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Language, money, transportation - How does Asia work?

Travel Forums Asia Language, money, transportation - How does Asia work?

1. Posted by Norwegian Nyhus (Budding Member 4 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

Hey, hi!

When january comes around, Im flying from Oslo, Norway to Delhi, India where my travel buddy and I will start our month long Asian adventure. I was born in Norway and Ive never been outside of Europe - So there's some basic questions about Asia in general Im hoping you guys could help me with.

How should i handle money? When I have traveled Europe, I mostly use my credit card and ATM machines, but I guess thats not the way to rock it in Asia? I dont know how comfortable Ill feel with my pants filled with dollars, so whats the smartest way to handle this?

I dont know any Asian language, but Im okey with English, German and a little Spanish. I figure most Indians know english, but will be able to communicate with the general populous in countries like China, Laos or Thailand? My travel buddy is of Asian origins, but grew up in Holland, so im not sure how much his Vietnamese and Dutch will help us.

We figure trains and buses will be our main modes of transportation on our trip, will the bus chart be in letters a westerner can read?

How does water work in Asia? Im guessing you cant drink anything coming out of a tap, so only water bottles? Is water hard to get by?

What about vaccines? How many do i need? My doctor will get the last saying here, but its okey to have an estimate. ;)

Sorry if my English grammar is horrible.

[ Edit: Edited on 31-Aug-2014, at 05:51 by Norwegian Nyhus ]

2. Posted by arunbaliga (Budding Member 4 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

Hello...Since I m from India, I can tell about how it works here and also, a little about other Asian countries that I have traveled to - China, Cambodia, Malaysia & Sri Lanka.

For language, English will mostly work well in India, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. In Cambodia (I believe Laos is quite similar in culture), for what I experienced in Siem Reap, it was manageable only in hotels and restaurants that are frequented by foreign tourists. But in China (I visited Beijing), perhaps Hong Kong is an exception, English didn't for work me...communicated mostly with English word + sign combinations...and I did ask the hotel for printouts of useful addresses, translated into Chinese, just for emergency and use with taxis. Though many big shops, tourist spots, trains and buses in Beijing do carry English signs but most locals can't speak or understand English, even if they are eager to help.

For money matters, do check if your card in valid in India. Otherwise there are plenty of ATMs and most shops accept cards. Ditto for Malaysia and China. Sri Lanka and Cambodia, I m not sure since for local use I managed by cash and I used card only for the hotel stay. A general precaution across Asia...use cards only in big establishments like hotels or retail chains, but use cash elsewhere. And do get it swiped in front of your eyes.

For water across Asia, use bottles of good brands purchased from a bigger shop, they arent hard to get and would be cheap too..and avoid tap water unless you can boil it.

I don't know much about vaccines.

Enjoy your trip!! You will be amazed with the variety you find in Asia.


3. Posted by Norwegian Nyhus (Budding Member 4 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

Quoting arunbaliga


Thank you, that helps a lot!

Do you know of any cool sights we should check out in Inda that isnt all touristed-out? I want to see all of it, but there's not enough time in the world for that to happen.

4. Posted by Degolasse (Travel Guru 823 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

Handling money:
I find anywhere in Asia, ATM's are the way to go. Your bank card that you use in Norway will most likely have a symbol on the back for PLUS or CIRRUS. These are international banking networks, and you will find ATMs at banks in India and Asia with matching symbols. You can withdraw money directly from your bank account in the local currency. I usually try to withdraw about a week's worth of money, and I don't like to carry much more unless I know I'm heading to small towns where there may not be a bank. Find out from your bank what the international fees are. Often it's a set amount per transaction, so it's best to withdraw money as rarely as possible to save money. I usually carry about $50-100 in US Dollars as an emergency fund and hide it well in my bag or money belt. I also carry a couple credit cards - hidden in two different places - but almost never use them. In most of Asia, cash is still used 99% of the time.

English is the language of the world, and throughout Asia you can get by just fine with it. In India and Sri Lanka, a large number of people speak it and language is rarely a problem. In Thailand, Laos, and the rest of South East Asia, anyone who works with tourists in any way will speak English, so unless you are in local markets in small towns, language is rarely a problem. China is a different story. Though it's changed a lot in the last ten years, most people still don't speak English. Good luck communicating outside of touristy towns and major cities. But hey, attempting to read Chinese and communicating in sign language is all a part of the fun. Chinese people are often very patient with language barriers so just consider it a fun travel experience.

Transportation: Trains are best in India and they are safer and more comfortable than buses. You can book them at the train station, or often, your hotel will help you out for a small fee. Trains can be booked online these days, however, if you don't have an Indian address and phone number, it's really hard. So, you have to wait til you arrive. It will help to book as early as you can, especially on popular route and during busy times. They book up fast, and you may find yourself changing your route or taking the bus. I book as soon as I know when and where I'm going next. If trains aren't an option, then buses are easy to arrange. Your hotel will help you figure where to catch the bus and buy tickets if necessary.
In other parts of Asia, buses are more common, and I usually just find it easiest to ask at my hotel or find a travel agent which are everywhere in touristy parts of Asia. And yes, signs and train/bus schedules are usually written in English, except in China. In China it's helpful to get your hotel to write down your destination so you can show it to the ticket seller.

Bottled water only. Easy and cheap to buy absolutely everywhere you go. Most of the time it's safest to even brush your teeth with bottled water.

There's quite a few that you need. This is not where you try to save money (nor with insurance). Talk to your doctor and get them.

So many good places to see in India, but on a short first time trip, I would stick to one small area. I would recommend Delhi, Rajasthan, Agra, and maybe over to Varanasi for your first trip. I'm curious where all you plan to go in just one month. If you are going to India, I would just stick with it. If you are going to South East Asia, I would stick with maybe two countries - like Thailand and Laos. There is so much to see, and a month is not a long time. Don't try to do too much or all you will see is trains and planes.

Happy planning!

5. Posted by CheersT (Travel Guru 2574 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

Ditto Degolasse regarding your itinerary. With only a month spend the entire time in India or the entire time in Thailand and maybe one or two neighbouring countries.

Since it's your first time abroad I would recommend Thailand over India. It's waaaaaaay easier for a first time traveller.

Have fun.


6. Posted by Norwegian Nyhus (Budding Member 4 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

Thank you for the in depth explanations Degolasse, very helpful!

And I think youre both right, Degolasse and Terry, we want to cover a large area during a short period of time, and our original plan is hopeful at best. Im thinking of maybe flying to India and then try to hit up Tibet also, but saving Laos and eastern Asia for another day. Only seeing trains and planes does not seem great to me. ;)
Concerning India and it being a difficult 'first outside of Europe'-destination, we chose it based on that fact. My travel buddy and I have both together and alone been pretty much all over Europe, and we want something thats completely different. I always find it really giving to push outside my comfort zone, and with India being extremely interesting from the get go it seems like a perfect target!

Appreciate the feedback!

7. Posted by CheersT (Travel Guru 2574 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

In that case India is perfect for you. It's one of the most complicated, interesting, frustrating, insane, complex, etc. etc. etc. destinations on the planet.

Have fun.


8. Posted by e7843 (Budding Member 36 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

Hi hi

Is wise to arrange travel to Asia the next round for different experience.

You may consider Singapore-Malaysia- Thailand-Laos- Cambodia- Vietnam-China

For China, apart of writing down address in Chinese, it advisable to write down the 'Pin Yin' (Chinese Prenounce) as some Taxi driver might have reading difficulties.


9. Posted by Norwegian Nyhus (Budding Member 4 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

Thanks for the advice, e7843