Asia Travel Guide

Asia is more than a continent; it’s a world unto itself.

As much as we talk about Asia as a singular travel destination, there’s no single thread that binds the continent together. The Turkic-speaking republics of Central Asia are about as similar to the countries of East Asia as Eastern Europe is to Central America.

The massiveness of the continent means that no single trip to Asia will ever satisfy. Even trying to tackle sub-regions like East Asia or Southeast Asia in one fell swoop will leave you needing a vacation from your vacation.

Wherever you choose to go in Asia, know that it will be rewarding, if at times challenging. Whether you’re craving spiritual enlightenment in Bali, eating your way through Taipei or treading the Silk Route in Samarkand, Asia’s bound to get your traveller’s blood roaring.

When to visit Asia

With a continent as big as Asia, it’s impossible to pinpoint exactly when to go. Each sub-region—and even each country—can feel like a world unto its own. Sometimes even two places mere hours from each other can have completely opposite weather patterns at the same time!

Perhentian Islands, Malaysia

Throughout the continent though, one thing is sure: you’ll never be sure of what you’ll get. In the hot & humid reaches of Southeast Asia, skies can turn from sunny to miserable thunderstorms at the drop of a hat. Even the more temperate four-seasons of East Asia can see drastic changes in a day.

To get you started searching for the best time to visit Asia, here are a few useful guides:

Where to go in Asia

I’d like to say there’s an easy answer to this, but, again, there isn’t. Asia is so full of incredible places that it would take a lifetime to see all of them. Let’s just stick to the basics. Here are a few of the best places to visit in Asia:

East Asia

Along with Southeast Asia and Europe, East Asia is, in my opinion, one of the best places to travel in the world. My reasoning is simple: It’s different enough to be shocking while familiar enough to make it easy to travel in.

Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo, Japan

The cities of East Asia are some of the best travel destinations in the world. From the cultural treasures of Kyoto to the urban amazement of Hong Kong, there’s no shortage of places to be intrigued by in East Asia.


Perhaps it’s a little ambitious to slip China definitively among all these other East Asian destinations. Diving into the sublime world of China is less like hitting up a single country than tackling an entire continent on its own.

Sunset in Guanxi, China

Cities like Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shanghai fit well into the East Asian mold, but as you move further west, things start to change. Ever-popular Xian, influenced by its Silk Road roots, offers a hint at what might await elsewhere. By the time you’ve scurried to far off-the-beaten-path destinations like Kashgar, you’ll definitely see why defining China in a few simple words isn’t so easy.

Hong Kong

Perhaps you know it from cheesy ’80s action movies like Bloodsport, but there’s no better feeling than taking on the small Chinese quasi-state of Hong Kong by yourself.

Depending on your disposition, your first impressions of HK won’t always be positive. The never-ending urban buzz of Kowloon, where most tourists land on their first jaunt, can be draining—especially as the incessant calls for massages and tailors begin to pile up.

Skyline of Hong Kong

Even if you don’t think you’ll ever adjust to the chaos of Hong Kong, there’s always the possibility of cathartic moment not so far away. Whether its ambling along a scenic hiking trail on the back side of Hong Kong Island or the New Territories or enjoying a quiet evening meal at a small Cantonese food joint on the backstreets of Central, Hong Kong is a city that’s always got a surprise up its sleeve.


At once both deeply traditional and modern, Japan is one place you’ll simply never let go of. It’s the type of place you dream about long after you’ve left, and one where you’ll never cease wanting to return.

Japanese cities are like none other on the planet. Whether you’re in to the hyper-modernism of Tokyo and Osaka or delving into the more traditional corners of Kyoto, Japan is bound to grab your attention.


Even without the fame of its neighbours, Korea is amidst a massive surge in popularity thanks to hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. The games withstanding this is an East Asian destination that’s highly underrated and primed to turn a couple heads when the world finally fully discovers it.

Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju, South Korea

The pleasures of travelling in Korea are hard to pinpoint. Some fall in love with the wild urban thrills of Seoul while others are more content with the classic Asian beauty of places like Gyeongju.

Either way, in this tightly-packed East Asian country, it’s not much of stretch to do it all. Distances are between major towns & cities are short with a quick & efficient public transportation system in place to zip you around in no time.


I wouldn’t blame you if the thought of visiting Taiwan never crossed your mind. With Japan, China and Hong Kong staring it down at all sides, it’s not surprising that this little island nation often gets left out of the running when dropping down your best laid East Asia travel plans.

