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Planning your trip to South East Asia? 

Here is a complete list of 20 packing essentials for South East Asia you’ll definitely need for your time there. The region is home to diverse nature, a wide variety of cultures, incredible street food and so much more. These essentials will make your time backpacking a lot easier, with some essentials you’ll definitely not want to miss out on! Take it from someone who has travelled through South East Asia more than once.

For more essentials check out my 30 must have essentials for your next backpacking trip blog post

20 packing essentials for south east asia

1. beach towel

South East Asia is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Bringing a beach towel that is fast drying, compact and doesn’t get smelly quickly is a must, and Turkish towels are perfect for this. They are great travel towels and are ideal as beach towels as they come in a range of sizes. 

Buy the Turkish towel I recommend here

2. emergency cash

Bringing some emergency cash is definitely important before heading to South East Asia. Bringing a widely used currency like USD is best, but pounds (£) or Euros (€) also work. There are a few reasons this is so important. 

  • Certain banks don’t accept international cards
  • Paying for visas on arrival
  • The unfortunate event of having to pay a bribe


This happened to me on the border crossing from Cambodia into Vietnam. The immigration officer wouldn’t stamp the passports without a bribe, and while you can pay in local currency, having some emergency cash just in case is really helpful. 

3. dry bag

South East Asia is full of water activities so a dry bag is a must. You can find dry bags in a multitude of sizes, depending on how much stuff you’re planning on keeping in there for your days out. A 20L dry bag is a good size for day out water activities and you can fit everything you need in a size like this. 

Buy a dry bag here

4. imodium

Diarrhoea is an unfortunate consequence to travelling and in South East Asia it is often rife. This is generally because of the water food is washed in, ice in drinks or bad meat. In any case, packing some anti diarrhoea tablets/imodium can save you from a sticky situation. 

Buy Imodium here

5. charcoal tablets

Another saving grace for your South East Asia trip is charcoal tablets. This is another great aid when it comes to combatting diarrhoea as it has a firm history in its ability to attract and expel ingested toxins from the gastrointestinal tract. If you’re ever feeling a little iffy after food or questionable water, take some charcoal tablets and you’ll feel a lot better! 

Buy charcoal tablets here

6. motion sickness tablets

Some more medication you might want to consider bringing to South East Asia is motion sickness tablets. A lot of the roads can be windy and bumpy, as well as some choppy seas on ferries or boat rides. These ginger capsules can provide some natural relief for your journeys, or if you’re looking for something a little stronger you can pick up some dramamine (although it does have a side effect of drowsiness).

Buy motion sickness tablets here

7. sarong

One of the universal packing essentials for South East Asia is a sarong or scarf. You can pick these up at any local market when you’re there. They are the best piece of clothing you can bring and it is completely multi purpose for your time. Whether you need it to wrap around yourself at the beach, lay on, wrap around your shoulders before entering a temple or to use a blanket. 

8. travel wash

A lot of laundromats in South East Asia do your laundry for you, which is great until they shrink your clothes (which has happened to me too many times). To protect your delicates like linen carry some travel wash with you so you can do your own laundry as and when you need to. It’s an absolute life saver for your clothes! 

Buy Travel Wash here

9. period cup

In South East Asia it’s incredibly difficult if not completely impossible to find tampons and sometimes even pads. This can be a constant struggle for girls travelling and to avoid this stress moving to a period cup is a must. Period cups can be reused for several years as long as they are properly looked after. This is one of the best investments you can bring when packing for South East Asia and will save you scrambling to find tampons on your travels. 

Buy a period cup here


10. sunscreen

An essential you definitely need to bring is sunscreen. The sun feels a lot stronger than what you’re used to and a lot of sunscreen you find in South East Asia is either really expensive or it’s fake, which means it won’t protect you. Hawaiian Tropic has a great range of sun lotion and it’s always best to go for SPF 50. 

