Packing List for Traveling South East Asia
What should your packing list be for SE Asia? Barely anything! Packing Light is the key! You will find yourself on an off of boats, in and out of taxis and tuk-tuks, walking up steep hills and muddy alleyways and quite likely on the back of a motor bike. Don’t put anything in that bag you don’t absolutely need. This can be tricky because what you think you need at home is not what you need in South East Asia.
My packing list is based on my experience of moving around quite a bit. Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, the islands, there is so much to see. Whether you are visiting one country or all, this list will work for you. You will need clothing for 3 types of days: travel day, sight-seeing, and beach days. It’s important to know what is appropriate and acceptable attire. The only time super skimpy clothing is acceptable in SE Asia is a bathing suit at the beach. Even then, if you are not actually getting in the water it is wise to cover up. A sarong or shorts and tank top will do, but no bare bums here. Modesty is valued and expected. For travel day shorts or a flowy skirt is fine, but you’ll need a wrap or long sleeve pull over inside cold airports. In South East Asia sight-seeing almost always involves temples which means mid-calf or long pants and shoulders covered. Guys can get away with long shorts if they over the knees. It’s very hot, so flowy loose pants are best and can actually be purchased all over the markets here for very cheap.
Laundry service is another inexpensive tool. Either washing your own clothes in the sink, or sending laundry out is essential for light packing. It’s so cheap and very common in SE Asia to have laundry done. You will see signs all over for laundry service, but wherever you are staying should offer a service or recommend one. The Golden Temple Residence in Siem Reap took our laundry bag from the room and delivered back to us. The Koh Toa Heights Villa in Thailand suggested we walk to the then of the dirt hill and have the ladies there do laundry for 40 Baht a Kg. Pretty good deal!
Here’s my Packing List:
(Polyester, Rayon, Spandex blends are best)
Black sun dress (can be worn day or night)
Black polyester long sleeve sweater – super thin and light
mid-calf cargo pants (pockets for pulling your camera in and out are ideal)
White V-neck tee
White tank top
Grey tank top
White long sleeve button down
Shorts and t-shirt pajamas
2 bathing suits
super light rain coat
*Color coordinate so everything can mix and match. I went for black, white, grey… but my sarong was full of color!
Fit Flops or Birkenstocks (you MUST have support for all that walking)
Cheap flip flops for the beach (you will be leaving these outside shops and restaurants as is the custom, so nothing fancy)
Here’s the Packing List of things I brought that I should have left at home:
Bathing suit cover up (Beautiful sarongs are sold everywhere and are more fun!)
Cotton t-shirt (It’s too hot and stinky for cotton.)
Tennis Shoes (It’s just too hot to shove your foot inside a shoe and I never actually worked out.)
Normally when packing for a trip most people follow the unspoken rule, when in doubt bring it. Don’t do that for South East Asia. Instead, when in doubt leave it home. Keep your Packing List short. Any clothing item you wish you had you can buy for a couple bucks.
Other items worth throwing in the bag?
Baby wipes (toilet paper is not found everywhere)
Neoprene water bottle carriers are a must. Water is the only important thing for your kids to carry! Click here to buy.
Squirt bottle for cooling them off while trekking through ancient ruins. I carried this with me at all times and it saved the HOT day!
Deck of cards for a quick fun game of Go Fish or PIG while waiting for whatever.
Rash Guard swim shirts are a must for the intense sun.