Grab a cup of tea, and a note pad, this is a long one (but a good’un packed with tips) and you are going to want to be adding bits from here to your own packing list as you go…
No matter how well you think you’ve packed for your trip, there will undoubtedly be items you wished you bought along as well as items you’ve carried around for months wishing you hadn’t bothered. I read close to twenty different packing lists on various blogs, cross referencing each one with my own, in order to make sure I didn’t miss anything out. By the time I came to actually packing I had a list of things I was going to take, some with ‘maybe’ scribbled next to them, and also a list of things I needed to buy before we set off. Below is my refined packing list separated into categories. I’ve added little notes next to most of the items because I often thought when I was reading other packing lists ‘that can’t be enough, I’ll put 6 on my list’ – but trust me, you can buy almost anything you need or want in Asia!
I’ve haven’t stuffed this one with pictures so you can get through it faster, so the categories are as follows:
Clothes (tops, dresses & playsuits)
Before I begin, I cannot stress enough how important it is that you take into account your personal style and also what clothes make you feel good when you are putting together your packing list. I took the advice of a lot of blogs who stressed loose clothing when usually I was quite comfortable in clothes that showed off my shape. The smallest part of me is my waist and I have quite a round bottom, so when my waist is emphasised by a little skater dress or a crop top or something high-waisted I feel great! Which is why when I had a backpack that contained a lot of baggy, cotton t-shirts, I never wanted to wear them and if I did, I felt like poo. So please please make sure you include some bits that make you feel good. Despite what you’re told, most of your clothes will still be with you by the end of your trip, take the pieces you like – you’ll be happy you did and if they die out there then they will have had a good trip!
If it’s crossed out (
like this) then it’s because you don’t need to pack it because it can be bought out there or because I don’t think it’s needed
2 x denim shorts – soooo many packing lists said not to take denim however, if they don’t fit too tight and aren’t too thick, take them! They go with everything – I have one blue and one black pair
2 x floaty shorts – dress up or down, when in hot places, I lived in my patterned floaty shorts – these can be bought almost anywhere in Thailand but because of my shape I bought ones with me that I knew fit me perfectly
1 x comfy shorts – if your gym shorts are comfy enough, these could double up but I had a pair of soft cotton ones for journeys and also if I had to wear pyjamas if we stayed in a dorm
1 x funky trousers – buy them anywhere and everywhere – I have three completely different pairs, two from Thailand and one from Cambodia – they are great for comfort and for temple touring
I don’t wear skirts so I didn’t take any and there are some more bottoms in the ‘gym gear’ section further down.
clothes (tops, dresses & playsuits)
1 x zip-up hoodie/fleece – the air-con on buses in Asia can be fierce, you are going to want some warm clothes!
1 x light waterproof jacket – I didn’t actually pack one of these but spent a lot of time wishing I had when I was stuck in a sweaty plastic poncho
1 x long-sleeved top – great for extra warmth on air-con journeys and good if you get a chill after sunburn
1 x light shirt – great for sunburn days and also a little warmth in the evenings or places with A/C
11 x assorted tops – make sure you have a good mix of tops to dress up, tops that cover you up and tops you feel nice in, as well as ones you don’t mind wearing everyday, sweating into and getting ruined…
The ‘assorted tops’ I took…
2 x body suits – I love my bodies, they are dressy for the evening and I always feel nice in them particularly because they hug my waist
2 x tank tops – get yourself to Primark and buy a couple of £1 tops, I bought a grey and a stripey one – great for everything as it doesn’t matter if they get ruined
2 x t-shirts – great for temple days and as I mentioned earlier, 2 loose t-shirts is enough if you don’t wear them back home, if you do, take more!
3 x pretty tops/crop tops – I love plain crop tops with funky trousers or shorts and they are so tiny, they take up no space. I also have a few patterned ones then I have some simple pretty, summery tops too
2 x floaty tops – I have the topshop strappy floaty tops in almost every colour, they are so light and go with everything so I bought a couple of these with me
dresses & playsuits
1-2 x playsuit – dress up or down, great for beach cover-up too. I bought one with me and bought another in Bali and have since bought 3 more since living in Vietnam
2 x everyday dress – cotton and light – I bought simple ones from asos but lived in it – I am a one-peice kinda girl so if you’re not, only take one and take more shorts
1 x dressy-dress – one dress you feel lovely in, and is perfect for fancier places or nights, make sure it’s not too warm though!
