Asia Travel Guide

Asia Travel Guide

Asia is a vast and diverse continent with over 4 billion people living across it in around 45 countries. Some parts of Asia are hectic with notorious traffic jam, while other parts boast modern, fast-paced cities, laid-back beaches and exceptional opportunities to get connected with the locals. A lot of people in Asia speak more than one language, which makes it easier to communicate. Guesthouses, homestay and budget hostels in Asia offer a great chance to visit almost every its country on the cheap. Asia is home to some of Earth’s most mind-blowing sites like Tubbataha Reef in the Philippines, Thi Lo Su Waterfall in Thailand and the Stone Forest in China. Sublime trails of Tibet that connect remote villages exist among the towering breathtaking cliffs. Unexplored vast territories of Mongolia, where residents still wear their national dress live side by side with the awe-inspiring cities of Hong Kong and Tokyo. I know, picking your next destination in Asia might be a bit overwhelming. So I have put together this travel guide to Asia, so you can compare prices, get an idea of places to visit, things to see and find a corner in Asia suitable to your budget.

TRAVEL GUIDES TO ASIA

China Indonesia Japan Thailand
Vietnam
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Getting Around in Asia

Traveling across Asia can be both confusing and easy, heavily depending on the country you visit. Some regions like India or Thailand are incredibly affordable, while China or Japan may cause some certain troubles. Virtually all countries in Asia have cheap transport, especially in Southeast Asia, the region that is extremely popular with backpackers because of an extensive network of roads and public transport services.

Most people in Southeast Asia are friendly and speak a little English, so you can try your hand at bargaining. On the other hand, negotiating can be confusing in China, outside big cities like Shanghai or Hong Kong. You should definitely calculate your travel budget before you hit the road, to get the most out of the country. US dollar or Euro can go further in countries like Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.

Getting around Asia can be time-consuming sometimes, so if you are short on time, consider using domestic or other short distance flights. With several discount carriers to choose from, you can get pretty value for money.

I believe buses are the number one way of traveling in Asia. While you can find cheap local buses to travel slowly within a city, most backpackers prefer more expensive and comfortable long-distance coaches when it comes to overnight travel. You can kill two birds with one stone by choosing it and save on accommodation. You can expect to pay around 11-16 USD per ride with an overnight bus. Just remember, the cheapest option isn’t always the safest option.

While in Southeast Asia you won’t miss small tuk-tuks that scurry around and ready to get you virtually everywhere. Tuk-tuks are a bit more of a gamble. Many drivers don’t speak much English, so sometimes you have to resort to sign language. They often don’t use meter and start with a really high price that you have to negotiate afterwards. The price is normally double to triple what the local transportation is. Always negotiate the price before you get into the taxi or tuk-tuk in Asia!

Accommodation In Asia

As many other things, accommodation in Asia is plentiful and prices heavily depend on the region you visit. You may be surprised at how standards differ from the Western standards. While generally cheap, prices vary from country to country. You can find the cheapest options in Cambodia and Laos for around 5-7 USD per night in a hostel and pay a lot more for a night in South Korea or Japan. Typically, prices are lower outside major cities and higher in touristy spots.

If you travel across Southeast Asia, you may consider pre-booking accommodation for one night to find better rates (and options) later. Hostels in China can not only be cheap (around 15-25 USD per night) but also offer great help with getting around. Just ask the staff to write down Chinese directions you need to show taxi or bus drivers to make your trip easier. They are usually very helpful. On the other hand, hostels in Southeast Asia aren’t always the best deal. For example, family run guesthouses often provide greater opportunities for saving money on accommodation.

If you’re planning to stay at the hotel do some research in advance to find options that fit your budget. While most of us often expect a certain level of service, in Southeast Asia it is wise to keep an open mind. Be ready to try some new options as sometimes the only available accommodations (especially on islands) is private hut or guesthouse with shared amenities. Western hotel chains tend to offer higher prices, so avoid them to save money.

Food In Asia

After spending several months wandering across Asia, I have noticed food there has so many influences and flavors that one life is not enough to explore them all. Since Asia is actually a vast area, food (like almost everything else) is heavily depend on the country and climate. Some dishes (like in Mongolia) typically contain a lot of extra calories due to cold continental weather. Thus, they eat meat in winter and pretty much dairy products (kumis, for example) in summer. On the other hand, humid climate in Thailand promotes using more fruits, seafood, herbs and vegetables.

