Southeast Asia Backpacking Packing Checklist

Southeast Asia Backpacking Packing Checklist
What to bring – Travel essentials

The following packing list is ideal for trips of about one month or more. There’s lots of places to do laundry in Southeast Asia, so don’t worry about bringing enough clothes to last for your entire trip.
Remember to pack light, don’t over pack. Lugging a heavy bag around is a hindrance, especially in the Southeast Asian heat.  Pack the essentials, and leave a little room to bring back souvenirs!
Before you travel also make sure to check out our Southeast Asia Preparation Checklist

important-stuffIf you remember nothing else remember these few essentials

( + photocopy )
This is important, in case you lose your passport
Passport Photos
You will need passport photos to get Visas in some countries
In the form of cash, card, or travelers cheques
(I always recommend bringing some cash (in the currency of your arrival destination) to get started, a few dollars, and a card (or travel card))
Boarding Pass/ Travel Tickets
Remember all boarding passes and travel documents and consider having photocopies of these
Travel Insurance Documents
If you have purchased travel insurance (which I recommend you do) make sure you bring a copy of your travel insurance documents in case of emergencies

• 2/3 x    T Shirts or Tops
• 1/2 x    Shorts
Most places in Southeast Asia are not conservative enough to mind tourists wearing shorts. But always remember to be respectful, check the rules, and never wear shorts in Temples.
• 1/2 x    Light Trousers or Leggings
(Bare in mind that you will probably buy at least one pair of Elephant Pants in Asia)
7 x    Underwear
• 5 x    Socks
2 x    Swimwear
1 x    Sun Hat

• 1 x    Raincoat
• 1 x    Warm Jumper
Night buses are often air conditioned far too strongly, and a warm jumper will prove invaluable for keeping you warm on these journeys!


• 1 x   Flip Flops
You might buy these in Asia, they are usually much cheaper!
• 1 x   Casual shoes (i.e. Trainers)
• 1 x Walking Shoes/ Boots

Whether you choose to bring shoes or boots depends on how much hiking you think you will do.
If you feel you are likely to hike mountains and long trails, a pair of boots may prove invaluable. 
For walking boots i took a pair of Brasher Hillwalkers.  I would highly recommend these, they were comfortable, waterproof and easy to walk in.
For walking shoes (as boots are often bulky and difficult to carry) I recommend a pair of Tevas.  For every day walking and small treks they are comfortable and extremely resilient. Try these for women, or these for men.

toiletriesTo carry your toiletries, take a look at my Patchwork World Map PouchTravel

Shower Gel
Toothbrush/ Toothpaste
• Baby Wipes
• Deodorant
• Sanitary Products
• Hair Brush
• Hair Bands
• Makeup
Hand Sanitizer

And any other products you deem to be essential in your day to day life

Many people chose to take pictures on their smart phones, if you don’t, bring a camera to document your trip.
Also remember your camera case, to protect your camera while travelling and any chargers/ batteries.
You may also consider bringing a GoPro. Or for a cheaper alternative I have an Apeman!
• Phone
• Tablet
Not everyone chooses to bring a Tablet travelling, but I find it very useful for travelling in places with a lack of computers. You could chose an Ipad Mini. Or if you’re looking for a cheaper alternative that you don’t mind breaking, I recommend this Fire Tablet.
• Adapter
You may encounter a few different plugs in SE Asia, so I recommend a worldwide adapter.
• Chargers/ Batteries
For long bus/ train journeys or treks you may also want to bring a portable charger.

• Medication
Including Malaria Tablets!
 • First Aid Kit
Plasters and antiseptic are important for emergencies, always travel with a first aid kit, just in case.
Try this travel size first aid kit or have a look in your local drug store (or Boots/ Superdrug)
• Sun Cream
It is very important to bring as much sun cream as you will need for your holiday.  Sun Cream  in most countries in Southeast Asia contains skin whitening chemicals! Read about Asia’s craze for skin lightening here.
• Mosquito Repellent
To accompany your malaria tablets you should apply mosquito repellent frequently, especially at night.
• Sun Glasses
• Ear Plugs & Eye Mask
Hostels and night buses can be very noisy, ear plugs and eye masks will make it easier to sleep. Try this ear plug and eye mask combo.
• Money Belt
Money Belts are recommended for security while travelling, placed under your clothes it is unlikely that thieves will see and take your money belt.  Keep important things in here (like your passport or spare cash) when out.
For a simple money belt try the  Samsonite Double Pocket Money Belt
Also Take a look at our 10 Best Stylish Bumbags for Travelers!
• Seeping Bag Liner
Most hostels come with bed linen, however if you plan on camping or are worried about the cleanliness of the bed linen then consider bringing a sleeping bag liner.  Liners are lighter and easier to carry than sleeping bags, and are cooler in the Asian heat. (Silk liners are more desirable, but also more expensive)
Try this poly-cotton liner, or this silk liner.
• Travel Towel
You can bring a normal towel, however microfiber towels dry much quicker and fold smaller, and so are easier to transport while traveling.
• Mosquito Net
Particularly important if you are planning on camping. Try this net.
• Padlocks
Padlocks are important for hostel lockers to keep valuables safe.  You may also wish to padlock your suitcase while traveling. Try this.
• Guide Book
When travelling I like to have a guide book.  Lonely planet guides are concise and interesting; providing information on what to do, where to stay and where to eat.
Try: Lonely Planet Southeast Asia on a shoestring
or: Lonely Planet Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos & Northern Thailand


