Asia Travel Basics

Asia Travel

Asia Travel

Despite its size, the expanse of Asia can be tamed by adventurous travelers, especially by those who use this Web Guide. Embark on Asian travel and you'll discover the world’s largest continent hosts stunning beaches in Malaysia and Thailand, the impressive Angkor Wat ruins in Cambodia and vibrant cities throughout--but that’s only the beginning. With so many possibilities, Asian travel can seem overwhelming but this Web Guide makes it easy to blaze your own trail.

Asia Travel Basics

This section includes sites offering an overview of Asia’s best: cities to explore, sights to see, attractions to include in your agenda, and visuals to give you a taste of it all. Whether you’re aiming to get a glimpse of the Asian Elephant, the second-largest land mammal in the world; or one of the world’s 10 tallest buildings, eight of which are in Asia, the Web can lead you there.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • Thanks to the Euro’s ascent, Asia may prove a less expensive travel option than Paris or Rome. In July 2007, The San Francisco Chronicle reported a boom in tourism in Asia and described how nations plan to maintain travelers’ interest.
  • The summer Olympics are being held in China’s capital city, Beijing, in 2008, and the city is in the midst of an intense preparation period. The building and renovating, coupled with Beijing’s huge population, could make travel to the country stressful, but memorable. Have a look at this December 2007 New York Times travel article on Beijing to get a feel for what the city is experiencing.
  • Golfers may not automatically turn to Asia as a desirable destination, but surprisingly, Vietnam is emerging as a golf haven. With a course designed by Nick Faldo, and one in the works by Colin Montgomerie, Vietnam courses not only carry the clout of professional athletes, they also tout gorgeous views of the South China Sea.
  • For some, Mongolia could conjure images of bleak landscapes with little to offer tourists and travelers, but think again. Mongolia is a promising option for adventure seekers. For a taste of the nomadic life, consider taking a trek on horseback or participating in an archaeological dig. National Geographic outlines a few options.   
  • Rough Guides offers a unique combination: ideas for off-the-beaten-path exploits, with thoughtful advice for Asia first-timers. Learn the ins and outs of the continent, how to travel responsibly, and how to cope with reverse culture shock when you arrive home again.

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Travel Requirements for Asia

Asia’s complex mix of political systems and religions, coupled with its vastness, can make orientation intimidating. The sites below offer a pleasant introduction. You’ll get lessons in geography and culture, and learn the necessary technicalities to take care of before embarking on your journey.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • When determining your course, it may be easier to think of Asia as four areas: Southeast Asia, East Asia, South Asia, and North Asia/Russia, and to plan accordingly.
  • In your research, you’ll find differing maps of Asia; some include a portion of Russia, while others omit it. Asia also includes parts of the Middle East, as this helpful WorldAtlas.com map shows . Click on a country to zoom in for a better view of cities.
  • Southeast Asia includes Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. You won’t need a visa to get into Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, or Thailand; you can obtain a visa upon arrival at most points of entry in Cambodia, Laos, and Indonesia. All except East Timor are members of ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
  • East Asia comprises China (including Hong Kong and Taiwan), Japan, North and South Korea, and Mongolia.
  • South Asia refers to India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bhutan.
  • North Asia refers to Russia, the world’s largest country, part of both Asia and Europe.
  • Of the world’s five communist states, four are in Asia: China, Laos, North Korea, and Vietnam. The rest of the continent is a mixed bag of monarchies, dictatorships, single-party and federal states, and democracies. The National Library of Australia provides a comprehensive list of Web resources for Asian governments.