Taipei 101 From Elephant Mountain in Taipei

For a country as small as Taiwan, there’s quite a variety of things to keep your attention piqued. From the culinary delights of Taipei’s night markets to the beautiful craggy & coastal scenery around Hualien, you’ll never go wrong spending time in Taiwan.

Southeast Asia

Outside of Europe, no region in the world attracts backpackers quite like Southeast Asia. And who could blame anyone for loving this crazy little corner of Asia? Just about everything you’d ever dreamed of about the continent—from pristine white-sand coves to mystic ancient temples—is scattered throughout ever-interesting Southeast Asia.


When my first foray into Southeast Asia took me to Indonesia, I knew this region was something special. It’s hard to not fall in love with this hefty archipelago, spanning all of Southeast Asia from below.

Volcanic Landscape near Gunung Bromo, Indonesia

With its immensity, it’s not surprising that one trip to Indonesia is never enough to feel the full breadth of its offerings. Most travellers start with Bali, a great destination, to be sure, but one that’s just about as polarizing as places come. The island of Java also has its charms from the otherworldly landscape of Gunung Bromo to the cultural treasures of Yogyakarta.


Even lacking big attraction Angkor Wat or the surfing paradise Bali, it’s hard to not love travelling in Malaysia. In many ways, Malaysia captures all the quirks that make Southeast Asia such an amazing place to travel.

Sultan Abdul Samad Building in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur is one of the region’s most interesting cities. Much like Singapore to the south, KL blends a hodge-podge of different Asian cultures for a palette all to its own. Its glitzy and glamorous skyline conceals the chaos of the city below where you’ll find pockets of traditional shops & restaurants sprinkled among the glass skyscrapers.

Most intriguing about Malaysia though could be its food. The mix of Chinese, Indian and local Malay flavours strikes a chord in even the most hard-to-please foodie. If you’re on the fence about whether the country’s to your taste, a laksa or kari ayam should tip the scales in Malaysia’s favour.


Visiting the small city-state of Singapore is more than a bit of a departure from your typical Southeast Asian destination. Although it was once attached at the hip to Malaysia, Singapore in its post-independence era couldn’t be more of a contrast than its Malay Peninsula brethren.

Whether that’s good or bad is up to you to decide. Singapore’s modern trappings won’t appeal to every traveller, especially if your escape to Southeast Asia was meant as a spiritual journey or as a way to induce a little culture shock into your life.

Evening Skyline Marina Bay

But don’t let Singapore’s sober (and, frankly, unfair) reputation fool you: This is as incredible a place to visit as you’ll find anywhere on the continent!

Even if it lacks the historical attractions of other Asian cities, Singapore still charms travellers in excess. World-class attractions like Gardens by the Bay and the Marina Bay Sands are absolute must-sees for anyone with an appreciation contemporary design.

And if that’s not quite enough to inspire a visit, the food here will. Singapore reigns as one of the world’s greatest cities for foodies. The city’s unique blend of Chinese, Malay, and Indian influences have created a culinary scene like none other on the planet. Pull up a chair at one of Singapore’s bustling hawker centre, and let your tastebuds fall in love.


Visiting Thailand is almost a rite of passage for the independent traveller. While most still launch their backpacking careers in Europe, more budget-conscious wayfarers are increasingly skipping out on the high prices in Europe for more value-laden times in Thailand.

It’s a blessing and a curse for Southeast Asia’s most popular country. On one hand, it’s made Thailand one of the easiest countries in Asia to travel in; on the other, it’s becoming one of the harder places to enjoy.

Over-tourism aside, Thailand hardly has a peer in the world. It’s home to some of the world’s most spectacular temples and some of its best beaches. Assuming you steer clear of the over-indulgences and excesses that pockmark many a trip, visiting Thailand will be one of the memorable journeys in your lifetime.

Ryan O'Rourke

Ryan O'Rourke is a Canadian traveller, food & drink aficionado, and the founder & editor of Treksplorer. With over 20 years of extensive travel experience, Ryan has journeyed through over 50 countries, uncovering hidden gems and sharing firsthand, unsponsored insights on what to see & do and where to eat, drink & stay. Backed by his travel experience and in-depth research, Ryan’s travel advice and writing has been featured in publications like the Huffington Post and Matador Network. You can connect with Ryan on Twitter/X at @rtorourke.