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When researching a trip I always love to plan outfits and look for recommendations for what I need to pack for backpacking. My first backpacking trip was around South-East Asia and I made many rookie packing errors. I overpacked, everything was far too heavy, it was a nightmare finding things and I didn’t have much room to buy more stuff.
Having lived in Asia for the last 7 years, I now know the best south east asia packing list and my list contains everything you need for packing for South East Asia.
For males check out my light packing tips here: 20 Backpacking Essentials for South East Asia then read my blog post here.
For my advice, read on for my southeast asia travel packing list:
South East Asia Female Packing List Essentials
A backpack – while suitcases might appear easier with wheels and you don’t have to carry them, in reality a backpack is a better idea. South East Asian cities have mostly uneven pavements blocked by street food vendors, restaurants spilling out onto the sidewalks, clothing stalls and people haggling and queuing which makes trying to get a suitcase down the road very tough work. Sand and suitcases also rarely mix and hopping on and off boats and ferries is much easier with a backpack. I currently use a 40L Dry Bag as my backpack, really similar to this Aquafree Dry Bag, 40L – Blue from Amazon. I love that it rolls down so if I have less items I can make it even smaller and I’ve also used this as hand luggage for various trips too.
Women Packing List South East Asia – Clothes
Dresses – I love short summery beach ones like this and long maxis like this Floral Print Split Maxi Party Dress for classier nights to sky bars and covering up for temple visits.
Denim Shorts – my summer staple and they go with everything
Elephant/Baggy Trousers – if you want to go backpacking then you have to buy a pair to fit in with the backpacking crowd. I prefer to look less like a backpacker and love styles like these Floral Printed Trousers . They are great for temple visits and bus and train travel when you don’t want to stick to cheap leather seats.
Leggings and a hoody – because it does get cold! I’ve been on many buses, trains and planes where they blast the air con and it is not fun. Come prepared. I also pack socks.
Cover Ups – I love pretty crochet cover ups like this Cover Up Crochet Dress (Off White) for looking good on the beach and a sarong is really useful as a beach towel, covering your shoulders to be respectful or to stay out of the sun and even as a lightweight blanket like this great value Cover Up Sarong.
Maxi skirts – great to mix and match with various tops and good for covering legs to protect from evening mosquito bites and for temples, like this one here Summer High Waisted Coral Print Maxi
Chinos – preferably Khaki coloured so you look the part on those jungle treks! Don’t think about doing it in shorts – one word – Leeches.Buy ones similar to these Belted Casual Chino
Bikinis/swimwear – so these may be my downfall and I definitely have way more than I need. I love sporty styles for water sports like this and strapless styles for avoiding tan lines. I also don’t recommend wearing thong/g-string style bikinis around South East Asia as there are still conservative areas and you could offend people.
Playsuits – I love these casual styles to throw on over bikinis or to wear out at night to party. I like styles like this Bohemian Romper
Packing List for Female in South East Asia: Footwear
Flipflops – easy to get in and out of as in many places you should remove your shoes before entering people’s homes, temples and even some shops where people live above it.
Walking boots or trainers with a decent grip – jungles, mountains, national parks, don’t be the person wearing converse and falling over when hiking.
Sandals – I personally dislike wearing flipflops all the time and feel it cannot be good for your ankles. If you want to visit posh rooftop sky bars or clubs in cities like Bangkok then a dress code applies and you will be turned away for wearing flipflops or even Birkenstocks.
Tom-style pumps – I think these are great if you think walking boots are a little extreme. I always wear these for activities like white water rafting, visiting waterfalls and I prefer to use these when driving a scooter as well. Mine are a similar style to these TOMS Women’s Slip Ons
What to Pack Female for South East Asia: Accessories/Extras
Jewellery – I wouldn’t recommend taking anything valuable or sentimental as you may lose it or risk it getting stolen. I take a lot of stud earrings like these Women’s Stud Earring (6 Pairs) and a couple of bigger pairs for a night out. I usually buy some cheap rings or bracelets for some party nights. There are some great cheap earrings in markets out here so definitely come planning to buy.
