Southeast Asia is my absolutely favourite part of the world to travel – I just can’t get enough of the temples in Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar. Today I’m sharing my Southeast Asia Packing list that I often use for travelling in Southeast Asia for a month or more. As well as my packing guide for women, I’m including what to take to Southeast Asia for men as well.
Remember to consider the time of year that you visit. The best time to visit South East Asia is between November and February. Once it gets into April the heat is difficult to bear. Mid May to Mid October is Monsoon season in Thailand and you will experience very heavy rains. Pack a rain jacket if you are travelling during (or at the start or end) or Monsoon season.
My top tip is to minimise denim/jeans – you really only need one pair (if that). South East Asia is really too hot and humid for jeans. They also take a long time to dry when they are washed.
Southeast Asia Packing List – Essential Items & Paperwork
- Photocopies of passport (Particularly important in case of theft or loss)
- Cards – Debit, credit.
- Money – A bit of cash in the local currency where you’re starting is a smart idea for local transport when you get to the airport. In some countries such as Cambodia, dollars work well.
- A printed copy of your travel insurance – To keep with you at all times in case of emergency.
- Extra passport photos – Constantly handy for visas.
- Disabled Badge or Medical ID and Medic Alert Bracelet if needed.
Southeast Asia Packing List – Gadgets and Electronic Equipment
- Camera and spare batteries/battery charger – I use my Canon Powershot in my Southeast Asia packing list as it’s light and easy to use compared to my DSLR.
- Laptop or Tablet plus charger – I use my Macbook as it’s lightweight and easy to use for photo and video editing.
- Smartphone and charger (if you are worried about taking your smartphone you can travel with a cheaper version).
- Spare SD cards
- Kindle and Kindle charger (one device = loads of books!)
- Travel Adapter – International (It’s usually two pronged in South East Asia)
- Four Way extension lead – great if you have a lot to charge at once or are traveling as a couple.
Southeast Asia packing list – Clothing
You are unlikely to need a lot of socks as footwear can involve flip-flops on the beach and wearing sandals. But do pack between 5-7 pairs of good walking socks for hikes. Pants will dry quickly in South East Asia
Clothing for Women
There are a few things that girls need to consider when choosing which clothes to pack for Southeast Asia. As an overall rule, all of the clothes you bring should be not easily creased and lightweight. Don’t bring any of your best tops or dresses as they could get ruined. Suntan cream, packing and repacking and vigorous laundry washes will ruin delicate items, fade fabrics and turn all whites grey or brown. Think simple.
Vest tops and a few t-shirts that cover your shoulders in case you’re visiting temples or more conservative areas will come in handy.
Shorts and at least one pair of long loose trousers, again for conservative areas and temple visits. While Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia are very liberal, there are times when it is better to cover up. Yoga pants and light weight trousers are a good option.
Cotton Elephant trousers are extremely comfortable and popular in South East Asia, and you can also buy them on Amazon before you go if you want to plan ahead. They are very cheap there, but sizes come up very small.
A pair of leggings for overnight bus journeys are comfy and ideal. They’re a much better alternative to jeans.
Even though almost every beach resort in Southeast Asia has market stalls of beachwear for sale, there is normally a very limited selection when it comes to larger sizes. (Sizes are usually incredibly tiny). If you’re larger than a C cup, bring more bikinis with you as they’ll be hard to get on this side of the world. You might also like to read my article about getting the right Bra Size for your bikini!
A good Sarong is practical as an alternative to a towel and you can wear it as a skirt too, which will be ideal for covering your legs when visiting Hindu or Buddhist temples. Also, it can be used as an extra layer of warmth, either as a big scarf or blanket or for protecting your head from sun as a headscarf. You may want to cover a pillow that’s uncertainly clean in your hostel.
A lot of people bring a high quality Waterproof Rain Jacket with them to shelter them from spontaneous downpours while on their travels. If you forget to bring it, you can buy a full-length poncho from a local shop while you’re here for less than a $1. You’ll see locals wearing them on motorbikes all across the region.
If you intend on doing high up hikes and mountain treks, go for a more sturdy Gortex or mountain jacket.
Clothing for Men
Again, men need to think light fabrics that are not easily creased. The less the better.
Stay cool in Southeast Asia with some vests tops. You might want to invest in some plain singlets before you travel because it’ll be impossible to buy one that isn’t covered in something like a beer logo!! Again, it’s also wise to bring a t-shirt or two with sleeves for visits to temples. Polo shirts and light linen short sleeved shirts are a good option.
At least one pair of light, loose trousers for wearing to visit temples and Shorts.
Pack your speedos or board shorts, whatever your style.