1 x midi dress – half-way through our travels, I encountered an H&M and bought a midi dress as I was craving a dress that covered me up a bit more
6 x bikinis – I originally only packed 3 which just wasn’t enough, you’ll be living in these things, splash out, get some with different shapes i.e. tan lines and make sure you love yourself in them! (FYI when travelling I tried to find bikinis I liked for a long time, and usually the fit was awful until I stumbled upon an amazing sale in Ripcurl in Kuta Bali, so it’s not the end of the world if you don’t bring enough!)
1 x swimsuit – I’ll include this as I did take one but I never wore it on the beach and only wore it a few times as a top tucked into shorts, but it doubles up so good to have one
1 x scarf/sarong – these are everywhere in Asia, we picked up two gorgeous ones in Indonesia for £1.50, don’t pack one – buy one, they double up as beach towels, scarves etc
1 x beach cover-up – you’ll have thousands of £1 summer dresses and cover-ups to choose from, don’t bring one with you, buy a memory
1 x running shorts – loose comfy shorts for hikes, long journeys, comfy days
1 x gym top – I took my bright, fitted gym tank top that was great for hikes as it wicked the sweat – no need for more than one because other tops can double as workout tops
1 x gym leggings – I originally packed 1 long pair and 1 short pair but I never wore the short pair and eventually left them for the maid at a hostel
*sports bra and socks mentioned below*
I mainly wear thongs (you know the £1 Primark ones?) – I live in them. They virtually fold to nothing so bear this in mind when I say how many pairs I took
10 x thongs – we averaged a laundry run every 10 days, but sometimes it was longer!
5 x briefs/hipsters – i.e. period pants, sorry TMI but we know we all have them
2 x extra comfy pants – the ones you long for on the 12 hour buses (Glen hates them haha!)
3 x soft bras – I live in these as I don’t have huge boobs and they are super comfy and they look super pretty under clothes (black, white/nude, coloured)
1 x under-wired bra – because soft bras weren’t always appropriate to wear under tight tops – just to note, I really didn’t wear this bra too often as it was so hot – the lighter the better!
1 x strapless bra – if you have a strapless bikini this can double up
1 x sports bra – sweaty hikes, workouts, extra comfort for journeys
1 x trainer socks – for the amount you’ll be wearing them, one pair will suffice
1 x thermal socks – ultimate comfort for those long journeys when we A/C is cranked up
money belt/bum bag – it’s your call but we took a money belt and didn’t use it once, it’s not that unsafe anywhere! Glen had a bumbag which we used all the time so get yourself a fun one of those or buy one out there
1 x small side bag – nice for the evenings or days when you don’t need to take much out, mine also doubled up as my ‘dressy’ bag to go with my ‘dressy’ dress
1 x cap/hat – great for being in the sun, make sure you have one or buy one out there – I got a gangsta one in Gili T with knuckle dusters on it because why not
1 x casio/waterproof watch – because you don’t want to always rely on your phone for the time, even better if its waterproof so you don’t lose track of time when snorkelling
1 x headband – great on greasy hair days, taking your hair off your face on hikes and funking up your outfit – I bought one in Thailand
1 x pair of good UV sunglasses – you will be spoilt for choice for sunglasses when you get to SE Asia, every design and style knock-off you could think of buying for a few quid, BUT they won’t protect your eyes. Make sure you take a decent pair with you for those super sunny days that you know will protect your eyes, and keep the others for looking cool on other days…
I didn’t bring much jewellery. I have one silver necklace, four silver rings and four silver earrings which I never take off, then additionally I bought my leather pandora bracelet, a silver bangle and another necklace. However, I kind of wish I’d bought more as it helps you feel less drab in the evenings and you really don’t have to worry about jewellery attracting attention, that’s just not true unless you’re draped in gems.
1 x toe ring – so many to choose from, I have two! Buy it out there
2 x necklaces – not too special as if you lost if you won’t be upset
2 x set of earrings – nice when dressing up
2 x rings –if you wear them, again not too special – I did have five rings but I lost one to the ocean on a dive!
