From working in a hostel and constantly interacting with tourists until now, I see a lot of things that can be done to make traveling to Asia (and in general) much more comforting and less stressful. Here are some things you can do before you decide to come over to the east.
Do some research before you go
There’s a ton of information out there about popular places you can visit in a country. From reading blogs, Trip Advisor, travel guides, watching Youtube videos, and even Reddit. Make a list of places you want to visit and make it happen when you arrive at your destination. Try to look up popular food to eat in each location so you can have a taste of a little of everything. Small steps made to prepare a trip before traveling will make the adventure go more smoothly. And hey, if you have a friend that lives in that country or city, ask for their advice too! But don’t also try to rely on them to be your tour guide.
Keep your Expectations Low
It is important to understand that certain parts of someone’s culture may have different meanings in different parts of the world (or none) so be mindful of that when you travel. Try not to judge so much and keep your mind open to new world possible ideas and conception. Also, don’t come thinking you’ll get the same treatment or service as you would back home. Most of these places are still hugely homogenous (some even third world), so you can’t expect people to act a certain way based upon what you’re familiar with. Realize that the way people go about in doing certain things will be different. You don’t necessarily have to accept it, understand that it’s there, and don’t take it personally. Most importantly, read up on information about the country that you plan to visit before leaving.
Cash is King
I haven’t gone to every single Asian country, but from my experience, if you’re not traveling through developed countries like Hong Kong or Singapore, don’t even think about whipping out your credit or debit cards to pay for anything. Cash is king! From bargaining at the local markets to having a meal at the local eatery, taking a stroll in the night market or even a night out at the bar, always carry cash. A lot of these places don’t take card…for whatever reason. It’s really common for people to carry large amounts of money on them in cash and the chances of someone robbing you is very slim (unless you stand out like me). If you’re not shopping in a big mall or eating in a fancy restaurant, it is best to say that its cash only.
Whether you get cash from withdrawing large amounts from an ATM, converting bills from that last trip, Receiving money from Western Union, do what you gotta do and get yo cash.
Learn some basic words of the language
Please don’t ever assume or expect that everyone speaks your native tongue or in my case, English. Learning simple words like hello, thank you and goodbye in the country’s language goes a long way. Locals will be more open to chatting with you and will respect you more and will approach you with a kinder heart if you approach them with kindness.
If you go somewhere and people don’t commonly use a language of your own, pull out your phone and use Google Translate. A lifesaver of the gods. You can use this app by either talking into it and have it spit out what you said in that person’s mother tongue. You can also just type it what you want to ask that person. It also has the option where you can take a photo of something and can translate what it says on that photo. The number of times I have used this app for certain situations are endless and saves time in the long run.
Be mindful of your privilege
Not everyone has the opportunity, the money, the time, nor the privilege to travel. Keep that in mind as you carry yourself, representing your country in different parts of the world. Be happy for what you have, stay humble and cherish it.