Asia is one of the world’s most alluring regions, with a huge diversity of travel destinations fitting all budgets and levels of adventure-seeker. From the modern metropolises of Tokyo and Hong Kong to the wild jungles of Malaysia and Indonesia, Asia brings a wide variety of scams, crimes and threats to be aware of. If you (or someone you know) is travelling to Asia and you would like comprehensive custom-made travel security advice or access to our advice and support telephone number, please get in touch!


Disclaimer

The information provided by How Safe Is My Trip Ltd (England & Wales registered company number 10953024) is intended to help you navigate a dangerous world, but is not intended to replace common sense or entirely remove the risks associated with travelling. Unforeseen circumstances are an inevitability with travel and as a result not everything can be planned for. While we endeavour to provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date information, we live in a rapidly changing world where not all risks can be predicted or mitigated against. By making use of the information provided to you by How Safe Is My Trip Ltd, you acknowledge that any dangers you are exposed to by travelling are faced at your own risk. The information provided by How Safe Is My Trip Ltd should not be considered a recommendation in favour of any particular destination. As an England & Wales registered company, interaction between How Safe Is My Trip Ltd, the general public, and clients will be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the England & Wales and shall be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England & Wales.


How Dangerous is Terrorism in Asia?

While terrorism has been the focus of worldwide media attention recently, the reality is that Asia is a large continent, and terrorism risks vary dramatically depending on which countries you are visiting. The chances of being caught in an attack are low, and this shouldn’t put you off going on the vacation of a lifetime. For the cautious traveller, there are simple steps you can take to better protect yourself and advice to follow in the event of being caught in a situation. Get in touch to find out if our travel safety and security advice is right for you.


How Safe is Travel to Afghanistan

Extreme risk – Do not travel

Despite having a rich history and several extremely beautiful regions, Afghanistan is one of the most dangerous countries in both Asia and the World. Afghanistan is currently not recommended for travel due to ongoing armed conflict, terrorism, kidnap and violent crime risks. If you are required to travel to Afghanistan, you are advised to consider our specialist travel support services.


How Safe is Travel to Bangladesh

High risk – Carefully consider necessity of travel

Bangladesh has in recent years suffered from a number of security incidents that have increased the risk of travel. High-profile terrorist attacks and large-scale protests and demonstrations (at times violent) have struck the capital, Dhaka, while armed insurgencies have seen violence erupt in rural areas. In addition to this, extreme weather can disrupt transportation and access to emergency services in more rural areas of the country.

It should be noted that Bangladesh is a highly conservative country, and as such lone female travellers and tourists from the LGBT community should seek further advice prior to travel.


How Safe is Travel to Bhutan

Low risk – Travel

Bhutan is one of Asia’s most mysterious and isolated nations. Travel here is strictly controlled and the number of visitor visas granted per year is limited. While Bhutan does experience a low-to-moderate level of crime, this rarely affects tourists and the local police are considered to be reliable. The most significant risks to travellers come from natural disasters, such as landslides, earthquakes, and dangerous wildlife in remote rural areas.

It should be noted that Bhutanese laws are considered conservative, and tourists from the LGBT community should seek further advice prior to travel.


How Safe is Travel to Brunei

Low risk – Travel

The Sultanate of Brunei is one of Asia’s smallest but wealthiest nations. Crime levels in Brunei are considered low, however petty crimes such as pick-pocketing and confidence scams have been reported against travellers. One of the main risks affecting visitors to Brunei is the low road safety standards, and care should be taken during overland travel. Care should also be taken in any trips involving wilderness travel, as Brunei’s jungle is both wild and dangerous.

Brunei is a conservative country, and as such lone female travellers and tourists from the LGBT community should seek further advice prior to travel.


How Safe is Travel to Burma (Myanmar)

Medium risk – Travel with caution

Burma is a diverse country with a range of security environments depending on which part of the country you are travelling to. Within Shan, Kachin and Rakhine states, and along border regions, the government of Myanmar is engaged in relatively high-intensity conflicts with local insurgent groups, which significantly raises the risks of travelling to these areas. Travellers to these states should seek further advice.

