending these festivals is a great way to experience Asian culture.
Asian food is sweet, sour, spicy, and salty. The wide use of herbs, spices, and flavors make Asian food exceptional. you will find rice and noodle dishes as main course besides vegetables and non veg curry. India is the king when it comes to variety and taste. Street food is quite popular in most Asian nations and it comes cheaper.
Most Asian countries have their own traditional dress code and there are many varieties and styles. For example, In India primarily it is Sari/Salwar Kameez for women, dhoti/pajama-kurta for men, In Japan traditional dress of women is called Kimono, Indonesians wear Kebaya, Hanfu is worn by women in China and Hanbok by women in Korea etc.
In some countries like Bhutan, people prefer to wear their traditional dresses all around the year while in most other countries people tend to wear their traditional clothes during festivals and religious ceremonies. Besides other things, clothing also adds color to the Asian way of life. You will find bold colors, prints, embellishments, decorative work in Asian dresses making it distinct in every way.
As a visitor in Asia, you are free to wear whatever you wish to as long as it is decent and not too revealing. In addition, while in Asia you can always take a pic in your favorite traditional attire or even buy one for yourself.
How to go?
Following are the airports for each of the popular Asian country
- India- Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport, Kolkata Netaji Subash Chandra International Airport
- China- Beijing Capital International Airport, Shanghai Pudong, Guangzhou Baiyun
- Japan -Haneda International Airport, Narita International Airport, Kansai International Airport, Osaka International Airport and Miyako Jima
- Indonesia-Ngurah Rai International Airport Denpasar Bali, Soekarno Hatta Jakarta
- Singapore- Changi International Airport
- Malaysia- Kualalampur International Airport, Kota Kinabalu International Airport, Kuching International Airport
- Thailand- Swarnabhoomi International Airport, Phuket International Airport, Krabi International Airport and Chiang Mai International Airport
- Cambodia- Phnom Penh International Airport, Siem Reap International Airport,
- Vietnam – Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City, Noi Bai International Aiport in Hanoi
- Laos -Ban Houisey, Luang Parbang International Airport, Pakse International Airport, Vientiane International Airport
- Myanmar – Yangon International Airport
- Bhutan – Paro international airport
- Nepal – Katmandu International Airport
- Sirlanka- Colombo (RML and CMB)
- Phillipines – Manilla International Airport, General Santos, Mactan and Cebu international Airport
- Taiwan- Taoyuan Taiwan, Taipei songshan , Taichung International Airport, Makung Taiwan, Kahosiung International Airport, Tainan Airport
Best time to go
Broad guidelines- In most countries, March -April or September till Feb should be fine however please check the individual country weather conditions since the weather not only varies from country to country but also within regions the climate changes.
Summer months – April- June
Monsoon- June end – August
Winters – October end to February.
Stay – Families and couples in could get a mid range place within $50-$100. Cheap guesthouses could be within $50
Food – On an average $12 to $20 per meal per couple or a nuclear family in a mid-range restaurant. In smaller local eateries, night market meals, this could be much lesser. Bottled beer would be within 1$-5$
Local Transport – If you use public transport , it could be anywhere between $1-$5, Car hire per day range could be $25-$50 depending on distance.
Sightseeing – Admission to historic sights could vary from $5-$16
Pl note: The above prices are for south east Asian countries. For metro cities and developed nations in Asia, costs would be higher.
Countries which require prior approval for visa
India – Indian government provides the option of E-visa to tourists , max for 60 days.The e-Visa is an electronic authorization from the government to enter India and is equivalent to a visa, but no stamp or label is placed in your passport.
You need to download the visa application form from here and submit it along with the documents
China – Single entry visa for 30 days available for tourism purpose.
Japan – Tourist visa can be taken for max 90 days. Apply beforehand
Vietnam- You will need to arrange your visa beforehand. If you are traveling to other countries, you can apply for visa in Thailand and Indonesia as well
Myanmar- You need to get your visa ahead of time. 28 days is the visa limit in Myanmar, however, you can extend this once you are in the country – for a further 14 days.
Bhutan- For Indians Bhutan visa is on arrival however for citizens from other nations, prior approval is required. For more read here
Following countries have visa on arrival
For the countries that have visa on arrival services, just show up at the border with your passport and receive the visa stamp. For most countries, you only need to have a valid passport, address proof and photographs to get the visa stamped at the airport or at the land borders.
Nepal- Visa on arrival at the airport for 15-30-90 days.
Maldives- 30-day free-visa is issued on arrival for all nationalities.
Cambodia: 30 day visas are available on arrival at any land borders and at the airports.
Indonesia: A 30 day, visa is available on arrival at the seaports and airports in Indonesia. The cost is $25. You can extend your visa when you are in the country for a further 30 days.
Laos: A 30 day visa is available on arrival at the border and at the airport in Laos. The price of the visa varies depending on which country you are from.
Malaysia: A free, 90 day visa is available on arrival at the airport and at the land borders. This applies to most, if not all, western countries.
