Tourist Visa Advice & Practical Asia Travel Tips
We take the stress out of your vacation planning. The system we put in place ensures that you’ll never miss any important deadline.
Accommodations | Air Ticket Confirmation Display Error | Airplane Seat Selection | Baggage Allowance | Electricity and Voltage | Food | Group Size | Guides | Health & Vaccination | Insurance | Money and Currency Exchange | Motor Vehicles & Seat Rotation | Packing | Reading List by Destination | Shopping Stops | Singles & Roommate Pairing | Terms & Conditions | Tipping | Visa | | Weather and Temperatures
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the best time to visit China, Japan, South Korea, Indochina, Myanmar, Bhutan?
A: Generally speaking, the best time to visit China would be mid-March to the end of May and September to mid-November for optimal weather. However, if you are planning a trip to Tibet or the Silk Road region, the best time is summer (June, July and August). Tropical Hainan Island is best visited in wintertime (December, January and February). Read more
The months to visit Japan would be late March to late April; if cherry blossoms are important to you, pick dates between late March and mid-April. Summer can be hot and humid (especially at night on Honshu). So try to avoid summer. For the second half of year, September, October and November are good months weather-wise but for fall colours the best month would be November or even early December depending on exactly where you want to go.
For South Korea, the advice is almost the same as for Japan.
Indochina, Thailand and Myanmar have the best weather from late October to late February. Temperatures are higher in early October and late February than in November, December and January. In Southern Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar, April is hot and dry, just before the wet/raining season starts.
Travellers visiting Bhutan should go in between October and May. The summer months are monsoon season and consequently receive lots of precipitation which often washes out roads.
Got a question? please contact us.
Q: How do I sign up for a tour?
A: See Contact page for the three steps involved.
Q: What does the tour price include?
A: Our land tour packages include local transportation, accommodations, most meals, admission charges, guide service and gratuities for local guide and drivers as laid out in the Terms & Conditions.
Q: What are not included?
A: 1) International airfare, 2) visa, 3) insurance and 4) gratuities for tour leader where applicable.
Q: Are there any hidden charges that are actually mandatory or else we won’t be able to enjoy the tour?
A: Absolutely not. We despise companies engaged in such deceptive behaviour and would never do this to our guests.
Q: What is the maximum group size?
A: Our group size ranges from 10 to 20 with 20 being the maximum except specials that are clearly identified.
Q: Do you include shopping stops in your tours as so many of your competitors do?
A: No, and we are proud of our no forced shopping policy.
Q: Do I need a passport and visa to travel with Laurus Travel?
A: Yes. Please see Visa page for more information.
Q: Can Laurus Travel help us obtain visa?
A: Yes. Please go to Visa page for details.
Q: Does Laurus Travel accept credit cards?
A: We accept Visa and MasterCard for deposit. No credit card of any kind is accepted for final payment. See Terms & Conditions.
Q: Does Laurus accept disabled travellers?
A: Our group tours are not suitable for travellers with mobility issues but such travellers are welcome to book private tours with us.
Q: What’s the average age of Laurus clients?
A: The majority of our travellers are Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) and seniors in their early 70’s. Travellers between 35 and 50 make up 20% of our customer base but their percentage has been going up. During summer, we have many families with school-age children travelling with us.
Q: How physically demanding are Laurus tours?
A: Our tours involve lots of strenuous walking and stair climbing as mentioned in the Terms & Conditions. As a result, people with mobility issues or suffering from obesity will find it too challenging to enjoy our tours. Regardless of the traveller’s age, a high level of physical fitness is required of all customers.
Q: What kind of vaccinations do you recommend?
A: The places our tours take you to are generally safe from a health point of view. Our top concern is hepatitis A & B regardless of the country you travel to. We do not recommend shots for tetanus and rabies. Please visit a travel clinic or your family doctor or websites of U.S. CDC and Health Canada for more information.
Q: Do I need local currency before arrival?
A: Probably not, either because you can easily get it on arrival or because the currency of the destination country is not freely convertible on the international market and you’ll have to pay a premium if you buy it outside that country.
If you need local currency to pay the taxi driver for your transfer to the hotel (this is necessary for guests arriving ahead of tour schedule unless other arrangement has been made), please check with us for a reliable fare estimate. For guests in such situations, we generally volunteer this information when we send the final trip update two weeks prior to departure.
Q: What is the baggage allowance on local flights?
A: Economy class passengers are restricted to one checked piece weighing no more than 20 kilograms or 44 pounds. Certain carriers may allow the passenger to check in two pieces if the total weight is within limit. However, our policy is one checked bag per guest and we accept no exceptions. Carry-on bag is limited to 5kg or 12 lbs per passenger even though it is not uncommon to see passengers exceeding that limit to be allowed onto the plane. For luggage dimensions and packing advice please see Baggage Allowance & Packing.
Q: Should I lock my checked bag?
A: Advice on this has been inconsistent all depending on whom you ask. Our answer is absolutely you should lock your checked bag when you travel in Asia.
At the time of flight check-in, the passenger agent will tag your bag and then ask you to wait at a designated spot for a couple of minutes so that security staff can x-ray your bag. If nothing suspicious is found, you will receive the boarding pass right away. Otherwise, you will be invited into a private room to open your bag for inspection, eliminating their need to cut your lock. The most common items that trigger the alarm are batteries and hair spray. For more info, see Baggage Allowance & Packing.
Q: Where do we meet the guide and the rest of the group?
A: If you arrive according to the tour schedule, you will be picked up by our driver on arrival. Otherwise, you’ll need to get to the hotel on your own to join the group there. More information will be provided in the final update 2 weeks before the trip starts; if necessary, taxi fare estimates plus currency exchange information will be be provided at that time.