Elsewhere in Burma, especially in more urban areas, the security situation is more stable and the nation has recently begun to open itself up to international tourism, making foreign visitors a more common sight. That said, terrorism and crime continue to pose a threat nationwide and inter-communal tensions can erupt into violence with little warning. Violent crimes against travellers have been reported alongside petty crimes such as pick-pocketing.

Burma is a somewhat conservative country, and as such lone female travellers and tourists from the LGBT community should seek further advice prior to travel.


How Safe is Travel to Cambodia

Medium risk – Travel with caution

Cambodia is one of Asia’s poorest nations, and has suffered in recent years from political unrest and corruption. Petty crime and scams are the largest threats in Cambodia, in part due to the lax application of the rule of law and ineffective police services. In particular, the snatching of valuables by motorcycle-borne thieves is a common crime, as are “theft and damage” scams by motorcycle/scooter rental companies.

Cambodia also has significant reports of sexual assaults, and as such female travellers should seek further advice prior to their trip. Care should be taken in particular when out late at night in urban areas. Drink-spiking is also a common risk in Cambodian bars, with both male and female victims being targeted for theft in this way. Adding to the problem is the fact that Cambodian police will often expect facilitation payments (meaning bribes) in order to react to crimes. Other emergency services in Cambodia are also of a generally poor standard.

Cambodia also has a longstanding threat in the form of millions of unexploded landmines left over from past conflicts, and as such any travellers going to remote rural areas should seek further advice ahead of their trip.


How Safe is Travel to China

Medium risk – Travel with caution

One of the world’s largest and most populous countries, it is unsurprising that the security situation in China is diverse. From the violent Xingjiang conflict in the country’s west, to petty crime and confidence scams in the wealthier eastern provinces, travel to China brings a variety of risks. Terrorism poses a significant threat in China, in particular with Xingjiang separatist groups conducting bomb and knife attacks in urban areas.

Most of China’s urban areas are relatively safe, although pick-pockets and scam artists frequently target foreigners. In particular, scams involving seemingly-friendly locals inviting tourists to overpriced cafes and restaurants with extortionate bills are common. Counterfeit currency notes are also a problem in some parts of China, and travellers should be wary of the change given to them by merchants and taxi drivers.

Driving standards pose a significant threat in China, and extreme caution is advised for all overland travel. Air quality is also a major concern in China, and pollution can pose a significant health hazard, in particular during winter months in Beijing and the North-East, where wood and coal-burning fires are extremely common.

It should also be noted that your communications and online activity will be monitored by the government while you are in China. Business travellers should be mindful of this when conducting sensitive electronic activities in the country.


How Safe is Travel to Hong Kong

Low risk – Travel

While officially a Special Autonomous Region of China, Hong Kong’s unique history makes it very different to the rest of the country in terms of both culture and security. While organised crime is a problem in Hong Kong, day-to-day crime is very uncommon and the city is considered extremely safe in most areas, including late at night. While petty crime such as pick-pocketing and confidence scams are a risk, Hong Kong Police are considered effective, helpful and well-trained. The main risks in Hong Kong are over-inflated taxi-fare scams and the risk of unknowingly purchasing counterfeit goods. It is also common to encounter monks begging for alms in Hong Kong, however it should be noted that many of these “monks” actually commute to Hong Kong from neighbouring Shenzhen to beg, and often have no religious or spiritual affiliation.

In recent years political unrest has become increasingly common in Hong Kong, as members of the City’s pro-democracy and pro-independence movements have clashed with police. While these protests rarely turn violent, large political gatherings should be avoided as situations can escalate quickly and with little warning. Such clashes are most common around politically-significant calendar dates and visits from Chinese government delegates.

Extreme weather is also a problem in Hong Kong, and attention should be given to typhoon and rainstorm warnings. Movement around the city often comes to a standstill during these storms, and most shops and services will close.


