10 Tips for Senior Travellers in Asia
Travelling in Asia is a different experience for seniors than it is for younger visitors. We older travellers enjoy the pleasures of being on the road as much as ever but need to take things a little more slowly these days. Many of us no longer have the energy levels we once did, and we face a greater likelihood of falling ill. But this needn’t stop us from enjoying travel to the full.
Here are 10 tips for older travellers planning a trip in Asia:
1. Be adventurous
A holiday is a time to have fun. Just because you’re older doesn’t mean your trip can’t be adventurous. Some travel agencies run adventure holidays specifically for seniors and will help you decide what’s best for you, depending on your level of fitness. Go snorkelling in Thailand. Ride a camel in Rajasthan. Spend time hiking in the hills of Bhutan.
If you’re most comfortable travelling in an organised group, do it. But heading off on your own sometimes, say to explore a city on foot, can be a lot of fun. There’ll be plenty of opportunities to engage with local people this way – and isn’t that what travel is all about?
It’s wise to take simple precautions, such as always carrying your phone and the name and address of your hotel in the local language. It’s a good idea to let someone know what you’re doing – a member of your tour group or a hotel employee, perhaps. Most places in Asia are safer than many other parts of the world, but it’s always advisable to take basic safety precautions wherever you are.
2. Know your limits
When you’re travelling in a continent as diverse as Asia, you’ll want to see and do as much as you can every day. This is especially true if you’re on a relatively short trip – a week, say – and don’t want to miss any of the sights. But if you tire yourself out too much, you’re not going to enjoy it as much as you should. Take time off to rest and relax. Know your limits; you’ll have a pretty good idea of how much you can squeeze into a day before tiredness sets in and the fun wears off.
3. Give yourself enough time between flights
When you’re young, it’s easy enough to move quickly from one airport terminal to another to catch a connecting flight. But you’re older now, so allow yourself more time. When booking your flights, a good rule of thumb is to allow at least three hours between your scheduled arrival and departure. If you end up having more time at an airport than you need, enjoy it. Find somewhere to sit and relax, enjoy a drink or a snack, and do a bit of people watching.
4. Be fully insured
As a senior traveller, you face a greater risk than most of falling ill or injuring yourself in an accident. If possible, make sure your travel insurance covers medical assistance, emergency medical evacuation, hospital expenses, personal accident, loss of personal baggage, loss of money, travel delay compensation and personal liability. It’s worth paying more for comprehensive insurance, not least for the peace of mind it brings. No one wants to end up in hospital with a broken limb and no insurance to cover the bills.
Insurance won’t cover you for ordinary illnesses that you might contract whilst on the road, so it’s important to be aware of the health precautions that you need to take when travelling to countries where medical facilities may not be as advanced as back home.
5. Take care of your meds
It’s a rare senior traveller who isn’t taking medication of one kind or another. Make sure you carry enough meds to see you through your whole trip; prescription medicine isn’t always easy to obtain when you’re on the road. And don’t forget to take your meds, even if you’re jet-lagged or have to get up early to go rushing off somewhere. Keep all your meds in one place that’s easily accessible. Keep a record of them - both the brand names and the generic names.
6. Take precautions against scammers
Almost all the people you meet while travelling are likely to be friendly and helpful. But there’ll always be scammers who view older travellers as an easy target, and for good reason; some of us are not as quick-witted as we once were. The scammers are after your money so don’t be rushed into any financial transactions with strangers. Don’t open your wallet in public. Carry enough banknotes in smaller denominations to avoid having to hand over a large denomination note for a small transaction. Carry an exchange rate ‘cheat sheet’ in your pocket or on your phone, that you can easily refer to.
7. Keep copies of important stuff
Carry photocopies of your passport and any other important documents – either printouts or soft copies on your phone. It will help to be able to show these to your embassy and/or the police if your passport or other documents are lost or stolen. Keep your itinerary and flight details on your phone too. There are easy-to-use free apps that enable you to keep all your important trip information in one place.
8. Take care with food and drink
Even if you’ve enjoyed spicy food most of your life, food in Asia tends to be harder on the stomach of older travellers. In any case, many of us are on restricted diets for medical reasons and need to be careful what we eat. When we see the tempting food on offer, we may want to dive right in, but it’s probably a good idea to take it easy at first and let the body acclimatise.
It’s best to stick to bottled water wherever you travel in Asia. In countries such as Japan and South Korea, tap water is safe to drink, but even some locals prefer to boil it first. And many travellers prefer the taste of bottled water anyway. Many of us love to eat salads to stay healthy, but when travelling in developing countries it’s best to eat salads only in upmarket restaurants and resorts.
9. Make the most of being older
There’s a genuine respect for older people in most Asian countries. If you’re polite and friendly to people you meet on your travels, you’re likely to receive goodwill and smiles in return. I think it’s fair to say that older travellers often receive a warmer welcome than anyone else. This extends to taking photographs too.
In my experience, people are happier to let me take their photo now than when I was a young backpacker travelling through the same Asian countries – although of course this could be at least partly because photography is so much more widespread now than it was back in the 1970s. In any case, it’s always a good idea to ask someone’s permission before taking their photo. More often than not, they’ll say yes.
10. Give yourself a treat
Even if you’re travelling on a tight budget – and who of us isn’t? – a great way to give yourself a lift is to splurge out once in a while. Treat yourself to a meal at a fancy restaurant in Tokyo. Go to a classical music concert in Seoul. See a stage play in Singapore. Go to the movies in Kuala Lumpur – gold class, of course. Go ahead and buy that expensive dress or suit you saw on display in a store in Bangkok. These are things you’ll remember long after your holiday is over.
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