For taking to the beach, for covering up your legs or shoulders at temples or for drying yourself when you’ve forgotten to bring a towel, a sarong has multiple uses for the backpacker and they’re totally unisex.
Whether you’re travelling throughout the rainy season or not, it’s a smart idea to bring a lightweight rain jacket along with you as Southeast Asia’s weather can be unpredictable in all seasons. If you don’t have one, you can always get yourself a plastic poncho from the 7-11 or a local shop for less than $1 when you get there.
Sunglasses are deemed health item rather than a fashion item in Southeast Asia. Although you can find a variety of multi-coloured sunglasses in the local markets when you’re here, it’ll be more problematic to find sunglasses that actually give protection to your eyes. (Many that say they will, and they won’t).
The sun is particularly resilient in Southeast Asia and prolonged exposure to UV rays can really damage your eyes, especially if you’re used to being in a dull, rainy country. It is recommended that you invest in some good sunglasses back home that can protect your eyes from UVB and UVA rays. Doctors recommend that a decent pair of sunglasses that block 99% of harmful rays and 75-90% of visible light.
If you wear glasses, I’d recommend that you get a pair of prescription sunglasses which you will probably end up wearing the majority of the time – it helps to be able to read while you have your sunglasses on. Since getting my prescription sunglasses this year, I have loved being able to read maps with them on! I don’t know how I managed for so long without!
Southeast Asia packing list – Toiletries
The great news is that you can get all of your Western toiletries in Southeast Asia very easily and cheaply. Nevertheless, you’re going to want to pack a few toiletries in the first place, even if you can replace your stocks when you arrive. It’s also nice to get to your hotel or hostel and be able to have a brush your teeth, shower and freshen up without going shopping.
If you want an easy life, you can buy ready prepared travel toiletries kits online before you go…
This has conditioner, shampoo, mouthwash, wide tooth comb, toothpaste, body wash, disposable razor and more. Here’s the men’s travel toiletries kit on Amazon…
Pack a comb or brush if you need it and for women or men with long hair – a few hair bobbles to put your hair up and keep it off your face and neck in the heat. Don’t forget your travel sized shampoo and conditioner.
Pack shower gel, body scrub, a bar of soap, hair mask and whatever else you like to use in the shower. But unless you’re staying in an extravagant hotel, leave the bath salts at home because baths are rare in Southeast Asia.
A small roll on deodorant is suitable to travel with, Avoid aerosol sprays as they are banned by some airlines – they can explode in the cabin!
A good tip on deodorant and body creams (mainly for women) is to check the bottle for any notes that suggest it may be whitening. In the West, it’s all bronzer and fake tan but in the East, you’ll see whitening soaps and creams. Look out for words such as ‘brightening’ and ‘lightening’.
Make up and Nails
With the heat and humidity in Southeast Asia, foundation is going to look blotchy and cause clogged up pores. Mascara is going to run, and lipstick is can be clumpy. I go for the Lipstick Queen Frog Prince which is so lightweight it’s almost combination of a lipstick and lip balm. Keep skin natural with a tinted moisturiser if you must take something for your skin.
Nail-wise, a nail brush and a few nail clippers will be beneficial for hygiene purposes but forget about nail varnish. You can get manicures and pedicures for $10 US all throughout Southeast Asia.
This is non-negotiable no matter where you’re travelling to, but it’s even more important to think about ahead of time because sunscreen comes at a much higher cost in Southeast Asia. Stock up on sunscreen at home for a better value. Remember to check for protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Anything less than factor 30 and you’re asking for trouble in Southeast Asia’s boiling heat.
Despite your wish not to get burnt, it’s a good idea to take some after sun with you to calm the skin. The most effective and soothing is Aloe Vera Gel (I like Banana Boat). Keep it in a fridge at night for extra soothing.
Mosquito Repellant is a vital item that you simply have to carry around with you, because you never know when the mosquitoes will attack. As well as causing itchy, painful bites, the more serious illness caused by mosquitoes is Dengue Fever, and, of course, depending on where you travel, malaria.
There’s widespread debate around the question about whether it’s better to bring repellent with you from home or try out the bug repellents available in the country you’re visiting. Multiple people say that manufactured local bug sprays have been created with the precise bug population in mind. However, that’s debatable. Typically, it’s much better to buy it at home before you travel. If you don’t enjoy spraying mosquito repellent straight onto the skin, you may want to try other repellent items like patches, clothing and bracelets. I like the OFF! range – it’s very effective.
If you enjoyed this Southeast Asia Packing List you might also like to read about…
- My Travel Blogging Equipment
- Travelling around Thailand
- Cheap Places to Travel in Asia
- Myanmar Itineraries
- Cambodia Tours