How Safe is Travel to India

Medium risk – Travel with caution

India is another heavily-varied travel destination, with some areas engaged in outright armed conflict and others being almost entirely safe for travel. Areas along the Pakistan-India border should be approached with extreme caution due to long-running conflicts, and Jammu & Kashmir states should be avoided where possible. North-East India is also considered high-risk for travel due to local insurgencies.

In more commonly-travelled regions of India, crime can be a problem and foreigners may be specifically targeted due to their perceived wealth. This can range from pick-pocketing and petty theft through to violent robbery. Food and Drink-spiking as a means of robbing a victim is a known problem (especially on public transport) and confidence scams are common. Prices for all goods and services should be agreed on in advance. Sexual assault is unfortunately a common problem in India, and female travellers should seek advice before their trip. Due to conservative laws and culture, members of the LGBT community should also seek advice before travelling to India. While police forces in India are known to take their jobs seriously, corruption is common and demands for bribes may be encountered.

Driving standards within India are extremely poor, and as such overland travel should be conducted with extreme caution.


How Safe is Travel to Indonesia

Medium risk – Travel with caution

Indonesia is a diverse and beautiful country with a number of untamed and exciting destinations for travellers, however as with all countries this size there are a wide range of security risks to be considered. Crime is a significant problem, and foreigners may be specifically targeted due to their perceived wealth. This can range from petty crime such as pick-pocketing through to violent robbery depending on which part of the country you are visiting. In particular, theft while travelling by train, bus or taxi is a common problem across the country, and checked-baggage on airlines can also be raided for valuables by unscrupulous airport staff.

Terrorism is also a problem in Indonesia, and while the government have made visible efforts to increase security around tourist hotspots such as Bali, the reality is that much of this is simply for show. Care should be taken, especially in large roadside entertainment venues such as restaurants and bars. Political unrest is also an issue in Indonesia, although this is mostly limited to urban areas such as Jakarta.

Natural hazards should also be considered when travelling to Indonesia, as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, floods and storms have all hit the country in recent years. Trips to extreme rural areas should be conducted with significant caution, as Indonesia’s jungles and remote islands remain wild and untamed.


How Safe is Travel to Japan

Low risk – Travel

Japan is considered to be one of the safest countries in the world, with very low crime rates. While most cities are extremely safe, including when out at night, petty crimes such as pick-pocketing do still pose a problem. A more common threat comes from extortionate bills in bars and other establishments that prey on unsuspecting foreign tourists, although common sense will help you avoid becoming a victim of such scams. Drink-spiking has also been reported in Japan, with victims often waking up with large credit card bills and little memory of the night before.

Japanese police are well known for being polite, helpful and approachable, although they may often not speak languages other than Japanese. Discrimination against foreigners can pose a problem in Japan, although this is more often little more than an inconvenience rather than an outright threat.

Natural disasters are the most significant risk in Japan, and estimates by seismologists suggest that there is a 70% chance of a magnitude 7 earthquake hitting the Tokyo metropolitan area within the next 30 years. Despite this, the Japanese authorities remain well-prepared for major disasters, and a well-prepared traveller should be able to safely navigate such a situation.


How Safe is Travel to Korea (North)

Extreme risk – Do not travel

Despite being an extremely secretive and closed-off nation, it is possible to travel to North Korea through strictly controlled state-run tours. Given that travellers on these tours are strictly guarded at all times by a totalitarian regime, crime and other risks are unlikely to pose a problem. Despite this, political tensions on the Korean peninsular are extremely high and past travelers have found themselves arrested and sentenced to years of hard labour on spurious charges, with the Pyongyang government using the victims as political hostages. In such a situation, consular support from your home country is unlikely to be able to assist you and you will be on your own. Previous victims of such circumstances have died in North Korean prison camps, and others have been returned to their home countries in varying states of extreme mental and physical trauma.