Hair bands and kirby grips– anything to keep long hair off your sweaty neck in hot humid temperatures, I always bulk buy 40 Pack Black Hair Ties as out here buying individual ones in markets can add up!
Towel – Invest in a tiny travel towel that dries quickly. I recommend a cheap one as you will probably have to throw it away because of the smell by end of trip. Buy yours RainLeaf Microfiber Towel before you travel as I have rarely seen them for sale over here in South East Asia
PJs– shorts and t-shirt PJs – no sleeping naked in dorm rooms please. I love these Sleepwear Short Sleeve Pajama Set
Smallzipped bag to wear across the shoulder like this one Crossbody Travel Bag and/or a small day backpack– protect your items from thieves and big enough to keep a bottle of water in too , like this Casual Travel Daypack
Dry bag– like this 5L one Dry Bag Sack is great for monsoon seasons, boat trips, desert island swimming…
South East Asia Packing List Female – Toiletries
Make up – I only wear mascara and I use a tinted moisturiser which includes a high SPF. I find anything else just seems to slide off your face in the heat and humidity.
Deodorant – obviously but also be aware that many products in South East Asia have whitening in them so when buying more over here read the label carefully.
Tiny bars of soap – Some hostels/hotels provide these and others don’t so I feel it’s really useful to start collecting them.
Hand Wash Gel – small tube, very useful for doing small hand washing when needed or rinsing out swimwear etc, get small packets like Tide Travel on Amazon
Washing Line– best thing my friend bought for me before I went – Go Go Travel Clothes Line which is one long line of twisted string with hooks either end for drying things
Insect Spray containing DEET– Get 50% DEET from Amazon Repel 40% DEET Insect Sprayas over in SEA I have yet to find stronger than 15%
Toothbrush/toothpaste – and gum for when all else fails and you end up without sinks in off-the-beaten-track areas of Indonesia
Baby wipes– these are incredibly useful and very cheap. I use them to remove make-up,sun cream, sweat, dirt and cleaning bags or shoes, buy yours here Wipes Travel Pack
Hand Sanitizer – For those train/bus toilets where they often don’t provide soap, come prepared with Original Hand Sanitizer
Suntan Cream– I never like to go lower than SPF 30. The sun is extremely strong here. Go for a reef friendly brand like Sun Bum that’s an environmentally friendly suncream.
First Aid Kit – after-bite for stings – once out there buy Golden Cup balm – local cure for insect bites!, plasters, antiseptic cream, diarrhoea tablets (and lots), painkillers, the Pill, nail scissors, string (you never know)
Packing List Backpacking South East Asia Female – Extras and Essentials
Insurance Details (just in case) and visas
Gopro or underwater camera, especially if you’re interested in snorkelling and diving in Asia
Selfie stick – totally acceptable in S.E.A GoPro Selfie Stick
Small purse for small coins which can be useful for water filters and motorbike taxis
International driving license is required in some places to rent scooters, Thailand is one of them if you don’t want to risk a fine by the police if/when they stop you.
South East Asia Packing List: Seasick Bands
If you are spending time backpacking south east Asia it is likely that you will be spending time on boats. The seas can get choppy and to avoid seasickness, I swear by these travel sickness bands. They go around your wrist with a small bead that pushes gently on a pressure point. Even if it’s psychological they work! Buy a pair on Amazon here.
Sleeping bag liner – great for when your accommodation feels less than clean, I love my mummy version with a hood like this Backpacking Sleeping Bag Liner – Mummy
Eye Mask I love the look of this 100% Silk Eye Mask
Ear Plugs like this pack Noise Cancelling Disposable Foam Earplugs
Mini speakers for parties in the bedroom. I have this mini travel one which is great value for money and tiny and light.-Mini Bluetooth Speaker
Adapter – for all countries buy one like this International Travel Power Adapter
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