Asia Tours and Travel Guide
Asia Attractions & Landmarks Guide
By far the world’s largest continent, Asia is as diverse as it is large. China, Siberia, Nepal and Jordan are all parts of Asia, as are Sri Lanka, Iran, Mongolia and Dubai. So a trip to Asia can encompass many regions, cultures, religions – and decisions.
Given its size and breadth, taking a guided tour can be an efficient way to experience a taste of Asia. From Indonesia to India to Israel, Asia is varied, intriguing, and endlessly fascinating - it's difficult to know where to start.
Countries are in Asia
Asia is the largest continent on earth covering 30% of the world’s land. Asia is also home to 60% of humankind. The Asian continent stretches all the way from Japan in the east to Israel in the west, Indonesia in the south to Russia in the north. It includes every type of landscape and all levels of climate. However, grouping together parts of Asia can help keep it straight.
Asia is generally broken down into five different regions: Central Asia, East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Western Asia. Central Asia includes the countries around Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan; East Asia includes the countries near China and Korea, South Asia is the Indian Subcontinent and Afghanistan, Southeast Asia includes the tropical countries near Thailand and Indonesia, and Western Asia is Turkey and the region of the Middle East.
When looking for a tour to Asia, figuring out which region you want to visit should be your first option as traveling between regions of Asia can take a great deal of time and money.
Likely the region of Asia that most people think of when they start looking for tours is Southeast Asia. With countries including Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Cambodia, this is one region that attracts all.
Southeast Asia itineraries are full of stunning landscapes, historic temples, bustling cities, and laid back beaches. In each of these countries you will be able to find a wide variety of activities to enjoy like shopping through the floating markets of Vietnam, walking the hallowed temples of Angkor Wat, or enjoying a smoothie bowl in Bali.
While visiting Southeast Asia can be a nice reprieve from the harsh winters of Europe and North America, make sure to visit when the weather is good. Southeast Asia can get extremely warm and most of the countries have monsoon seasons that you’ll want to avoid
Top Cities in Asia
Each city in Asia is extremely different and has its own flavor to it. Cities in Saudi Arabia and Turkey are very different than cities in Vietnam and the Philippines. But these major hubs are often included on Asian guided tours in their own regions.
1. Bangkok, Thailand
Considered one of the hubs for not only Southeast Asia but all of Asia, Bangkok is a wondrous combination of traditional Thai history, Asian culture, and modern life. Bangkok is steeped in royal Thai architecture with modern malls and business hubs and is a backpacker hub.
2. Moscow, Russia
Heading to the far northern part of Asia, Moscow stands as a reminder of Imperial Russia’s former power. With its central Red Square with the Kremlin and uniquely designed St. Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow is a time capsule of Communist and Imperial rule.
3. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Like many cities in Asia, Dubai originally was a small settlement and now has become a major business hub. Centered in the oil region of Asia, Dubai has grown to be an outpost for many of the world’s top companies, hotel chains, and high end products.
4. Udaipur, India
“India’s Venice” is one of the jewels of India’s northern region of Rajasthan with its combination of India life and European feel. While this region is known for its stunning forts and architecture, Udaipur stands out with its white buildings and canals centered around Lake Pichola.
Outdoor Travel in Asia
Asia’s landscape ranges from quite river valleys in Vietnam to the towering Himalayan Mountains in Nepal. Asia is one of the best places to get out and see Mother Nature at her finest.
For those looking for an adventurous holiday, there are many hiking and trekking tours to Asia. Nepal and Bhutan have some of the best outdoor and rigorous treks you can imagine and Japan is known for cycling as well.
Even if you aren’t going on full hiking or trekking adventures in Asia, your tour may still be considered strenuous. Many Asian countries are mountainous and some of the best sites, like the Great Wall of China, are built over the mountains and the steps are very steep. When looking into Asia tour operators double check the physical level and itinerary.
If you are looking for a more relaxed outdoor experience, you can check out Asian river cruises as they will take you into parts of Asia that are less developed and more connected with nature.
While there are some wildlife tours in Asia, much of the animals in Asia you will be able to see on normal tours. The most common animal you will see when traveling Asia, especially South and Southeast Asia, will be monkeys. Additionally, there are Asia wildlife tours to countries like Borneo that include trekking and encountering wildlife like orangutans.
