Wondering what to pack for travelling Southeast Asia?
This time last year I was about to embark on my first ever solo backpacking trip, travelling Southeast Asia for 6 months. I spent the prior 3 months before leaving researching everything… from how much it would cost and where to stay, to what to put on my packing list, and so I thought I would impart my knowledge on my very own blog 🙂
What you take will ultimately be quite subjective and so not everything you read here, or on any other website for that matter, will be 100% relevant to you and your needs but this will be a good guide. I found that 90% of the stuff I took I needed, and the other 10% I ended up chucking away, so this is the final list of what I couldn’t live without when i was backpacking:
First and foremost you will need a good backpack (obviously!!!). Don’t skimp on costs here as it needs to last. I took a Quechua Forclaz 60L Air (top loader) which was the perfect size for me (I’m a 5″4, weak, 9 stone female!). Be sure to get a front loader so you don’t have to unpack your full backpack every time you want to find THAT bikini! I also wanted one with wheels but for this size I couldn’t find one… but it would have been useful I reckon.
- Packing Cubes– This is my MOST recommended item. 3 of these in various sizes will allow you to separate your clothes, from your bikinis, from your underwear and will make packing and unpacking a million times easier…TRUST ME!
- Flip Flops x1 – I originally took 2 pairs; 1 for wearing out and 1 for wearing in the shared hostel showers (!!), you will get used to being a bit skanky so you really don’t need two pairs that take up valuable space
- 3-4 Bikinis – this is personal preference but I took 4 and ended up buying like 4 more :/
- 2-3 pairs of shorts – again personal preference but remember you will end up buying LOADS of cheap clothes but bring your good quality ones as you will LIVE in them
- 5-6 day/night tops – make sure all your tops and bottoms go together so you can mix & match outfits whilst saving space
- 2 dresses – don’t over do clothes, keep them to a minimum as they take up space and you will end up buying more! try to chuck an item away every time you buy a new one (easier said than done!)
- Underwear – you will likely do washing every 4-5 days so just take enough to cover you for that time but remember, you will likely spend a lot of time in bikinis…which can also double up as underwear when you are desperate 😉
- Sarong – buy this there as it’s cheap cheap cheap. This will double up as a beach towel, motorbike seat cooler downer, hair towel…basically anything!
- If you are going to Vietnam or anywhere cool then you might want to take a light jumper, a pair of leggings & a waterproof jacket like I did, but you could also probably buy warmer clothes there – your call
- Trainers – for those hikes (don’t forget a pair of socks)
Note on washing – it is SOOOOO cheap to get your clothes washed (like $1 a KG) so don’t worry about having to do it yourself…leave that hand wash at home!
- LUSH Solid Shampoo & a case – this is a little messy but good for saving space. Basically it’s like a soap bar for your hair!
- Jungle Formula Mosquito Spray– something with high levels of DEET like this one
- Tiger Balm or the Thai green version – to take away the itch of the mossy bites you will still get (you can also buy this there)
- GOOD deodorant- you will get a tad sweaty in 35 degree heat
- Tooth brush/paste – :/ duh
- Hair brush & 1 comb
- Nail clippers & small nail file
- Contraception (!!)
- Tampons – not easy to find in Asia
- Suncream & moisturiser – these are NOT cheaper in Asia (you’re welcome)
- Wet Wipes – for your face, your pits, your…everything 🙂
- Minimal make up – I only took mascara, lipgloss and blusher (foundation will melt my friend!)
- Dry shampoo – I totally wanted to take a spray like Batiste but it would have taken up far too much room, so opted for a LUSH powder version instead
- Sea salt spray for styling those locks – Bumble & Bumble Surf Spray was the one I used – this also works like hairspray so no need to pack that as well
- Hair bands & hair grips – anything to get that unkempt barnet looking good
- Tweezers – to keep those eyebrows in shape
- Trespass Travel Towel– VERY useful and space saving
- YOU DO NOT NEED A HAIRDRYER – embrace the freedom 🙂
- Combination Padlock– you will want to use your own for lockers & some hostel doors if they provide their own (to be on the safe side)
- Pacsafe Travelsafe 5L GII portable safe– a tad pricey but really put my mind at rest so I could leave my passport, excess money and some electronics back in my room.
- First aid kit – I did actually use this! a small one will do
- Torch – again I did use this on some dark walks back to the hostel :/ keep it small
- USB stick x2 – to transfer photos onto and then store in your Pacsafe
- Memory card x2-3- for your cameras. You don’t want to keep all your precious photos on the one in your camera as you might lose your camera!
- Lonely Planet Southeast Asia on a shoestring (Travel Guide)– rip out the pages you don’t need to take the weight down. I used this A LOT
- Vaccine certificate – this came in useful for not getting charged some scammy medical fee at the Thai/Cambodian border – you never know!
- Pen & Paper – always came in useful for something or other
- Little day bag – one that goes over your body for safety (se photo above)
Tip – get out as much money as the ATM will allow to save on charges then store in your Pacsafe until needed
- Smart Phone – I didn’t know whether to take my smart phone with me originally but I’m so glad I did as I used it all the time
- You can buy a Sim card when you get there if you really want but I wouldn’t bother, there is Wifi pretty much everywhere…my most used phrase was “whats the Wifi password?”
- Camera – I used this sometimes but always seemed to revert to my phone as I had that with me anyway and the quality was pretty good
- Chargers – for all the items you are taking
- iPin – this is an app on your smart phone that allows you to securely store all of your account numbers, passwords & pins – VERY useful!
It’s also useful to email yourself (& say your mum as a back-up) a copy of the following documents just in case:
- Passport -plus a hard copy
- Travel insurance documents
- Credit & Debit cards
- Your Itinerary – if you are looking for some inspiration take a look at my suggested itinerary
- Passport photos – you will need these for some Visa on Arrivals (like in Laos)
Take about $50-$100 with you as emergency money and keep in your Pacsafe.
Please don’t take anything you wouldn’t want to lose (like un-replaceable jewellery) as you will more than likely lose it
…and last but not least – BUY DECENT TRAVEL INSURANCE and read the fine print so you know what you are cover for.
Every single product recommended on this page is something I personally used, and none are paid placements. Some of the above are affiliate links and I will earn a percentage of the sale if you purchase through them at no extra cost to you. This helps keep my site running – so thanks in advance for your support!