Overview of Asia
Asia is one of the most visited regions in the world for tourism. Thailand and China are among the most visited countries in the world. Bangkok was the world’s most-visited city in 2018, beating Dubai, New York, Paris, and London, to the top of the list. Asia is filled with natural wonders, including the Halong Bay in Vietnam, the Chocolate Hills in the Philippines, Flaming Cliffs in Mongolia, Longdong in Taiwan, and Natural Forest Park of Zhangjiajie in China. For lovers of skyscrapers, Asia is also home to the world’s most famous tall buildings, drawing thousands of visitors every year, namely Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, the Taipei 101 in Taipei, the International Commerce Center in Hong Kong, and the Shanghai Tower in Shanghai.
About this article
This article is written from our own experiences.. We give our thoughts on visiting Asia’s tourist destinations with kids. We understand how traveling with little ones can be stressful sometimes, so we have stated the most child-friendly destinations around Asia to include in a family itinerary. We have also included indicative prices for premium destinations as well as website Google Map links so you can have an easy time planning for your trip.
Best Holiday Destinations in Asia for Family
Thailand is a country full of great places, to enjoy as a family. The country attracted over 38 million visitors in 2018, and Bangkok was the most visited city in the world in the same year, with nearly 22 million visitors. The first place we landed in the far East was Bangkok, which is also a great hub for further exploration of the region, and we visited several attractions that we have shared below.
As our girls say, Thailand looks like an elephant head – at the top of the head is Chiang Mai, the small village of Pai and Chiang Rai with its famous temples. Around Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai you can find Elephant Sanctuaries where you can feed or bathe elephants. It is like Florida for Elephants, where they come to retire. The sanctuaries focus on animal welfare, so you can’t ride the elephants. Besides, most of them are too old to carry loads. It is an ethical experience about animal preservation, and you can be sure it’s a trip that you can enjoy guilt-free.
Close to the Pai village we met the famous Long Neck Women of the Karen tribe. Karen women start wearing rings from childhood – from four or five years. The neck coils can weigh up to 25 pounds, depressing their chest and shoulders, and making their necks look longer.
In the middle of Thailand’s elephant head sits the great metropolis of Bangkok where you can spend a month and still do something new every day.
In Thailand’s southern elephant trunk, you can find white sand beaches and charming small islands. We visited and loved Krabi, and Koh Lanta, while Phuket and Phi Phi were a bit overcrowded for us.
The best time to visit Thailand
Thailand is one of those countries which you can visit all year round. But the best time to visit with family is between November and April, where the climate is comparatively cool and dry. Southern Thailand experiences different climates between the western and eastern coasts.
There is a reason why every photo of Thailand you come across has blue skies- everybody visits the country during the cool and dry season.
Visa to Thailand
USA and most European countries are granted visa-free entrance to Thailand for stay shorter than 30 days.
Malaysia attracts tens of millions of tourists annually to experience its ancient and modern cultural riches. We had a great time here, especially in the capital Kuala Lumpur, which we have visited several times.
We explored mainland Malaysia by road and also spent time in Malaysian Borneo. Starting from the Island of Langkawi from where we took a ferry to Penang. We loved the UNESCO heritage site of George Town, also famous for its street art. We also visited Ipoh and ventured into the Cameron Highland Jungle where Jim Thompson mysteriously disappeared.
In the South part of the country, we fell in love with the laid-back city of Melaka, so famous for its street food that Singaporians come here just to taste it.
On the southern Malasian border is the town of Johor Bahru – home of the Asian Legoland. Johor is also a great place to stay if you just want to make a day trip to visit Singapore since accommodation here is more than 70% cheaper than in the neighbouring city state.
A big part of Malaysia lies across the water on the enormous island of Borneo. This is one of only two places in the world where orangutans live (the other is Sumatra). We saw them in Kuching and in Sabah. While in the cat city of Kuching we also learnt about the ethnic and cultural diversity of this Island at Sarawak Cultural Village. Mulu Rainforest was another great adventure for us – at over 130 million years old this is one of the oldest green habitats on Earth – contemporary with dinosaurs!
Best time to visit Malaysia
The regions of Malaysia experience different seasons, so the best time to visit can vary. But in general, and from our experience, the best time to visit the country is between December and February, on the west side of the country. While the best time to visit the east side of Malaysia is between June and August.
Visa to Malaysia
All USA and European Citizen have granted visa-free entry to Malaysia for up to 90 days.
I remembered a slick five-star Singapore from business trips in an earlier life, so I was delighted to rediscover the city-state from a leisure-with-kids perspective on our recent travels. Packed to the brim with family-friendly attractions, Singapore is English-speaking, renowned for the safety of its streets and also perhaps the cleanest city we have ever visited. The famous ban on chewing gum is no longer in force though it is still impossible to import or sell it here. Tourists may bring up to four packs of gum for personal use, but be careful not to spit it out on the sidewalks!
Our favourite place in Singapore was Gardens by the Bay – the award-winning horticultural eco-park with its gigantic Supertrees. This place was so special for us that we visited it time and time again for the evening light show. Gardens by the Bay has another advantage in this expensive city – it’s free.