You can find any type of cuisine in Asia. With so many countries and different vegetation, Asia has a wide variety of food to choose from. This being said, Asia’s cuisine is tied to the different regions and countries. There are many similarities between some cuisines, but the produce and food is determined by the country.
In Central Asia you will find heartier dishes with meat and dairy. Much of this area has a similar cuisine to Russia with stews, stuffed breads, and Arabian flavors.
In Western Asia you’ll find a combination of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavors as many of these countries sit on the Mediterranean Sea. Tahini, falafel, lamb, and hummus are commonly found in dishes in this region. This area of Asia is also based off of meze, or small dish meals.
South Asia has a large vegetarian feel as India and Sri Lanka are mostly Hindu and Hindus do not eat meat. However, cuisines of Nepal and Afghanistan use lamb and goat. Recipes of this region use strong chillies, coriander, cloves, and ghee in their dishes. Also, many of their meals are eaten with forks and spoons, but with roti or chapati (unleaved flatbread).
Southeast Asia is where you will find many of your curries, rice dishes, and fresh fruit. This area of Asia is often associated with East Asian cuisines, but has its own distinct flavor. These cuisines use soy sauces and spices of turmeric and lemon grass.
Eastern Asia dishes are based off of oils and soups along with noodles and rice. Fish sauce, fermented vegetables, dumplings, and sushi can all be found in dishes in East Asia.
A great option to see Southeast Asia, but the other Asian countries as well, is by river cruise. Many of the world's most famous rivers run through Asia including the Mekong and the Yangtze.
Mekong River cruises make their way through multiple countries in Southeast Asia. The river winds itself through Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Mekong River itineraries make sure to include stops of major sites on the river like Siem Reap and Ho Chi Minh City, while also taking you out into the backwaters of the Mekong River.
To see some of the best sites in China, a Yangtze River cruise is ideal. A Yangtze River cruise takes you through the famous Three Gorges where three large gorges converge on the river with stops at “The White Emperor City” and “The Ghost City.”
For travelers with disabilities or who have trouble getting around, note that Asian river cruises use smaller boats and dock at ports that are not at the same standards as European river cruises.
The Ancient Silk Route
Much of Russia – from the Ural Mountains to eastern Siberia – lies in Asia, as does Mongolia, land of yurts and horsemen. Central Asia is a vast expanse of “stans”: Uzbekistan’s Samarkand, Bukhara and Tashkent were pillars along the old nomadic Silk Route from China. The ancient Babylonian and Persian empires live on in modern-day Iraq and Iran – an option for adventurous travelers. Parts of the Middle East are also troubled, though the United Arab Emirates – with its star attraction, Dubai -- and some other areas of the exotic Arabian Peninsula still beckon (even Saudi Arabia is starting to open up to non-Islamic tourism).
Israel and Jordan are at peace, offering the opportunity to visit both ancient Jerusalem and nearby Petra, Jordan’s wondrous rock city. Much of Turkey lies in Asia as well – including the unique cave dwellings of Cappadocia and the beaches of the Turkish Riviera.
While a quick overview can barely scratch the surface of Asian travel, Stride can ease the confusion with our easy-to-use comparison tools. After sizing up our plentiful offerings of guided tours, river cruises and active vacation packages, you can then decide which Asian region is the best fit for you. And chances are you’ll want to return again and again to sample more of all the cultural and adventurous discoveries that Asia has in store.
Cultural Nuances in Asia
For travelers coming from North America or Europe, some culture shock may be experiences when traveling in Asia. The culture and way of life in many Asian countries are very different than in places like the U.S. Different values and traditions are followed in Asia that may not be as important or observed in other countries.
Honor and respect are extremely important in Asian cultures. “Saving face” or respecting someone is one of the most important things in Asia. Open confrontation, criticism, or disprecting elders are highly frowned upon. However, in certain countries like China, conversations about your income and family life are fair game as these topics are valued in Chinese culture.
Even if you are from New York or London, you will still feel like you are cramped in many Asian countries. With 60% of the world’s population in Asia, many of the major cities are overcrowded and you will not have personal space when visiting. Along with this, if you accidentally get bumped getting off your bus or train, don’t expect an apology as you may get in the U.S., personal space and accidental bumpings are just part of life in Asia.
