We asked the entire Selective Asia team to come up with their favourite Asia advice and general travel tips. After years spent travelling the continent, they've learnt a thing or two about how to make the best of this intoxicating part of the world.
Don’t pack the kitchen sink. You'll be surprised by what you will find on sale in Asia at a fraction of the prices we pay at home. And there is certainly no need to go shopping for armfuls of t-shirts, shorts or flip-flops before a holiday in Asia (you will possibly find your high street brands were manufactured in your destination).
Find some space. Take some time each day (this includes you Mum & Dad!) to enjoy the silence of a hilltop panorama, listen to the waves lap a beach, enjoy a coffee whilst watching the comings-and-goings of a bustling market. This is your holiday so take a break from life.
The working day starts early, with many locals often taking a 'siesta' in the early afternoon. For great breakfast street food, bustling food markets, morning exercise in the parks or monks taking alms, get up at 6 and follow the crowds.
Explore a wide range of dishes and eat regionally - you may know that you love Pad Thai and prawn green curry, however how will will you know whether you like krad khapao unless you break away from your favourites.
Eating your way down, around or through a county is one of the delights of travel - regional dishes and specialities will vary throughout your journey, you may won’t see that pho bun again further south but you’ve got bun bo hue to look forward to!
Whilst hygiene is undoubtedly important, don’t just presume that food isn’t safe if cooked at a street stand. Order hot, freshly prepared dishes and you’ll soon discover delights of street-side eating. To find the best restaurants, look where the locals are eating or better still ask for advice; Asian people are mad about their cuisine and it is a subject worthy of conversation.
Don’t worry about packing washing powder or 28 changes of clothes… the laundry services are cheap and extremely efficient. There is something comforting about finding a neat pile of freshly laundered and ironed clothes at the foot of your bed. Most temples in Sri Lanka ask you to remove your shoes at the main precinct entrance, rather than once at any shrine.
Exotic fruit, unusual vegetables and more fruit; don't let the opportunity pass you by. Life - well, fruit - will never be the same again once you start tucking into the wealth of delicious tree-borne treats to be enjoyed, and any visit to the supermarket once back home will leave you hungering to get back to Asia.
This can mean walking bare foot across some very hot ground - taking some suitable socks to protect your feet from this heat can be very useful. Always shop around; no matter what it is you’re after. You’ll find that prices and quality differ immensely. It is annoying when you turn the corner and the next shop is selling the same for half the price. Get up early to witness a side of Asia that many visitors often miss.
Stop and talk; what have you got to lose? You'll often find that your new friends speak better English than you expected (and far better than your Japanese/Thai/Vietnamese etc). That said, always make the effort to learn a few basic words; our App can help you with this, and it’s not only respectful to your hosts - it’s a great ice-breaker. If nothing else, it will get people laughing.
Drinking the odd cup of lao-lao with the locals in Laos is a great way to strike up a conversation and make new friends. However, keep it to a few… take it from us, many more than that will leave you with a monster hangover!
It makes good sense to carry a few spare passport photos with you as they always come in handy, especially if you need to obtain an entry visa at a border.
Whilst there are certainly street cons to be had throughout Asia - and the rest of the world - try not to say 'no' every time. Whilst it's essential to keep your safety at the forefront of your decision-making (and if you are at all unsure then the always err on the side of caution), there are some wonderful people working on the streets and markets of Asia, and the occasional 'yes' can lead to some unforgeable experiences for all the right reasons.
When bartering, never try and squeeze every last drop out of the deal. You are expected to raise your initial offer at least once and in most cases several times. Make a game out of it and you’ll come to enjoy it. Give yourself a reality check every now and again and you’ll often realise that you are sticking over $0.50!
Carrying a small quantity of UK£ or US$ (low denomination notes) does no harm at all. In most locations throughout Asia you will be able to exchange them for the local currency and often use them to purchase goods, with any change given in the local currency. Small local businesses and cafes may be unable, or unwilling, to give change for large denomination US$ or UK£ notes.
Ditto any spare notes in Euro, Australian $, Japanese Yen etc. from previous travels; they can all usually be exchanged for local currency at hotels in Asia. Visitors to Sabah's interior: leech socks in the UK can cost up to £20, you can purchase a set at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge (Danum Valley) for just RM18 (approx £3.50).
Cherish every minute, regularly stop and take stock of where you are and what you are doing. You are seeing some amazing sights and they deserve you taking a pause from taking photos to just look and soak it all up. Finally, leave the phone back in the hotel safe. The rest of the world can wait a day or two!