Our second favourite place was Sentosa Island with S.E.A Life and Universal Studios Singapore. I’m not generally a fan of funfairs but Universal Studio kept us all entertained for a full day and for another return visit after that.
Our favorite country in Southeast Asia for its character and also its wonderful food, we have visited Vietnam more than any other destination on this list. We started our exploration of Vietnam in the south on Phu Quoc Island. We explored Phu Quoc on two wheels; it was the only place in Vietnam I dared to ride a motorbike. We enjoyed the island’s gorgeous beaches and its National Park, and of course Vinpearl Land Amusement Park. Phu Quoc is a great place to chill out. If this is your only destination in Vietnam, you don’t even need a visa.
From Phu Quoc we headed to Saigon, aka Ho Chi Minh City and discovered the crazy face of Vietnamese traffic. The biggest impression the city made on us (after the traffic) were the War museum and Cu Chi tunnels. It was an eye opener to see how terrible the American-Vietnam war had been and how land mines and Agent Orange still kill innocent people. These visits were the strongest educational moment, not only for girls but for me as well.
From Saigon, we flew to Hanoi, which has a totally different character. Even though Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam it is smaller and more relaxed that Ho Chi Minh City. Hanoi is a lovely random place, bursting with its own shabby-picturesque character. Even the weather pattern is different – Hanoi was much cooler, though since there is more than 100 km difference in latitude perhaps this is not so surprising.
From Hanoi we explored Halong Bay – which is as enchanting as it looked in the old Catherine Deneuve Movie: Indochine. We took a two-day island hopping cruise there including caving, cooking lessons and canoeing.
Last on our VIetnam itinerary were Hue and Hoi An. Hue – is the old Capital of Vietnam with its Forbidden Purple City, and Hoi An is an historic port. Hoi An is especially beautiful, inviting and child friendly. We stayed there for two weeks exploring the UNESCO-listed old town, enjoying art and crafts workshops and lazing on long sandy beaches.
Best time to visit Vietnam
As with other Asian countries in this list, Vietnam doesn’t experience uniform weather across all its regions. However the best months to visit are generally November and April, which are generally cooler and drier.
Vietnam Visa requirements
Other than for Phu Quoc Island, Visitors must obtain a Visa from one of the Vietnamese diplomatic missions unless they are nationals of visa-exempt countries, or countries eligible for electronic visas.
The only landlocked country on the Indo-Chinese Peninsula, Laos is often missed by visitors, and we had little knowledge about the country before we went there. So our first visit was to the COPE Museum in the capital, Vientiane to learn a few things about this landlocked country.
Our first main stop in Laos, however, was Luang Prabang. This is another world heritage site, listed by UNESCO for its unique mixture of French colonialism and Buddhist tradition. Wat Xieng Thong for example is one of more than thirty temples here and dates from the sixteenth century. Luang Prabang is also a safe place. Just a couple of the many things we found to do here included cooling off at Kuang Si Waterfall with its azure and turquoise waters, as if on a romantic tropical island, and exploring the night markets. Night markets are always one of our top things to do in South East Asia. In Luang Prabang you will find them right in the city centre – vibrant with the handcrafted spirit of Laos.
We arrived at Luang Prabang by slow boat on the Mekong river. The four thousand kilometre Mekong is the economic lifeline of this landlocked nation. It springs in Tibet, then runs through China and forms boundaries between Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. The Mekong also passes through Cambodia before entering the South China Sea in Southern Vietnam.
The boat ride starts at Huay-Xai, a small town at the border of Thailand and Laos. The trip is two days and ends in Luang Prabang.
Our little girls loved the slow boat ride. The boat is long and narrow; the driver sits far in front while the engine is at the back. Bench seats which once belonged in road vehicles now give views of the jungle and provide comfort.
Best time to visit Laos
The best time to visit Laos is between October and April. During this time, the weather is warm and dry, and the boat rides are smooth because the river is not flooded.
Visa to Laos
The government of Laos offers every international visitor a 30-day visa on arrival at the international airport as well as at the border crossings especially Thai-Laos border.
Like so many other tourists, we were attracted to Cambodia by the stunning twelfth-century Angkor Wat temples in Siem Reap. We arrived in Cambodia by train from Bangkok. The journey itself was amazing with stunning views of mountains and trees, as well as other monuments.
It was also challenging for my stomach – never eat food in 2nd class on a Thai train!
Before visiting Angkor Wat , the best place to start is the Angkor National Museum. The museum provides background information so that you get more from the experience when you visit.
Another great night market with its own distinctive character, Angkor Night Market in Siem Reap – the perfect place to try some cheap Cambodian dishes as well as getting a foot massage.
Another Cambodian must-do is the Phare Circus. These jaw-dropping cultural performances combine dance, theatre, and acrobatics to link folklore with contemporary life, and proceeds from the show support programs to equip the youths with skills to tackle unemployment.
When to visit Cambodia
The best months to Cambodia for climate are from November to March. But to avoid high-season crowds and prices then May and early October is a great choice.