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Asia Hotels

Asia’s accommodation options are as complex and varied as the continent itself. Whether you want a trendy high-rise hotel, a quiet haven, or a budget-conscious hostel, the Web can help you find it and book it quickly and easily.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • Asia’s size and varied climatic features have caused its people to create unique abodes. For example, nomadic people in Central Asia reside in yurts, circular tents made of animal skins or wood. Encyclopaedia Britannica offers a quick video explanation of yurts.
  • Going to Japan? Try a Ryokan. These inns can be found across the country, and are instilled with traditional cultural elements, such as tatami (straw mat flooring) and onsen (hot spring baths).
  • For an adventurous visit, try camping. For decades, explorers have trekked across the continent, camping as they went. The New York Times has an account given by a member of a Museum of Natural History expedition in Sain Noin khan in Central Asia in the 1920s, for example.
  • Camping in Southeast Asia is not necessarily a great option, however. Get the scoop from experienced travelers in this thread on “The Thorn Tree,” Lonely Planet’s travel forum.

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Getting to Asia

Asia is mainly accessible by air or rail, and both methods of travel can be easily researched and booked with help from the Web. Use the sites below to get going.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • BootsnAll Travel Network is a site led by seasoned travelers who love a good deal. The site’s experts advise travelers with flexible itineraries to look for flights to Bangkok, Thailand, and Delhi, India; there is much competition between carriers to both of these popular destinations, often resulting in cheap flights.
  • The main international airports in Southeast Asia are in Bangkok and Singapore. Kuala Lumpur is also a possibility, and you can get many cheap flights from Hong Kong into Southeast Asian countries, making it a good midpoint.
  • Vietnam is the only Southeast Asian country reachable by train. Ride the rails from China, Russia, or Europe.
  • If you’re heading to East Asia from the United States, most flights land in Hong Kong; Seoul, South Korea; and Tokyo, Japan. From Europe, it may be more cost-effective to stop over in Bangkok or Singapore, rather than take a direct flight.  
  • The Trans-Siberian Railway can transport you between Russia, China, and Mongolia. WayToRussia.Net provides information about the rail system and a map of the route.
  • From the west coast of the United States, most flights to South Asia stop over in Singapore and Bangkok. East-coast flights typically arrive in South Asia by way of Europe.
  • Going to India? You’re in luck. The number of flights available from the United States and the United Kingdom is growing.

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Getting Around in Asia

Covering ground in Asia can take a while, but luckily the continent has no shortage of airlines to transport you from country to country. Travel by land is possible as well. This section provides an overview of the options.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • Asia is teeming with discount airlines that are generally less expensive than their counterparts in the United States and Europe. The most prolific carrier in the region is Air Asia, which employs an open seating policy.
  • Be careful when choosing an Indonesian airline. Many have poor safety records; for example, Adam Air recorded a fatal crash in January 2007. This entry on the travel blog Gadling discusses low-fare airlines in Asia, safety issues, and how to research an airline’s reliability.
  • Asia’s size lends well to overnight train travel, and long train trips offering great views of the countryside. For example, the blog “Emmy Rose in Asia” recounts the Thai route from Chiang Mai to Bangkok, which takes about 14 hours. This unnamed blog has photos of the train interior on a route to Chiang Mai.
  • Be careful on overnight train trips through Asia; thieves are not uncommon. Lock up your belongings whenever possible, and keep important documents like your passport close at hand.
  • The following countries have internal rail services: Singapore, Malaysia, Laos, India, Japan, China, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Korea, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, and Cambodia.
  • Travel by foot offers an intimate perspective on the landscape, can help you feel more at home in a place, and puts you in touch with local people. There are many opportunities to walk, trek, or hike across Asia that are worthy of any traveler’s consideration.

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Asia Travel Blogs and Forums

There is a lot to learn out on the road. Luckily, the Web is teeming with insightful anecdotes from experienced globetrotters. Before you head out or even begin planning, consult blogs and forums to hear what others have to say. Below are a few of the best.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • Anyone can start a blog, but not everyone has quality advice to give. Use your discretion when reading blogs and forum posts; don’t take one opinion too seriously until you browse around a bit.
  • Try a blog search engine like Technorati to search for blogs on exactly what you’re looking for, even if it’s as specific as Chinese toy dogs.

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