Again, all of these things makes for little memories you can collect on the way, so maybe only bring your favourite pieces you wear all the time and buy the rest! I have a whole small cloth bag full of little bracelets I’ve collected on the way and I have the obligatory traveller bracelets on my wrist still…
1 x trainers – I didn’t feel we needed hiking boots or walking shoes at all, they are just bulky and heavy – trainers with good grip are great for almost everything
1 x flip flops/birkenstocks – whatever your preference, these will be your everyday shoe and you will probably replace them during your travels – I lost my first pair of Havaianas to the full moon party after two weeks of travelling!
1 x nice sandals – wore these a lot for evenings and dressing up for sky-bars etc, make sure they go with everything, especially your ‘dressy dress’
1 x walking sandals – I read up loads about Tevas and other fashionable walking sandals and eventually ordered 2 pairs, both of which I sent back before we left home. You live in flip-flops and they will serve you great for sight-seeing and trainers are there if you have hikes etc – save your money – you can always buy them out there if you change your mind
1 x converse/vans – while I ruled out the above, I did buy a pair of ‘fake converse’ shortly into our travels and wore them to death, great for rainy days and sight-seeing days etc – these were my alternative to the above
Tip: take all your medication out of the boxes and if it has specific instructions, write it on the foil in marker. Then put all the packets in a clear make-up bag so you don’t get annoyed every time you try to find a paracetamol.
2 x packet paracetamol
2 x packet ibuprofen
1 x packet imodium – we didn’t actually get ill enough in our whole travels to use these – go us!
1 x diahoralyte – neither of us got terribly ill but these babies are great for replacing salts even if you are slightly under the weather
1 x packet senokot – something I didn’t think we needed but when you are trying to be cheap the rice and noodles often didn’t agree with my system so we needed them more than we thought!
1 x cold and flu capsules – these babies have caffeine, paracetamol and decongestants in them so great if you’re feeling under the weather
1 x strepsils – because A/C can give you a horribly sore throat
1 x packet assorted plasters
2 x compeed blister plasters – these are difficult to find or expensive and they save you if you get blisters from a hike or day of sight-seeing
1 x antiseptic cream – for those little cuts and scrapes
1 x steri-strips/butterfly stitches – we didn’t have any of these but when I had an accident in which my nose met a stage in Cambodia, no hospital or medical centre had any idea what a steri-strip was… now I have a scar 😦 sad times
1 x travel-sickness tablets – I suffer with travel-sickness and these saved me on so many buses and boats! – You can also buy these almost everywhere in Asia
1 x packet anti-histamines – to help with those super super itchy bites or any weird rashes
1 x bite cream – medicated cream for those extra itchy bites
1 x tiger balm – buy this anywhere in Asia – it’s a lifesaver for aches, headaches, bites etc
1 x multivitamins – take some with you and replace when you are away; sometimes you don’t always get all the veggies you need
1 x probiotics – I didn’t actually take these but I have friends that did because they were prone to upset tummies, so worth it to be on the safe side
LOTS x contraceptive pill – I managed to get my doctor to give me a 6 month supply then I bought another 6 months online from Superdrug Pharmacy; or you can bring your prescription with you and buy them from a hospital out here
1 x packet condoms – single or in a relationship make sure you have these – having sickness or diarhorrea can make your pill less reliable so good to have back up
1 x toothbrush – don’t do what I did and buy the foldable travel ones to save space, they are crap and don’t clean your teeth properly – take your normal brush and a toothbrush travel cap
1 x toothpaste – can be bought anywhere out there
1 x listerine/mouthwash – we didn’t bring it with us to save space and bought one when we felt we needed it, I think we lasted two days before we bought some so up to you
1 x floss/flossharps – dental hygiene is important when travelling as there is a lot more sugar and oil in the foods you eat, especially if you are chugging down the mango shakes like I was
1 x baby talc powder – you can buy little ones of these from every 7/11 or k-mart across Asia and they are a quarter of the price than the mini ones from boots back home – it’s a lifesaver, Glen loves it if he can’t get dry enough due to humidity and I use it as dry shampoo – we love talc!
1 x mini baby shampoo – a tiny bit of this stuff goes a long way and also doubles up as clothes wash if you can’t get to the laundry for clean pants – I did a lot of washing in the sinks of hostels with this stuff!
