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Find Asia's Safest, Cheapest Countries

Author: Christopher Williams

Of the world's seven continents, Asia is the largest in terms of both area and population. Asia covers about one third of the earth's landmass and is home to more than four billion inhabitants – about 60% of the world's population. Each year, millions of international tourists head to various corners of Asia to experience unique cultures and histories, and everything from hip mega-cities to beautiful secluded islands. In 2013, Asia (along with the Pacific region) recorded the strongest growth in tourism worldwide: Nearly 249 million tourists accounted for a 6% increase over the previous year in international tourist arrivals, according to data in the 2014 Edition of UNWTO Tourism Highlights.

Many Asian countries received favorable scores on the Global Peace Index, a measure of the relative peacefulness of 162 nations worldwide (representing 99% of the world's population) compiled by the Institute for Economics and Peace. The Index measures peace based on 22 qualitative and quantitative indicators including ongoing domestic and international conflict; societal safety and security (including crime rates); and militarization. For the 2014 study, the Asia-Pacific region ranked third overall, behind Europe and North America.

Thinking about traveling to Asia but concerned about both safety and how much it will cost? Here, we take a look at four affordable Asian countries that earned the best scores on the Global Peace Index. A number of other countries in Asia are less expensive to visit, but didn't rank as high on safety.

Note: The cost-of-living value is an indicator developed by the online database Numbeo assessing the prices of consumer goods (excluding rent/mortgage) relative to costs in New York City. If a country has an index of 80, for example, it means that consumer goods are an estimated 20% less expensive than in NYC.

Japan

Global Peace Index Rank: 8/162
International Tourists in 2013: 10.36 million
Cost of Living: 80.36

Called the Land of the Rising Sun, Japan scored the highest of any Asian country in the 2014 Global Peace Index. Japan is a stratovolcanic archipelago of almost 7,000 islands located in the Pacific Ocean in East Asia. The nation is known for its beautiful cherry blossoms, historic landmarks, religious sites, cultural experiences and delicious cuisine with an emphasis on artistic presentation. Tourists enjoy Japan's natural beauty by hiking in the Japanese Alps, scuba diving in the coral reefs of Okinawa and skiing the mountains of Tohoku and Hokkaido. For more on travel there, see Travel Cost Comparison: New York Vs. Tokyo.

Singapore

Global Peace Index Rank: 25/162
International Tourists in 2013: 11.10 million (2012; no data available for 2013)
Cost of Living: 93.61

Singapore is an island country in Southeast Asia made up of 63 islands, and home to one of the world's largest ports. Singapore has earned multiple awards and accolades as a tourism destination, including the top spot in Lonely Planet's Best in Travel for 2015. Since gaining independence 50 years ago, Singapore has grown from a small fishing village to an energetic cosmopolitan city known for its stylish restaurants, vibrant night life, world-class shopping and an emerging fashion scene. Outside the city, travelers can enjoy small, beachside resorts, hiking through mangrove swamps and mountain biking around the rural island of Pulau Ubin.

Taiwan

Global Peace Index Rank: 28/162
International Tourists in 2013: 8.02 million
Cost of Living: 57.06

Taiwan sits on the Tropic of Cancer off China's east coast. In the 1500s, Portuguese sailors heading to Japan found an island that didn't appear on their maps and named it Ilha Formosa or beautiful island. Today, Formosa is called Taiwan, but this small country still features the same beautiful towering cliffs, marble-walled gorges and lush forests. Tourists enjoy the excitement of the vibrant city of Taipei, as well as lots of adventure away from the city, including hiking, biking, whitewater rafting and surfing.

Malaysia

Global Peace Index Rank: 33/162
International Tourists in 2013: 25.715 million
Cost of Living: 45.97

Linked to Singapore by a causeway and bridge, Malaysia is a country in Southeast Asia. Known for its beaches, tropical climate, lush rainforests and abundant wildlife, Malaysia is one of the world's most biodiverse countries, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Kuala Lumpur is Malaysia's hip capital city, where visitors enjoy varied architecture, art and cultural activities, sports and recreation, and numerous gardens and parks. For information on Penang, see Retire Abroad: Cosmopolitan Cities. Malaysia is also included in The World's Lowest Cost Of Living For Retirement. Note, however, that the Malaysian diving resort on the island of Mabul suffered a terrorist attack in 2014, and tourists are warned to be careful of the Eastern Sabah region. Click here for information from the U.S. State Department.

The Bottom Line

With more than 17 million square miles of land, Asia is home to some of the most beautiful places on earth. Historic landmarks, unique cultural experiences, exciting cuisine, vibrant cities and adventure activities make Asia a popular destination for tourists from around the world. Malaysia was the bargain here, but all the listed countries are less expensive than New York City. Mongolia (41 on the Global Peace Index/49.67 cost-of-living value) and Vietnam (45/39.77) are also worth investigating.

As with any trip, it's important to do your homework ahead of time, use common sense, and avoid (or use extra caution) in areas with active travel alerts and warnings. See the U.S. Department of State's Alerts and Travel Warnings for up-to-date travel information. The State Department advises American tourists to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which provides security updates and makes it easier for the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to contact them in case of an emergency.

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