Begin your journey at The Great Wall of China, Mount Fuji, or even The Taj Mahal! Get lost in ancient Cambodian ruins, spectate a Muy Thai fight, or trekk Indonesian rice paddies. Wherever your vacation may take you, Asia is a destination erupting with paradisiacal beauties, sensational food and rich cultures.

About The Region: Asia

Comprised of 48 countries and two of the most populated countries in the world (China and India) and the top three populated cities in the world, (Tokyo, Delhi, Shanghai), Asia’s vast corners make any traveler undecided on where to begin. Do not fear, Asia is known for some amazing beginner backpacking destinations such as Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam – So pack your bags, we’re heading East!

When to Go

The best time to visit Asia isn’t easily summed up – The largest continent in the world is characterized by regional weather patterns and nearly 25 different microclimates that can profoundly impact your vacation. Attempting to summit Mount Everest during the wrong month can be deadly and shoulder to shoulder crowds at the Taj Mahal isn’t very romantic, so consider all activities and interests to plan around the seasons.

Polar, subarctic, and temperate climates occur in North Asia while South Asia experiences a mix of grassland and tropical rainforest climates that encounter heavy rainfall and humidity. Central Asia has a distinctive continental arid and semi-arid climate with hot, cloudless, dry summers and moist, relatively warm winters in the south and cold winters with severe frosts in the north. East Asia is humid subtropical and humid continental; meaning summers are hot and humid, while winters can become very cold and wet.

Asia may have numerous microclimates that can confuse any traveler on when to visit, but focusing on Asia’s sub-regions provides greater insight into the continent’s “seasons” and how to plan vacations.

Central Asia falls under similar weather patterns of the United States, but has drastically hotter summers and colder winters. The driest desert in the world, Karakum Desert, is inhospitable during the summer, yet high-altitude mountain ranges like Fann Mountains in Tajikistan or the Tian Shan Mountains in Kyrgyzstan begin buzzing with adventurers seeking world-class trekking. Traverse the Pamir Highway, the second highest altitude international highway in the world, before the winter freezes over and check out incredible modern-day Silk Road cities that have remained rich in culture, cuisine and architecture.

As you travel to the Eastern part of Asia, characteristics of spring, summer, autumn and winter become more obvious and consistent. For travelers who love these seasons, this sub-region is a must visit. Springtime is absolutely magical – cherry blossoms decorate the outdoors while festivals bring life to once cold, quieter lands. Summer heat warms the area and travelers rush to summit Mount Fuji, wander The Great Wall of China or explore Mongolia’s Gobi Desert. As the crowds and heat dissipate during autumn, head to cities like Kyoto, Hong Kong, Taipei and Seoul to truly relish in the modern yet traditional meccas that lure visitors from around the world. Shades of red, yellow and orange sweep across countries, luring visitors to mystical destinations like Japan’s Takachiho Gorge and China’s Zhangjiajie National Forest Park.  Make no mistake, the winter is less crowded and cheaper, but still offers endless opportunity and beauty during this time of the year.

Head to Asia’s Southern and Eastern corners, you will see the climate shift from the consistent four seasons to less defined dry, hot and wet patterns. For example, Pakistan and India are drenched from June to September, much like Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and the Philippines, but the rain is nowhere to be found during these months in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. This is a great article explaining more on what to expect from the dry, hot and wet seasons. Each country deserves attention and detailed research for planning vacations, so we don’t want to lump in a generalization even about these seasons because they are so different!

Scroll to the bottom for more unmissable travel opportunities in Asia.

Travel PrerequisiteS

The DoD Foreign Clearance Guide outlines all the requirements you must complete before traveling. The requirements vary by combatant command and country. And they change continually, based on current threats.

  • Approved liberty (This process varies greatly from unit to unit, be sure to check local guidelines)
  • Completed itinerary 
  • The DoD Foreign Clearance Guide may suggest completion of additional travel prerequisites that may include the following:
    • Level 1 Anti-Terrorism Awareness Training via JKO
    • SERE 100.2 via JKO
    • Travel Tracker Individual Anti-terrorism Plan (TT/IATP) 
    • Country Clearance via Aircraft and Personnel Automated Clearance System (APACS) 
    • Theater Clearance via APACS
    • Special Area Clearance
    • Isolated Personnel Report training
    • SCI Brief via local command
    • Detailed Itinerary

Military Installations and Historical Sites

The United States has maintained a continued military presence in the Pacific. Major installations can be found in Japan, South Korea and Singapore. Relations with these host nations are peaceful and reliable. Travel resources are available and have been incredibly helpful for troops on vacation.

Travel Considerations

Asia is great for newbies and budget travelers! The accessibility and safety is a huge part of why Asia saw nearly 340 million tourists in 2019 alone,  but like many other continents in the world, there are some countries that are legitimately unsafe for travelers. It is always recommended that at the time of planning any trip, that you check the current political climate or general state of affairs in the country you are thinking of visiting.

Because of the intense amount of tourism, criminals constantly target travelers at their most vulnerable or relaxed state, i.e., laying out on the beach, grabbing food at a street vendor, falling asleep on the train, etc.

The trick is simply knowing the do’s and don’ts both geographically and logistically. Here are some valuable safety tips for travel in Asia.

  •  Vaccinations are recommended and required for some parts of this region. A detailed list can be found here from the World Health Organization. In addition to any necessary vaccines, seek out strong mosquito repellent, as this can help protect you from dengue fever and malaria. 
  • Check The Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs travel advisories regarding the safety of every country.
  • Rent a scooter at your own risk! Mobile accidents are the highest and deadliest in Asia, and is usually restricted for active duty and reserve personnel.
  • Avoid “Temple Burnout.” Planning too many visits to too many temples in the same day can become exhausting and boring. Let your eyes rest and appreciate the beauty with a bit of down time.
  • Don’t be afraid to bargain, this is a cultural norm and is expected! The point of bargaining is to engage with locals and agree on a fair price, not to cheat them or get scammed yourself.
  • Be a responsible tourist. Petting a tiger, riding an elephant, visiting an orphanage, or getting a “massage,” may seem harmless, but there are many unseen horrors of these activities. Unethical tourism has been a longstanding issue within this region. Do your research before partaking in ANY activities.
  • Dress appropriately for the cultural and religious norms of that area.
  • Always have toilet paper and hand sanitizer! Most bathrooms do not provide these items.
  • Wifi is everywhere, no need to buy a SIM card.
  • Research cab fares beforehand to avoid overcharging and always agree to a taxi fare before getting in.
  • You will see the same souvenirs over and over again, do not go all out when you first touch down.
  • Only drink bottled water and eat where the locals eat.
  • Take local transportation, it’s cheap and safe.

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