It should also be noted that an estimated 400,000 North Koreans have died in state-run concentration camps while a further 200,000 are estimated to remain imprisoned. As all tours to North Korea (being state-run) are used as a valuable source of foreign currency for the regime, travellers are urged to reconsider the morality of giving money to such a regime in exchange for the limited novelty-value of such a trip.


How Safe is Travel to Korea (South)

Low risk – Travel

South Korea is an extremely safe travel destination with relatively low crime rates affecting travellers. Violent crime is extremely rare, however petty crime such as pick-pocketing can be a problem. South Korean police are typically helpful and effective, and larger stations often have English-language interpreters available for tourists. Political unrest can pose a problem in large urban areas, and travelers are advised to avoid large gatherings and rallies.

While political tensions between North and South Korea remain high, and aggressive rhetoric involving South Korean allies such as the United States of America is a common occurrence, this threat rarely surfaces into a real problem with the exception of occasional minor border disputes. Despite this, the risk of a conflict breaking out along the border is real, and travellers to South Korea should be mindful of what to do in the event of a large-scale conflict occurring during their trip.


How Safe is Travel to Laos

Medium risk – Travel with caution

Most of Laos is relatively safe for travellers to visit, with the exception of the at-times violent Xaisomboun province, and remote rural areas where landmines and unexploded military ordinance pose a legacy threat. In particular Xieng Khouang Province (home to the famous “Plain of Jars”), Luang Prabang Province and areas of the Lao-Vietnamese border see around 50 people killed each year by legacy explosives. Care should also be taken along the Laos-Myanmar border, where armed smuggling groups frequently operate.

Petty crime such as pick-pocketing and bag-snatching is a common occurrence, and scams such as “theft and damage” scams by motorcycle/scooter rental companies have been reported. Police support in Laos is often extremely limited and unhelpful, and other emergency services can also be restricted in capabilities. Corruption also poses a major problem in Laos, and it is not uncommon to face demands for bribes by police.


 How Safe is Travel to Malaysia

Medium risk – Travel with caution

Most of Malaysia is relatively safe, with the exception of Eastern Sabah and the coastal areas where piracy and kidnap is a significant threat. Islamic State-affiliated terrorist groups are reported to operate in the Sulu sea between the Philippines and Malaysia, and use the kidnapping of foreigners as a major source of income and political leverage. These groups have targeted both commercial shipping vessels, and tourists travelling by yacht or staying in coastal resorts in the Eastern regions. Kidnappings of young women and children have also been reported in more central and urban parts of Malaysia, and as such female travelers should seek advice prior to their trip.

Terrorism is also a threat in Malaysia, with extremists having used grenades and firearms to conduct attacks on both local and tourist areas. While the Malaysian authorities are highly capable, the risk has increased significantly in recent years and travellers should be cautious, especially at roadside entertainment establishments, such as bars and restaurants.

Crime is also a significant problem across Malaysia, including pick-pocketing, bag-snatching (especially by motorcycle-borne thieves) and robbery. Credit card “skimming” is also a common problem in Malaysia, and there are also reports of food and drink-spiking as a means of robbery. Malaysian police are generally professional and helpful, and many will speak a good level of English.

Malaysia is a conservative country, and members of the LGBT community should seek advice prior to travel.


How Safe is Travel to the Maldives

Low risk – Travel

The Maldives are considered to be a relatively safe destination, with low levels of crime affecting foreign visitors. Petty crime can still be a problem, especially given the perceived wealth of travellers and major issues of drug abuse affecting the local population.

Political unrest is a common problem, and protests can often turn violent. As such, large rallies should be avoided.

The Maldives are considered to be highly conservative, and as such members of the LGBT community should seek advice prior to considering a trip.


How Safe is Travel to Mongolia

Low risk – Travel

Mongolia is becoming an increasingly popular destination for adventure-seeking travellers, however it should be noted that foreigners can often be targeted by criminals due to their perceived wealth. This is especially problematic in Ulan Bataar, as is pick-pocketing and other petty crimes, especially approaching Tsagaan Sar (December to February) and Naadam (July), when poorer Mongolians may turn to crime as a way to fund traditional celebrations. Transport hubs and the Black Bazaar are notorious for bag-slashing and robbery, and valuables should be closely guarded. Alcohol-related violence is also a problem, especially after dark, and corruption is rife within the Mongolian security forces.