1 x body moisturiser – a lovely friend of my mum gifted me some lovely body moisturiser before we went away that she got from Greece, this baby lasted forever and was so kind to me skin when the sea and sun took its toll – make sure you take a decent one with you that goes far
1 x face wash – you’re going to want to wash your face properly, a lot
1 x make-up remover mitt – best thing I ever bought! I bought this Jane Iredale one and it’s so worth the money, just throw it in with the laundry every few weeks – I still have mine almost 7 months later
2 x mosquito roll on – again, can be bought once out there but you’ll struggle to find anything with deet in it without paying a hefty price. We bought 2 roll-ons with us that lasted well and they are better for application. Once we ran out we persevered and found a natural citrus one that was cheap and worked
2 x mini hand sanitiser – this stuff is a godsend for all those not-so-clean toilets you’ll be using
1 x baby wipes – there is always a use for baby wipes, we finished our first pack pretty quickly! Great to carry in your bag for a quick refresh when sight-seeing or travel days
*FYI suncream is expensive in Asia, expect to pay £10+ in most places and no less than £20 in some parts. It’s better to bring enough to last you a good while so you don’t have to spend your beer money on suncream*
1 x 50 SPF face suncream – I bought a decent one from boots which you only need a little for your face and a small bottle has lasted us both 5 months. I wear nothing less than 50 on my face
1 x 50 SPF suncream – it’s also good to have a 50 for your body as there will be times you can escape the sun
2 x 30 SPF suncream – bring lotion, they are better than the spray action ones. Both sprays we bought broke and made it a nightmare for trying to apply suncream, the lotion one we had was so much better
Tampons with applicators are impossible to find in Asia, you just don’t see them anywhere. Similarly in some countries, i.e. Malaysia, I found it near impossible to find tampons, it was all pads. I have a Mooncup Menstrual Cup, but my cycle is so light and unpredictable that I can’t rely on always using it – I’d recommend it if you have used one before you go traveling but don’t try it for the first time on your travels. Buy a big supply of tampons (without applicators as it’s much better for the environment) and bring them with you, pads you can find almost everywhere!
I don’t wear much make-up anyway and I only ever contour (to my best ability) for a big night out so bear this in mind; I also don’t spend much on make-up and this little lot is still with me going strong 6 months later! I’ve only had to buy a new bronzer recently as my face make-up is now too light for me (secretly delighted at how tanned I am) so I use a lot of bronzer to balance it out.
1 x face moisturisor – high factor suncream is what you should wear in the day most days but for the evening, make sure you have a nice, light and replenishing face cream to wear – nothing too heavy as you’ll sweat it off so make sure you try it out before
1 x BB cream – I have one with SPF25 in it so doubles as protection too
1 x bronzer – to make out you’re more tanned than you are
1 x matte face powder – because there’s nothing fun about glowing sunburn and it helps a lot if you struggle with shiny skin like me
1 x highlighter – you’ll be amazing at how much make-up some of these girls travelling bring with them which makes you feel like a bag of poo sometimes but a little bit of highlighter was all I needed to feel like I was more made up
1 x waterproof mascara – sometimes it’s nice to have a lick of mascara at the beach so I don’t feel like I have no eyes
1 x normal mascara – for the evenings and non-wet days if you want to wear it
1 x eyebrow pencil – I had mine micro-bladed before we came away which I recommend fully but I still took a pencil for a little more definition on special nights
1 x eyelash curler – optional but it makes a hell of a difference so I took one
1 x bronzer brush – I don’t go mad on brushes so just have the one which I use for everything
1 x lip gloss/lipstick – a bit of lippy goes a long way when you want to feel a little more glam
*If you like to tint your eyebrows*
I went for regular tinting appointments at home, before I discovered this great eyelash and eyebrow kit from Strictly Professional. This little kit meant I basically said goodbye to my eyebrow pencil and waterproof mascara. I’m so glad I took it traveling because money is limited when you’re away and surprisingly, there aren’t too many places to have your eyebrows tinted in Asia, Bali was one of the only places I saw this option.
