How to plan your first trip to Asia?

Planning a trip to Asia is big, and if is your first time to the continent even more. As you knowAsia is the largest and most populous continent with a huge mix of cultures and religions. For me, coming from a small country, it truly seemed like a different world. My first stop was Tokyo and the change is really impressive, it really feels likeyou’re in a movie of the future haha. 

Lets be clear with one thing i know its a long journey depending on where you are from and being in the orient you kind of want to see as much as possible, but it really is impossible to cover everything and to try to fit all into a single trip its quite a job, unless you’re planning to be on the road for a very long time. 

Blue point, Uluwatu, bali - indonesia

Blue point, Uluwatu, bali - indonesia

1. How many days do you have? 

First thing first lets talk about the DAYS, how many do you have? +_ the real traveling time. Some destinations are quite close and others that are not so close, many require a 7h flight from one country to another and if you have the days counted thats not a choice. 

It’s very common for people to have 15 days vacations so if that’s your case, stick with one or two countries depending on the cities you’re planning to visit. For me 12 days in Thailand were just too little.. imagine if you have 15 days and you dream with visiting this paradise you’ll need a trip just for one country; in other one’s where i went i just wanted to visit the capital it was really enough depending on which one or two days. 

2. Pick your countries

Pick a few countries or cities and stick to them. Pull out the map and choose countries/cities that are relatively close together or are easily accessible by nonstop flights or direct trains. While it’s tempting to visit many countries and cities on a single trip don't try to fit all in one trip, because you wont be able to truly enjoy your time in the place that you wanted to visit so much. For example i was there for almost 2 months and i was able to visit 9 countries but it was really hard and i had to be running from place to place so i really recommend taking your time. 

GOLDEN PAVILION, KYOTO, JAPAN

GOLDEN PAVILION, KYOTO, JAPAN

3. Budget

Depending on your budget you can find yourself living the perfect life in South East Asia while with the same amount sleeping in a hostel and eating once a day in Japan - so choose carefully money wise! With such a varied continent you can find all kind of prices, so have that in mind when planning your trip. 

Its very important to also consider that sometimes you will be spending money on things that you didn’t think were that expensive when you were planning your trip. You have to think not only about food and accommodation in Asia but transportation as well. Most of the countries in Asia have good and cheap transportation systems. However, from personal experience, sometimes you spend a large amount of money just trying to get from the airport to the city. Some locations in Asia the airports are hours away from the main cities and can cost more than what you originally planned on. You also have to expect the unexpected because sometimes your planned transportation wont work out. For example, if you don’t know how to drive a scooter or motorcycle in Bali you will most likely have to hire a private driver or taxi to help you get around. 

4.  Check visa requirements and be prepared

For that check our previews post on information about visas from Japan, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. 

If you’re planning to visit other countries be sure to look for the information and check with the embassy with a lot of time in advance. Some are quite complicated and others you can ask about them online. 

5. Pack light and right

In most Southeast Asian countries, you can have your clothes washed, dried and ironed in under 24 hours for the equivalent of a couple of dollars and at street markets you can shop inexpensively for any extra clothes and toiletries you need.

What should you be sure to bring? For visiting temples, you’ll need modest clothing that covers your knees and shoulders. Also, arm yourself with a first aid kit, a small flashlight, all kinds of stomach medicines (Tums, Pepto, Immodium, etc.), earplugs, hand sanitizer and travel packs of tissues (toilets usually aren’t equipped with toilet paper). And because hotels never seem to have enough outlets, consider packing a multi-port plug that allows you to charge a few of your electronics at once.

Be logical and pack depending on which month you’re traveling in. You could in some cases experience both winter and summer, like I did. in my case i tried to do the itinerary in order to experience first the sunny days and then the snow days because you know obviously winter clothing is really big and not that easy to travel with. Check the weather always and to be ready to go shopping (Yes!) depending on the seasons. 

6. Get travel insurance.

This is so important for traveling to Asia, and everywhere actually. Especially if you're constantly engaging in outside activities and eating questionable street foods. Insurance policies can also cover non-health-related problems such as lost luggage or issues with flights and hotels.

halong bay, hanoi, vietnam 

halong bay, hanoi, vietnam 

7. Book your Hotels

You’ll even need this for most of your visas you take your time to book your hotels and choose carefully distance wise, close to transportation and attractions. Like i said before you’ll be spending a lot of money in transportation so choose some nearby t and save some money and time. I booked all of mine via booking.com it was definitely the easiest way. 

Other Tips

Change money once you arrive, not in your home country or airport. stick to banks or other spots that advertise “Money Exchange.” Make sure to change plenty of cash, as street-market vendors, taxi drivers and smaller restaurants may not take credit cards.

Be respectful in Temples.

Don’t be afraid to bargain.

Don’t give money to/buy souvenirs from begging children — order a meal, instead.

Always have with you a copy of your passport. 

The most important tip about chopsticks, is that you should never let your chopsticks rest in a way where they’re lodged down into the bowl, sticking out. You want to place them on the edge of your dish, parallel with the table. This is a cultural trait that symbolizes leaving incense sticks for ancestors. 

Ladies, this is for you. Most of the public toilets you’re going to find will be what is essentially a hole in the ground. You’re going to want to practice your squats before you get to Asia. If you’re having trouble locating the flush handle, it’s probably one you operate with your foot, or the ones you have to put water in with a bucket or you have cero privacy so get ready for the whole experience. 

Now that you’re armed with plenty of useful info, I wish you happy planning — and a wonderful first trip to Asia!

If you’ve been to any Asian countries, do you have any advice to add? Please share in the comments section below.