June 10, 2015 6 min read
Ladies, you’ve done it. You’ve booked your plane ticket to Southeast Asia…a most exciting and pivotal step in planning for your life-changing trip. Now, it’s time to buckle down and think about resources, gear and a backpack.
Southeast Asia is filled with varying cultures, where conservative tradition is highly regarded when it comes to women. You will also experience a myriad of changing climates and environments, from chilly nights in the mountains to dry, arid heat and tropical, humid jungles and beaches. Traveling light and knowing what to pack is a priority, especially when all you’re working with is a backpack. Here are tips for ladies when it comes to packing for Southeast Asia.
Choosing a Backpack
It’s not uncommon to see girls lugging around body-bag sized packs, stuffed to the brim when wandering Southeast Asia. They can be spotted contorting their bodies in odd positions to wrestle them onto their backs, or struggling determinedly to get the monstrous pack from their back and into a luggage compartment or hostel locker. This can be avoided with careful planning and preparation.
When choosing a backpack, aim for a small size. I went for a 45 liter + 10 for my six month journey through five countries. Starting small forces you to minimize packing immediately without the temptation of extra space to fill. It was nice having the extra 10 liters available if needed, and there were many pockets and zippered pouches that come in handy. Try to stay under 60 liters, and not only will your life be easier, but your spine and shoulders will rejoice.
Check out the lightweight Venturesafe™ 55L GII (W) anti-theft travel pack by Pacsafe. It was designed with the female form in mind and comes with plenty of anti-theft technology protection when crossing the borders.
Dun, dun, dun…Clothes
Oh man, this is a toughie for us ladies, am I right? How do you pack practical clothing while striving to look cute at the same time? I ended up overpacking clothes and either sending the majority of them back home, losing them, or just giving clothes away.
As you jump into the world of travel, you’ll find that all this material stuff isn’t a necessity, and losing them isn’t a big deal. You learn to live with very little, and appreciate the items you do utilize.
Keep in mind that you will most likely be able to buy what you need once in Asia, for lower prices than you would find back home. Travel sized toiletries are in every shop. You will be dazzled by the cute clothes at markets and find yourself looking for room in your pack for new purchases. Bring the essentials from home, such as shoes, bras, underwear, and swimwear.
Lay out the desired articles and then remove half the lot. Here is my list of recommendations:
One pair of quality sandals, good for copious amounts of walking. I went with Birkenstocks, and I will never go back to anything else. Not only are there tons of cute style options out there, but they were so comfortable that I even wore them for all my trekking trips, even uphill treks.
One pair closed shoes/sneakers.
One pair of nice evening sandals
Two dresses or one dress and one long skirt. Aim for cotton, solid colors that are easy to wash and can be worn for both day and night activities.
Two pairs of shorts
One pair of leggings for active wear and lounging
One pair of flowy pants (I recommend waiting to buy a pair upon arrival, as they are literally for sale everywhere, come in a variety of styles and patterns and are cheap). Essential for visiting temples.
One scarf (these can be found for sale in the markets). Essential for visiting temples.
One sarong. This can be used as a cover up, blanket, and towel!
Two bathing suits
One pair of good quality, breathable socks (if you prefer to wear closed toe shoes to sandals, then pack more pairs…but I primarily wore sandals, so I didn’t need socks too often).
One warm sweater or jacket
Two comfortable cotton sports bras or bralettes
Five assorted tank tops and shirts.
Five pairs of breathable, cotton undies.
Headlamp. Trust me on this one. Just have one handy.
Water purifier/filter. Water bottles are the go-to in Southeast Asia, and they are cheap, costing just cents. But, it’s always good to have some sort of water purification equipment handy, just in case. I would recommend the SteriPEN Ultra. It’s compact, easy to use, USB rechargeable and uses a UV light to kill 99.9% bacteria and viruses found in water.
Battery charge dock. Great for emergency charging when in the middle of nowhere.
Waterproof bags. These are essential to bring. Do your research and find the right size/match for you. I went with this cheap set on Amazon. They are perfect for added protection from wet conditions.
Medications & Vaccinations
Women sometimes have to deal with certain issues on the road, such as UTI’s or yeast infections, menstrual cramps, etc. Changing climates, constant moving, dehydration, and exposure to new bacteria can wreak havoc on the body. If you are prone to these kinds of infections, I would advise visiting your doctor at home and discussing the trip and your health concerns. Ask if it is possible to have antibiotics on hand in case you find yourself in an unfortunate position while abroad. There are clinics and hospitals in Southeast Asia, of course, but not always within reach, and communication can be difficult due to language barriers.
Also discuss vaccinations with your doctor. Go over what they recommend and what you already have done. Look up a travel clinic in your home town and pay them a visit. They focus specifically on traveler health and can recommend hospitals and doctors to see in SE Asia. Waiting to arrive at your destination and then visiting an international clinic for vaccinations can be a huge money saver. It’s also nice to get advice from doctors that actually live in the country and know what is absolutely needed for the area, as opposed to doctors back home.
Bring a folder with copies of your passport and vaccination chart.
Tampons. These can be difficult to find. Bring a big stash of your own from home. I would also advise bringing condoms from home. They can be found in SE Asia in big cities, but in rural areas, you just never know. Always keep toilet paper on you as well.
Swiss army knife
Cheap sunglasses! You will go through several pairs. Knockoff Ray-Bans are sold throughout SE Asia.
Make up: Why not bring a little bit? I stuck to my favorite mascara, eyeliner, powder, lipstick and perfume. Sometimes it’s nice to dress up and go out after all those dirty days on the road.
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