My opinion about the best Asian countries to visit has remained remarkably consistent over time However, it’s a “chicken or the egg?” scenario in many ways.
Do I consider Japan—for example—one of Asia’s best countries for travelers because it’s one of my favorites? Or did it become one of my favorite countries to visit because it’s one of Asia’s best?
As Asian countries slowly lower their drawbridges after Covid-19, now’s the time to ask yourself where in Asia you should travel. I’ve got answers, analysis and more—I encourage you to keep reading.
Visiting Asia in 2022 (and Beyond): Practical Matters
Irrespective of which one you determine to be the best Asian countries to visit, travel to Asia in 2022 may be complicated. Even after you ascertain that your target destination is open with quarantine, for example, you’ll need to determine whether you need to be tested for Covid-19 before you depart, after your arrival or both. Do you need to wear masks inside and/or outside? Do you need to install a tracking app on your phone?
There’s also the issue of visas. While certain countries offer visas or visa-exempt stamps on arrival, others require you to obtain permission to enter in advance. If this rule applies to your destination, consider using Evisa Express or another similar service. In addition to the convenience of applying from the comfort of your home, you’ll receive your eVisa as a PDF, usually within 72 hours of submitting your materials—you won’t need to stress before you go.
Where to Go in Asia After Covid-19
Having lived in Japan until July of this year, I’m a slightly biased source when it comes to this magnificent country. Still, from the strobing neon of Tokyo and Osaka to the storied streets of Kyoto and Kanazawa, and from the icy peak of Mt. Fuji to the tropical beaches of Okinawa, there are few individual countries you can visit in 2022 and have the breadth and depth of experiences you will in Japan.
Thailand, like Japan, is one of the best Asian countries to visit (in 2022 and eternally) because of its variety. After eating your way through the night markets of Bangkok, you can trek through temple-laden jungles in the north near Chiang Mai, and hop between islands in the south, from popular choices like Phuket, Koh Samui and Koh Phi Phi, to more underrated options like the Trang and Trat archipelagoes.
As was the case for both Japan and Thailand, I lived in Taiwan for a good bit of time. Far from skewing my perspective unfairly, this allowed me to get to know the country beyond the well-trodden streets of Taipei. I walked on the eastern side of the island, from Hualien and Taroko Gorge down to Taitung and Kenting National Park. Likewise, I’ve ridden the high-speed rail down to Kaohsiung, stopping in Taichung, Tainan and Chiayi en route.
Travelers often omit Nepal from their lists of best Asian countries to visit, primarily because they forget South Asia is…well, Asia. Nepal, in addition to being the home of Mt. Everest, is a small country that packs a big travel punch. From haunting Hindu temples in the capital city of Kathmandu, to the opportunity to chase tigers in Chitwan National Park, Nepal is a place I strongly advise you not to miss.
Malaysia is underrated in so many ways, and not just that Kuala Lumpur so often disappears in the shadow of Bangkok. In peninsular Malaysia, for instance, you can eat legendary street food amid historical shophouses in Penang, or trek through tea fields in the Cameron Highlands. On Borneo island, choose between Kuching and Kota Kinabalu—will you get up-close and personal with orangutans, or scale Southeast Asia’s highest peak?
Will Asia Be Open to Tourists in 2022?
In October 2021 when I’m writing this, most of Asia is still closed to tourists. However, Thailand is just days away from fully reopening, while Vietnam will begin opening destinations throughout the country from November, with the entire country to follow by June 2022. Even long-closed countries like Japan, Korea and Taiwan have hinted that they could open to quarantine-free tourism as early as the first quarter of 2022.
As difficult as it can be to imagine now, most of the best Asian countries to visit will be open by the mid-way point of 2022. A possible exception is China—and, by extension of that, Hong Kong. According to internet rumors, China plans to stay closed through the end of the Beijing Olympics in February, and potentially until after the centenary meeting of the Chinese Communist Party in November.
Other FAQ About Visiting Asia After Covid
Which is the best country to visit in Asia?
With few exceptions, popular Asian destinations like Japan and Thailand are the best Asian countries to visit—they’re popular for a reason, after all. I like these countries (and others, such as Malaysia and Vietnam) because they offer an eclectic range of destinations, experiences and landscapes, and invite you to return time and time again. Conversely, one Asian destination I find extremely overrated is the Indonesian island of Bali.
What is the safest Asian country to visit?
In spite of the constant threat of earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions, Japan is probably the safest country in Asia in terms of personal security, with a homicide rate of 0.3 per 100,000, compared with 7.8 per 100,000 in the United States. Other safe Asian countries include South Korea, Singapore and mainland China, although China becomes much less safe if you dare to say your true opinion out loud.
What is the cheapest Asian country to visit?
The cheapest countries in Asia are in South and Southeast Asia, and include India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar. Countries like Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia used to be considered rather cheap, although gains in popularity over the years have produced such tourism demand that the supply can’t keep up, thus raising prices.
The Bottom Line
Covid-19 has totally changed the game of traveling in Asia, but my picks for best Asian countries to visit remain mostly the same. I obviously recommend you travel to Japan, Thailand and Taiwan, three countries where I’ve lived, and which punch way above the weight of their relatively small landmasses. I’m also a huge fan of Himalayan Nepal and Malaysia, whose multiculturalism (at least within one country) is rare in a region with so much ethnic uniformity, at least on a nation-by-nation level. Of course, I love almost everywhere in Asia—I’ve been almost everywhere in Asia. I hope you’ll hire me as your Travel Coach before your next trip to best leverage my decade-plus of insights.