Buy Hawaiian Tropic SPF 50 here

11. tangle teaser

A tangle teaser is another packing essential you need for South East Asia. It is the ideal hairbrush for wet or dry hair and combats knots unlike any other brush on the market. After all your boat trips, surfing, pool days and days out on motorbikes you’ll definitely want something gentle on your hair and a tangle teaser is perfect for that. 

Buy a tangle teaser here

12. spf lipbalm

The sun in South East Asia can feel a lot stronger than what you’re used to, and often people neglect to SPF their lips. Talking from personal experience, sunburnt lips are the worst. Bringing a reliable SPF lip balm is going to save you a lot of anguish down the line, so don’t forget to pack it!

Buy SPF lip balm here 

13. bug repellent

A packing essential for South East Asia you don’t want to skip out on is bug repellent. The bugs in this region are no joke, so some strong deet bug spray is definitely needed for your time. The Jungle Formula spray is the best you can get and it’s incredibly effective for all bugs, especially mosquitos. 

Buy the best bug spray on the market here

14. lightweight foundation

It’s no secret South East Asia is incredibly hot, and while most of the time you probably won’t want to be wearing foundation, on the odd occasion you do, a lightweight and breathable foundation is best. This will be perfect for when you eventually do sweat it off, it won’t go clumpy or patchy. My go to lightweight foundation I swear by is the Charlotte Tilbury Beautiful Skin foundation. It has great skincare benefits and gives a beautiful finish, all while looking very natural. 

Buy Charlotte Tilbury Beautiful Skin here

15. foldable rain jacket

One of the best packing essentials for South East Asia is a foldable rain jacket. Depending on where you’re heading, unpredictable weather and intense storms can catch you out without a warning, so to save yourself from getting soaked and to save space in your bag, a foldable rain jacket is the perfect solution. This one comes in a few different colours and has a drawstring pouch for easy packing.

Check out this foldable rain jacket here

16. LInen trousers

Linen trousers are one of the best essentials you can bring to South East Asia. They are great universal trousers that are lightweight and breathable, while being perfect for exploring temples. Some of my favourite shops for linen are Glassons and Na-kd Fashion, although Amazon also offer a range of affordable linen trousers like these ones here. 

Check out these linen trousers here (they come in several different colours)

17. battery operated toothbrush

The next packing essential for South East Asia is a battery operated toothbrush. These are an absolute must so you don’t have to worry about charging your toothbrush when travelling. This one is the best on the market!

Buy a battery operated toothbrush here 

18. hand sanitiser

A lot of bathrooms in South East Asia won’t have soap provided, especially any public toilets you use. To avoid unwanted sickness it’s best to carry your own hand sanitiser around. You can find sanitiser while you’re travelling, however unfortunately you can also come across ‘fake’ sanitiser, which is either diluted or completely ineffective. 

Buy hand sanitiser here

19. waterproof phone case

You’ll definitely want a waterproof phone case for South East Asia. This one from Amazon is a step up from the classic waterproof pouches that you can get. Instead, this case has a hard back and front and feels a lot more sturdy, as well as giving better photo and video quality in the water. I’ve used this waterproof case a few times and really love it, so can definitely recommend. Plus it comes with a wrist strap too. 

Check out my go to waterproof phone case here

20. vpn

The final of the 20 packing essenitals for South East Asia doesn’t exactly need to be packed, but is definitely an important addition to the ‘to-do’ list before you go. There are two main reasons a VPN is really important when travelling. Firstly, is to keep your information safe while connecting to public wifi. Secondly, so you can stream TV/films anywhere in the world (this is how I keep up with UK Love Island when I’m away!). The VPN I use is Surfshark, you can click here or use SHETRAVELLEDTHEWORLD for 83% off and 3 months free. You have access to 15+ Netflix libraries and most importantly, you can use it to save anyone hacking your information. 

Before using a VPN I’ve had both my Netflix and Spotify hacked after using public wifi, and now I won’t connect without connecting to a VPN as well. Protecting your accounts, especially bank accounts, is so important when travelling. 

Check out Surfshark here and get 83% off + 3 months free

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