You may also consider bringing a phrasebook.
• Waterproof Passport Holder
Not strictly essential, but with rugged travelling I find it important to protect your passport and other travel documents with a waterproof cover. Alternatively you could try these DriStore bags.
• Plastic Bags
Plastic bags always come in handy when travelling; for example to store dirty washing or muddy shoes.  When packing my rucksack i separate things into plastic bags, this makes it easy to unpack and repack your backpack with ease.
• Travel Journal
Not essential, but i personally like documenting my travels in a journal to keep a nice record of my trip. I use the Luckies of London Travelogue
• Penknife
This is not essential, but depending on how much hiking you plan to do, a penknife will often come in handy.  I used a penknife to carve and eat a coconut that had fallen from a tree. This Swiss Army Huntsman Pocket Knife has been given very good reviews!
• Torch
Not everywhere you travel will have streetlamps.  I needed a torch especially in the national park, and when walking in the middle of the night to watch turtles hatch. I prefer to use a head-torch.
• Dry Bag
There are loads of water based activities to try in Southeast Asia, Tubing in Laos for example.  For this, a Dry Bag to keep your valuables dry is advisable.

 Now you will need two bags to carry everything in

• Suitcase/ Backpack
I took a 42l Lowe Alpine Crag Attack rucksack, which I can highly recommend.
42l proved big enough to fit everything I needed, and was easy to carry.

• Day Bag
I recommend an Eastpak backpack; they are surprisingly spacious, stylish and rugged, with a long guarantee.
Jan Sport Backpacks are also recommended. 
Take a look at my 10 Best Stylish Backpacks for Travelers!



Southeast Asia Backpacking Preparation Checklist

Southeast Asia Backpacking Preparation Checklist
What to do – How to prepare

Planning a tip to Southeast Asia? Below is a full preparation list to help you plan your trip!
Also check out our Southeast Asia Packing Checklist


The exiting part! Start planning where you want to go. You may not have a strict route, but it is useful to have a vague idea of what you want to see and where you want to visit. Bear in mind that your plans will almost certainly change!
Start reading guidebooks and looking online and write down a proposed route. Indietraveller has some useful route planning advice.
Make sure to check Government travel advice to check that the places you want to visit are safe and accessible.


Once you’ve decided where you want to go you’ll want to book your flights! You may not want to book all your internal flights, but you’ll need at least a flight from home to your first destination.
You can use Skyscanner to find the cheapest flights on the day you want to travel, or to explore the cheapest month to travel.  If you know how long you are travelling for, and where you’ll be when you want to return, book a return ticket, otherwise book a one way ticket and plan to book your return flight when you are away.
STA travel offer a MultiFLEX pass, starting at £29 these passes let you change your flights; this is good, as you may wish to stay longer than you initially planned!  Flights through STA are usually a good price.
I have flown with a number of different airlines: Quatar Airways,  Air China, China Southern, Air Vietnam and KLM.  My favourite airline was Quatar Airways, but this was also more expensive, Air China were also a good airline, where China Southern left something to be desired.
Check reviews and prices before you make your decision.


Travel insurance is essential on a holiday of this nature.  It is often difficult to find travel insurance which will protect you for an elongated holiday.
I booked through Go Walkabout, but World Nomads is also highly recommended.


Find out whether you require a Visa for any of your destinations, and apply well in time of your departure date (at least a month before) to give your visa time to arrive.  Most subsequent travel Visas can be applied for while in Asia, in the major cities.
Check if you need a Visa here and read more here.
Book your vaccinations at least a month and a half before your trip as most courses take a month to complete!
Check the Fit For Travel website to check what vaccinations you may require. Also make sure you are up to date on all regular vaccinations as well.


Getting a prescription for malaria tablets is essential for most trips to South East Asia.  To check if the area you are travelling to is effected by Malaria check the Fit For Travel website and select your destination.
Most doctors offer three different types of Malaria tablets, from cheapest to most expensive:
I ordered my tablets from nomadtravel , but, especially if it is your first time travelling, you should consider having a consultation with your doctor to see which tablets are right for you. 
Personally I recommend Doxycycline, it is relatively cheap and I experienced no serious side effects.  Read reviews and side effects carefully before you make your decision.  And make sure you have enough tablets to last for the duration of your trip, and the allocated time for after your trip.
Even with Malaria tablets it is important to take bite prevention precautions, read about how to avoid bites at Fit For Travel.


For long trips I do not recommend that you bring enough cash to last your entire trip, as you risk having it lost/ stolen!  Instead I recommend that you bring enough cash (in the currency of your arrival destination) to last 1 week, and a few US dollars.  You can compare exchange rates here.
Then bring a card, or travel money card to withdraw money for the rest of your trip.  If your bank does not offer competitive exchange rates consider a Caxton Fx currency card or an STA Travel Money Card.  These card boasts no withdrawal fees at ATMs, and you load them with money as you go, so that if they are stolen, you do not have to worry about all the money being withdrawn from your bank. You can also get someone at home to load the money onto your card for you.
Take a look at this website to review other currency cards.
Most areas in Southeast Asia have frequent ATMs, excluding some islands.


It is important to book your first few nights accommodation, so that when you arrive in your first destination you are not lost and vulnerable.
I usually book through Hostel World or Agoda.
You could also try or Trivago.
Find and print out detailed directions to your accommodation from the airport and show these to your taxi driver.


Just before you leave you should photocopy all important documents twice:
• Passport
• Travel Insurance Details
• Flight Boarding Passes
Take one copy with you and leave one at home in case of emergency.