Planning a trip to Southeast Asia soon and lost on what to pack? If so, keep on reading. Having grown up largely in Southeast Asia, I’ve been on countless trips in the region and built up some knowledge in the packing department. During my recent 2 month solo trip to Thailand I realised you really don’t need to pack much to enjoy your trip; as long as you have a few essentials, you’re sorted!
While these top 10 essentials are based on my recent Thailand trip, they work for all countries in that region. So for your next trip to the amazing Southeast Asia, don’t forget to pack:
1. A guidebook
Some people love them, some hate them. I for one am a big fan of guidebooks. I always remember my dad using Lonely Planet‘s to plan all our trips, and I have taken over this habit. I buy my guidebook a few months before I start my trip, and use it to make a rough plan of my trip and pinpoint anything interesting I come across; places to visit, accommodation, places to eat. I also always take my guidebook with me; it really eases my anxiety to always have a big book of practical information on me. If you don’t want to carry a heavy book on you, many travel guides can also be downloaded onto tablets.
2. A swimsuit
Yes, it’s a bit straightforward, but you really can’t head to Southeast Asia without a swimsuit. Even if you’re not planning on visiting beaches, there will be plenty of swimming opportunities. Whether it’s swimming under a waterfall or jumping into a lake; you’ll undoubtedly encounter water activities on your trip.
I’m going to sound a bit like my mother here, but: ALWAYS WEAR SUNSCREEN! Even if it’s windy or cloudy, the sun in Southeast Asia is powerful and can quickly deliver you a burn. Not only will burnt shoulders not be fun, but it’s also really bad for your skin and body. Make it a habit to put on sunscreen every morning, and re-apply throughout the day if needed. Also, make sure to grab water and sweat proof sunscreen!
4. A pair of long flowy pants
You’re heading to a hot country, so you might be tempted to only pack shorts. While a few pairs of shorts are definitely worth packing, don’t underestimate the necessity of a pair of long flowy pants. There are two main reasons to pack these: firstly, they protect your legs from the many mosquitoes at night and secondly, you’re not allowed to wear shorts when you visit temples and other holy grounds.
5. A camera
You’re going to want to capture all the beauty you see on your trip, so don’t forget to bring your camera. I also recommend always bringing a spare battery or two; you never know if you’re going to be able to charge your one battery when you need to!
6. A light scarf
Again, this item is great for two reasons. Firstly, I think that if at any point in your trip you’re planning to visit a temple, you should always have this with you. Whether you use it to cover your shoulders if you’re wearing a tank top, or you tie it as a sarong; this is a simple way to show your respect in Southeast Asia. Regarding covering your shoulders, a scarf is also a great second barrier against the sun if it’s scorching your back!
7. A pair of sturdy sandals
Flip flops alone are not going to cut it; you need a sturdy pair of shoes. You could bring a bulky pair of sports shoes, but sandals take up less space and give your feet some breathing room. I’m in love with my Teva sandals; I can hike with them, they’re comfortable, and I can easily take them off if I’m at the beach.
8. A notebook & pen
If you’re like me, you don’t only remember your travels through photographs. I always carry a small notebook and pen with me, so when I’m experiencing something I want to remember I can instantly write it down.
9. A dry bag
This is something I bought during my Thailand trip, and I know I’m going to bring it with me on future trips to Southeast Asia. Not only are dry bag great if you’re going on a boat trip, but I used mine as a protection against the relentless monsoon rains. Towards the end of my trip this is the only bag I used; I didn’t have to worry about my valuables getting wet if it started raining halfway through my walk (believe me, this will happen more than once).
10. A big backpack
It’s up to you whether you carry a suitcase of backpack, but if you’re planing on using public transport a lot, I suggest a backpack. You’re going to be walking quite a bit to and fro transport terminals, and roads in Southeast Asia aren’t always nicely paved. Overall, I have found them to be much more handy if you’re travelling for a longer period of time!