Backpacking in Asia
The beautiful countries in Asia offer plenty of opportunities for an incredible backpacking experience. However, for first-time backpackers or backpackers unfamiliar with the area, planning your trip can be daunting. Here are some tips for preparing, suggestions for where to go, and how to save some money while you’re there.
Preparing to Backpack
When planning, be sure you check the visa requirements for the countries that you are planning to visit. Most countries in Asia will allow tourists from the U.S. to be there visa-free for thirty to sixty days, but some countries require you to carry a visa. Be sure to do your research so you won’t be detained due to technicalities. Along with a visa, be sure you apply for your passport early or apply to renew your previous one early. It can take anywhere from four to six weeks to get your passport, so apply early to be on the safe side.
When you select the countries you will be visiting, read up on all of the cultures you will undoubtedly encounter. You don’t want to accidentally offend anyone. Take an hour or so and research the culture, customs, values, religion, and basic phrases in the language(s). You will avoid potentially uncomfortable situations and better understand the people and your surroundings.
When packing for backpacking in Asia, there are a few things that you need to bring. Along with all the regular items, be aware that you will probably need to take anti-malaria medicine. Set up an appointment with your doctor to get all the information, and then be sure to bring the medicine! A word of warning from Simon Petersen, author of the blog Man vs. World, who says “I never suffered from any food poisoning – but traveller’s diarrhoea (or diarrhea) was an infliction I was forced to live with A LOT.” Be prepared for this and talk to your doctor. He may just recommend bringing over the counter remedies or prescribe you something. Also, be aware that you will probably need to bring light long-sleeved shirts, a hat, and plenty of sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun.
Best Backpacking Destinations
Vietnam is a beautiful country that is just recently becoming popular with tourists. Because of this, you can find beautiful and pristine hiking and outdoor activities, as well as plenty of nightlife in cities like Ho Chi Minh. An added bonus is the train network that is pretty well developed, as well as plenty of buses to get around on.
Thailand is an exciting and vibrant country that begs to be explored by backpackers. Not only does it have spectacular food, gorgeous beaches, and amazing nightlife in big cities like Bangkok, but it’s also fairly inexpensive.
India is a large country with diverse locales to explore. The rail system is the second largest in the world, making it convenient to get around. Check out the temples and monuments in Delhi, visit the hanging gardens in Mumbai, and definitely go drink some Darjeeling tea in Darjeeling itself.
A smaller country that isn’t as well known is Laos. This laid-back haven has plenty of amazing cuisine. It even boasts a national beer! Tubing on the Nam Song River is another great idea for the intrepid backpacker, so be sure to consider the slower-paced country of Laos.
China is a popular destination for tourists for a great reason: this country is awesome! With lots to see and do, Hong Kong is an indisputable great time for those who love the excitement of a big city. Don’t forget Beijing, and definitely go and visit the Great Wall of China!
Japan is an interesting country with juxtapositions of old and new. Tokyo is a wonderful example of modernity, with great architecture and some of Japan’s finest museums. If you’re looking for a taste of old Japan, visit Kyoto to see the shrines, temples, and gardens.
A few tips for those looking to save some money: hotels can get expensive, so check and see if there are hostels available. Don’t forget that some hostels charge for towels and linens, so consider bringing your own. In general, backpacking in Asia is fairly inexpensive, but bring more money than you think you need. Another thing to be aware of is that sometimes the “deal” that a local may offer you is actually a scam. It can be difficult to sort these out, so do some research into common tricks that are used in the country you’re visiting. When you’re traveling via train or bus, see if they have student discounts or multi-day passes; this can save you some money. Traveling overnight on a train or bus is also another effective money-saver as it combines travel and sleeping accommodations.
Backpacking in Asia can be a fun and varied experience. With lots of different and unique destinations, the continent’s many countries have a lot to offer backpackers. With these suggestions, you’ll soon be on your way to an exciting adventure. Happy trails!