Asia still seems to be the top on the destination list for backpackers and gap-year aficionados. And why not? Nowhere else on Earth has the variety and scope of this remarkable region with pristine beaches, dramatic mountain ranges and lush rain forests. It’s also a perfectly safe area to travel around, as long as you plan well and use a modicum of common sense. Here are a few tips for your trip.
Before you go
Research, research, research. Don’t just take the word of one internet source, but investigate thoroughly the area you are planning to visit and make sure you are fully aware of all the entry requirements, visa needs, inoculations and have organised sufficient travel insurance. From there look into your local transport options, currency types and potential accommodation. If the price and location of an establishment seems too good to be true, it probably is. While user led review sites such as Trip Advisor can focus on the negative, you can usually surmise if a certain hotel or hostel is best avoided.
Take a look at the customs and tolerances of the countries on your itinerary. Some areas may be more lax on soft drug use for instance, while the next country over may view such things as worthy of a long prison stay. Be wary at borders and airports, with drugs being such a lucrative business in that part of the world, the last thing you want to become is an unsuspecting drug mule. Keep your luggage with you at all times and make sure it’s locked securely.
While crime against westerners is fairly rare in Asia, it always pays to be alert. Scams and pickpockets can operate in the big cities when renting scooters and motorcycles, as more disreputable firms have been known to ‘steal’ the vehicle rented to you, forcing you to pay for a replacement. And if you are paying someone to drive you to a location, be sure of the price before you set off.
The region is one of the safest for female travelers, but be aware of local customs, especially in rural areas, where displaying too much flesh is frowned upon. The same rule applies when visiting Buddhist temples and Mosques, ensure you are appropriately dressed. And, as everywhere including at home, don’t accept drinks from people you don’t know. Not that you ever would.
While crime and political upheavals are easy to avoid if you use common sense, the weather can’t be relied upon so readily. The region features a vast array of temperaments and while extreme conditions such as typhoons are rare, they can occur. May to November is the rainy season and monsoons can conjure up high winds and heavy rain. Don’t pack your suitcase with thongs and flip-flops only. Ensure you have adequate clothing to deal with any eventuality.