2 x solid shampoo bar – get yourself down to Lush and get these babies, one bar lasted us 3 months when we were both using it! We had the argan oil one, amazing stuff and green too – just buy some cheap soap holders to store them in
1 x solid conditioner – a little harder to work and it didn’t agree with Glen so make sure you buy one to try out before you take it away – but same as above, get it from Lush, lasts for ages and it’s green!
1 x dry shampoo – I did actually bring a Lush one with me which smells amazing which I use but if you don’t use it that often, just rely on the talc powder, it does the same thing!
1 x Moroccan/argan oil – I bought a little bottle of this with me and it’s a lifesaver when your hair becomes dry from the sun and sea – bring more if you have coloured hair
1 x silver shampoo – if you’re blonde, bring some of this with you. It will stop your hair going yellow in the sun and bring it back to life. I didn’t bring any with me and it cost me £16 for a small bottle out here!
1 x box of bobby pins/kirby grips – I lose these everywhere so bring a little box full, they are great for styling hair etc
1 x bag of hair bobbles – again, these go walkabouts so bring a little cloth bag full of them
2 x spiral hair bobble – I’m not sure what the exact name for these are but they are everywhere, I got mine from Primark in a 3 pack. I never take it off my wrist and one has lasted me 6 months, they don’t pull your hair too tight and they don’t kink it either
1 x silk sleeping bag – we bought ours for £5 off eBay and they did the trick – great for those hostels where the bed sheets have some weird stains on the, and trust me we used ours a lot and so will you too if you’re on a budget
1 x mosquito net – we took a double one and a single one just in case we were sleeping in separate beds, but we eventually gave the single one away as we never used it – we used the double one a handful of times but we are glad we had it even if we had to carry it around for 4 months
1 x microfiber travel towel – I literally hate these towels but they fold up so small and dry so quickly that its got to be done if you are travelling for a few months, you’ll be thankful of the space they save! Also just take the one, I use a cotton t-shirt to dry my hair as its better for your hair than a towel
Family photos – these will save you on those homesick days and if we were staying in one place for a while, I loved to get my photos out and put them up. They were a lovely reminder that those special ones were with me everywhere
1 x pack of playing cards – make sure you have a pack, great way to meet people and also great if you are having some quiet evenings instead of getting smashed all the time
3 x mini concentrated squash – these sugar-free pockets of amazingness are perfect for hangover days, when you’re feeling ill or if you just want a little flaves in your water. We took 3 of the robinsons mini orange squash things and they lasted us our whole 4 months, if you like squash take these!
1 x foldable shopping bag – definitely take one of these or something similarly as light for beach days, laundry and occasional shopping you may have to do. Asia hemorrhages plastic bags so say ‘no to plastic’ as much as you can, having one of these helps a lot.
1 x travel wallet – we picked ours up for £1 from home bargains, great for keeping passports, cash, cards, important documents. Keep it on you then lock it away in the Pacsafe (see below in gadget safety) when not on the move.
1 x Shewee – yep, you heard me. I’m talking about that amazing device that enables you to stand up and pee. This baby is completely worth the space in your bag for all those journeys and horrible toilets – you’ll thank me later.
GoPro Hero 5 Black – An absolute must for travelling, this little baby takes amazing videos and photos and can pretty much be your go-to gadget for travelling. It’s waterproof to 10 metres too so no extra housing needed for snorkelling or messing about in the waves! The ‘brand new’ price is a little daunting, we bought ours off eBay brand new as an unwanted gift for almost half the price and its perfect! *Make sure you also buy 2-3 64gb mini SD cards*
GoPro Accessories – Don’t panic at how expensive the ‘legitimate’ GoPro accessories are. We bought all third party accessories off eBay, and they are exactly the same but a fifth of the price! The only legitimate accessory we did buy from GoPro was the dive supersuit as we didn’t want to risk a dogdy supersuit when we were taking out GoPro 30 metres down on a dive.
- Top GoPro accessories? Make sure you have an extra genuine battery (especially if you are going to be using it a lot), a floaty stick, a selfie stick, a supersuit (if you dive), and a head mount. Start with those and buy more along the way if you need!
