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Southeast Asia Packing List (What to Pack in 2023)

southeast asia packing list what to pack

If it’s your first time visiting Southeast Asia or your first experience backpacking, it can be hard to know where to start when it comes to your Southeast Asia packing list.

As an experienced traveler, it’s taken me many years to narrow down my packing list. But I think I’ve finally reduced it down to the perfect amount of items to take on each trip.

I never want to overpack, as it’s a nightmare to carry around an overweight backpack. However, I also don’t want to be caught short and left with no choice but to purchase overpriced items when I’m away.

Before we get into the main backpacking Southeast Asia packing list, a quick word about backpacks.

This is definitely the best way to travel, and finding a lightweight rolling backpack that suits your body size is essential. I like to travel with a bag that has a capacity of about 60-65L.

This is the perfect size to fit all the belongings listed below, without becoming too heavy for traveling between destinations.

The brand’s Osprey and North Face are some of my favorites. They offer separate backpacks for male and female travelers, that are well suited to different body shapes.

Electronics

Nowadays, one of the most important parts of the SE Asia packing list is your electronics.

I would feel lost without my phone and camera as I love to capture my trip memories. Here are my recommendations for electronics for your SE Asia packing list.

Camera

Depending on your photo needs, you may decide that just a GoPro will suffice. I love capturing high-quality photos on my trips, so I also travel with another camera.

I love Canon’s range of cameras, and they take exceptionally high-quality photos. Alternatively, a mirrorless Sony is a good option. They both offer some really compact models that are great for backpacking with.

I personally use and prefer mirrorless vs DSLR because is easier to use and much lighter. Remember, weight is your spine’s enemy.

I personally use and recommend Sony A7RIII as the best camera for backpacking and Sony GMaster FE 24-70″ lens. Also bought some spare batteries, especially for recording. Usually, i have 2 more with me.

GoPro

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If you don’t already have a GoPro, buy one! It was one of the best investments I made for traveling. Don’t be put off by their small size if you’ve never used one before. They may be small, but they capture amazing travel and action shots.

In Southeast Asia, you will be near water a lot of the time, whether on the beach or at waterfalls. You don’t need a special case, only if you dive.  I love using my GoPro Hero 11 underwater, and you can get some fun photos of marine life when you’re snorkeling.

If you are on long days out or multi-day hikes, consider buying more batteries and the best accessories for GoPro.

If you haven’t used a GoPro before, one battery keeps less than one hour of recording, that’s why it’s important to have more spare batteries, which helps to make sure you don’t miss out on those great photo memories.

Phone/iPad/Laptop

Newest Dell Inspiron 15
2021 Newest Dell Inspiron 15 3000 3501 Laptop, 15.6

I’d recommend at least one device to help keep you in contact with the outside world. I usually travel with at least two of these, especially if I’m working when I’m on the road.

If you don’t need it for work purposes, I would usually advise against taking a laptop with you, but in case you do, make sure you protect your laptop during your travel, especially if you have an expensive, new model.

The fewer valuables you can travel with, the better! A phone is always handy though for emergencies and for booking your next accommodation stop when you’re on the go.

Headphones

Beats by Dr. Dre
Beats By Dr. Dre Beats Studio3 Wireless Over-Ear Headphones 2020 - Forest Green (Renewed)

Headphones are an essential item for me to take on any trip. I use it when I edit videos and I’m in noisy places or in places where I can’t play any kind of music, like a bus or train.

These are also great tools for blocking out background noise if you are trying to sleep while on the go. Look for headphones that are noise-canceling to give you the best chance of enjoying some peace and quiet.

I personally use and recommend Beats by Dr. Dre. It never lets me down and is perfectly blocking any outside noise. Also, the bass is just perfect for my techno music.

Clothing

For the most part, you’ll want your backpacking clothes to be lightweight and easy to roll up in your bag. Avoid wearing materials that are easily creased, as these can be a nightmare when you’re on the road.

These are my essential travel items as far as clothing for Southeast Asia. I’ll share a few items specific to male and female travelers, and then a longer list for everyone’s consideration.

Southeast Asia Packing List Male

One Pair of Jeans/Smart Trousers

I always recommend one pair of jeans or smarter trousers for any trip. You never know when a group of you will decide to visit a fancy rooftop bar or somewhere with a dres’ code.

If you are traveling through many different countries, they’ll also come in handy for colder climates.

A Short-Sleeved Shirt

To go with your jeans or trousers above, pack one lightweight short-sleeved shirt. Something summery and light-colored will be perfect, and this is a versatile item for day and night.

