Asia Travel, Backpacking & Gap Year Guide
With incredible cities, culture, beautiful beaches, temples, friendly people and exotic wildlife it is no wonder Asia has been with popular with travellers for decades. Get information, advice and inspiration for the best things to do if you would like to travel, go backpacking or take a gap year in Asia.
Asia Travel Ideas, Backpacking Trips & Gap Year Programs
Travel to Asia
Our Asia guide aims to give you all the information you need to have an amazing experience in this region. Find affordable travel and backpacking ideas with advice for amazing things to do and how you can be more than just your average traveller. You can also get recommendations for budget travel tips, tips for places to stay and advice how to stay safe.
Get inspired to visit Asia today!
- Population: 4,235,000,000
- Number of Countries: 48
- Total Area: 44,500,000 km2
- Languages: Diverse range of local languages and dilects spoken
- Largest City: Tokyo over 38,000,000 people
- East Timor
- Hong Kong
- South Korea
- Sri Lanka
Top Reasons to Visit Asia
Need some convincing to why you should visit Asia?
- See world famous sights
- Incredible beaches and islands
- Great value for money compared to other worldwide destinations
- Experience a new way of life and see how different cultures live
- Asia will broaden your mind and you will learn a lot about foreign countries and yourself
- Eat some of the best food in the world
Best Places to Visit in Asia
Our must visit destinations in Asia include:
- Angkor Wat, Cambodia (amazing temples)
- Luang Prabang, Laos (stunning UNESCO city)
- Lhasa, Tibet (heart of Tibetan culture, visit the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple)
- Tokyo, Japan (future metropolis)
- Xi'an, China (army of terracotta warriors)
- Great Wall, China (one of the most amazing places to visit in the world)
- Mumbai, India (Bustling city with lots to see & do)
- Phi Phi, Thailand (island made famous from the film The Beach)
- Chiang Mai, Thailand (peaceful city and gateway for treks)
- Cameron Highlands, Malaysia (rolling green mountains and stunning scenery)
Travelling & Backpacking in Asia
Most cities in Asia are easily accessible from major worldwide airports and there are lots of choice with internal travel. There is a good train / bus service running throughout the continent, whilst Air Asia provide cheap flights throughout the region. Asia has a good transport system for visitors which is cheap and offers a lot of choice, if you are struggling for time you can catch internal and external flights with low cost airlines. For a budget experience you can catch a bus, or if you are in a larger country like India or China we recommend taking an overnight sleeper train. Like most countries the more you pay the better level of comfort you will enjoy.
In South-East Asia there is a really established bus service connecting countries, from Bangkok for example you can get anywhere. Always shop around for the best prices are they can vary by a lot. Try to get an overnight service which arrives at a destination in the morning or afternoon, this makes finding accommodation and everything easier and safer than in the dark at night. Also be prepared for long journeys, we recommend taking lots of water and also food with you so you don't get hungry. Sometimes the food on trains isn't the best and also this is the same as when you are travelling by bus and stop off for a break, usually this food caters for local people and might not be very appealing to you.
In Bangkok you can find lots of travel agents around the Koh San Road, here you will be able to book buses - shop around as prices can vary. You can fly cheaply via AirAsia but countries like Sri Lanka is a bit out the way and will be more expensive getting there. It really depends on time scale and budget for how much and how long you can travel for. Angkor Watt in Cambodia is possible one of the most stunning temples in the world, aim to arrive for sunrise and you won't be disappointed. The Perinthian Islands in Malaysia is a great destination with stunning beaches, no cars and a lot less people than Thailand. Air Asia offer cheap internal flights in Asia, but overland buses and trains are also recommended.
Asia Travel Tips
If you are looking to travel overland and see as much as possible in a short time we recommend following this route: Bangkok > Siem Riep > Phnom Penh > Sihanoukville > Ho Chi Minh City > Nha Trang > Hoi Ann > Hanoi + Ha Long Bay > then either go overland via Laos or fly to either Chiang Mai or Bangkok then visit then Southern Islands e.g. Koh Chang, Tao, Phi Phi etc. You can then cross South into Malaysia (the Perinthian Islands, Taman Negara, Cameron Highlands, KL > Indonesia / Sri Lanka.
Cheap Places to Visit in Asia:
Asia is a very cheap destination to travel in and prices are quite similar throughout the whole continent. Some countries, especially the more popular ones like Thailand are more expensive than others for example Cambodia whilst more modern and developed places like Hong Kong and Japan you will struggle to get anything cheap.