Things to Know Before You Go
Best Time to Travel in Asia
Pick any time of the year and you will be able to visit one part of Asia. With Asia covering so much space and a variety of landscapes, you will be able to find a time of year that fits.
However, some areas of Asia during certain times of the year should be avoided. It’s recommended that you coordinate the time of year with the region of Asia you want to visit before booking. Some tours to Asia may be hindered or itineraries may change because of weather or water levels.
There are a few times of the year you should keep in mind when doing your research. South Asia during the summer months sees high rains during its monsoon season. November through March is monsoon season for many parts of Southeast Asia. Western Asia is very warm during the summer months as much of that area is desert. Central Asia can get very cold during the winter months.
However, the months of May and September are probably the safest for most of Asia. Temperatures may still be warm in many areas, but you will see less rain and the crowds will be smaller.
Asia Luxury Travel
There are plenty of Asian luxury tour operators you can choose from. Luxury tours of Asia typically provide premium accommodation in 4 and 5-star hotels in the central areas of the major cities. If you are visiting Asia on a river cruise, you’ll see high-end cruise ships and fine dining options.
What makes luxury travel in Asia special is the private and personalized experiences. Whether it is a private hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia, Turkey, or a special photo opp with the Terra Cotta Warriors in China, Asia luxury travel is about those personal and exclusive touches to get you up close and personal with the diverse Asian cultures.
Asia Budget Travel
Asia is one of the best places to travel on a budget. Asia, and specifically Southeast Asia, is the epicenter of the backpacking world.
There are many budget airlines and hostels throughout Asia. In places like Vietnam, you can pay $5 a night for a hostel dorm room and $10 for a bus ride. It can be easy to stick to a budget in Asia as there are many affordable options for travel and accommodation.
There are plenty of Asia tour operators that provide budget tours or shoestring itineraries. Many of these tours will book you at hostels or homestays where you can meet locals and get to know other travelers.
You’ll also be traveling by local or public transportation to save money. These tours also often include more free time than luxury tours to keep the budget down and allow you to choose what to spend your money on.
Asia for Older Travelers
While traveling through Asia may be intimidating for older travelers, there is plenty of opportunity to explore this diverse continent.
However, it’s highly recommended that you do your research of the tour operator and countries you are looking to visit. For example, older travelers may have a harder time in some of the more rural areas of Cambodia and Laos with the dirt paths and trekking.
However, many tours take into account activity level and if you suffer from previous injuries or have a hard time getting around, a less strenuous tour may be the best.
Much of Asia is mountainous, both in the cities and in the more rural areas. Cities like Istanbul with its very rugged streets and Kathmandu’s high elevation may make walking around difficult. If you are concerned about getting around, going with a more luxury, low intensity tour may be the best.
Choosing a Southeast Asia Tour
Southeast Asia covers some of the most visited countries in Asia, however, trying to fit all of those countries into one trip will be overwhelming.
Pick a few countries that you want to visit and find the tour that covers all of those countries. Many of the Southeast Asia tours group together a few countries in their itineraries. Vietnam is often included with Cambodia and Laos whereas Thailand can be combined with Singapore and Malaysia.
Some of these countries do require a visa to enter the country, like Vietnam. Try to find a tour operator that helps or can direct you to where to get a visa because you will not be allowed into the country without one.
Southeast Asia has some very interesting and colorful cities, but also some of the most breathtaking and beautiful landscapes in the world. Try to find a tour operator that includes both city life and rural destinations in their itineraries so you can see all that this amazing part of Asia has to provide.
Street Food in Asia
Asia’s cuisine is vast and different, but one of the best types of food you’ll find everywhere is street food. In places like Bangkok and Hanoi, street food is part of the culture and is enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.
Much of the street food you’ll find are quick bites like samosas in India or gua bao buns in Hong Kong. The food stands will also have small chairs and tables for you to sit at if you are eating bigger dishes like pho. Street food in Asia is a great way to get a look into the food culture and ingredients while also saving some money.
However, it is important to protect yourself. If the food stand doesn’t have any locals buying from it or the food they are serving has been sitting out all day in the sun, don’t eat there. Go where the large lines are and the food has been cooked recently or fried.
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