A lot of people are faced with the same question when they are considering to go travel long-term: where shall I go, South America or Asia? To answer that question is not that easy actually as both continents are so completely different. It is a bit like comparing apples and pears, as both have got their good parts and both have got their bad parts. I have lived in Asia for two years and are currently traveling through South America, and I am in love with both continents in a different way.
To travel around Asia is fairly easy and cheap. The transport system is extensive and you can get from a to b via buses, planes, tuk tuks or trains. A 6-hour bus journey from Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh to the home of the majestic Angkor Wat temple complex, Siem Reap, will cost you around $6 for example. A flight from Phnom Penh to Thailand’s capital Bangkok will cost you around $30.
Not all countries in Asia will have a train network, but the likes of Vietnam, Thailand, India, Myanmar and China have transportation for little cash. The one in South America is equally affordable.
However I find that buses in a lot of countries are much more comfortable, as the seats can be reclined fairly far back. This is especially important on long distance buses. Prices vary within different countries, but for example an overnight bus with a reclinable seat from Nazca to Cusco in Peru costs around $20. The more you pay the more luxurious it gets. A 30-minute flight from Bolivia’s capital La Paz to Sucre costs around $30.
Generally speaking one can say that South East Asia is either hot or very hot, while North Asia (i.e. Nepal or China) can also get bitterly cold. South East Asia has two seasons, the rainy season and the dry season. While the rainy season is a little bit cooler with an average temperature of around 30 degrees Celsius, the dry season can get extremely hot. My hottest experience was in Cambodia in April at 43 degrees Celsius. When I went trekking in Nepal in April on the other hand, nighttime temperatures went down to below zero.
The climate in South America is equally different, depending on which countries you are travelling to. The Andes in Peru for example are much chillier than the jungle. So within the same country you can get temperature differences of almost 20 degrees. Some countries who have a coast, such as Colombia, Venezuela or Brazil, will also have tropical temperatures.
So when considering packing in either continent, one needs to be aware of those differences and pack warm weather and/or cold weather clothes accordingly.
The cultures in Asia and South America are very different. In my experience Asian people are much quieter and more introverted than people in South America, who are often much more extroverted. While Cambodia’s traditional dance, the Apsara, is all about slow and elegant movements, the energetic dance of salsa reigns in most South American countries.
In Asia and South America alike a lot of people are very much influenced by their religion as well. In Asia a lot of people practice Buddhism or Hinduism, while in South America a lot of people are Christians.
Visiting religious sites in either continent is often a must-do, but visitors need to bear in mind to dress conservatively (i.e. covering shoulders and knees if possible), otherwise they may either offend the locals or are refused entry.
And now for the most important part, the sights. I couldn’t possibly suggest one continent over the other in terms of sights. My favorite sights/places in Asia are the Great wall of China, the Himalayas in Nepal, The Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia and the countryside that can be seen from the circle line train in Yangon, Myanmar.
In South America my favorite sights/places are the Galapagos Islands, the sand dunes in Huacachina, Peru, Machu Picchu in Peru, the Iguassu Falls in Brazil/Argentina and the Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia. All of these places and sights are equally stunning in their own right, but completely different of course.
So as you can see, South America and Asia are very different, but they are definitely equally attractive in my view. If you get the chance you should visit both continents as either will be able to offer you unforgettable travel experiences