In countries like China, Thailand and Singapore street food is incredibly cheap. Noodles, dumplings, steamed buns and variety of soups can be enjoyed for pennies from the stalls lining major streets. If you travel with a group, you can not only save money on food but immerse yourself deeper into food culture as you share meals around the table (like Chinese people do). However, most locals eat pre-packaged food from shops like Lawson and 7-Eleven, you can get decent traditional meals for less than 3 USD from street stalls.

It is important to stay open-minded with food as well. While in most Asian countries Western food is normally more expensive than local groceries, stick to them if you want to save money.

How To Do Asia On a Budget

Take Advantage of Local Transport

In most parts of Asia local buses and tuk-tuks are quite affordable, so why not take a ride with them? Their services are easy to use and very convenient for travellers. Besides, while riding a you get a chance to meet other travelers like you that often have some useful information to share.

Travel at Night

While traveling at night isn’t acceptable to everyone, it is still a great way to save on both accommodation and changing locations. As night bus rides and flights usually last from 6 to 12 or more hours, it is crucial to pick your seat carefully, get everything you need in a daypack (as you have to place your larger bags in the luggage compartment) and bring earplugs and an eye mask that are like a magic wand sometimes.

Stick To Street Food and Cook You Own Food

Eating out is the best way for saving money in Southeast Asia and China. The most delicious meals come from stalls in the street markets and roadside vendors offering local specialties on the cheap. Night markets are your best bet for tasting various dishes at an exceedingly low price. You should also remember that lovely restaurants in Southeast Asia are not always expensive. Chiefly off the beaten path you will find lots of affordable options. Cook for yourself to get prices even lower.

Get Off the Beaten Path

It may sound obvious, but get off the beaten path. Attractions, theaters, markets and zoos in tourist areas are much pricier as they eager to get income from foreigners. You will inevitably pay tons of money compared to less popular spots, with no tourists around. Visiting Japan? Think about Akame Shijuhachi Waterfall. Heading for China? Zhangjiajie national forest park at your disposal. India? Well, consider visiting the Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh. There is always something you’d love to see with no annoying crowds all around.

Bargain Hard

I love doing it, there is nothing more exciting than get a good deal on something you really like! Almost everything in Asia can be haggled over. Markets, tuk-tuks, goods, services, the list goes on! You can bring down the cost to as low as 2/3 of the initial price! Don’t hesitate to bargain, just think of it as a game that you play to entertain yourself and keep your wallet fat. What if they refuse to negotiate for a lower price? Just keep moving! The next vendor in no way worse! The only strict rule (it is the common rule in the East) is to respect those with whom you are dealing with and your money will go further!

Couchsurf

With all the downsides of couchsurfing, it is a great way to get acquainted with Asian culture and people. However, don’t consider it as just a tool for getting a free couch. No one wants to host a grim stranger with a poorly filled profile and few low quality photos in it. Be attractive, change your mindset, think of what you can give, not what you’re eager to get! To succeed with Couchsurfing you have to be a communicative person and be able to keep the conversation going. While not all hosts want to talk much, they usually expect you to have the positive attitude at the least.

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Top Things To See and Places to Visit in Asia

Explore Angkor Wat in Cambodia

This ancient city immediately comes to mind when mentioning Cambodia. A huge temple complex, once lost in the jungle, now one of the most popular archeological sites in the region. It was originally built as a Hindu temple of the god Vishnu, so you can discover its statue near the western entrance. While Angkor is best explored at a slow pace, you may need a few days to check out all the ruins. There is always a freedom of choice. You can purchase passes for one (37 USD), three (62 USD) or seven days (72 USD). Hire a tuk-tuk to save energy when covering distance from Siem Reap and exploring Angkor itself.

Stroll Along the Great Wall of China

You can’t visit China and miss the Great Wall. The longest site ever created by humanity and the largest defensive structure of all time. Having a total length of more than 9000 km, the Great Wall is no joke. With several sections available for travelers, Badaling and Mutianyu are the most popular. Badaling is the busiest part of the Wall that can easily be reached from Beijing. Mutianyu has prettier architecture and isn’t so crowded than at Badaling. You can find a lot of tours to different parts of the Wall, however, there is nothing cheaper than visit it on your own with the cheapest bus ticket of 2 USD. Hikes are available almost everywhere.

See the Faces of Terracotta Warriors

An entire army of clay warriors with horses and chariots was lying undiscovered for more than two thousand years. Located in Xian, the large and very impressive collection of terracotta sculptures were created to accompany the first Emperor of China after death. Every sculpture has its own weapon and facial expression. You can even distinguish officers from ordinary infantrymen. Xian can be reached from Beijing by plane or overnight train. Expect to pay around 20 USD admission depending on season. While in Xian be sure not to miss the Muslim quarters where vendors sell foods and local spirit is everywhere.

