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The Essential Backpacking Checklist for Women Backpackers In South East Asia

If you have intentions on backpacking through South East Asia in the near future, it may be difficult to know exactly what you should take with you, especially if you have never been there before.

Although you can find thousands of lists online, the information that they give can be very conflicting, and just raise even more questions. Whatever areas or landscape types you are visiting there are certain recommendations that will work for you, welcome to our Essential Backpacking Checklist For South East Asia!

Do not take a suitcase backpacking

You should never consider dragging a suitcase to South East Asia as this would be unbelievably impractical.

Most of the islands do not have any roads. Where you are able to locate streets you will most likely find potholes and no pavements. A backpack that is between 40 to 60 liters would be the most suitable. Do not go for anything larger. The climate you are traveling to is extremely humid and hot and you may have to carry the backpack around for long periods. In this instance you will not find that bigger is not better.

Dont pack it if you can buy it 

If your backpack is on the smaller side you will not be tempted to pack unnecessary items. If you do forget an item you can replace it in Southeast Asia. You will find that shopping is unbelievably cheap and you will be amazed at the low cost of goods. A backpack that is front-loading, able to lock and preferably waterproof will be far easier to maintain. You need to consider that you may also experience rain.

Practical choices for a hot climate win the day

Mad Monkey Hostel Phnom Penh

Clothing that is light weight and made of cotton is preferable for this climate. It is unlikely that you will experience any cold in Southeast Asia. A neutral color scheme is advisable if you are fashion conscious and would like to mix and match your clothing. This way you will be able to maximize your outfits.

Jeans are not ideal as they are heavy and take ages to dry in this climate. Pants that are lightweight will be a better choice for chilly evenings out. A shawl for your shoulders will do nicely.

As a female you may need to cover your shoulders and knees in order to show your respect for the local culture. This protocol varies from area to area. Some places are very relaxed. You can find a large number of pants options whilst traveling and almost everyone carries the obligatory elephant pants, again pack light you can always buy replacements on the road.

Wearing conservative clothing on arrival is advisable. Flip flops will be ideal for most of your trip. You can take light sandals and hiking shoes if you have any intentions of taking long walks.

Bedding Choices – Do you take a sleeping bag?

Microfiber towels are huge space savers and they are known to dry quickly. Sleeping bag liners may not be needed as most hostels and backpackers guesthouses are very clean and free of bed bugs.

You should not need a sleeping bag, however, you can take one sleeping bag liner along, should you land up in a place that is not as clean as you would like it to be. Clothing in Southeast Asia is really cheap – You can purchase whatever you need at very little expense.

Taking medicine with you

Regarding medicines, you should pack only the basics like Imodium, Tylenol and Dramamine in your first aid kit. You can replace whatever you may need in Southeast Asia as most medications are sold over the counter. You can even buy birth control or antibiotics locally. Anti-malaria tablets are an essential and should be taken before you begin your travels. Sunscreen and insect repellent will also be necessary during this trip.

If you take controlled perspiration medicine then make sure you bring a copy of the prescription with you, this is a good idea in case it is held by customs or in-case you must visit a doctor for a top up.  If you have any allergies to penicillin etc then make sure you bring a bracelet with you that makes anyone treating you aware of the fact.

Do I Bring My Computer Backpacking in South East Asia 

The business of Internet cafes in Southeast Asia seems to be rapidly declining. You should bring along a laptop that is light and small if you need to check your emails or watch movies. Ensure that you have good battery life on your PC and are able to upload photos. Acer Aspire One or Macbook Air are very good choices as is an IPAD with a Blue Tooth Keypad.

Bring a camera and an iPod as you will not find these much cheaper in Asia. You can bring an e-reader or a couple of old novels to read and trade. You will find that many hostels have book exchanges which are always looking for something new.

Do I bring my telephone to South East Asia

You can do, ensure that your phone is unlocked and use local SIM cards as you travel. You’ll find these cheap options for calls and texts. They can be purchased in most grocery stores with a copy of your passport.

A guidebook will help you with information about the local landmarks. Be sure to research the local scams in order to avoid being fooled by these criminal elements, who can leave you feeling lost and confused. You will find that there is a comprehensive backpackers guide available on our website for South East Asia including all of the scams information and guides for things to see etc.

Debit Cards and Banking

Any items that may need to be of a good quality, should be brought from home. South east Asia can provide you with many items at a cheap rate, but the quality may not be up to standard. There are many ATM’s throughout Southeast Asia, for your debit card use, making it real easy to get cash, our suggestion is to have a separate account linked just for your travels, that way if your pin gets stolen you are not cleared out.

Essentials – Padlocks and Ear Plugs

You will find that most hostels provide lockers, so bringing along your own lock may be a good idea. Although you can also buy one locally. If you are a light sleeper you will make good use of a pair of Earplugs. You will probably be surrounded by loud snores and will be grateful for this little luxury.