Nikon D3400 SLR – This is Glen’s forte as he did most of the research on this one, but our camera is a good’un and Glen takes some pretty amazing pictures. I’m mad for the GoPro, he’s mad for the Camera. If I were travelling alone, I’d probably just have the GoPro but if there’s two of you it’s great to have a decent camera too. *We also have a spare battery for the camera too, we bought it off eBay, and we have two 64gb SD memory cards*
Kindle (?) – Glen unfortunately lost his kindle on a train but I still have/use mine. However, if you don’t manage to get one, we found it really easy to buy cheap books or do book swaps at hostels which is always fun as you never know what you’re going to come across
Power Pack – I researched these a lot and read tonnes of reviews and in the end I bought this Anker one off Amazon. Great for long journeys, it will do about 2.5 full charges of iPhone or Samsung. Six months later and it’s still going strong even after a Malaysian plug tried to blow it up!
Universal Adapter with USB port – Dependent on where you are travelling but a universal one will save you in all destinations. Make sure to get one with a USB port too. Ours was £5 off eBay and it’s never caused us any problems in 6 months.
Laptop – Because there were two of us, we took a laptop, but it wouldn’t be something I’d prioritise if travelling alone. We loved it because we could watch films on buses and Netflix when we were having cheap nights and made travel planning a lot easier than just on phones
Hard drive – if you are taking a lot of tech, chances are you are going to be taking a lot of photos and videos, we back our stuff up on 2-3 different things – facebook albums, hard drive storage, and memory cards. Read my other post here about good apps for travelling, including storage apps.
Headphones – Absolute must-have for long journeys, if there is wifi on the bus I get a sleep playlist up on Youtube and drift off
Phone – Goes without saying, it’s good to have for constant entertainment (download some games that work offline) and buy yourself a simcard when you get to each country as they are dirt cheap. *Make sure your phone is unlocked to all networks before leaving*
1 x Pacsafe – We were fortunate to be gifted a Pacsafe by some lovely friends who had done similar travels to us before. They can be bulky but if you are carrying a lot of tech and not taking it everywhere with you, they give you complete peace of mind when leaving it in the hostel room. We would put the whole ‘tech’ bag which included our passports within it (padlocked) then padlocked again within the pacsafe and attached it to a non-movable structure (i.e. the bed, sink, window bars) with the extendable cable. Completely theft-proof, most wouldn’t even attempt it or give up when they realised they would have to take half the room with them for one backpack.
4 x padlocks – If you don’t want to invest in a Pacsafe (as they can be pricey), get some padlocks with a long cable, like these ones that you can put through the loops of your bag zips and then attach to something else. Great for peace of mind on a bus and also if leaving your bag in a room or dorm. ***Make sure you get the padlocks with number dials, not keys, if you lose the keys you won’t be happy***
1 x daypack – I took this Bago backpack as I’d researched travel daypacks a lot and loved how it folded to nothing, had loads of pockets and was super light for carrying around. This bag was our sight-seeing bag and we used it all the time, every day. Glen had a Hype backpack which was made of tougher material with only one pocket so that became our ‘tech’ bag which we would put in the Pacsafe and secure to something when we left it in the room.
1 x backpack – I had a 60L Vango backpack and Glen had an 80L backpack, so naturally he carried more of the heavier, bulkier stuff. I felt the size I had along with a 20L daypack was plenty for one person travelling. This is important though, don’t buy it because it looks good, make sure you try it out with all the adjustments. This thing is going to be attached to you for long periods at a time and you want to make sure you have the best support possible – don’t be afraid to invest in this properly.
And last but not least and probably most importantly, have some way to record your memories. Glen and I are photo mad, our phones, camera and GoPro are full to bursting with photos and videos from our four months. I won’t let anyone ever tell me I ‘take too many pictures’, pictures are my memories and they make up what happened that day when I look back, they are so important to me. We also use the GoPro and talk to it when we want to remember specific stories and I used my notes in my phone to record special things that happened on each day. When I travelled to South Africa before, I loved keeping a journal but often found it a chore to remember to write everything down day after day and felt guilt if I missed a few days out. For me, I’m happy with the different ways we recorded our memories and they are all backed up and can’t be lost.
I hope this packing list helps you as much as it helped me, I do have a knack for going very in-depth on the detail side, but for something like this it’s totally worth it!
P.S. This blog post is a work-in-progress and I’m sure I will continue to add to it when I remember stuff so if you find it useful, check back every now and again for updates.