Talk Travel Asia Podcast: Don't do these things on your holiday in Asia

Episode 107: Don’t Do That!

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.


You can sponsor anywhere from $1/month upwards. These funds will help us cover costs of keeping the show going. Visit PATREON TO DONATE TO THE SHOW or the link from the left-side of our website, or search Talk Travel Asia Patreon. Thanks in advance for supporting the cost and helping to keep the travel talk happening.

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.

Scott: 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!

The following is the outline of the episode.

TalkTravelAsia · Talk Travel Asia – Ep. 107: Don’t Do That!

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.

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

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!

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. 


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. 

Don’t be afraid to try local food, especially exotic fruits!

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.

Night markets are a great place to try local food: Don’t be afraid!

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.

Scott: I agree – rest stop food can be dicy. Try to have something that requires being cooked now rather than it sitting in a tray. I do use the bathroom if I can, even though it’s likely bad, to ensure I’m empty when I get back on the bus.

Scott: Don’t eat super spicy food, or foods that could upset your stomach before a bus ride, long commute as you don’t want to have to find somewhere to evacuate. On this note, consider carrying some tissue, and wet wipes, and a large ziplock bag ‘just in case’. 


Scott: Don’t go without reading up first – read what the local situation is, safety issues, cultural issues, etc, so you know what to be aware of and also what not to talk about should there be sensitive political things happening, etc. 

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

Trevor: Don’t get in a fight with a local.

Scott: Don’t walk alone at night whenever possible. Always try to find a buddy and let the person driving you know if possible that someone is waiting for you / aware where you are.

Trevor: Don’t leave your windows open. Always check your hotel room. The maids often leave the windows unlocked after they are done cleaning. Make sure they are locked. 


  • Don’t not have a plan. Sounds silly, but think through what you would do if someone attacked you, if you are walking down an alley, where you would turn to to get out if you needed, etc. 
  • And don’t have no money. I always keep a decent-sized bill in a pocket in case someone mugs me – that means I can satisfy them quickly and hopefully without showing my wallet. 
  • Don’t reveal your money belt in public. I don’t use one, but showing you have one, shows someone that you are likely carrying a fair amount of cash on your person now.
  • Don’t drink too much, risk blacking out, etc.

TalkTravelAsia · Talk Travel Asia – Ep. 107: Don’t Do That!


Scott: Don’t assume everyone is out to get you, rob you, etc. If you do this then everyone is going to think you’re an asshole and you’re likely to miss out on any kind acts / invitations from local. Find a way to be cautious while still friendly, smiling and able to make well educated safe travel decisions. 

Trevor: Don’t under pack underwear EPISODE 64: PACKING TIPS

Scott: Don’t talk politics, history, or recently happening protests/etc, as you never know the whole story or someone’s opinion and could end up pissing them off greatly. 

Trevor: Don’t be afraid to get off the beaten path

Scott: Don’t give money to monks or beggars or kids.

Unless you’re a monk: Don’t give things to kids, especially money.

Trevor: Don’t walk around without a shirt on (ensure you’re politely dressed for that matter – in many hot countries shorts and skimpy shirts are not appropriate).

Scott: yes, wash your clothes, take a shower, brush your hair, look nice and smell good.

Scott: Don’t just start taking someone’s photo. Form a connection first, speak with them, then gently ask/indicate you’d like to take a photo. It’s super weird just to start taking someone’s photo. And if they’re not totally cool, leave it alone. 

Trevor: Don’t fall for scams.

Scott: Don’t make out in public. For that matter don’t kiss and even think before holding hands. Public shows of affection in much of Asia are not the norm or appreciated. 

Trevor: Don’t forget to bring your swimsuit everywhere, every day: it’s hot, suit packs light, and you’ll forget you have it until the opportunity to cool off in a waterfall, river, swimming pool, or ocean. Some of my greatest travel disappointments were wishing I had a suit with me.

Trevor: Don’t bring your phone every day. Bring a small, quality camera and it won’t become a distraction. 

Don’t carry your phone all the time: it will distract you from your holiday!

Country-Specific Items

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.

Trevor: Don’t accept ripped or marked money: this is particularly true in Cambodia and Myanmar, where it’s US currency. 

Scott: Don’t touch females and people for that matter. Much of Asia, making body contact, think touching a shoulder, isn’t on and a male touching a female really not often. Men can be touchy.

Trevor: Don’t flush things. But always have some TP handy. It’s not always free or available. Learn to use the bum gun. 

Scott: Don’t talk politics, tension with neighboring countries, etc. 

Trevor: Just don’t talk about how much better things are back home. 

Scott: Don’t take more than ‘your share’ of a shared plate right away. Asians tend to take a bit of food, put it on their plate, and then take a bit more as needed. You also might not like the item and then have wasted it. Never put food back on a shared plate after you’ve had it.


You can sponsor anywhere from $1/month upwards. These funds will help us cover costs of keeping the show going. Visit PATREON TO DONATE TO THE SHOW or the link from the left-side of our website, or search Talk Travel Asia Patreon. Thanks in advance for supporting the cost and helping to keep the travel talk happening. There are several sponsorship levels: $1 – Vagabond (thanks for helping to keep it going); $2 – Day Dreamer (much love); $25The Big Kahuna (we’ll give you a shout-out and send you a postcard from Asia); $100 You Da Woman – Man!! (talk about you on the show and send you something from Asia)

TalkTravelAsia · Talk Travel Asia – Ep. 107: Don’t Do That!

To learn more about Scott & Trevor:

Talk Travel Asia is brought to you by Trevor Ranges and Scott Coates, every two weeks(ish) from wherever in the Asia they happen to be. Alternating episodes feature a guest or the two hosts, cultivating travel insight through intelligent conversation. If you enjoyed the show, please donate, even just a dollar a month: that’s only .50c per episode(ish). 

PLEASE DONATE TO THE SHOW – we appreciate your support to keep the podcast happening (thanks)!

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