Philippines: 21 day visa is available on arrival at the airport. You can apply for a 59 day visa ahead of time at the Philippine Embassy in the country of your choice, or, you can extend the 21 day visa once you are in the Philippines.
Thailand: 30 day visa is available on arrival at the airport for most nationalities (all Western countries included). For entry to Thailand by land, a free, 15 day visa is available on arrival. If you want to stay for 60 days, you will need to apply for a visa at the Thai Embassy.
Singapore: 30-90 day (depends on your nationality) visa is available on arrival at the land borders and at the airport. This applies to all western countries.
Top things to do
Things to do in Asia? Land of many countries and many cultures…. Still here are a few things you should include in your plan depending on the route you take.
- Explore history, the lives of Kings and Queens in India– Visit the Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri around Agra in north India
- Experience royalty at its best in Rajasthan – Visit Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Udaipur, and Jaipur. Stay in one of the traditional Havelis or Palaces turned into hotels, eat the traditional Indian thali and feel like a king or a queen
- Go trekking in the Himalayas- You can do this from India, Nepal and Bhutan. Everest base camp, Annapurna base camp, Kashmir great lakes trek, Snowmen’s trek in Bhutan are a few options to be in your bucket list.
- Walk the Great Wall, China – The wall near the city is usually crowded. travel out of city and then walk the great wall without people.
- Happening Hongkong– True amalgamation of East and west. Great Nightlife, Shopping, and variety of food.
- Japan- Visit bamboo forest in Kyoto (city of gardens and temples), see Cherry blossom in Tokyo, definitely try Sushi and Zen meditation while in Japan.
- Sail Vietnam’s Halong bay and tour the Mekong Delta- Halong bay is country’s most popular attraction, you may even go for hiking here. there are more than 3000 islands in the emerald green waters of Halong bay. Mekong delta is where you will find floating markets, Pagodas, Orchards, take either boat tour or bike tour for the region.
- Explore the ruins of Angkor Wat – Cambodia is known for this.
- Take Children to Singapore- Visit safari, zoo, gardens by the bay, Sentosa Island and relax by the Clarke Quay.
- Visit Bali Ubud – Art lovers must go to Ubud from Bali to buy handicrafts and paintings at amazing rates.
- Explore Ko Phi Phi in Thailand– Famous for Maya bay, this is one of the most popular attractions. Besides Bangkok and Phuket have lots to offer. Floating markets & nightlife in Bangkok, Phuket beaches, Scuba diving in Similan Islands to name a few.
- Try Hot air balloon ride at Bagan, Myanmar – Explore more than 2000 Buddhist temples and Pagodas in Bagan archeological site.
- Boracay Island for beach party lovers– Must visit for party lovers in Philippines.
- Tiger nest Bhutan – If in Bhutan, this is not to be missed. This 4 hrs trek is comparatively a short trek and is immensely satisfying.
- Island hopping in Langkawi, Malaysia– This is boat tour starting from the Langkawi island explore islands around.
- Wellness treatments– Asia is popular for traditional medicines and spirituality- Try the massage and spa treatments in Bali, India,Thailand and Japan. You must also attend yoga & meditation classes or try some of the ayurvedic treatments while in Asia.
The bigger the nation, the longer it will take to cover worth visiting places for obvious reasons, so India China and Japan would require dedicated number of days and have to be done independently, no clubbing. For India travel itinerary check here.
Most people select one of the popular routes in South Asia depending on the time at hand. These are a few sample itineraries.
Malaysia- Singapore – Indonesia 12-15 days
Indonesia – Thailand- Vietnam – 15-20 days
Thailand- Cambodia- Vietnam-Laos – 21 days-24 days
If you have two months in hand you can include Philippines and Myanmar too to the above route of Thailand- Cambodia-Vietnam and Laos.
- Asia is a huge and not all countries are safe. If you are not a family or a couple, it is advisable to travel in groups for day trips and tours.
- Unless you are in a fine dining restaurant, please take bottled water everywhere. Tap water is not meant for drinking.
- Eat local food or even street food. Turns out much cheaper however make sure it is hygienic. You should ask references from locals for places to eat in the particular city. Take freshly prepared hot food. Avoid, cut fruits, salads and juices unless eating at fine dining restaurants and well-known hotels.
- Food is cheap but drinks really add up to your bill. Minimize your drinking in Asia. Wine is not cheap here.
- Research each country’s customs and traditions that you plan to visit before the trip. Respect religion, respect culture. And learn a few basic words in regional language.
- Pack light and apt- Check weather conditions first. Also, you would find laundry rates cheaper so don’t carry too many things unnecessarily.
- Carry your prescription and medicines for sure. Asia is a huge region and for long term travel, you might as well stock yourself with all precautionary medications.
- Give tips generously to the deserving people. Asia is not as expensive as Europe or America, people are paid less and it will not cost a huge hole in your pocket if you tip the poor even when it is not expected by him/her.
- Finding clean toilets and western toilets could be an issue in many places. Women do use female urination device. Carry sanitizer,hand wash,wet wipes always.
- Bargain hard- Bargaining is part of the culture, especially when shopping for souvenirs and other knick knacks in tourist places.