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Before my first trip to Southeast Asia I spent weeks trying to think of all the possible things I would need on my travels. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to buy certain items or that I would have forgotten something. I have since learnt that I was definitely overthinking it! Everywhere we went there were places to buy toiletries and clothing, the sellers know which items backpackers need! To help you worry less about what to pack for South East Asia here is my guide, including everything from clothing to electronics!
One of the first decisions you should make is your backpack. You are going to be lugging it around for the next few months so you want to make sure you get the right one for you. I went with the Osprey Fairview 70. It is designed specifically for women, and has a detachable small day backpack that is perfect for taking with you on the plane or a day tour. Also, get yourself a set of packing cubes, they make packing and finding your items so much easier!
Clothes take up most of the space in your backpack, and whilst they are a necessity you can make sensible choices to help you keep the weight of your bag down. If this is your first time backpacking you will most likely think you need more things than you actually do, I certainly did! As long as you make sure that all of your tops match your bottoms you won’t need to take too many outfits. Also, laundry services are everywhere! The price is usually somewhere around the $1/kg mark and it will be back with you within a day.
- 10 x T-shirts/Tops – All the tops I took were t-shirts, they don’t really crease and they go with anything. You will probably end up throwing a few out once they get gross and buying new ones anyway.
- 3 x Shorts – Maybe two pairs of denim shorts and one more floaty pair or the other way around. It does get difficult to get tight denim shorts on and off when you are hot and sweaty! If you are more of a skirt or dress wearer swap out a pair of shorts, but make sure they don’t crease easily.
- 1 x Lounge Shorts – You’ll want to put on a pair of comfy shorts after a long hot day!
- 1 x Thin Trousers or Maxi Skirt – You’ll need a pair if you want to visit any temples, but you can always buy some once you are out there. They are also great for travel days when you want to be comfortable.
- 1 x Jeans – These sat in my bag unused until Vietnam when it was freezing, so you might not need these if you aren’t planning on heading there. But it is nice to know that you have a pair that fit if you need them.
- 1 x Jumper/Hoodie – Again, something that you might not use too often. But flights and buses do get quite chilly from the air con!
- 2 x Swimwear – A must if you are heading anywhere with a beach.
- 3 x Bras – I took four with me and ended up throwing two away!
- 10 x Underwear – I like to overpack a little on underwear and socks, if you have a shower in the afternoon you’ll probably want to put on nice fresh ones after. Plus, they don’t take up much room!
- 10 x Socks – I’m usually wearing trainers so need a pair of new socks each day, so if you will wear sandals more you could scale down here. You will end up losing random socks to the laundry, or in our case, gain some. You can always buy more!
- 1 x Light Rain Jacket – Get one that folds down small as you will most likely need this at some point.
- Jogging Bottoms – I have only worn these on the plane out from Heathrow and at night if it was cold, so are definitely not needed!
- Playsuits – I brought four playsuits with me thinking I would wear them all the time, but I ended up throwing three away a few weeks in as they were taking up too much space. Along with the three pairs of shorts I really didn’t need them.
- 1 x Trainers – You will 100% need a pair of trainers, bring a pair that you know are comfortable and have some grip.
- 1 x Flip Flops – Good to use in a shared bathroom and on the beach.
- 1 x Sandals optional
These items will vary for most people depending on their preferences, but bear in mind that you can buy all of these items pretty much anywhere so no need to stock up on anything before you go.
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Face wash
- Tiger balm – A life saver for mosquito bites!
- Tampons – I found it hard to find tampons in Laos and Cambodia, but they had plenty of sanitary pads.
- Shampoo and Shower Gel – You will need these but buy them when you arrive unless you have a specific type you use. Often hostels provide these in the bathrooms.
- Sunscreen – Take a bottle with you, you may have to buy more once out there but it is a little more expensive in South East Asia!
- Insect Repellent
- Small amount of make up – I brought my stash but never used it! You get so sweaty there isn’t much point, plus once I had a slight tan my skin looked a little healthier.
- DIY First Aid Kit – Taking a few bits can come in handy if you aren’t able to find a shop. E.g. plasters, paracetamol and Imodium!
- Scissors and Tweezers
- Prescription Medication – Try and keep these in their original packaging, as I have heard customs can be funny about loose pills!
- Other optional essentials eg glasses, lenses, eye solution
WHAT’S IN MY BACKPACK
- Phone (unlocked) – It is cheap and easy to get a SIM card for each new country you enter. You will be able to use Grab and Google Maps without having to try and get Wifi from somewhere!
- Extension Lead – If you have quite a few gadgets like us, this will be a life saver! We often have four or five things charging at once, and only need one plug adaptor using this!
- Plug Adaptors – Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia all have the same plugs as the US. Malaysia and Singapore are the same as the UK!
- USB Plug – This has also come in super handy! You can plug four USB cables in at once, so handy for charging phones, an iPad, and any other gadgets you use.
- Battery Pack – Super useful if you are on a long bus journey and need to charge your phone.
- Go Pro and Accessories
- Camera and Accessories
- Bluetooth Speaker – Not a necessity but handy if you are in a private room and watching a film. I definitely advise against using on the beach if you are in close proximity to other people!
- Cables for all of your electronics
- Laundry Bag – You won’t want to be mixing your sweaty clothes with your nice fresh ones.
- Small Day Bag – Even if your backpack comes with a smaller day bag, you won’t always want to carry this around. Bringing a small shoulder or cross body bag is ideal if you just want to carry your phone and purse.
- Straighteners – Only used these once and have let my hair run free the whole time.
- Dry Bag – Convenient if you are taking a boat tour and worried about your things getting wet, but again they have these on sale everywhere.
- Microfibre Towel – A towel that packs really small and dries very quickly.
- Eye Mask – We ditched our neck pillows soon after arriving in South East Asia to save on space, but our memory foam eye masks are incredible. I had never used one before but they help you sleep on buses when the lights get switched on in the middle of the night.
- Tissues – Never enter a public toilet without tissues, so many don’t provide them!
- Travel Wallet
- Spare Passport Photos – You will need to get a Visa on Arrival for some countries, these require you to provide a passport photo each time.
- Credit Card/Travel Card – Either apply for a credit card with good overseas rates or go for a specific travel card. A good one I have used is Revolut, they have an app so it is easy to track your payments and they have extra security measures too.
I know the list is long, but I have gone through both mine and my boyfriends bags to make sure I didn’t forget anything! You can definitely cut a few things out or add a few things in depending on your requirements.
We both started our travels with our Osprey 70 litre bags with the detachable day pack and had to eventually both buy a bigger hand luggage bag as we bought a few gadgets along the way! But even with all the extras I managed to carry it all ok. Luckily Jack doesn’t have as many toiletries as me so he could carry a lot of the electronic items!
I hope this has helped some of you if you are struggling knowing what to take, let me know if you are taking anything that I haven’t listed!