With so many breathtaking places to visit, Asia is undoubtedly one of the most desired destinations. Asian countries offer a unique blend of cultures, cuisines, and traditions, not to be experienced anywhere else in the world.
Every year, the number of tourists visiting Asia only keeps growing. Just take a look at the statistics from the most visited Asian countries:
● According to the World Tourism Organization, over 59 million people visited China and over 30 million tourists visited Thailand (as of December 2018).
● As Horwath HTL reports, over 300 million people visited Asia Pacific countries last year.
● Horwath HTL report also predicts that the number of tourists visiting Asia Pacific countries will reach 1.8 billion by 2030.
Although the number of tourists visiting Asia is huge, first-time travelers won’t be too overwhelmed by overcrowded streets. When it comes to culture shock, Asia provides a softer landing. You’ll rather feel excited than stressed by cultural differences.
We’re not going to lie: long travel and jetlag will hit you anyway, as many Asian destinations are hard to get to. But once you’re there, you’ll have the time of your life!
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at 6 best travel destinations in Asia for first-time travelers. This article is for those who’re just getting introduced to the uniqueness of Asia.
1. Thailand: Bangkok, Phuket and Chiang Mai
We start our list of must-see Asian countries for first-time travelers with Thailand. Being among the Top-3 countries, Thailand is visited by over 20 million tourists annually, and there are several reasons for that, destination-wise.
Thailand is one of the cheapest destinations in Asia to travel to. You can rent a bungalow starting $20 a week. If you want a luxury treatment, resorts offer a 7-day deal starting from $200 for 2 people.
Thai countryside is unbelievably beautiful. Chiang Mai is one of the destinations in Thailand, which is never free from tourists. This is a place with breathtaking scenery, interspersed with cultural sights:
In Thailand, you’ll get the full experience in one place. Phuket is Thailand’s most appreciated jewels. This mountainous, rainforest-y area is famous for its sights as well as beautiful scenery.
There’s everything here for a first-time traveler, who wants to appreciate Thailand: from the beautiful Avatar-like sights at Phang Nga Bay, to the famous Big Buddha, to exciting nightlife and night markets:
Different travel guides offer extensive tour packages in Thailand, depending on what you want to see. You can spend several days just in Bangkok, getting familiar with the Thai culture and world-renowned cuisine. Also, you can choose to go to the countryside to meet with locals and observe a different Thailand, away from the rush of a big city.
2. Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian Borneo, and the Perhentian Islands
Breathtaking, unbelievable, dream-like.
All these words can describe Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. Being one of the richest countries in Asia, Malaysia is a perfect destination for first-time travelers, who want to take a different look at what Asian culture looks like.
Visited by over 2 million people this year, Malaysia is a perfect destination for you to have the vacation of your dreams.
Malaysian tourist destinations have offers at very liberal prices. Depending on a location and a hotel, your stay can cost you starting at $40 a week.
Malaysia is different. It isn’t just about Kuala Lumpur and its unique architecture, well-known to tourists from around the world. Malaysian Borneo is a perfect place for hiking, with its jungle-like nature.
Mount Kinabalu is a popular tourist destination, with its exciting ecosystem, pristine landscapes, and cute orangutans hanging from the trees:
For those, who are ready to escape from the noise, Malaysian beaches are a perfect place to do it. The Perhentian Islands in Malaysia, with their azure waters and clean white-sand beaches, offer a perfect blend of both nature and unique Malaysian culture. Tip: going scuba-diving there is a must-do for all first-time visitors:
When in Kuala Lumpur, make sure that you follow several event blogs to make the most of your trip. From these blogs, you’ll be able to find out about events at local bars and clubs and get discounts for local restaurants. These blogs also have frequent updates about things to do around Malaysia, helping you get the most out of your visit.
3. China: Shanghai, Beijing, and Xi’an
When it comes to traveling to Asia, most tourists think about China right away.
No wonder: Chinese culture always fascinated our ancestors, and their traditions were somewhat of a marvel for the kings of the past. Just take a look at Charlottenburg castle in Berlin: rooms filled with china and embellished with Chinese ornaments were a must-have for wealthy people of that time.
Today, we know China way better than the kings of the past, but it doesn’t mean that Chinese culture fascinates us less. To put it simply – China has century-long traditions that are still alive today. And this is just one of the many reasons to visit this country:
When you think about visiting China for the first time, the immediate thing that comes to mind is Beijing. This city isn’t just a metropolis. Beijing is also a center of Chinese culture. There, you’ll be able to see all the staple Chinese cultural phenomena, like the Temple of Heaven, the Forbidden City, Great Wall of China (a must-see for all first-time travelers).
To immerse yourself in Chinese culture more, all first-time visitors should visit the town of Xi’an. Xi’an was the capital city of 13 dynasties, harboring the vast majority of famous Chinese cultural phenomena, including the Terracotta Army:
Best place to enjoy nighttime in China is, of course, Shanghai. Here you’ll be able to see a completely different China with its modern culture.
