These are the packing essentials for travelling in Southeast Asia
No matter what your travel itinerary might be, the bottom line is you’re going to Southeast Asia. Plan wisely, fellow traveller, for your journey may be in jeopardy should you pack the wrong stuff.
Before it hits the fan…
They say that if you don’t get food poisoning while in SEA it’s like you’ve never even been there. Fair enough, I guess I’ve never been there then.
What probably saved my butt — literally — back then was a daily dosage of probiotics. I didn’t encounter a single day of please-kill-me-now moments in the four months I lived there, even though there was some highly sketchy food and poor hygiene involved.
Just in case though, you should bring a pack of activated charcoal tablets or special medicine that’s suitable for the more resistant strains of bad gut bacteria and viruses that could cause discomfort.
Going hand-in-hand with avoiding unnecessary medical conditions is hand sanitiser. I also fell in love with soap sheets, which are super easy to carry around. Just make sure you have dry hands before you try to take a sheet, otherwise they all get wet and stick together.
And the last thing you need — depending on if you’re planning to visit areas with abundant numbers of mosquitoes or the other rather unpleasant and potentially disease-carrying insects — is a good repellent. It’s best to ask your local pharmacist and get one that’s intended for use in the SEA region.
If you’re a light sleeper, just like me, bring a pair of earplugs (or keep those they give you on the airplane). Peaceful blue lagoons only become a reality once you arrive at them, otherwise Southeast Asia can be a noisy mess.
I cannot speak for all countries and all cities in SEA, but Asians tend to get up early. Very early. Too early for my taste. And in their homes they keep animals that are noisy, like roosters. You don’t want to be remembered as the crazy foreigner who massacred all their roosters.
Don’t run out of juice…
Most places in SEA are fairly developed, however, chances are you’ll find yourself struggling to power up your devices. Remote areas and smaller islands can be especially affected by power outages or natural occurrences. Make sure to carry a portable charging device with you.
Another reason to bring one is that power outlets vary from country to country so it’s better to be on the safe side.
Fewer clothes, more trouble…
Clothing conventions are hard to figure out, but it’s more than advisable to get them right. Even within one country there can be differences in what you’re expected to wear. Usually women have to mind their clothes more than men.
Religious sites in particular apply stricter rules with regard to clothing. While at a beach in Bali it might be okay to wear bikinis, but a few kilometres away it might be totally inappropriate. Avoid dirty looks and remarks (especially from local women) by wearing a sarong or some more proper clothes that will cover you from your shoulders to at least your knees.
Mind your money…
Unless you have an extra pair of eyes on the back of your head, make sure you don’t put all your money and important documents in one place inside your backpack. It’s best to have your valuables distributed among various places on you.
If an option, order an extra bank card that is either attached to your existing account or get a new account with a new card altogether. Having two accounts, each with own bank card, came to my rescue when I lived in SEA and my wallet was stolen from my backpack.
The same goes for all of your important documents. Make copies or scans of them and save them in the cloud. Be it your passport, driver’s licence, travel insurance, or marriage certificate — you don’t want to lose them.
And one final observation: if you’re an unmarried woman, it might come in handy to slip a fake wedding ring on your finger. Asians are very family-oriented and complete strangers will immediately interrogate you about “your deal”. That is, unless you’re hoping to snatch yourself a husband on your travels, which will prove to be quite easy.
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