It will pair well with smarter trousers for any special celebrations or nights out on your trip.

Southeast Asia Packing List Female

Here are a couple of extra clothing items I always recommend for female travelers to Southeast Asia.

Light summer dresses

For female travelers, I always recommend a couple of light summer dresses. These should be easy to roll up without getting creased. They are perfect for throwing over swimwear but can be versatile enough for an evening out.

A Sarong or Scarf

Back From Bali Womens Sarong
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For girls, I’d recommend bringing a sarong or scarf, as they are an easy way to cover up your shoulders to visit temples. Bring one that’s easy to roll up into your bag, and you’ll be ready whenever it’s needed.

Clothing and Shoes for Both

Vest Tops and T-Shirts

Vest tops are practically the uniform for backpackers in Southeast Asia, and you can buy them inexpensively at street markets. It’s also important to pack a few t-shirts to cover your shoulders if you plan to visit temples.

Shorts and Trousers

You’ll spend most of your time in shorts, due to the hot weather, but also add in one pair of lightweight, loose trousers. These are needed for temples and religious venues and can be comfortable for the overnight bus or train rides.

One set of warmer clothing

You never know when your hostel or transport will have really cold air conditioning, so add in one warm jumper and a pair of trousers. This will help keep you warm so you can get a good night’s sleep.

Swimwear

I usually pack a few sets of swimwear, as I am at the beach most days during my Southeast Asia trips.

For females, I’d recommend not relying on buying any swimwear over there, as the sizing can be different from your home country. Also, don’t forget to buy some water shoes for rocky beaches.

Rainwear

I usually bring a lightweight jacket or poncho on each trip, as you never know when you’ll need it. These can also be bought cheaply when you arrive, so don’t worry if you don’t have one!

Hat

A travel sun hat is an essential item for the hot weather you are going to experience in Southeast Asia, to ensure you don’t become overheated. And if you are a woman who loves hiking, then check the best hiking hats for ladies and see which one fits you better.

Guys usually prefer to pack a simple sports cap, which is perfect for hiking and days at the beach. For women, I’d recommend a cap, or if you prefer something a little more stylish, a fedora is a great option.

Shoes – Flip Flops and Trainers

For shoes, I’d recommend at least one pair of flip-flops, and a pair of more sturdy walking shoes. These can be regular trainers, but just make sure they are suitable for hiking trips.

I wouldn’t worry about buying any new shoes for the trip, as they are quite likely to get wrecked when you’re away!

However, you won’t be able to take part in some of the great activities on offer with just sandals. So make sure you pack at least one pair of more sensible shoes.

Accessories

By now, you will have the main items for any packing list for Southeast Asia. However, there are always those little extras that many people forget to pack. Here are the extra bits and bobs that I always find useful to carry.

Sunglasses

Polarized Sunglasses
Polarized Sunglasses for Men Women Fashion Sunglasses UV400 Protection

These will probably be your most used item on your Southeast Asia packing list, and you’ll wear them every day you go out.

Don’t bother with expensive designer sunglasses, like Ray-Ban, as they will likely get scratched or sat on! If you do lose them, you’ll be able to replace them at the markets inexpensively.

Dry Bag


Most visitors to Southeast Asia love spending time at the beach or on diving trips. I always take a dry bag with me on these days out. I store my electronics and a set of dry clothing inside.

There’s nothing worse than getting cold at the end of a day in the water and having nothing to change into. You can find these inexpensively online.

Waterproof Phone Case

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A waterproof phone case is a cheap but worthwhile investment, which you can purchase online. If you want to keep your phone on you all day for photos in the water, these will stop any water damage from happening.

I personally stopped carrying this accessory with me because I use GoPro for underwater pictures, but if you don’t own a GoPro, this item it’s particularly useful for beach destinations and diving excursions.

Towel

Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Travel Towel
Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Travel Towel - Ultra Soft Compact Quick Dry Microfiber Fast Drying Fitness Beach Hiking Yoga Travel Sports Backpacking

This has become one of my new favorite items to pack for any trip. I found that a lot of hostels don’t offer complimentary towels anymore, and so the charges were adding up each night.

After purchasing a quick-drying towel, I’ve never looked back. It rolls up easily into my backpack and dries quickly after I shower.

In this part of the world, you could use a good towel for a quick trip to a massage parlor, a fitness center or even for a drop-in yoga session at a yoga retreat.

A Day Bag/Backpack

I always add to my packing list for Southeast Asia a one-day bag. It doesn’t need to be as sturdy as your main travel bag, but just something to take on days out and excursions.