Q: Where are your tour leaders and local guides from?
A: A tour leader from our Canadian office or Asia office is provided for groups with 15 or more participants (in China, the minimum is 10). The tour leader meets up with the group at the port of entry and stays with the group throughout the tour except in Hong Kong wherever applicable.
Generally, a local guide is provided in each city but the tour leader may double as local guide in as many locales as we see fit. For groups with less than 10 participants, only local guides will be provided. The local guides are sometimes referred to station guides who are native to or long-term residents in the city where they work.
Q: What is the time difference between North America and Asia?
A: Depending on destination country, you can be anywhere from 10 hours to 15 hours behind the destination country if you reside in North America’s Eastern Standard Time. Add three hours if you are on the Pacific West Coast. Jet lag for our Australian customers is almost non-existent.
Q: Do we eat local food throughout the tour?
A: Breakfast is buffet style with a huge variety. Lunch and dinner when included are local cuisine unless otherwise specified. Please see Terms & Conditions – Food & Beverage.
Q: Where do we eat when meals are not included?
A: Please ask your local guides for advice. Recommendations will be given according to your preference and budget. Don’t feel embarrassed if your budget is small. In China and Southeast Asia, a couple with $30 to spend can have a decent meal in a mid-level restaurant. In Japan, this amount won’t go that far.
Some guests may have a list of restaurants to look into based on what they read on the Internet or in guidebooks. As a rule of thumb, you should stay away from fancy restaurants recommended in popular online travel forums because restaurants overrun with tourists rarely get you good value for your money.
Q: Is Internet access available at the hotels?
A: Free Wi-Fi is available in the lobby of all the hotels. Most of the hotels also provide our guests with complimentary in-room Wi-Fi.
Q: Is it expensive to call home from Asia?
A: You can call home for free on your Wi-Fi enabled smart phones and tablets using the hotel’s free Wi-Fi. So why bother with this question. If you are new to smart devices, the tour leader and local guides can always be counted on for assistance. If you still use the hotel’s phone to call home or need the operator to wake you up, you are living in the past century!
Q: Do I get non-smoking rooms throughout the tour?
A: Yes. See Terms & Conditions for details.
Q: There are three of us sharing one room. Why don’t you give us a discount for the third person?
A: The tour price is based on double occupancy or twin room sharing. The extra bed with buffet breakfast for the third person costs the same as one half of a twin bed room per contracts. Therefore, we have no savings to pass on to you. [read more]
Q: Is laundry service available during the tour?
A: It really depends on the destination. In popular tourist areas of Southeast Asia, it isn’t hard to find self-serve laundry facilities or staff assisted shops where they don’t charge too much. When there is enough demand, the local guide may ask a local laundry service business to come to the hotel to pick up you dirty laundry. The service is very reasonably priced by Western standard and the turnaround is quick. However, the same cannot be said of China and Japan where every household has a washing machine. Hotels provide speedy laundry service but the prices can be steep. It’s better to bring clothing that can be worn in layers and easy to wash by hand. This is particularly true with underwear and socks, which should be easy to wash by hand and dry quickly.
Q: Do I need to bring my own hair dryer?
A: You’ll find one in your hotel room throughout the tour. If you trip includes overnight stay on a river boat, you can borrow a hair dryer from the front desk.
Q: How bad is cigarette smoking in Asia?
A: Smoking in public places, especially in air-conditioned restaurants, is not that common in Southeast Asia. The situation in China used to be very bad but it has improved significantly in the past couple of years due to government crackdown.
Q: How expensive is medical care in Asia?
A: Some private hospitals in Asia look like luxury hotels. Those equipped with the latest diagnostic devices and staffed by doctors trained in developed countries charge as much as hospitals in the West do. It is essential that you secure proper insurance coverage before travel.
Q: Are public toilets outside hotels clean?
A: That really depends. Public toilets in Japan have very tight stalls but they are clean. In China, toilets at major tourist sites can be surprisingly clean while elsewhere, especially in remote areas, they can be dirty and smelly. In Southeast Asia, toilets built mainly for tourists are often well maintained because of the importance of inbound tourism to the local economies.
Many of the toilets have no toilet paper, soap, and paper towels to dry hands. No matter where you go, you should always have a roll of toilet paper and a small bottle of hand sanitizing gel on you. Some of our guests even have soap and a cloth towel in their day pack.
Q: How much should we tip and how should we handle it?
A: As discussed on our Tipping page, our tour prices include gratuities for local guides and drivers. When your trip includes a river cruise, their mandatory “service charge” is also included in the tour price, very much unlike what our competitors do.
The recommended amount for the tour leader per day per guest is $10 USD or its equivalent in CAD, AUD, GBP or EUR. You should wait till when you bid farewell to tour leader to tip him or her.
Q: What airlines do you use for intra-Asia flights?
A: We choose the local airlines based on convenience and cost. That said, we do monitor the safety records of the carriers very closely. The airlines we use all have satisfactory safety records measured against a collection of major Western airlines. In general, the average age of aircraft in the destination countries we promote including Cambodia and Myanmar is much younger than that of Western airlines. We did some digging on aircraft fleet age and this is what we came up with:
Fleet age as of December 2015
- United Airlines: 13.6 years
- American Airlines: 13.5 years
- Delta Air Lines: 17.1 years
- Air Canada: 14 years
- Air China: 6 years
- China Hainan Airlines: 4.7 years
- Vietnam Airlines: 5.7 years
- Thai Airways: 9.3 years
- Japan Airlines: 8.9 years
Got a question? Let us know. You may also find the answers to many of your questions under Our Terms & Conditions.