The ultimate packing list for Southeast Asia

There is no such thing as a perfect packing list for Southeast Asia. Every traveller’s backpack must-have list will depend on their personal style of travelling.

Some will only pack the essentials and travel as light as possible, while others may prefer to bring plenty of clothes, hiking gear, camera equipment, or even bring their favourite sports equipment.

However, there are some essentials that every traveller needs on their trip, whether you are a first-time traveller or a seasoned traveller. This packing list for Southeast Asia will serve as your ultimate guide to make sure you include everything you need to travel to Southeast Asia.

How to choose your backpack and how to pack in an efficient way

If you haven’t bought your backpack or suitcase yet, you might be overwhelmed with the countless different options to choose from.

Each brand will have its own unique selling points and a broad selection to serve every traveller’s needs.

We cannot advise which backpack will fit you best, but we can share our tips and make some suggestions that we hope will assist in your decision. Please visit our Backpackguide for Southeast Asia for further information and to view our recommendations.

Once you have found the right backpack, we suggest reviewing our ultimate packing list for Southeast Asia again.

Don’t leave home without these must-haves!

When preparing your packing list for Southeast Asia, you may feel a little overwhelmed. How are you ever going to fit everything you use daily into one backpack? You may not be able to take everything, but we hope the info below will assist you with packing what you will need. Below are the documents you must never leave your home or hotel without:

Passport – You won’t get too far without this document, so be sure to have it with you!

* Some hotels may require that they hold your passport until you checkout, keep this in mind when booking rooms.

* Some motorbike and car rental places will request that you leave your original passport with them, do not! If they refuse to rent to you because of this, simply move along and find another rental company. This can save you from scams, as some companies will claim that you have done damage to the vehicle and refuse to return your passport until you pay for damages. A photocopy and deposit should be more than enough.

Travel+Health insurance – Do not leave home without it! Carry a photocopy of your insurance with you at all times.

Debit/credit cards – We suggest taking at least 2 cards with you. Do not keep all your cards in the same place, for example: Keep 1 card in your wallet with you for convenience and keep another in your luggage or in the safe at the hotel for emergencies. You do not want to be in a situation where your wallet is lost or stolen and you lose all your cards. Always have a backup card hidden somewhere in your luggage or in the safe.

Cash – While you can use ATMs to withdraw cash in all countries, the fees can be quite expensive. We suggest taking out the maximum withdrawal amount each time you go to the ATM and keeping it in the safe at your hotel. Each day you can take enough cash from the safe to get you through the day and not have to pay the high ATM withdrawal fees as often.

We also suggest taking some US dollars or euros which will come in handy, especially at border crossings, as almost all countries accept USD.

Medicines – Don’t leave home without them. Be sure to stock up so that you have enough to get you through the duration of your trip. Yes, you can buy medicine overseas, although it may not be the same brand or quality that your body is accustomed to.

* Be sure to get all your travel shots prior to departure, see your local travel clinic for more information.

The packing list essentials for any trip

The documents listed below are not “must-haves” but they sure will help you along the way! Having these documents on hand will save time, money and make your travels much easier. We suggest including the following documents in your packing list for Southeast Asia:

International driving license – You will need this to rent a car or motorbike. It will also suffice as an additional piece of ID so you don’t have to carry your passport with you at all times.

Student card – This is an additional piece of ID so you can leave your passport in the hotel. You may even find some places that will offer student discounts!

Photocopies of passport and documents – Having photocopies of your passport and identification will save you time, money, and hassle throughout your journey. We suggest taking approximately 10-20 copies with you, depending on the duration of your trip.

Clothing to pack for your Southeast Asia trip

Does your backpack appear to be shrinking before your eyes? Is it getting smaller each time you look at it? Don’t worry, this is something that happens to all travellers when preparing our packing list for Southeast Asia. Below we have provided a suggested list of clothing you will want to pack for your travels:

  • Underwear – pack enough to last you 1 week, you may not have access to laundry at all times.
  • Socks – 1-2 pairs should be enough.
  • Swimwear
  • Shorts
  • Shirts, singlets/tank top
  • Shoes, flipflops – 1 pair of running/hiking/walking shoes and 1 pair of beach sandals.
  • 1 pair of long trousers – These will come in handy for the cold plane rides and keeping the mosquitoes away!
  • 1 vest/jumper
  • Sarongs/towels – Perfect for showering, using at the beach, and even to keep you warm on ferry/plane rides.
  • Poncho

* Pro tip – lay your clothes flat on the floor or bed, fold them in half and then roll them tightly lengthwise, this will give you much more space than folding them.

Packing the essential toiletries for your Southeast Asia trip

We suggest purchasing packing bags/cubes to separate your toiletries from your clothes and shoes. This will also make it much easier when going to the shower as you’ll just need to grab one small bag instead of a handful of items. Below are the suggested toiletries we suggest bringing from home when preparing your packing list for Southeast Asia:

  • Toothbrush, toothpaste
  • Suncream/aftersun – Suncream is quite expensive in Asia, we strongly suggest bringing 1-2 bottles with you from home.
  • Contraception
  • Deodorant
  • Shampoo/shower gel
  • Razors
  • Lip balm
  • Nail clipper
  • Insect repellent
  • Hand sanitizer

* All toiletries can be bought in Asia at similar prices to home, so only bring what you need.

Miscellaneous, but still important things to pack

My backpack is full!! No, it’s not, we promise there’s more room, there’s always more room! If you’ve taken our suggestion from above and bought packing cubes/bags then you definitely have room for more. While some of these items below may seem like luxury items to others they are must-haves, either way, you will likely want to include a few of them when putting together your packing list for Southeast Asia:

  • Sunglasses
  • Eye mask
  • Earplugs
  • Headphones
  • Playing cards
  • Swiss knife
  • Pen and paper
  • Travel wallet
  • Waterproof bag for phone
  • Lock for locker
  • Power converter – We strongly suggest bringing a universal converter with you as most countries throughout Asia are different and you don’t want to buy a new one in each country. If you are not sure if you need one, you can check this website to see if the country you are travelling uses a different plug.
  • Camera/GoPro
  • Portable charger
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