If you can find one that’s waterproof, it’s always a good idea to protect your valuables and clothes from the sea.

Money Belt


Packing for Southeast Asia should always include a money belt or an anti-theft fanny pack.

Southeast Asia is generally a safe region for travelers, however, like anywhere in the world, you don’t want your money and passport on show.

Wearing a tight-fitting money belt under your top is a great way to keep your valuables hidden but close to your body. You don’t need anything particularly fancy, just something that fits you well.

A LifeStraw

LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle
LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle with 2-Stage Integrated Filter Straw for Hiking, Backpacking, and Travel

This was one of the best investments I made before my most recent trip to Southeast Asia. A LifeStraw is a water filter that protects you against bacteria by filtering your water before you drink it.

You never know when you won’t be able to get your hands on bottled water, so it’s a great backup to have with you. The last thing you want is to end up with an upset stomach just from drinking some bad water.

Padlock

The padlock is probably the single item I use the most on my trips! It’s an essential item for your safety, and to try and avoid becoming a victim of theft. I recommend traveling with at least two padlocks.

You’ll need one for your backpack and one for the lockers in the hostels. When you are traveling on public transport, don’t leave your luggage unattended. Ensure that it’s always locked up if you have to leave it for even just a few minutes.

Kindle/Something to Read

I love to chat with fellow travelers on long journeys, but sometimes you need something to keep yourself entertained.

If you enjoy reading, pack a couple of books (although don’t weigh yourself down too much) or a kindle device and read some travel guides. Alternatively, download some Netflix shows in advance to keep you occupied.

Travel Adaptor


On any packing list for Asia, it’s essential to add a travel adaptor. Those electronics you’re taking won’t charge themselves! However, if you are traveling to more than one country on your trip, be prepared.

Many of the countries in the region use completely different plug sockets. If you need a few different ones for your trip, consider one of the multi-region adaptors you can buy nowadays.

You can get some great, compact models, that will adjust to suit each country. It’s so handy to be able to just carry around one small device for your whole trip.

Neck Pillow


From the minute I leave home for my flight, I’m attached to my neck pillow on any journey! Personally, I have a soft one that I keep attached to my day bag for my flight, but you can find great inflatable ones too. t

This is the most important accessory on long flights, to stop you from getting neck pain. It allows me to fall asleep anywhere! You can find on Amazon a full set with a neck pillow, earplugs, and eye masks.

Toiletries and Medical Supplies

You can find most toiletries and basic medical supplies anywhere in the world, but if you are like me, you probably know what brands you like to use.

If you take any regular medication, ensure you have enough plus a couple of weeks spare, to see you through your trip. Here are the top things to take when traveling.

Southeast Asia Packing List – Male Toiletries

Beard Trimmer or Shaving Kit

If you shave daily, it’s important to pack all your essentials so you can keep feeling fresh and tidy on the road. Find a portable kit that doesn’t take up too much space in your bag.

I’d stick to something that will last the length of your trip, instead of having to search for disposable razors all the time.

Hair Gel/Wax

It’s one of the most obvious items that I’ve seen so many backpackers forget over the years.

If you use gel or wax daily and know which product suits your hair texture, pack a small tube for your trip.

Southeast Asia Packing List – Female Toiletries

Female hygiene supplies

Like many places in the world, tampons are not as common in Southeast Asia. If they are something you use, make sure you bring enough with you. Alternatively, consider a menstrual cup, that will save you money and space in your bag in the long run.

Make-up and Skincare

If there are certain products you feel you can’t do without for an extended time, make sure you find space to pack them! It can be difficult to buy certain brands when you are in remote areas.

Although you won’t see many backpackers wearing a lot of make-up, it’s nice to have for special nights out.

Toiletries for Both

Deodorant

Yes, we all need to wear it! But if you try to replace it in Southeast Asia, you may find that their deodorants are quite different from what you are used to.

They often just sell the roll-on variety, and some include whitening agents. So be prepared and pack your preferred type!

Sun Cream

As in any holiday destination, sun cream prices can be very inflated when you’re away. If you’re loyal to a specific brand, pack enough to get you through most of your trip. If you are doing an extended tour, you might not want to pack a supply to last for months.

Just make sure you have enough to last the first few weeks until you can find some to buy at a reasonable price. Try and find one that is reef-safe if you are planning to snorkel or dive.

Hand Sanitizer

Purell Advanced Hand Sanitizer
PURELL Advanced Hand Sanitizer Refreshing Gel, Clean Scent, 1 Fl Oz Travel Size Flip-Cap Bottle with Display Bowl (Pack of 36)

It seems like no-one is leaving the house anymore without sanitizer, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend going away without it!

