Just as at home, travel safety in Asia is largely a matter of common sense. However, visiting a new continent does bring a few unexpected, unfamiliar threats 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.
Avoid Things That Bite
Although 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 dengue fever, Zika, 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 mosquito repellent 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. Fortunately, the problem isn't too bad in Asia but they do exist. Learn how to check for bed bugs at your hotel.
Anyone who has taken a tuk-tuk ride through Bangkok at rush hour knows what a hair-raising experience it can be!
Although renting a motorbike can be a great way to explore and reach places outside of tourist zones, motorbikes are the number one cause of injury for foreigners. Even if wearing one is optional wherever you may be traveling, always use your helmet and remember that other drivers don't stick to the same rules we observe at home.
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 in Asia, particularly in the wild rainforests, isn'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.
- Learn about 10 threats to avoid on outdoor adventures.
- Learn how to handle a monkey attack while in Asia — yes, they do attack!
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, 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 wounds on your legs and feet — particularly if caused by sea rocks or coral; marine bacteria infections are very difficult to heal on the road.
Traveling a new continent means that you will be exposed to new food bacteria which your stomach may not be prepared to handle. Travelers diarrhea affects up to 60% of travelers, but it is rarely more than a mild inconvenience. Still, no one wants to spend any unnecessary time in public squat toilets!
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.
- Be prepared for small injuries and ailments by arriving with this first aid kit packing list for Asia.
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 acts of violence rarely target foreigners, however, you should be prudent and stay 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! That picture just isn't worth it.
- Register your trip online with the US State Department in case the situation deteriorates and you need to be evacuated later.
- Print this list of US embassies in Asia in case you get into trouble.
Dealing With Dangerous Weather
Most countries in Asia have somewhat predictable monsoon and typhoon seasons. Large storms can cause dangerous storm surges, flooding, and high winds. Many travelers have found themselves trapped in Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and other countries by deadly typhoons.
Know if you're at risk in the region and what to do if bad weather is approaching. Meteorologists often provide a few days of notice before a typhoon makes landfall. Know how to prepare for a typhoon if one is heading your way.