If you’re an American looking to travel to anywhere in Asia, there are some things you need to remember – because it’s an entirely different can of worms than Canada, Mexico, or Europe.
1. It. Is. Far. Away.
Don’t get me wrong, the travel time is definitely worth it – as long as you plan on staying for more than just a week. From the D.C. metro area, getting to Asia entails 24+ hours of flying. It’s not quite as bad as trying to get to Australia (~30 hours), but if you aren’t accustomed to flying halfway around the world, it’s jarring. Make sure you bring some reading material or music to listen to.
2. Pay attention to climate
Asia is the largest continent on the planet, which means it has a wide variety of climates based on location and time of year. If you’re going to the Southeastern portion, it is hot. I’m talking 95° F with 100% humidity if you go in the off season. If you decide to hit a more Eastern area like Mongolia, they have four climate zones so, again it depends on where you’re going – their capital city, Ulaanbaatar, has an average temperature of 29.7° F. Just make sure that wherever you’re going, you research the weather for that time of year.
3. White = Money
In the warmer portions of Asia where most of the population is a dark tan color, white people (if you so happen to be) stand out pretty badly. Especially in the big cities, white skin means you have money because you don’t have to be out in the sun all day working. So don’t be surprised if people are giving more attention than you’re used to. They’ll want you to buy their products or use their services, but this also means there are those out there waiting to rip people off. Look into common scams in particular cities so you know what to look out for, and in general, just be aware.
4. Different Culture, Different Customs
Asia is full of temples for worship; Buddhist, Hindu, and Seek mostly. They take their religions very seriously, so in some places women may not be allowed in a temple if she’s wearing shorts or a really low cut shirt. They don’t mind tourists visiting the temples (for they are quite beautiful and have a had hundreds to thousands of years of time put into them), just try to be respectful when visiting them. Definitely worth trekking through the big ones like Angkor Wat.
5. Different Plant Life
Traveling to another continent means exposing yourself to various pollens and foods you’ve never been in contact with. This is unavoidable, but steps can be taken to prepare yourself for unexpected allergic reactions: Bring acetaminophen, stomach relaxants, whatever allergy medicine you usually use, and cough drops (because you never know). Having these will help you be more prepared for any surprise flare ups.
These are just some general pieces of advice. More can be added for each specific location, but these five are enough to get the mind considering more than just what should be packed for the journey. Asia may be far away, but it’s definitely worth the journey!