Costs & Budget for Travelling in Asia:
In Asia you can generally get by on around £10 - £20 ($15 - $25) per day, which includes accommodation, food and drink. Sometimes you can live on an even cheaper budget depending on the destination and what activities you are looking to do. If you are looking to save money avoid drinking too much alcohol, sometimes you can spend more on one beer than on a nights accommodation.
US dollars are accepted in a lot of countries. Always try to exchange your currency before leaving certain countries, for example Laos currency is difficult to exchange outside of Laos and so you might get stuck with lots of worthless notes. Some currency you can exchange outside though for example Chinese, Thai and Japanese money. If you are travelling overland we do not recommend exchanging money on the border crossings, usually the rates are really low.
Safety & Local Laws:
With societies so steeped in tradition, it comes as no surprise that Asian countries can have a strict set of etiquette guidelines for visitors to follow when passing through. Whilst the rules were once much more intensely followed in the likes of Hong Kong, there's still a level of respect one must exercise to avoid appearing rude. Cities such as Kuala Lumpur strongly enforce laws that could result in imprisonment if not followed. So take note, lest you commit a cultural faux pas. It is important to respect cultural traditions and observe local laws when travelling abroad. A common misconception is that what’s ok in your country is the same in foreign countries.
It is important for travellers to realise that less commonly travelled locations in Asia may have numerous customs that they are not aware of. It is important not to get hung up on cultures as travellers are not expected to be up to speed with all the nuances that a country has but it is a good idea to have a general overview of the cultural heritages of the countries that you intend to visit. Some locations are likely to have certain customs which may seem strange to international visitors but which it is important to be aware of. Please avoid unethical wildlife encounters and please say NO to elephant treks, swimming with captive dolphins and also having pictures with exotic animals in public areas. There are lots of worthwhile wildlife sanctuaries you can visit instead and see inspiring conservation efforts being made.
Advice for Female Travelers:
Asia is very welcoming to female travellers and you should enjoy a really fun and memorable experience here. We have some advice which should help you, most of all just be cautious of your surroundings and be sensible with your approach and you should have no problems. Local people are very welcoming and you are more likely to have problems with other travellers than local people. Some simple suggestions include not walking around cities in a bikini for example and if you are visiting temples please dress conservatively and pack female hygiene products as you might not find the ones you like in Asia.
Gap Year in Asia
Asia is an incredible continent where you can experience new cultures, religions, food and see incredible attractions. There are so many destinations you can visit and programs available all year round. The hard part is deciding where to go.
Seeing Asia first hand gives you unparalleled knowledge about other cultures, religions and mainly about people. Asia is a backpacker friendly part of the world to visit, and also cheap compared to other worldwide destinations. You can join gap year trips anytime throughout the year, you could just make a commitment for a few weeks or spend months away.
There are lots of gap year, backpacking and overland adventures in Asia. You can choose from literally thousands of options, from seeing spectacular rural villages to stunning coastlines, relaxing on beautiful beaches or enjoy the atmosphere of bustling vibrant cities. South-East Asia is an incredible destination and also very cheap especially if you eat at local places and travel on public transport.
Best Asia Gap Year Programs
Researching ideas for your trip? You can search hundreds of trips and programs throughout the continent all year round.
If you are in the fortunate position of not needing to work during your gap year in Asia, and intend just to visit the continent instead, then there are a number of affordable trips available. Most gap year programs are organised in groups so you will get to meet new people, see the sights and have a lot of fun!
You will also be led by local experts who will get you to experience some of the fantastic sights and sounds of this beautiful continent first hand and with expert insider knowledge. If you are keen to spend your gap year travelling, working, studying or volunteering the you can book the ultimate experience through One World 365.
Keen to be more than your average visitor? Spend your gap year working in Asia! There are jobs and work experience placements available throughout the continent. A lot of people spend their gap year working in South-East Asia and many take TEFL courses and teach English. There are lots of other positions available too. Not only is taking a gap year in Asia the most fantastic thing you can decide to do, it's actually a well respected choice that shows prospective employers and universities that you have developed some pretty important life skills. Get ideas on our directory above.
Asia gap year programs have departures all year round and you can join anytime. This is also a great way for you to travel in a safe structure experience where you will meet new friends and be guided through this continent. Get communicating too, other travellers and local people are your best form of up to date advice, they might be able to help you with places to go, where to stay and what places are dangerous and should be avoided.