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Travel Safety in Asia

How to Stay Safe, Healthy, and Happy on the Road


Travel safety in Asia / AK-47

Mosquitoes are more a threat to travel safety than this AK-47!

Photo by Alex07 / Wikimedia Commons

Just as with staying safe at home, travel safety in Asia is largely a matter of common sense. However, visiting a new continent does bring a few unexpected new threats of which we rarely have to worry about in the West.

While political turmoil and natural disasters dominate the media spotlight, the smaller threats are more likely to put a damper on your trip to Asia.

Use these Asia safety tips to return home happy and healthy!

Avoid Things that Bite

While poisonous snakes and Komodo dragons could certainly ruin your day if given a chance, the most serious health threat comes in a smaller package: mosquitoes. With their capacity to carry both dengue fever and malaria, mosquitoes are actually the deadliest creatures on Earth.

Mosquitoes are endemic in the jungles and islands of Asia; they often quietly enjoy their meal -- you -- under the table while you enjoy yours. Use spray in the evenings, particularly around your ankles, and burn coils when sitting outside. Read how to avoid mosquito bites.

Bedbugs are back! While nearly eradicated at one time, now the bothersome little biters are infesting five-star hotels and houses in the West. Don't bring bedbugs home with you from Asia; learn how to check for bed bugs at your hotel.

Motorbike Safety

Anyone who has taken a tuk-tuk ride through Bangkok at rush hour knows what a hair-raising experience it can be!

While renting a motorbike can be a great way to explore places such as North Sumatra and Kintamani in Bali, motorbikes are the number one cause of injury for foreigners. Even if wearing one is optional where you are traveling, always use your helmet and remember that other drivers don't stick to the same rules we observe at home.

Travel insurance rarely covers injuries that happen while you are on a motorbike.

Adventures in the Field

Asia is home to the most spectacular trekking in the world, however, even small situations can quickly turn ugly in an unfamiliar environment. Trekking active volcanoes in Indonesia and exploring the rainforests of East Sabah in Borneo aren't like a walk in the national park at home.

Flash floods, loose volcanic scree, and other unexpected threats take the lives of adventurous travelers each year. Know the risks where you are trekking, never go alone, and get an early start in case you become lost or something goes wrong.

Bad Stomachs, Sunburn, and Infections

While these great treks in Southeast Asia are adventurous, smaller health issues pose more of a realistic threat to your travels. Annoying ailments such as infections, traveler's diarrhea, and severe sunburn are common and can really take the fun out of a trip.

Even the smallest, most insignificant cut or scrape on a foot can turn infected in hot and humid environments such as those found around Southeast Asia. Give special attention to cuts and scrapes on your legs and feet -- particularly if sea rocks or coral are the culprits; marine bacteria infections are very difficult to heal on the road.

Traveling a new continent means that you will encounter new food bacterias which your stomach may not be prepared to process. No one wants to spend any unnecessary time in China's squat toilets! Read about how to avoid traveler's diarrhea on the road.

The sun in countries nearer to the Equator is stronger than at home; don't be caught off guard. You are especially prone to sunburn while snorkeling or riding on the decks of boats. Use these tips to protect yourself from the sun better.

Political Unrest and Terrorism

While unlikely, some travelers have recently found themselves in the middle of political demonstrations and unrest, fueled by a new global attitude toward democracy. These demonstrations and sometimes acts of violence rarely target foreigners, however, you should be prudent in staying out of the way.

Large public gatherings, even ones that begin peacefully, can often go wrong as tempers between protesters and police flare -- don't get caught in the middle!

  • Register your trip online with the US State Department in case the situation deteriorates and you need to be evacuated later.
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