Shanghai at night is beautiful, with illuminated Oriental Pearl TV Tower and busy Nanjing Road. And, a stroll along Shanghai’s Promenade will let you enjoy a beautiful view of the city’s business center:
What about the prices?
Staying in Beijing and Shanghai can be a little bit pricy. The hotel offers start from $200 a week for two people. But you can always rent a private apartment with a kitchen, and save money on eating at the restaurants.
Tip! Chinese culture is so voluminous that it’s hard to grasp everything during a one-time visit. But you can get from your experience as much as possible by hiring a representative from a Chinese translation company. They often have people who are experts in Chinese history and culture and can translate into many languages.
4. Japan: Tokyo and Kyoto
China and Japan are often called The Big Two of Asia. Japan is another ultimate destination for first-time travelers, interested in learning about the diversity of Asian cultures.
Visiting Tokyo, of course, is a must for first-time travelers. Only in Tokyo, you’ll be able to see the unique phenomena of Japanese culture, nowhere to be found in the rest of the country:
Tokyo is famous for the kawaii culture. Here, all the admirers of the Japanese kawaii culture will find their heaven. From shops and bars to stylized cafes, like Kawaii monster café, Tokyo is the center for kawaii culture:
Another Tokyo-specific part of Japanese culture is Lolita doll fashion. In Tokyo, you’ll be able to find shops, where you can buy Lolita style outfits. Then, you can go to stylized cafes for a photo-shoot. For sure, you won’t be able to find an experience like this anywhere in the world:
If you want to immerse yourself more in Japanese culture, it’s time to leave Japan and head for Kyoto. Once the capital of Japan, Kyoto is one of the oldest cities with a lot of sights to see. Located along the side of Osaka Prefecture, Kyoto is surrounded by beautiful nature.
Kyoto is home of thousands of Japanese culture staples:
● Kinkakuji Temple, one of the most famous Japanese landmark’s, dated 1397.
● Fushimi Inari Shrine – a famous spot from the movie Memoirs of a Geisha.
● Yasaka Pagoda – the most photographed spot in Kyoto (you can also see it on the photo above).
What about the prices?
Japan is one of the priciest destinations in Asia. Hotels in Tokyo offer deals starting from $200/ a week for two visitors. You can save money by staying in a hotel outside of the city center (public transport communications are very good in Japan) or go for an experience at Japanese famous capsule hotels.
Japanese culture is so diverse that we recommend preparing for your visit. Besides reading different cultural blogs, we also recommend following Japanese YouTubers, like RinRinDoll and Yuka Kinoshita, to find hidden gems around Tokyo and Japan.
5. Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City, Halong Bay, and Sa Pa
Vietnam is one of the cheapest destinations to visit in Asia, and yet it is one of the most diverse destinations in terms of culture.
Ho Chi Minh City is the center of famous Vietnamese cuisine and modern Vietnamese culture. Besides the variety of restaurants, cafes, and bars, Ho Chi Minh harbors a lot of museums where you can learn about the history of the Vietnamese war.
Further away from the noise and overcrowded streets of Ho Chi Minh is beautiful Halong Bay. This is a perfect destination for first-time travelers who seek solitude and love being surrounded by nature. Halong Bay managed to remain undisturbed by modern tourism, preserving its pristine beaches:
Away from the beaches and deeper into the woody area of Vietnam lies the beautiful region of Sa Pa. This area is perfect for first-time travelers who love exploring new places while hiking. There you can also visit local villages, buy local handicrafts, and, of course, witness the beauty of vast rice fields:
What about the prices?
We already mentioned that Vietnam is one of the cheapest destinations to visit in Asia. In Ho Cho Minh City, the hotel offers start from $60 a week for two. For a full immersion into Vietnamese culture, we recommend an 11-day itinerary to make sure that you don’t miss out on anything.
6. Sri Lanka: Sigiriya, Yala National Park, and Mirissa Bay
For those, who want to get tet-a-tet with nature, Sri Lanka is the ultimate destination. One of the cheapest destinations in Asia, Sri Lanka harbors a variety of beautiful sights.
For those, who enjoy an active vacation, with hiking and rock climbing, Sigiriya is a beautiful place to do that. There, you can climb a famous Sigiriya Rock (on the photo above), see the elephants at a Minneriya Park and even go on a cycling tour.
Elephant lovers will also enjoy visiting Yala National Park, where you can even interact with them. This destination also offers guided nature walks and energetic jeep safari:
Another perfect place to surf and lie on warm sand is Mirissa Bay. A famous destination for surfers, Mirissa Bay is also a home for many sand beaches, where you can enjoy your coconut water while lying under a palm tree:
What about the prices?
First-time travelers will enjoy the hospitality of Sri Lanka. Guests can enjoy a room for as low as $18 a week for two. If you’re looking something on a more expensive side, rooms at the resorts start from $30 a week for two.
Asia offers a myriad of destinations for first-time travelers. Of course, in this article, we didn’t cover all of them, but these 6 destinations give first-time Asia visitors a good start.
Hope reading these travel tips inspired you to start planning your trip to explore Asia. To make your trip even more enjoyable, explore our offers for the most unbelievable Asia experience of your life!