Asia is a diverse continent full of incredibly unique vibrant sites and cultures. You could spend months exploring and only experience a small portion of what the food, lifestyle, and destinations have to offer.
Whether you’re planning a trip to Southeast Asia for a vacation or traveling for business purposes, you’re in for an unforgettable experience. But as with any trip overseas, there are some things you should know before you go, to make the most out of your trip.
Each country in Asia may have its own traditions, but there are a few things you should keep in mind about the culture.
If you plan on visiting the local temples, dress respectfully. Even if it’s incredibly hot and humid, most temples require you to cover your shoulders. Have a shirt or blouse you can put on to enter or carry along a sarong or large scarf you can wear as a makeshift shawl.
Pointing in many Asian countries is considered rude or aggressive. If you’re asking for directions, use your whole hand to signal a location instead of one finger.
Traveling for business
The cultural differences are more pronounced if you’re traveling for business. The Chinese expect gifts from a person’s home country unless it’s a clock. And Japan may have the most marked traditions. When meeting with clients, present your business card facing the other person with both hands. Generous gifts are always appreciated.
And if you’re doing business in countries including Korea, Japan, and Thailand, going out late after a business meeting is not optional. If you’d like to win their respect and earn their business, you’ll need to go out, drink, and sing karaoke with your clients until late. You can always sleep when you get home.
Protecting Your Money When Traveling
Before you leave for your trip, make sure you notify your credit card companies that you’re traveling overseas. The card issuers may ask for a list of countries you’re planning on visiting so they can “unlock” the locations on your behalf. If you don’t give your card companies and bank the heads up, your cards may decline as a security measure.
While you’re on the phone with customer service, be sure to ask what happens if your wallet and cards are lost or stolen when traveling. Many provide coverage, such as emergency funds to cover your expenses until a replacement card arrives. Write down international emergency contact numbers for your card companies and keep the information in a separate place. If your wallet or cards are stolen, you won’t have access to the contact information on the back of the card.
While traveling in Asia, leave some of your cash and credit cards in your hotel room safe. If anything goes wrong, you’ll have a backup to cover your expenses when you get back to your room.
As for local currency and exchange rates, you may be best off making an ATM withdrawal while you’re there. You’ll receive a better exchange rate than a currency exchange office.
Banks normally give you the wholesale exchange rate plus a small fee when you make a withdrawal. Many of the currency exchange businesses marketed to tourists charge exorbitant fees or may even short you on the money owed to you.
Planning Your Trip
Asia is a massive continent. It encompasses China, India, Japan, Korea, and the countries of Southeast Asia including Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, and more. As you can see, there’s a lot to cover. It’s best to focus on a small region on your trip. Depending on how much time you have, you may only be able to visit Bali or parts of Cambodia and Thailand.
When planning a trip to Southeast Asia particularly, spend as much time there as you can get away with. Visiting Southeast Asia for less than two weeks would be too short. It may sound like a lot of time and cost, but Southeast Asia is less expensive than many other parts of the world. Depending on where you travel to and what kind of accommodations you choose, you’ll definitely get more for your money than you would in the U.S. or Europe.
Another reason you’ll want to stay as long as possible is the length and expense of the flight. If you’re flying from Los Angeles to Singapore’s Changi Airport, a major flight hub, a nonstop flight can take at least 17 hours each way and set you back at least $650. There are ways to save on your trip by watching for fares and booking in advance, but even if you find a great flight deal, the time it takes to fly to Asia means you should plan for the longest trip possible.
The Wonder of Traveling in Asia
Asia is one of the most picture-worthy continents in the world. The language barrier in many of the countries may be challenging, but the effort to get by with minimal language skills is well worth it.
Whether you’re traveling with family or alone, you’ll be happy to know most places are incredibly affordable. If you’ve always wanted to go, don’t put it off any longer and plan a trip. You’ll be happy you did.