what to pack south east asia

What to Pack for South East Asia

Last Updated on 04/06/2024

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When researching a trip I always love to plan outfits and look for recommendations for what to pack for South East Asia.

Having lived in Asia for over 8 years now, I have created a South East Asia packing list of the best items to pack for Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and other countries with similar tropical climates.

Avoid my rookie packing mistakes by using this South East Asia packing list to make sure you pack the right items. 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.

Use this list for what to pack for South East Asia and avoid heavy bags and unnecessary items and to leave room for beautiful souvenirs and local arts and craft.

For backpackers check out this post: 20 Backpacking Essentials for South East Asia 

For my advice, read on for my southeast asia travel packing list:

What to Pack for South East Asia – The 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.

What to Pack for South East Asia – Women

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! I don’t recommend wearing shorts for the jungle because of the bugs, especially in rainy season when the leeches come out. Buy ones similar to these Belted Casual Chino


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

What to pack for 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 – for jungles, mountains and national parks

Sandals – If you want to visit a fancy 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. Sandals with back straps to them are considered smarter than those without.

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 for South East Asia: Accessories/Extras

Jewellery – although I also recommend buying out here, so many beautiful and unique items in markets

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. These ones are best for snorkelling, diving and surfing to keep hair out of your face and that won’t budge when underwater.

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– light shorts and t-shirt PJs

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…

What to pack for South East Asia – 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 recommend always having some to hand

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– for longer trips when you want to dry clothes or swimwear – 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 Spray. If you aren’t heading into the jungle then the pink mosquito spray from 711 is adequate. You can buy easily in Thailand.

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 that will not damage the coral reefs or your skin.

First Aid Kit – after-bite for stings – once out there buy Golden Cup balm or Tiger Balm which is a local cure for insect bites, plasters, antiseptic cream, diarrhoea tablets, painkillers, antihistamines. There are many pharmacies where all these are accessible so it depends if you will be in more remote areas during your south east asia trip.

What to pack for South East Asia- Extras and Documents


Insurance Details (just in case) and visas


Gopro or underwater camera, especially if you’re interested in snorkelling and diving in Asia

Snorkel mask and snorkel – if you own one definitely bring it as it will be better fit and quality than those you are given on snorkel trips

Read this for the best dive sites in South East 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 if you are planning to stay in hostels. 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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2 thoughts on “What to Pack for South East Asia”

  1. Hey there,

    Thanks for coming up with a very complete list on what to pack for South East Asia. I’d always have a sunblock, insect repellent lotion and swim wear as the beaches of SEA are really gorgeous :)

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