On this episode of Talk Travel Asia Podcast we talk about things to avoid doing while traveling in Asia. When you travel, you want to fit in, have things go smoothly, have fun and not get into trouble. While 99% of the people you will meet on your trip want to help you and most of your ideas are probably good and well-intentioned, there are some things and people you should avoid to ensure a smooth trip. On this episode we’ll talk about a variety of things we think you should keep in mind and avoid doing to have the best journey possible.


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Trevor: Whenever traveling outside of our home country, it’s good to remember that the customs of home are not always the same as those of the countries we visit. We actually did an episode on some of these topics: EPISODE 84: FOREIGNER FAUX PAS AND CULTURAL CLUMSINESS WITH ED KNUTH OF BANGKOK PODCAST

Don’t look like you don’t know where you’re going or you’re likely to get hassled.

Sometimes we can try to be as culturally aware as possible but we still make mistakes while traveling and get taken advantage of by those who prey on the naiveté of foreigners. We did an episode about this back in the early days of the show: EPISODE 5: BANGKOK SCAMS, HUSTLES & TOURIST TRAPS. Continuing both of these themes, as well as a few more, today we’re doing an episode simply entitled “Don’t do that!” Today, we will offer some advice from our years of experience in Asia that we hope will make your next trip to Asia more hassle-free and enjoyable!

Getting Around

Trevor: Don’t buy a round trip ticket. Sure, you probably need a return flight home, but I’m referring to boat tickets to an island in particular, busses and trains as well. 

Scott: Agreed with your point – these combo tickets might save you a couple dollars, but unless you are 110% sure you’ll need/want that time then buy the return portion later. And if you don’t buy it now there’s a good chance the boat/bus will be full so you really need to buy it now.

Trevor: Don’t get in a parked cab. Ever.

Scott: If you’re going to Japan buy a rail pass if you’re going to do two or more longish train trips. You can buy them before going to Japan and at a very good price. So do this!

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This guy may be taking a break or waiting for the perfect tourist to take for a ride.

Trevor: Don’t ride a motorbike without shoes on: or a helmet: jeans are good too.

Scott: On this note, don’t ride a motorcycle if you don’t have an operator’s license to do so. Your medical/travel insurance will be void.

Scott: Don’t exit a station or into a major area looking at your Lonely Planet book, map or phone. Do that stuff out of eyeshot of touts and drivers, figure out your plan, etc, so you walk out looking as organized and ready as possible when getting out into the hustle of things.

Trevor: I will walk out without batting an eyelash and stroll a block or so to a cafe or restaurant. Then I’ll figure out how to get a taxi or where I need to go. 

Scott: Also, don’t be rushed – often tricksters will try to rush you to ‘get the last bus’, etc, in an effort to get your distracted to steal something, etc. You can almost always afford to slow down, take a breath and move along when you’re ready to.

Scott: Don’t take the cheapest bus. You can’t always avoid this but if possible, spend a bit more on a more reliable/safe bus, driver, etc. Road fatality rates in the developing world are generally very high. 

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Don’t shop in big markets: buy products from local artisans!


Trevor: Don’t buy souvenirs from the big main markets. It’s mass produced and most likely not even made in the country you’re visiting. Try to pick up souvenirs along the way. Shop bit by bit. Try to buy things from local artisans. 

Scott: Don’t buy expensive things you’re not an expert on. I’m really thinking about gems here, but if you’re going to spend a lot of money on something, be sure you’re knowledgeable about it and/or you don’t care what it’s actually worth.

Trevor: Most of us will never buy illegal things, but don’t buy shells, coral, items made from skins, etc. Play it safe, don’t support poaching and as such you’ll also ensure you don’t get in trouble when leaving the country with something illegal.

Scott: Don’t buy stuff from kid vendors. Yes they’re cute and you want to ‘help’ them, but by buying, you’re generally keeping them on the street and away from other things they should be doing (eg school).


Trevor: Don’t be so paranoid about getting sick that you don’t try local food.

Scott: Don’t make a fuss if you don’t like something. Try to swallow it or politely exit it into a tissue, smiling and almost make a joke about yourself not being able to eat it so you don’t offend the vendor or locals. And the ice is likely okay if it’s any sort of form or shape it’s come from a water factory.

Trevor: Don’t expect that you will get an answer to “Is there’s gluten in this?” or you can order the noodles without peanuts. Chances are they have no idea what you’re saying. You may just as easily get extra gluten or extra peanuts. If you’re allergic, don’t order it at all. Otherwise, you’re going to have to go with the flow.

Trevor: Caveat on my last point: Don’t eat at the roadside rest areas. Noodle soup is fine, but I prefer to bring something to snack on so I don’t need an emergency bathroom stop. Don’t use the emergency bathroom stop.

Trevor: Thailand: Don’t disparage the royal family (this includes money with the King’s photo). For that matter, don’t talk about them at all – Thais don’t so best not to yourself. Nothing good will come of it. 

Scott: In much of SE Asia (Buddhist countries) the head and the feet thing: mostly it’s feet though. Don’t put your feet up or use it to point, give things to people, etc.

To hear more, listen to the entire episode!




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