Travel Essentials

Since I’m frequently asked for travel advice to Asia, I’ve compiled a list of basic travel recommendations for Asia. Purchasing a guide book would be a worthwhile investment (ie. Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, etc).

  • Medical & Health:

    • Vaccinations: Visit a travel clinic at least a month before departure to give yourself ample time for all necessary series for the countries you are visiting. The CDC has an updated list of official travel vaccinations recommended for Asia.
    • Medicine: Bring doctor-prescribed ciprofloxacin or other equally-strong stomach medication to developing Asia. Over-the-counter stomach medications, anti-diarrheals, and hand sanitizers are always good measures of precaution.
    • Mosquito repellant: Lotion-type repellant containing DEET is more useful than citronella candles or spray-type repellant due to sweating in hot climates/seasons.
    • Sunblock: Bring coral reef-friendly sunblock for a visit to the beach.
    • Bathroom: Always bring toilet/tissue paper packets in case the roadside pitstops or bathrooms emergencies.
      • China: some people use western toilets as squatters (ie. planting feet on toilet seat) so be careful where you sit.
      • China/developing Asia: discard used tissue paper and feminine products in the trash can. Plumbing is generally in poor condition and cannot be flushed in many public toilets.
      • Read this post for other essential toilet “etiquette” in China.
    • Feminine products: While sanitary napkins are readily available, tampons are harder to find, especially in developing Asia.
  • Clothing:

    • Bring layerable clothing; flipflops are useful in the shower, beach, etc.
    • Tall/large people will not find suitable sizes of clothing in local stores.
    • China/SE Asia: Light scarves, handkerchiefs or sarongs will be handy when you need to cover up in socially/religiously-conservative areas (including places of worship), to prevent sunburns, to avoid pollution, etc.
    • While Asia is generally safe, if you are female, avoid wearing clothing that’s too revealing (ie. cleavage, shoulders) especially in more rural areas. There have been incidents where women were groped because Hollywood movies have led local men to believe that western women are “loose” and “promiscuous”.
  • Budget Airlines:

    Despite major luggage restrictions, the sudden availability of low-cost carriers (LCCs) are making travel in/around Asia a welcome experience. There are some of the more reliable options (in terms of safety records).

    • JetStar: Quantas-backed Australian LCC; has great routes in/around SE Asia. Japan routes have safety issues as of April 2013.
    • AirAsia: Kuala Lumpur-based carrier; best LCC in SE Asia with new routes to/in Japan.
    • TigerAir: A LCC-cousin of Singapore Air; avoid scheduling tight layovers with this airline.
    • SilkAir: A Singapore Air subsidiary with more direct routes to destinations around Asia, though at a higher cost.
    • Peach: New Japan-based LCC with routes within Japan and to HK/Taiwan/Korea.
    • Skymark Airlines: New Japan-based LCC; only domestic flights as of April 2013.
    • China Southern/China Eastern: Useful for travel to/from China, and within China, though domestic bookings may be cumbersome.
  • Miscellaneous:

    • Accomodations: If you’re not looking to book fancy hotels or travel during high tourist season in China or SE Asia, local hotels will allow you to walk-in, survey their rooms, and haggle for prices before deciding to commit to a place or not.
    • Currency: While credit cards are more readily available, cash is still king in Asia (including Japan).
    • Tipping: While tipping is not expected in Asia, rounding up the dollar amount in cabs or restaurants is appreciated. If you feel compelled to tip, 10% would be an appropriate amount. Busboys and bellhops in major hotels may be tipped.
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