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.
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.
- 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.
For an historical overview …
online encyclopedia has an overarching chapter covering the history of Asia from prehistoric settlement through the 1950s. Learn about China’s roots, the expansion of India, and the effects of western exploitation and imperialism on the region. Also get the details regarding conflicts over independence.
For tourism resources …
Star Asia Travel
provides resources for multiple Asian countries and cities, including “Insider’s Guides” with essential tips for where to eat and stay, and the best times to go. The site’s clean, advertisement-free layout makes viewing photos easy.
Tourism Offices Worldwide Directory
provides tourism office contact information for all countries. Choose a country from the drop-down menu for a corresponding list of tourism offices all over the world.
For cities, countries, and attractions …
presents a clickable map of Asia; each country has its own guide with comprehensive travel resources, as well as advice for getting around, top attractions, and current news advisories when necessary. View image galleries for an enticing glimpse of each locale. Get informed and be entertained by the quick, light reading offered by the guides.
The New York Times
Asia travel guide has a unique combination of archived feature articles and practical travel information. Find ideas to spark your itinerary, comments and suggestions from readers, an excellent interactive map showing every Asian country, and multimedia features like photo slideshows and videos.
exposes readers to Asia with unique feature articles like “Trekking through Nepal
,” and alluring photo galleries of places like Bhutan
. Learn a bit of basic history for each Asian country, in addition to key facts and statistics, and get vivid advice for what to see and do; even the photo captions brim with descriptive imagery.
provides great resources for hiking and trekking in Asia. Look for links to holiday package tours, accommodations for hikers, information on hiking instructors and guides, where to rent equipment, and mountain areas suitable for hiking. Use the map to find opportunities all over 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.
- 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.
For travel requirements and embassies …
The U.S. Department of State
“International Travel” section provides consular info sheets for all countries. Learn essential health and safety information, plus exit and entry requirements, and embassy registration details, all of which are consistently updated when necessary.
offers a comprehensive rundown of passport and visa information, including lists of which countries require what documents for entry. Get essential details regarding applications and renewal, as well.
has complete coverage of embassies around the world. Use the search tool at the top of the homepage, or select a country from the alphabetical list to locate any country’s embassies and get links to embassy Web sites.
For health and safety …
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
offer country-specific information regarding travelers’ health. Find any travel notices in effect, clear definitions and information about diseases, safe food and water issues, and what to do in the case of an injury or illness abroad.
The World Health Organization
gives an overview of the health situation for each country, including required vaccinations and diseases to be aware of, and statistics related to mortality and disease.
For news …
runs down a photo slideshow list of the “Top 10 Asia Stories” of 2007. Gain insight into various topics, including the Taliban in Afghanistan, nuclear weapons in North Korea, and China’s product safety issues.
For maps …
has a zoom-able map of Asia that gets more specific. Click a country on the main map or select a country from the list below the map for more detailed country information. You’ll get a clear picture of bordering countries and discover cities within each Asian nation.
helps newcomers learn the layout of Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, and Southwest Asia. Choose a region on the map or from the list of regions below it.
For currency conversion …
provides an easy-to-use currency converter suitable for all countries. Don’t miss the printable “FXCheatSheet
” to create a currency conversion table you can take with you on your travels.
For language …
online encyclopedia covers Asia, including a brief section on language. You won’t find audio resources, but the information provided is a good jumping-off point if you plan to do further research into any one of the many different Asian languages.
For etiquette …
The Chicago Public Library
offers “A Traveler’s Guide to Asian Etiquette.” Acquire some cultural know-how and learn things to avoid in this quick list of “Dos” and “Don’ts.”
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.
- 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.
For hotels and inns …
searches hundreds of travel sites and airlines to find great deals on hotels in any destination. Book through the provider of your choice, including Expedia and Travelocity. Easily navigate Kayak’s results page, organized by price and complete with photos of each hotel and overviews of amenities.
provides reviews and ratings of properties, and allows you to book many hotels in major Asian cities directly through the site. Find clear, thorough information about amenities for a full range of hotels.
, based in Singapore and affiliated with Priceline.com, provides a hotel search tool, plus extras like reviews, blogs, and tips from real travelers. Book through the site to earn points that can be used for discounts on affiliated hotels.