Power Adapters

A travel adapter that you can use throughout the world and that also acts as a converter with surge protector will be a necessary item wherever you travel.

Toiletries

A toiletry bag that contains all the basics, such as soap, shampoo, toothpaste and a toothbrush is essential. Make sure it has a hook so that you can hang it up for easy access when you are taking a shower. A small mirror with a hook will also be handy when you want to put on your makeup.

Other Essentials

A great travel alarm is going to come in handy with so many places to visit. Always ensure that you switch you alarm off when heading for the shower or breakfast. You don’t want to wake anyone who is sleeping in. A headlamp and torch are an essential for night time backpacking. Be careful not to wake everyone if you have to turn these on in your hostel room at night.

Keep your flip flops on in the shower to avoid picking up bacteria. The infrastructure of Southeast Asia for travelers is great. This area offers much to do and to see, and you are bound to have a happy and comfortable trip if you have everything you need.

That is everything! We hope to see you at one of our Mad Monkey Hostels in Kampot, Siem Reap,Koh Rong Samloem or Phnom Penh when you get here!

A suggested list

Here is our little black packing list for your backpack adventure in South East Asia, you can of course modify it as you need it.

Clothing for South East Asia

  • Pants – a couple of pairs of light trousers is enough
  • Skirts / Dresses – Probably one or maximum 2 of each
  • T-Shirts – Definitely take some T shirts and tops for kicking around during the days
  • Undies – Don’t take anything expensive they are going to get ruined in the laundry – take four pairs of cheap underwear so you are not devastated when it comes back 2 sizes smaller than it should be
  • Shoes – Flip Flops / Thongs, flat soled evening shoes and a light weight pair of walking shoes
  • Socks – long socks that will stop you getting bitten to death by mosquitoes
  • 2 x Shorts – Slumber wear
  • Night time leggings – mosquitoes
  • Sun hat / shawl and
  • Light weight rain coat or cagoule for rain storms
  • Swim wear x 2

Toiletries to be packed

  • Cheap cosmetics – the heat will ruin anything expensive
  • Small specialist hair products if you need them
  • Hair clips, bobs etc
  • Fold away hair brush
  • Hair Dryers – available in most hostels or buy a small one in Asia
  • Small bottles of products you need – buy to restock as you travel
  • Tampons – Take extra

Bags & Other Essentials To Pack for South East Asia 

  • Small first aid kit
  • Medications as you need them
  • A good quality insect repellent
  • High SPF sun cream
  • Medical Card
  • Travel Insurance Documentation – Take the original and 2 copies
  • Passport photographs ( Visa’s x 4 )
  • Passport copies – x 2 ( just in case)
  • Bum Bag – Wallet that goes around your ass
  • Small purse, clutch
  • Ear Plugs and Ear Phones
  • A card with all emergency contact info on it
  • A good quality water bottle – fill this up at hostel refill stations – buying water roadside will get you sick
  • Spare shoe laces
  • Light weight mosquito curtain / netting
  • A padlock for your locker
  • A small backpack for your back and potentially a smaller one for your front if you will be away for a long time
  • Drawstring day bag for day trips
  • Pepper spray – although you should not need to use it

Electronics – CHEAP!! 

  • Small tablet or PC for email and stuff
  • A cheap camera or camera phone that you can take out – do not take your latest i-phone drinking its a bad idea
  • An external drive with your music / photos backed up on it
  • A phone that is unlocked and can take other sim cards – better if this is a cheap camera phone

Phones get lost when drunk, damaged, rained on, stolen in dorms, rained on etc etc – if you take any decent electronics with you it should not be more than a decent tablet and you should have your electronics insured separately just in case.

Other info

 
Always share your route and plan with your relatives, every week we are sent emails by parents concerned by the apparent disappearance of a loved one only for them to turn up a week later on an island, always tell your parents or loved ones if you are going to a place where there is no internet or cell phone service and you will not be able to contact them.

Otherwise

You can buy beer and other alcohol pretty much everywhere in South East Asia, similarly even the strangest of dietary requirements are normally pretty well catered for, the only exception to this rule would be a nut allergy – if you do have a nut allergy then ensure you bring a com-bi adrenaline pen with you, or any asthma medications you may have and ensure your friends know how to use it if you get into trouble.  S

imply throw some togs in a bag and get your ass on a plane, everything you need you can buy whilst you are there. Both are valid models and work very well depending on the type of person you are!

About the Author

Mad Monkey is Southeast Asia’s leading hostel operator — born in Cambodia with more properties in Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, Laos, and the Philippines. We pride ourselves in creating meaningful and sustainable travel experiences for our guests, whilst promoting socially responsible tourism.

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