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What’s the Best Way to Get Around Asia?

By February 14, 2020One Comment

If you’ve made it to a dream destination, you want to savor every moment, right? If you land somewhere in Asia, from Thailand to Taiwan, you’ll want to make the most of an unforgettable trip. So, if you plan to see several destinations at once, either in multiple Asian countries or simply various regions, you’ll want to know best how to master local transportation. Here are a few general tips to help you plan logistics on the ground and weigh the pros and cons of various modes of transportation.

science mountain view of thailandFlights

Lots of domestic carriers offer wonderful flight options within countries. For instance, we found Airasia to be one of the best ways to get from Bangkok to the islands and Phuket in the south of Thailand — plus, the in-flight meals were delicious! Keep an eye out on both flight comparison sites and even local sites to discover the ideal rates.

Like domestic flights in the U.S. or international long hauls, you can earn points and upgrades on domestic Asian flights as well. Check flight tickers and other programs to see what benefits are offered and when is the best time to book. If done correctly, you can often find flights are similar rates to other longer modes of transport.


plane wing over cloudsTrain

See all the scenery rush by from the comfort of a cabin on a lush train ride through Asia. Various lines and class tickets can make this type of trip super contrasting, depending on where you go and what you hope to experience. Recently, in Japan, we had an incredible time on several Shinkansen routes that made traveling through the country so easy.

This did come with a significant price tag, but the unlimited ticket made the guesswork go away so we could fully enjoy the ride. Trains are usually a wonderful option for traveling through Asia.

shinkansen train japanBus or Car

Buses are often the most affordable way to travel through Asia. But, like trains, can vary greatly between countries and along certain routes. Some buses offer minimal comfort and are used by people for regular commutes to work or to visit family. Other buses are made for tourists to travel longer hauls, even sporting sleeper-like cabins so you can get some shut-eye.

We’re big fans of road trips. If you’re traveling in Asia with a small group, renting a car can be an option, so you can be on your own timeline and have plenty of space for luggage. With smartphones and worldwide data options, many Asian countries will support GPS so you know where to go.

red taxi in asia

If you don’t feel comfortable driving, that’s perfectly fine. Many companies in various Asian countries offer charted van and car services. For the mountain roads through tea plantations in inland Taiwan, or traversing the narrow dirt roads (lined with wild elephants) in Sri Lanka, having a professional driver was a great option. There’s also plenty of taxis in bigger cities available. Consider having cash just in case the drivers don’t take cards.


I would recommend not being afraid of traveling like the locals do, as they can often be the most direct (and most affordable) way to get around.


Tuk-Tuks are private, fast and easy when it comes to navigating cities throughout Asia. Sri Lanka and India are two popular places that use this mode of transport. Thailand is another place that utilizes various forms of ‘auto rickshaws’ – as do plenty of countries in South America!

Red trucks and motorcycles

Ask around to find out what kinds of ways people commute and move locally. If there’s a language barrier, check ex-pat forums for tips and insider information. We discovered red pickup trucks in Chiang Mai, Thailand, that helped us get to the temple outside the city with ease. Our friends have raved about how much fun it can be.

Have you been to Asia? How did you get around? What worked and didn’t work? Any tips?

Eileen Cotter Wright

Author Eileen Cotter Wright

Eileen Cotter is a freelance travel journalist and owner of Pure Wander. She's our resident expat extraordinaire and falls down a lot in yoga class. Follow her on Instagram @Pure_Wander.

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