Wild (and even owned) dogs can pose a threat in Mongolia, as many are seen as a means of providing security. If you are bitten, seek immediate medical assistance. The vast Mongolian wilderness should also be approached with caution, and due to its size communications, transportation and emergency assistance may not always be available.


How Safe is Travel to Nepal

Low risk – Travel

While Nepal is one of the world’s most welcoming and friendly countries, crime is a problem and foreigners can be specifically targeted due to their perceived wealth. Pick-pocketing and bag snatching are the most common forms of crime and are particularly common in the Thamel, Sanepa and Kupondol areas of the capital, with violent crime being limited to dangerous neighbourhoods after dark. Sexual assaults have been reported in Nepal, and female travellers should seek advice prior to their trip.

Wilderness trips in Nepal should also be approached with caution, given the untamed nature of rural areas here. Trekking should only be attempted by experienced hikers, or with the assistance of a reputable local guide agency. Flights to more remote areas of Nepal such as Pokhara can also be dangerous, with small aircraft accidents being unfortunately common.


How Safe is Travel to Pakistan

High risk – Carefully consider necessity of travel

Pakistan is considered to be a dangerous destination for foreign travellers due to a high threat of terrorism, crime, kidnap and armed conflict. Terrorist attacks are unfortunately common in urban areas of the country, with sophisticated bomb and firearms attacks having occurred several times this year alone. Pakistan’s tribal areas, and much of the border with Afghanistan should be avoided entirely due to rampant lawlessness and banditry.

Crime is also a major problem in Pakistan, and visitors (including those of dual-Pakistani citizenship) are frequently targeted due to their perceived wealth.

Pakistan is an extremely conservative country, and as such female travellers and members of the LGBT community should seek advice before considering a trip.


How Safe is Travel to Papua New Guinea

High risk – Carefully consider necessity of travel

Papua New Guinea is a relatively dangerous country for travellers, with violent crime being a common occurrence. Carjacking and armed robbery are also a serious risk. Police are not considered especially effective in Papua New Guinea, and foreigners are often specifically targeted due to their perceived wealth.

Travel to rural Papua New Guinea is also dangerous, with tribal conflict being a genuine risk, and the wilderness remaining untamed. Any travellers considering a trip to Papua New Guinea should seek advice before booking.


How Safe is Travel to the Philippines

High risk – Carefully consider necessity of travel

While some areas (notably resort areas such as Cebu) may be considered somewhat safer for casual travel, the Philippines remains a relatively risky destination. Travel to Western and Central Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago should be avoided at all costs due to terrorist activity and the risk of kidnapping, and travellers should remain aware of the risk of terrorist attacks countrywide. An official “state of national emergency on account of lawless violence” remains in place across the country, and as such travellers should expect to see military and police checkpoints frequently. Unfortunately, corruption within the security forces also means that this increases the risk of spurious “fines” and other demands for bribes.

Violent crime is common in the Philippines, and firearms are readily available to criminals. Foreigners are significantly more likely to be targeted due to their perceived wealth. Scams and petty crimes such as pick-pocketing are also common across the country.

The Philippines is a conservative country, and while the LGBT community is generally tolerated, advice should be sought prior to travelling.


How Safe is Travel to Singapore

Low risk – Travel

Singapore is likely to be one of the safest large cities on earth, with the only real risks being petty crime such as pick-pocketing and minor scams. This is due in part to Singapore’s extremely strict approach to law enforcement, and as such travellers should familiarise themselves with local rules prior to travelling.

While the LGBT community is generally tolerated in Singapore, local law remains conservative and advice should be sought prior to travelling.

Terrorism has been a growing concern in Singapore in recent years, with extremist groups having expressed an interest in targeting the city due to its large foreigner populations. While the Singaporean security forces are considered to be highly capable, travellers should be mindful of what to do in the event of an attack.


