From skyscraping towers to hidden pathways on tiny islands, Asia is a world of adventure, possibilities and culture. Are you ready to gaze out on the crystal clear waters of the Perhentian Islands? Lift your eyes to the Petronas Towers? Or traverse up the sunny Marble Mountains in Vietnam?
Between the renowned beaches and cities filled with art, there’s an endless amount to see, do and experience when you visit countries across the continent. But before you go, there are a few things you should know.
Check out this list of the top things you need to pack, know and remember when visiting Asian countries.
What to Pack No Matter What
- Sunscreen: Even if you don’t plan on visiting a single beach or staying out in the sun, UV rays tend to be stronger in a lot of Asian countries. For example, Thailand reaches extremely high levels of UV radiation a majority of the year, topping the charts. The same can be said for Vietnam and Singapore. Make sure you pack some of the highest SPF you can in order to avoid skin damage.
- Floating Sunglasses: Not only are high UV rays dangerous for your skin, they can be particularly damaging to your eyes. Always keep a pair of durable, polarized lenses that can shield against 100% of UV rays. You can find our favorites floating sunglasses from Rheos Gear, in multiple styles and colors for just $50. With a lifetime warranty and the ability to float, you won’t need to worry about losing them to the water’s waves.
- Imodium: New places, new food, new water and… probably some close time in the bathroom. We recommend actually sticking to street food, so you can see how it’s being cooked and prepared in front of you. And while ice is almost always made with filtered water, fresh juices aren’t. If you don’t have a strong stomach, a small pack of Imodium will become a lifesaver.
What to Know
- Carry Cash: Exchange your currency as you go, making sure to exchange local currency back to USD before you head home. Having some USD on hand will help make sure you aren’t in a bind as many places will accept the American dollar. Additionally, carrying cash will make it easier to stick to your budget. Just be aware – you may go miles and miles without finding an ATM.
- Take Taxis and Tuk-Tuks: But know where you’re going before you get in, and agree on a price upfront. It’s easy for tourists to fall prey to an overeager meter. By negotiating on price, and having a map of where you want to go, you’ll be less likely to overpay or get lost when you didn’t intend to.
- Know Your Visa Requirements: Will you need a picture? Can you get one at the border? Do you need proof of a flight back home? Visa scams are common and first-timers are always more susceptible. You may be told by a taxi driver that you’ll need to visit an office to “process” your papers. Often, these offices are just handing you documents that are actually free. Do your research before your trip.
What Can Be a Culture Faux Pas
- Avoid Hand Signs: Your innocent peace sign, A-OK, or friendly wave can quickly be misconstrued as a giant “screw you” to locals. Avoid using common western hand signals so that you ensure you’re being respectful and polite.
- Research Tipping: In the states, tipping big indicates you’ve had great service, great food and a great time. But in China, for example, it can be against the law. Many people across Asian countries view tipping as a sign that you’re looking down on them by suggesting they can’t make ends meet. Make sure you know when it’s ok to leave small change behind, and when you should just smile wide.
- Know When, Where and What to Cover Up: If you’re planning on visiting sacred sites or temples, make sure you cover your bare skin and particularly any tattoos or piercings. It’s a great sign of disrespect to show up in spaghetti straps, even though it may be super hot and humid. Even at the beach, you’ll need to look into cultural norms for appropriate bathing suits. Sometimes a bikini or bare chest is the equivalent of being completely naked!
With this list in mind, you’re just about ready to head out abroad. Grab your backpack, tie your walking shoes and put on your favorite pair of sunglasses. It’s time to go on an adventure.