For hostels …
claims to be the largest database of hostel listings on the Web. The site’s lengthy reviews and photos are taken by its own paid staff, so you can feel confident in their reliability. Book online by linking directly to a hostel; in some cases, you may book through Hostelz.com.
is part of Hostelworld.com, an online, human-powered review and booking resource for hostels around the globe. Enter your dates and location of travel for a list of hostels meeting your needs, then book through this site.
For camping …
lists guided camping and trekking excursions for locations around Asia. Find information about each tour, and links to tour operator sites where you can book your trip.
posts blogs and photos submitted by travelers. Read this entry, a RealTravel “Editor’s Pick,” for an account of a young woman’s experience “up in the mountains in Dalat,” a great spot for camping in Vietnam.
Active Travel Vietnam
arranges hiking and trekking excursions with camping around the country, including nature reserves, national parks, and the jungles of Dalat. Don’t miss the “Highlights” of each tour: interesting characteristics that will get you inspired.
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.
- 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.
For flights …
is affiliated with Kayak, another excellent travel search tool. SideStep finds airfare by searching hundreds of travel sites and individual airlines, then links you to the appropriate site to make a booking.
BootsnAll Travel Network’s
“Asia Airfare” trip planner helps you develop your own unique excursion, beginning with a flight. Select a destination from the list (scroll down to find it) or enter a location in the search tool. Deals are scoured from several travel sites, including Orbitz and Kayak.
is a Hong Kong airline providing service to multiple destinations in Asia, including Japan, Philippines, Thailand, and Malaysia. Flights to Europe, North America, and Africa are also available. Flights from the United States depart from Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York. Check the site for special monthly deals.
For rail …
The Man in Seat Sixty-One
covers the essentials of travel on the Trans-Siberian Railway. Get an overview of the three routes, plan your trip, find information on purchasing tickets, and learn about the history of the railway.
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.
- 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.
For an itinerary …
guides are led by Harvard University students and aimed at a college demographic. Find recommended itineraries for travel in Asia that are written with an appreciation for budget travel and cultural immersion.
For air travel …
explains “air pass” options for travel around Asia. Planning to visit multiple destinations within the continent? Passes provide discounts to travelers and are offered by several different airlines.
lists the numerous discount airlines in Asia. Look for links to airline Web sites and find information about the destinations covered by each.
For rail …
The Eastern & Oriental Express
is a classic train route through Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand. Find prices and routes and book online with help from the “Journey Planner
” section. Also look for maps and details about seasonal trips.
The Man in Seat Sixty-One
, mentioned previously for coverage of the Trans-Siberian route, also provides rail information for individual countries. Access each location from this site map page.
is a comprehensive resource for international train travel. Find long-distance rail options in several Asian countries. Make use of this straightforward site; just watch out for ads in the right-hand sidebar.
Classic Train Journeys
hosts Vancouver-based Clive Jacksens’ Tradewind Destinations, a company providing train tours around the world. Look for several different luxury options for routes across Asia.
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.
- 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.
For blogs …
provides a forum for thousands of travelers to share their experiences and photos in blogs. Take a look at numerous destinations in Asia; select from the list or click on the map to access specific blogs.
has a staff of travel writers who collectively maintain blogs on destinations around the world, including Asia and individual countries in Asia (scroll down to see the list on the right). Expect an intriguing mix of news stories and travel information.
is the blog of a young Englishman cycling from China back to England; before this trip, he rode through Europe, Siberia, Mongolia, and China. Take a unique look at the country through his photos and brief written entries.
For videos …
lets travelers and tourist boards post videos about all things travel. Find videos for mostly China, India, and Thailand, as well as a few videos for other countries on the continent.
For forums …
BootsnAll Travel Network
has a selection of travel forums covering a variety of topics. Learn about female solo travel in Nepal and cheap flights to Southeast Asia.
For traveler photos …
The Los Angeles Times
offers an impressive selection of user-submitted photographs of Asia. Inspire your trip with images organized by country that include a diverse range of subjects, such as portraits of children, ethnic foods, and stunning landscapes. Scroll down the main page for Asia photo slideshows
from staff photographers.
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