How Safe is Travel to Sri Lanka

Low risk – Travel

Sri Lanka is a relatively safe country that has now mostly recovered from the devastating Tamil conflict which officially ended in 2009. While the conflict is officially over, occasional incidents of violence and terrorism have been attributed to remnants of the war, and travellers should remain cautious especially in the vicinity of military and law enforcement facilities.

Crime can pose a threat in Sri Lanka, especially pick-pocketing and other petty crimes. Scams are unfortunately common across the country, with many specifically targeting tourists. These can include overpriced transportation, fake ticket touts and other confidence tricks. Credit card “skimming” is also unfortunately becoming an increasing problem in more developed areas of the country.

Sri Lanka is a somewhat conservative country, and as such female travellers and members of the LGBT community should seek advice before their trip.


How Safe is Travel to Taiwan

Low risk – Travel

Taiwan is considered a very safe place to travel, with the main risk being from petty crime such as pick-pocketing and minor scams. Taiwanese police are generally friendly and helpful, and will often have access to English-speaking officers in larger stations.

The political situation between China and Taiwan remains tense and the risk of armed conflict cannot be ruled out. While the chances of war breaking out during your trip are rare, travellers should be mindful of what actions they should take in such an event.


How Safe is Travel to Thailand

Medium risk – Travel with caution

Thailand has experienced several years of heightened political unrest, with protests being common and often turning violent. The Thai army has conducted two highly-divisive coups since 2000 and now controls the country, and violent reactions to political developments do occasionally occur.

Crime and scams, especially against tourists, are extremely common across the country. Pick-pocketing, bag-snatching and robbery are a problem, especially in busy tourist areas and on public transport. Scams by taxi and tuk-tuk drivers are also common, and all prices should be agreed ahead of any journeys.

Thailand maintains strict laws around Lese Majeste, and under no circumstances should travellers be seen to insult the Royal family of Thailand in any way. Official punishments for breaches of this law are harsh, however a greater risk is that of vigilante justice from offended locals.

Terrorism is also a risk in Thailand, with Southern-Thai Pattani separatists having conducted bombings and shootings against tourist targets in recent years. Large roadside entertainment venues and crowded beach parties should be approached with caution given the risk of their being targeted.

Road and watercraft safety is also a major concern in Thailand, and overland and boat journeys should be approached with extreme caution.


How Safe is Travel to Vietnam

Low risk – Travel

Vietnam is relatively safe, however petty crime such as pick-pocketing and bag-snatching by motorcycle-borne thieves is a risk, especially in urban areas. Beaches are also a major hotspot for crime, and you should never leave your valuables unattended. Scams are also extremely common in Vietnam, especially in tourist areas, with fake ticket-touts, tour operators and other confidence tricks being a huge problem. Police corruption adds to this problem, with demands for bribes and even theft by police officers being regularly reported.


The author of this article is a former British Army Intelligence Officer with several years experience working and living in Europe, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific in a variety of geopolitical intelligence, travel security and corporate security roles.

If you (or someone you know) is travelling to Asia and you would like comprehensive custom-made travel security advice or access to our emergency advice and support telephone number, please get in touch!


Disclaimer

The information provided by How Safe Is My Trip Ltd (England & Wales registered company number 10953024) is intended to help you navigate a dangerous world, but is not intended to replace common sense or entirely remove the risks associated with travelling. Unforeseen circumstances are an inevitability with travel and as a result not everything can be planned for. While we endeavour to provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date information, we live in a rapidly changing world where not all risks can be predicted or mitigated against. By making use of the information provided to you by How Safe Is My Trip Ltd, you acknowledge that any dangers you are exposed to by travelling are faced at your own risk. The information provided by How Safe Is My Trip Ltd should not be considered a recommendation in favour of any particular destination. As an England & Wales registered company, interaction between How Safe Is My Trip Ltd, the general public, and clients will be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the England & Wales and shall be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England & Wales.