Is it safe to travel in Asia? It sure is! But there are always risks when you step out your front door. We give you the low-down on the best health and safety advice for travel in Asia.
You might also like to read Safe travel for solo women in South East Asia.
See a travel doctor before you go
Always see a travel doctor before you head away. Check you have the right vaccinations, and that you understand the symptoms of dangerous diseases that are current in your destinations.
They’ll also be able to tell you about the legality and availability of your normal prescriptions and other medical needs.
This stuff is changing all the time: new diseases pop up, or new strains of old diseases. A specialist travel doctor will be plugged into this data and be able to give you up-to-date advice.
Local doctors will, of course, have more current information that those that don’t often travel to that region. It can be hard to contact them in advance, but definitely heed their advice too.
Keep bug free
There are truly spectacular forests, farmland and waterways to explore, right throughout the continent, but there’s always a high concentration of bugs around too!
Amongst other diseases, mosquitos carry malaria — at present they’re mainly non-fatal strains, but they’re still pretty aggressive. You should certainly discuss the malaria risk levels with your travel doctor. Help avoid gettingbitten by:
- Cover up your arms a legs with long sleeves.
- Using a DEET-based insect repellent.
- Using mosquito nets when stationary.
- Consider carrying a plug-in bug repellant.
- Consider investing in mosquito-repellant clothing.
We’ve often found holes in the mosquito nets in places we’ve stayed. Sew or pin these back together or use sticking plasters or electrical tape to close the gaps.
There are often extra bugs around during and after Monsoon season (months). Be extra cautious then.
Food and drink
It’s always best to eat local! And in Asia that means plenty of rice and noodles as your carbohydrates and proteins from whatever local sources are available.
If everyone around you is downing pho, avoid ordering the rare steak and chips. Unless you have an experienced chef, they’re not likely to prepare foreign food properly. The same guidelines apply in mainly vegetarian countries: enjoy the veges and save the steak for premier restaurants.
In some regions, tap water may contain contagious diseases. If in doubt, treat water by boiling, filtering or using a chemical purification technique. We carry an Ecousable bottle with us, which helps a lot. It doesn’t get rid of the taste of bad water though!
Ice can also contain these bugs, if the ice is made from tap water. Always check the ice you are drinking or using is made from filtered water — preferably from a commercial distributor.
Locally produced spirits are a boon to budget travellers and those looking to cut loose can do little better than a bucket of Thailand’s finest. But every year people die from over-indulging in these, or running into a bad batch. If it doesn’t seem right, send it back.
Let’s get this one out of the way first! The chance of encountering a terrorist attack on your travels in minimal. Pretty much insignificant. Never let the fear of terrorist attacks stop you from travelling.
A safety advisory from your government should give you an overall idea of risk, and you can get an inexpensive personalised report from a travel security company if you feel the need.
Riots and political unrest
If there is significant political unrest in your destination, consider postponing the trip. Details from advisors and travellers on the ground can help you decide if that’s necessary.
If trouble is brewing, consider leaving the area. Your embassy or an international organisation may be able to help with evacuation if things are really serious.
Stay away from riots: either stay in your hotel room (make sure you have sufficient water and snacks) or ensure you’re staying away from hotspots. As a traveller, it’s not your fight — and the army or anti-riot troops are unlikely to be able to distinguish you from rioters.
If you’re caught on the street as a riot comes past, seek shelter in a store or private residence.
Border crossings, petty theft and scams
There are hundreds of potential scams, bribes and cons that surround border crossings in Asia, especially the more isolated land borders.
You can read up on border scams, cons and other issues here.