How to plan a trip to Asia, on a Budget
If you’re travelling to Asia to tick off the tourist box on your bucket list, make sure you do it with an open mind. Asia is all about contrasts, culture and diversity! It can be an overwhelming place, different to anything you’ll experience in the Western world, so be prepared to get stuck in to new ways of life, take a hands on approach to unusual food and spend awed hours investigating market trinkets, ancient temples and fascinating ruins. From China to India, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, people say that you go to Asia to get lost and find yourself.
But before you’re ready to hop on a plane, make sure you’ve taken care of the gritty details. You need to decide the ‘who, what, when, where and how’ of planning your trip.
- Check VISA Requirements
- Ask Doctor about recommended vaccinations
- Check tourist code of conduct
Asia is a massive continent made up of 56 countries, so deciding whether you’ll get swept up in the fast-paced bustling cities of Hong Kong, take it easy on a beach in Thailand or rough it through the slums of India is a big decision.
Once you know where you’d like to go, you need to figure out what the VISA requirements for the countries are, if there are any recommended vaccinations or health concerns you might not have thought of - India is infamous for tourist diahorrea (or TD), Delhi’s nicknamed it Delhi belly check out How to avoid TD. It’s also a good idea to check if the laws of the country prohibit you from doing or wearing anything you might not have considered.
- Check the dates of festivals and events
- Keep an eye on the weather around the time you go
Asia is home to some of the biggest, most exciting and culturally diverse festivals in the world!
It’s also home to some extreme weather from baking sunshine to thunderous monsoons.
So the next thing to think about is when to take your trip.
Chinese New Year is a 15 day festival opening with a bang, fireworks are set off to frighten unlucky spirits, parades of walking with lanterns and street acrobatics, sharing food and wearing red for its symbolism of luck. It’s one of the most widely celebrated festivals, but because it’s based on a lunar calendar, dates change slightly every year, so plan ahead and check before you go.
Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights in India has been compared on the same level with the Chinese New Year festival, it’s about new beginnings, food and plenty of lanterns and fireworks!
It runs for 5 days and peaks around the third night. Ghee lanterns are burned and colorful lights adorn buildings to celebrate the triumph of good over evil.
Dates for Diwali also change, but are usually between October and December.
Rainforest World Music Festival is Southeast Asia’s biggest music festival, held just outside Kuching during summer, with an international band line up, incredible scenery and plenty of cultural demonstrations and workshops, this 3 day festival is not to be missed!
Whether you’re in it for sun soaked beaches, traipsing through markets in the heat or you’re keen to see the thunderous storm of a watery monsoon, Asia weather guide
The next thing you need to do is figure out where you’re going to stay while you’re there.
Accommodation in Asia is about as varied as the countries themselves, depending on the kind of trip you’re planning on taking, you can choose from hostels, bed & breakfasts to 5 star hotels, inns and couchsurfing!
It’s commonplace and even expected in countries like India to negotiate the price of low budget accommodation like hostel rooms, and you’re quite likely to get a good deal. Language barriers can make it challenging to negotiate accommodation in places like Japan and China, so you might save money by booking online in advance.
China, India and Southeast Asia offer conventional boat, bust & tram, car, motorbike and train public transport systems, tickets can be bought from airline services, your hotel or bus and train terminals.
Besides the conventional methods, Asia offers its own unique modes of transport:
TukTuk, Thailand’s answer to a taxi. The three-wheeled vehicle can transport two people and is great for buzzing around the busy city. TukTuk’s drivers can squeeze through every gap in traffic and they’re not afraid to take advantage of the fact - speeding and cutting corners is not uncommon, so be prepared for the ride of your life.
Jeepney, Philippines answer to a bus. Its name originated from the American Jeep, these mini buses can take between 16 and 18 people, but the regulations are pretty loose in the Philippines. Although the Jeepney is similar to a bus and travels on distinct routes, there are no bus stops and you can call it to stop almost anywhere.
AutoRickshaw, India’s version of the TukTuk. This three wheeled vehicle can transport up to three people, and like the TukTuk can squeeze through gaps in traffic, similarly the drivers are Michael Schumacher impersonators, so you’ll need to hold tight, there are no seatbelts!
The payment system for the Auto Rickshaw hasn’t been updated since 1983, consequently locals have created a conversion chart for updated prices. It’s a good idea to get your hands on one of these cards to avoid being ripped off.
- Budget for accommodation, food, transport and activities
- Take a credit card for emergencies only!
- Let your bank know that you’ll be travelling with a credit card
- Use a currency converter like XE Currency Converter to check the conversion rates of countries you’re travelling to.
You’ll need to work out a clearly defined budget to cover your accommodation, food, transport and activities. It’s a good idea to bring a credit card along, just in case. Keep in mind that international ATM fees can be quite heavy and in some areas around Asia, ATMS and networks can go down for days at a time, so don’t rely too much on your plastic.
Let your bank know that you’ll be travelling and that you may be using your credit card.
Do a quick currency conversion for each of the countries you’ll be visiting, so you know exactly how much you’re spending.
- Lightweight hiking backpack (you may be doing a lot of walking)
- Reef sandals (open shoes that strap to your feet, people have lost thongs and flip flops)
- Torch and extra batteries
- Sunglasses and a hat (the sun can be brutal)
- Loose trousers, cargo pants and a t-shirt is great for everyday touring
- Waterproof rain jacket (especially during monsoon season)
- Water bottle
- Small money bag or pouch kept out of site. Flashy wallets are likely to be pick-pocketed; keep cash close.
- Bottle of hand sanitizer and lip balm
You’ll need to pack depending on the weather and what you plan to do in Asia, but there are some basic travel essentials you should make sure to pack wherever you’re going.
Things to see & do
1. Great Wall – China
2. Ride an elephant – Thailand
3. Visit the Taj Mahal – India
4. Travel back in time in Vigan – Philipines
5. Relax on Koh Rong beach – Cambodia
6. Colorful rice fields in XinJie – China
7. Tube down a river – Laos
8. Check out the light show at Purana Qila – India
9. Colaba Causeway – Mumbai
10. Cricket match at M. Chinnaswamy Stadium – Bangalore, India