Koh Ker Temples in Cambodia

Prasat Koh Ker is an off the beaten track destination in Cambodia. Very few travelers actually make their way here to see the temples and smaller shrines due their remoteness, but that is a big omission. The entire site looks as if it was discovered last week. The bulk of the ruins, as well as the seven-tiered pyramid of Prasat Thom are covered with green moss. However, you can climb up on top by using a wooden stairway. The pyramid and most of the ruins are in poor condition, but great stone carvings can be seen. While admission fee is around 10 USD, Koh Ker is best visited with a group to share quite high taxi fares.

Hwaseong Fortress in South Korea

The exterior of Hwaseong Fortress, remarkably combines European and Korean features. This UNESCO site was built in the 18th century by King Jeongjo to commemorate his father. The impressive walls with loopholes, fortified gates and watchtowers still sit in the ancient city of Suwon, just one hour away from Seoul by metro.

With more than 15 points of interest around here, you shouldn’t miss Hwaseong HaengGung palace where travelers can dress up historic-styled clothing, Yeonmudae Post where you can try your hand at archery and the Hwaseong Museum. Fancy-looking Hwaseong Trolley is used for tourist rides around the site. Consider visiting the fortress in the morning as you can spend an entire day roaming within its walls and have a picnic enjoying an outstanding panorama of Suwon.

Stand in Awe of Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal is a highlight of any trip to India. An imposing marble mausoleum was created by Shah Jahan for his wife when she passed away. A precious tribute to a loved one, it now attracts hundreds of thousands tourists each year and is a really popular destiantion in India.

Often skipped by travelers because of quite hectic city of Agra, Taj Mahal can be done in one day with a morning train from New Delhi. Mumtaz Mahal’s resting place can be really crowded so try to get there as early as possible to avoid lines. As prices are constantly rising, admission is around 16 USD (1000 rupees). The mind-blowing Taj Mahal is totally worth to be visited!

Visit Shaolin Monastery in the Henan Province

Kung Fu is an important part of the Chinese culture. While you can see a lot of people practicing martial arts all over the country, Shaolin Monastery is the place where Kung Fu originates from. The Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng offers a great chance to see the Buddhist monks learning stances and movements to use them for defending themselves. However, the Temple is more of commercial organization today filled with food stalls and souvenir shops, the place is worth visiting because of traditional architecture, impressive performances like Tongzigong and The Pagoda Forest at the Shaolin Temple. You can reach the monastery from Luoyang and Dengfeng by bus. Admission is around 15 USD.

The Red Fort in Delhi

Located in the very heart of Delhi near Chandani Chowk street market, the Red Fort is another splendid monument that was built by Shah Jahan. After careful studying of the Quran, the Mughal Emperor has decided to create a fort in accordance with Muslim traditions. By the time it was finished it was larger than an Escorial palace in Madrid and as beautiful as Versailles. While the main entrance to the fort is through the Lahori Gate, be sure to see the Diwan-i-Aam audience hall and Diwan-i-Khas private hall. Admission to the fort is around 8 USD.

Visit Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto

One of the most popular temples in Kyoto, Kinkaku-ji is also known as Rokuon-ji or the Golden Pavilion. Surrounded by a neat Japanese garden and a pond, the Kinkaku-ji has its top two floors covered in gold leaf with a large phoenix statue. While visitors are not allowed to explore the temple from the inside, however, there are lots of points to enjoy it from outside. It will require around an hour to explore the entire territory of the temple, but I’m pretty sure it is enough to feel like you’re back in 14th-century. Kinkaku-ji can easily be reached by 101 or 205 buses from Kyoto Station or from Kitaoji Station on foot. Admission is around 4 USD.

Discover Why Kyaiktiyo Pagoda Is Still There

Mt Kyaiktiyo is the place in Myanmar you will definitely want to visit to take awesome shots! A large granite boulder that somehow sits on the very edge of the rock is now one of the most important pilgrimage sites in the country. The pilgrimage season takes place from November to March so you can see the gold leaf of the stupa reflecting light of thousands of candles, listen pilgrims chant and meditate all night long. Getting there can be a bit overwhelming, but it totally worth it. If you depart from Yangon, be sure to ride a bus to a town of Kinpun (the nearest town to Kyaiktiyo Pagoda). After you there, the roofless truck will deliver you stright to the Pagoda. Admission is 6 USD.

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