Travelling to Southeast Asia? Not sure if you have all the essentials packed? Heres our top 7 items to consider before you go…

Often when travelling to a new destination you don’t really know what you might need until you actually arrive.

To avoid the inevitable “I wish we had brought one of those” moments, we have created a list of what to take travelling to Southeast Asia.

1. Temple outfit 

If you are travelling Southeast Asia you will, at some point, visit a temple. In fact, more than likely you will visit more than one! It is a great way to experience the culture of the region that is heavily influenced by religion. 

Most places of worship require visitors to “dress appropriately”. Although you may not practice the religion it is important to respect their beliefs and not cause any unnecessary offence. 

An outfit that covers both the shoulders and the legs would suffice. But take into consideration the hot and humid climate in South East Asia. Light and airy cotton shirts and a skirt or long trousers are best. Keeping you as cool as possible without showing too much skin.  

We love this temple outfit worn by Laura from @sandroni_laura_travel on Instagram:

2. Bug spray 

Mosquito Spray
We purchased this mosquito spray in Malaysia after we ran out

Might seem an obvious addition but it’s really something you do not want to forget. When the sun goes down, the insects come out in force. 

When visiting areas outside of the main cities you will need it the most. If you are venturing into the jungles or the small islands in the south, insect repellant is essential. 

Although not very common in most tourist areas in Southeast Asia, diseases such as Dengue Fever and Malaria are carried by mosquitos, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.  

Make sure to purchase a product containing high levels of deet. This is the chemical that has the greatest effect warding off the mozzies!

MORE: 7 ATMs in Vietnam: which is the best to use?

3. Travel wallet / bum bag 

Travel wallet
Matt kept his travel wallet under his arm and sometimes under a T-shirt/jacket

Before travelling to Asia we had never used a travel wallet. However, it became one of our most loved items on our trip. 

Often when withdrawing cash from ATM’s, it works out cheaper to withdraw a large amount each time to save on transaction fees and bank charges. But, this means having to carry a larger amount of cash around with you. A travel wallet that can be hidden under a shirt and kept close to your body is far safer than carrying a lump sum in a regular wallet in an open pocket. 

Some people may keep money hidden away in bags, but often when using public transport in Asia you may not be able to keep your bag with you, so a travel wallet offers peace of mind when it comes to your cash and other important documents such as passports. 

4. Cash card 

Sticking to the money theme, a decent cash card is an essential item to take travelling to Southeast Asia. If you plan to visit more than one country in the area you will need to take out local currency. Rather than carrying everything you think you might need for the whole journey, a travel card gives you flexibility and far better rates than a regular debit card.

We used a Caxton Prepaid Currency Card. Caxton has an app that allows you to top up your card straight from your bank in seconds. It also instantly shows what you have spent/withdrawn so you can keep tabs on the go. Ideally, they do not charge you to make transactions or withdraw money. You can pre-load your card with 14 different currencies to secure a good rate in advance. If Caxton does not offer the currency for the country you are in, Mastercard exchange rates are used on the day to determine how many pounds you’re spending.

Other examples include WeSwap, FairFX, Post Office Travel Card, TUI Travel Money Card, Monzo and Revolut. 

MORE: Biggie Smalls: A working review

5. Water bottle 

Lorna's re-usable water bottle
This is Lorna’s reusable water bottle, which keeps drinks cold for 24 hours

In the climate of Southeast Asia, you are going to need to drink a whole lot of water to keep yourself hydrated. It is not uncommon for people to suffer from symptoms related to dehydration while travelling here. High temperatures, potential fluids lost through illness or even from consuming too much alcohol can all be factors. 

According to experts, you should be drinking within the region of 2L per day. However, if you are sweating all day (like we were) you are going to need even more – maybe 3L. The reality is that if you do not have a reusable water bottle, you will be binning at least 10 big plastic water bottles every week you are there. 

Unfortunately, you can see the results of this everywhere. Plastic bottles in the oceans, on the beaches, in the streets. It is not an ideal scenario. With little regard to recycling in most places, plastic waste is becoming somewhat of a crisis in Southeast Asia. 

Most hostels and hotels should provide safe drinking water for their guests using larger reusable water dispensers. Carrying your own water bottle really can make a big difference. The more people that have their own bottles the better. Not only do they reduce plastic waste but most reusable bottles are thermal. Keeping your drink cold far more effectively than a plastic bottle. It’s a win-win. We couldn’t recommend getting one enough! 

6. Shampoo bar 

Shampoo bar, What to take travelling to Southeast Asia, Two Souls One Path
Selection of shampoo bars – by Tony Webster

Maybe an unexpected addition, but a shampoo bar was definitely a star buy before we hit Southeast Asia for multiple reasons. 

After starting our travelling journey packing everything but the kitchen sink into our oversized backpacks, we have learned the hard way that less is more. Keeping luggage light is now a priority and should be one of yours too! 

Shampoo bars are a great weight saving tip. Rather than carrying excessive bottles of his and hers shampoo and a conditioner, a shampoo bar is a tenth of the size and weight. They come in great little tins to keep them intact and means no more accidental spillages inside your rucksack. 

In terms of the environment too they are incomparable – no plastic waste and they last so much longer. You can’t go wrong!  

MORE: Campervan plan for travelling Australia: Our tips and what to look for

7. A lightweight day bag

Light weight day backpack

Having a lightweight day bag could prove invaluable for many situations whether that be hiking, picnicking or a trip to the local markets. 

There are many suitable bags to choose from on the market. If you don’t want anything too heavy, there are even fold-up 30L backpacks to save on weight and room when not in use.

Pin it!

*Disclosure* Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means, at no extra cost to you, we will receive a small commission for every purchase made. Thank you for supporting us!

Hi, we're Matt & Lorna. Two travellers on one path hoping to share some of our experiences with you.

9 thoughts on “What to take travelling to Southeast Asia

  1. I totally agree with all of these! I love my chilli waterbottle for keeping my water cold and making sure you are respectfully covered in the temples is a must.

  2. I haven’t traveled overseas in a long time but I wasn’t familiar with travel cards. Thanks for tat tip. I’m always searching for the perfect day bag. They are always too big for me.

    1. There are lots of great travel card options! We will endeavour to write a post on it soon!

  3. Exellent tips,
    What about some travel Apps? Do you recommend some apps, which might be helpful during the trip?

    1. The main app that we loved was XE currency converter! When you go to several countries in a row, different currencies can be confusing at first, so it was great to be able to have one app that had them all in a list! There are a few apps we used though – we will write a new blog post for this in the near future!

  4. Such a good concise list! We are hoping to visit SE Asia in the next few years, and have been wondering about the humidity. When would you suggest visiting?

    1. Thank you, It honestly varies so much depending on where you go and for how long. Which countries do you want to visit and how long do you have to explore? We are going to write a blog post soon about the best routes to take!

Leave a Reply