Home to more than four billion people, Asia is the biggest continent in the world -- by geography and population. It's therefore unsurprising that Asia is a highly diverse region that's popular for tourism and offers travelers a wide range of cultural, culinary, and adventurous activities. Comprised of 48 different countries, you can find nearly any kind or quality of experience while traveling in Asia, from Japan or Russia in the East to Turkey or Georgia in the West.
While safety, health, and tour quality standards vary between countries, a savvy traveler can find ways to experience enthralling tours and activities in Asia for often great value. From trekking to water-based activities off pristine beaches, cross-country expeditions, and fresh cultural experiences, a trip to Asia is sure to be a memorable one.
Asia is such a large region that it's hard to list every popular activity you can do in the area. Nevertheless, some of the most popular activities include:
The Himalayas in Nepal and India provide some of the most epic (and famous) treks in the world. You can plan a trip to Mt. Everest (or at least the basecamp), or spend weeks trekking the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. Other great places for hiking and trekking are Mount Emei in China, Mount Kinabalau in Malaysia, and the surrounding mountains of Luang Prabang in Laos. Most treks are guided with experienced leaders and porters to carry additional gear and food.
If you're seeking something a little more thrilling, then look into a rafting trip. Indonesia is well known for its many whitewater trips on the Ayung River, Ranoyapo River, and Nimanga River, and other whitewater adventures can be found in Malaysian Borneo on the Padas River, and Pai River in Northern Thailand.
The Asian continent is home to some of the most well-preserved historical sites in the world. From ancient civilizations to traditional festivals and places of worship, Asia offers a never ending list of cultural activities to enjoy.
Book a tour that specializes in first-hand experiences, visit museums and historical sites, and connect with locals to learn more about the vibrant culture around you. Be sure to add India's Holi (festival of colors), visiting tribal villages, Chinese New Year celebrations, and Thailand's water fight: Songkran Festival to your itinerary, to name a few.
Asia has some of the world's best food. Almost any country you visit will offer phenomenal food tours that take you on a gastronomic journey in a unique way. From walking tours, boats, motorbikes, and more -- food tours and tastings are exciting and delicious. Try some of Japan's best restaurants for sushi, walk the roads of Bangkok for acclaimed street food, enjoy barbecue in Korea, and motorbike your way around the best flavors of Vietnam.
Beach & Sea Tours
Home to miles and miles of coastline, and nearly countless islands, Asia offers plenty of clear, blue water to explore: teeming with fish, turtles, whale sharks, and a multitude of other sea creatures.
If you want to go beyond beach bumming, you can easily get your scuba diving certification in South Asia for an inexpensive price. Thailand, for example, is among one of the least expensive countries in the world to get certified. Indonesia, Vietnam, and Fiji are all great places to plan a scuba diving or snorkel adventure.
Use these tips and details to help you plan logistics for your trip to a few countries around the Asian continent.
Best Time to Visit Asia
The massive geographic scope of Asia is hard to understate: seasons and weather patterns vary greatly from country to country, but there are a few considerations to keep in mind:
- Depending on the destination, consider how your proximity to the equator will affect the seasons: countries like China and Japan experience seasons in different ways than countries like Indonesia or Sri Lanka. Northeast Asia is ideal in the spring (March to May for cherry blossoms in Japan, for instance) and summer.
- Monsoon season stretches from March to October in many regions of south Asia, working its way north. For southeast Asia, dry season is often in "winter", and wet season during the "summer".
What to Look For in a Tour to Asia
If you choose to book your excursions in Asia with a provider, be sure to review their credentials and past traveler reviews. There is a wide range of quality in the providers and tour packages in the Asian markets, and quality control varies greatly between countries.
When possible, consider booking through a tour operator that offers services in other regions of the world (such as a large, international tour company), as they likely provide safety and security on par with the standards of countries like the United States and those in Europe.
Typical Tour Costs
Travelers flock to Asia for more affordable tours, but often forget how large the continent is (and how much pricing can vary). Tour prices can range from as low as $500 to $10,000 or more, depending on the package type. You'll find prices surge with popular treks due to required rental equipment, accommodations, transportation, and other amenities.
Packing Tips & Gear Rental
Throughout Asia, you can find tour and excursion providers who will allow you to rent any or all equipment necessary for the activities they offer -- thought most already include it in the package. Given that adventure travel often requires specific and/or well-fitting equipment, we recommend comparing reviews of each provider to see if they offer high-quality and safe gear. As always, costs and quality vary depending on the country and adventurous activity you're pursuing.
When packing for your trip, check the weather forecast for seasonality but know that luckily, most products are made in many parts of Asia and will likely cost less if purchased there.
Other Tips for Travel in Asia
- Visas: Some countries offer visas upon arrival while others require you to arrange a visa ahead of time. Check with the US Department of State for country-specific advisories.
- Budgeting: In general, Asia is considered one of the more cost affordable regions to visit in the world, though this varies almost as much as the weather! You'll find that establishments offering English/dollar-based price tags and menus will often be marked up.
- Transportation: You can traverse the continent by train, plane, bus, car, taxi / tuk-tuk, or motorbike for reasonable prices. While hitchhiking is common is some locations, understand the risk you take when entering in such a vehicle -- especially as a tourist.
- Accommodations: Lodging prices in Asia can vary greatly. You can spend under $20 per night in beautiful locations or over $200 per night, depending on the region. Once you decide on a destination, use a hotel search engine to research the average prices of hotels in the area before finalizing a budget. Also check with your tour operator about whether housing is included.
The requirements for vaccinations will vary significantly between countries, so it is advisable to check the CDC website for the latest requirements. If you plan to travel throughout Asia, it is recommended that you have up to date vaccinations for:
- Tetanus / Diphtheria
- Hepatitis A
- Yellow Fever
- Malaria (if you are doing any jungle activities)
Similarly, safety can vary greatly depending on which countries and cities you choose to visit during your trip. For the most part, common safety recommendations will serve you well, such as ensuring you write down the address of your accommodations, not wandering around unfamiliar areas at night, and keeping in touch with family/friends or a local buddy you meet while traveling.
As in other parts of the world, there are travel scams to be aware of -- again, these vary (and adapt quickly once word gets out of the new scam techniques). Consider checking with your tour provider or hotel concierge/front desk staff to see what they recommend you watch out for.
At the end of the day, if you do research prior to booking and choose a reputable, well-reviewed tour/excursion provider, you probably won't have any safety concerns while adventuring in Asia. However, if you arrive for a tour or excursion and find that equipment or the guide's experience isn't up to your own safety criteria -- listen to your own intuition. Especially with higher risk activities like trekking, diving, or rafting. Your gut may be the best barometer to help protect yourself.