Visa to Cambodia
Visa can be purchased at the airports in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap or the land borders. The travel visa is good for a month.
Bali is one of the most fun destinations to travel with kids; little traffic, no air pollution, and everything is family-friendly. Our escape from the crowds in Bali was to get out among the rice terraces. Or you can stop at the beach and take the kids to surf school. Water sports are the major tourist activities in Bali, and surf school courses are available for kids of all ages.
If Bali is too commercial for you, try Gili Islands. These three islands are a ferry ride from either Bali or Lombok. They are free from cars so the three ways of getting about are foot, horse and bicycle. Gili Air was my vision of paradise and the girls loved it too – sunset on the beach and snorkelling by day.
Best time to visit Bali
The best months for Bali, are either from April to June or in September.
Visa to Bali
People from over 160 countries, to be exact 169 countries are granted free 30-days entry visa to Indonesia. Free entry visa cannot be extended.
Many people don’t know much about Oman except by reputation as a desert land of oil and camels. We lived there for six years, and when you ask our girls were they are from their answer is “Oman” – we loved this undiscovered gem. You can see a million stars in the inky black night from 3,000 metre mountain tops accessible by vehicle, surf on tea-trays down giant sand dunes in the desert, build sandcastles below date-palms on clean white beaches or see newborn turtles rushing back to the sea.
Other things we used to do there were watching rare green turtles laying their eggs in a protected beach, running around the battlements of enormous mediaeval forts and picnicking by the clear blue waters of unexpected streams running between pools in the clean white desert rocks of wadis including Bani Khalid and Ash Shab. We would stay in magical oasis villages in the Hajar (Rocky) Mountains and trek through terraces of pomegranates and roses fed by the ancient irrigation systems which cascade down the sides of the Sayq Plateau ravine. 1,000km away to the south, there is another altogether different Oman of tropical greenery where they grow bananas.
Muscat in Oman is the safest place we have lived (where else do people leave a $500 phone on a table in SubWay to reserve their place while they queue for a footlong?) and the Omanis are universally welcoming and friendly.
The best time to visit Oman
The best time to visit Oman is between October and March, during the cool season. Oman is always dry except when it rains! And when it does, the half hour storm is an adventure in itself.
Requirements for a visa to Oman
Travelers from the Gulf Cooperation Council member nations can enter Oman without visa limits. While other visitors can obtain a visa online valid for 30 days.
United Arab Emirates
Dubai is a premium world destination very different from laid-back Oman, and offers lots of sparkling and “world’s biggest” family-friendly attractions both commercial and natural. We lived there for 3 years and our twins were born in Abu Dhabi.
The United Arab Emirates comprises seven independent states, namely Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Dubai, Fujairah, Umm al-Qaiwain, Ajman, and Ra’s al-Khaimah.
The most famous Emirates is Dubai, which was place where we lived untill girls were 3 years old and which we visited several times after that. Dubai have everything – tallest building – Burj Khalifa, 7 – star hotel – Burj al-Arab, indoor ski slope, where you can snowboard when outside temperature is over 40 degrees. Dubai is one of the place which is design for families.
Best time to visit Dubai
Best time to visit Emirates is from October to March when temperature is milder. In December there are lots of fogs in Dubai. Thats the time when photos like that are taken, but its as well a time where you have to be careful on the roads as the fog is so dense visibility on the road is only few meters.
Visa to Emirates
It’s very easy to get visa to Dubai. Some of the countries like the UK and US are free 30-days entry visa, other need to get multiple entry visa on arrival.
Filipinos are among the most hospitable people on earth. You can observe their high tolerance of children in public transport, malls, or even on a flight. The majority of the population speaks English and Spanish. Traditionally, Filipinos travel as a family, thus most hotels in the country offer family rooms.
The Philippines is made of around 7,000 islands, so you have plenty of options when it comes to a family vacation. We spent our time mostly in Palawan Island and in Coron which have strikingly beautiful landscapes, and are ideal for snorkeling and kayaking in crystal clean water.
In the capital, Manila, we also enjoyed lots of family activities like Rock Climbing, and visiting the Aquarium. We didn’t manage a Flying Trapeze adventure so we will have to come back again.
Best time to travel to the Philipines
The country is more popular between November and April when the weather is dry. If travelling off-season some places are more difficult to get to, so check schedules..
Visa to the Philippines
The easiest country to travel to in Asia must be the Philippines, no visa requirements as long as you don’t stay more than 30 days. However, you should hold a valid return ticket to your country of origin.
Our trip to Taiwan was a pure accident – we flew there just because I found cheap tickets. We didn’t know anything about the country, but once we arrived there we really enjoyed it. I think our favorite haunts were night markets with their variety of mouthwatering street food – we would visit all of them and try everything.
Taiwan is small and easy to get about, We managed to travel around using English.
Best time to visit Taiwan
The best seasons to visit Taiwan are between April and June or from September to November.
Visa requirements for Taiwan
US and European passport holder can visit Taiwan for a short-term visit (90 days) without a visa.