You’ll find it will come in handy during journeys and when you are caught short at bathrooms. Find some nice pocket-size containers that can fit in your bumbag or money belt on days out.

A Basic Medical Kit

Equip yourself with a very basic medical kit featuring plasters, common medicine, and antiseptic wipes. It’s always good to prepare yourself for any small emergencies.

I’d also include motion sickness tablets in this, as you never know when a bus journey will be bumpy and winding.

Mosquito Repellent

Find a good brand of repellent that works for you and stick with it! It’s not worth trying out different brands on the go, and you never know when you’ll need this throughout Southeast Asia.

Solid Toiletries

If you haven’t tried out solid shampoo and conditioner yet, you’re missing out! They are a great way to save space in your backpack. At a fraction of the size of bottles, they will become your new favorite travel hack!

Travel Insurance

travel insurance

In my opinion, if you can’t afford travel insurance, it’s best to wait until you can to take your trip. Travel insurance is an essential expense to factor into any trip. Without it, you could be left in a horrible situation without any help and mounting medical bills.

When looking at different providers, ensure that any activities you plan to enjoy and countries you are hoping to visit are included in your cover. Here are my top recommendations for travel insurance providers:

Travelex Insurance


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Travelex offers cover to Americans for a number of destinations worldwide. They allow you to purchase travel insurance with a one-way ticket and can cover you for over a year. They are the perfect solution for long-term travelers, who may be restricted by other companies.

When you are purchasing the insurance, you don’t even need to be in your home country. If you do decide to extend your trip on the road, you’ll also be able to extend your coverage.

True Traveller

Available to EU Citizens, True Traveller is an excellent option for Europeans. They offer similar benefits to World Nomads for a much cheaper price and really understand the needs of backpackers.

This means if you do need to claim, your chances of success are much higher. Covering a wide range of adventure sports, such as diving and motorbike riding, they are the perfect choice for a trip to Southeast Asia.

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SafetyWing

The biggest benefit of SafetyWing is that they are available to worldwide citizens, meaning they cover people World Nomads can’t. They offer similar flexibility and coverage to the other two companies mentioned and are knowledgeable about backpacking.

This is the best option for long-term travellers and digital nomads, as they are designed for people working and living outside their home country for a long time.

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e-SIM

Being connected while travelling could be expensive if you are on the roaming plan of your mobile carrier or could be a hassle to buy local SIM card when you land at your destination.

Gigago offers easy and cheap eSIM options that you could purchase and activate from anywhere.

Gigago global eSIM plans

Buy eSIM online on their website and it gets delivered on your email in minutes. It then connects you to the best local network. As easy as that!

It has eSIMs available for more than 200 countries. I personally like to take their multi country eSIM when I visit South East Asia, as it allows me to use it on a single plan across multiple countries.

Asia eSIM

Data: 3GB – 50GB or daily 1GB-3GB

Validity: 5, 7, 15, 30 days

Coverage: 8 Asian countries including HongKong, Macao, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia and Vietnam

Price: $5 – $90

Europe eSIM

Data: 3-20GB or daily 300MB

Validity: 7-30 days

Coverage: 43 nations in Europe

Price: $11 – $44

Travel Cards

If you are traveling for an extended period of time, consider getting a travel card. These cards don’t charge for foreign transactions and withdrawals when you’re abroad.

Over a long trip, bank fees can really mount up, so consider one of these two options below for your next trip.

Wise

Wise offers you the chance to get your travel money on a card. It converts your local currency into foreign currency to spend when abroad. Their debit card gives you the best rates in over 50 countries and is easy to set up.

I have used Wise for almost 5 years only on the free plan. Never spent one cent on fees.

They have a free app, which is easy to use and converts your currency in real-time. You’ll avoid paying hidden fees when withdrawing or paying for goods and services abroad.

CHECK WISE


While this list is by no means exhaustive, it covers most of the essentials you will need for your next trip. Add in basics such as underwear and any personal essentials you use daily, and you’ll be good to go.

As with any destination in the world, you probably will need half as many clothes as you think you do. I used to overpack and soon regretted it on my trips. There’s nothing worse than heaving around a heavy and bulky backpack for weeks on end.

Becoming a minimalist packer seems tough at the start, but you’ll love the benefits of carrying less with you. It means less time packing and unpacking at each hostel, and more time resting and relaxing!

I hope this Southeast Asia packing list will be a great help for your next adventure!

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Last update on 2024-06-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API