A few places in Asia for first-time travelers provide a softer landing than others. Although pretty much everywhere in Asia is interesting to visit, some destinations can be more challenging and exhausting for the uninitiated.
If you haven’t traveled in Asia very much and aren't quite ready to hack through the jungles in Sumatra just yet, these seven great destinations are easy places to become adjusted before traveling farther afield.
01 of 07
In more ways than one, Bangkok can often be a shock to the senses for the newly arrived. The traffic, pollution, and pace of Thailand’s capital take some time to appreciate. Khao San Road, the backpacker area in Bangkok, is famous for crowds and late-night partying.
Although Chiang Mai has traffic and pollution issues of its own, many travelers prefer the walkable size and sights of the Old Town inside of the moat. Even the prices are slightly better in Chiang Mai than you’ll find in Bangkok or the Thai islands.
Chiang Mai has a reputation throughout Thailand for excellent food and a friendlier vibe than locations in the south. And if the city still proves to be too much, you can escape to Pai -- a pleasant town in the mountains just four hours north.
- Read more about traveling in Chiang Mai.
02 of 07
Luang Prabang draws a big variety of travelers, from backpackers moving along the Banana Pancake Trail, to families attracted by the UNESCO World Heritage status. Remnants of French colonization -- including beautiful, riverside manors converted into guesthouses -- contribute to a pleasant atmosphere along the banks of the Mekong.
Although Laos is a very poor country and plenty of scams target travelers, navigating is easy and beautiful waterfalls just outside of town beckon. And if Luang Prabang feels just a little too easy, some exciting jungle trekking in Luang Namtha isn’t too far to the north.
There are many options for getting from Chiang Mai to Laos.
- Read more about traveling in Luang Prabang.
03 of 07
Kuala Lumpur isn’t exactly the cleanest city in Southeast Asia, and there are still plenty of scams to avoid, but getting there is cheap and the food scene is great.
The mix of ethnicities living there mean that you’ll get to sample Chinese, Indian, and Malay culture all in one stop. It also means that you’ll be able to get around easily by using English.
- Read more about traveling in Kuala Lumpur.
04 of 07
If the plan is to sample South Asia for the first time, Sri Lanka provides a far more relaxed experience than the behemoth Indian subcontinent just to the north. Although some of India’s vibe makes it down to the island, Sri Lanka is certainly far less frenzied and chaotic for first-time travelers.
Beautiful beaches all along the coast offer plenty of respite from busy Colombo, and Galle is a pleasant enough town to stroll. Hidden beaches offer great snorkeling experiences, and Sri Lanka is famous for birds and diversity of wildlife.
Continue to 5 of 7 below.
- Read more about traveling in Sri Lanka.
05 of 07
Hong Kong’s years spent as a British colony mean that you’ll find English spoken widely, along with a great infrastructure. After the 1997 transfer of sovereignty, Hong Kong is now a Special Administrative Region belonging to China.
First-time travelers find that starting in Hong Kong is easier than landing in Beijing and dealing with plenty of culture shock on the Chinese mainland.
- See more about traveling in Hong Kong.
06 of 07
There’s a reason that Bali is the most visited of Indonesia’s more than 17,000 islands: it’s easy! Along with cheap flights to get there, the tourist infrastructure is great.
You can escape the party scene in Kuta for more laid-back beaches on the other sides of the island. And there’s still a pleasant vibe to be found in Ubud, a town that exploded in popularity after being featured in the hit book and movie Eat, Love, Pray. Bali is also a top honeymoon destination in Asia.
- Read more about traveling in Bali.
07 of 07
Singapore is safe, clean, and easy -- not to mention impeccably clean compared to other places in Southeast Asia. Even arriving couldn’t be easier; Singapore’s Changi Airport is considered one of the best and most efficient in the world.
Excellent public transportation make getting around a breeze, and when you’ve tired of getting lost in the labyrinthine shopping malls and many museums, Singapore boasts loads of urban green space and park trails. To make travel there even easier, everyone speaks great English. A large number of foreign workers now call Singapore home.
The worst thing you’ll have to worry about in Singapore are the exorbitant prices; food is an exception. And don’t even think about accidentally bringing prohibited items into the country.
- Read more about traveling in Singapore.