Southeast Asia Packing List

Southeast Asia Packing List – ULTIMATE Guide for 2024

You’ve made the right decision! Your trip to Southeast Asia awaits, but what are the essentials to pack for this trip of a lifetime? It’s much simpler than you think and I’ll show you EXACTLY what you need to include in your Southeast Asia packing list before getting on that first flight.

Having read countless guides on the PERFECT Southeast Asia packing list and the ULTIMATE guides blah blah blah, I’ve concluded that there was not a guide out there that prepares you for life backpacking in Southeast Asia. For this reason, I have decided to write my own Southeast Asia packing list so you can benefit from my years of experience on the road.

You may have read in many guides that ‘less is more‘ and honestly not a truer word has been spoken. The most common mistake a backpacker can make is overpacking. There is nothing worse than pre-flight anxiety if your bag fits the weight limit or if you can’t get it to close properly because it’s stuffed. 

There are many tips and tricks we will cover that will allow you to maximise the space found within the backpack while leaving room for any souvenirs you decide to buy on your trip. Trust me, after you’ve been away for a few months you’ll be glad your backpack is a few kilos lighter, it can cause havoc on your back! If you did have an issue it’s key to have the right travel insurance to cover all your needs.

With all this in mind, let’s dive into your ULTIMATE Southeast Asia packing list.

Southeast Asia Packing List [The Absolute Essentials]

Some of these items you might take for granted but it’s always nice to have a friendly reminder so you don’t turn up to the airport unprepared. 

  • Bank Cards: Are you taking your existing bank cards? Make sure to inform your bank that you’re going travelling else they can put a freeze on your account suspecting fraud. 
  • Travel Cards: Revolut, Monzo, Starling, Chase and so on. Check out our article on Revolut vs Monzo to find out which travel card to take with you abroad. Avoid unnecessary fees and save A LOT of money!
  • Cash: You might be familiar with the saying ‘cash is king’ in Southeast Asia this couldn’t be more true. You don’t need loads of money but I would definitely advise that you have a bit of the currency already in hand before visiting a new country. If this is not possible for you don’t worry, cash is usually easy to get at the airport on arrival.
  • Passport: Make sure you have it with you before you go and make sure it is valid for at least six months before departure.
  • Travel Documents: Make sure all other valid documents such as visas, driver’s licenses, international driving permits and so on are kept neatly in one place. 
  • Travel Insurance: Accidents happen. Trust me I would know, when I saw Rob go flying over the bonnet of a car I was preying he had the right insurance in place. Unfortunately, he didn’t. That’s why I would recommend World Nomads or Safety Wing to ensure full coverage during your travels.

Revolut

Monzo

Low Exchange Rates ✅

Low Foreign ATM Fees ✅

Multiple Travel Rewards ✅

FSCS Protected ✅

Ability To Get Overdraft ✅

No Enforced Fee-Free Limits ✅

Choosing The Right Travel Bag For Southeast Asia

There is no doubt that after your travel essentials list, the next most important part of your equipment is your backpack. The best part about spending a bit of time researching the backpack best suited to you is that the backpack will more than likely work for any future trips to any continent on the globe. 

Whether you’re running to catch the sleeper train for Chiang Mai or cramming into the morning bus in the Philippines, having the perfect backpack allows you to do any of these tasks with minimum fuss. 

So what four characteristics should you look for in the PERFECT backpack:

  1. Comfort: Arguably the most important is how comfy the backpack is when full and being carried. Most backpacks nowadays have padded straps to prevent shoulder friction and chest/belly clips to prevent increased tension on your lower back. When wearing the backpack ensure the shoulder straps are pulled as tight as possible keeping the backpack as close to your upper back as possible, trust me, your lower back will thank you later.
  2. Size: The trick here is to find a backpack that can be taken as carry-on luggage, this will help you save hundreds and HUNDREDS of £££ in baggage fees. Now I am a realist, it’s not always possible, after all, we are all guilty of over-packing. The second trick is to buy a backpack which comes with a detachable day-pack, this will come in handy during day trips where you want to leave the bulk of your luggage in your accommodation.
    • For references I am 6’1, 76KG and my backpack was 55L with a 13L day-pack attached the sizing felt comfortable and I had easily enough room for all my clothes.
    • If you’re smaller, a smaller backpack may be recommended. Around 40-45 litres. This size is lighter and more compact preventing back pain. It has less room so if you’re a heavy packer be warned you will have less room.
    • 50-60 litres is for the heavier backpackers who prioritise extra outfits over manoeuvrability. When being faced with a steep uphill battle you can regret the extra size. 
  3. Price: With the way the world is going for a backpack that is durable, sustainable and comfy a fair fee is required. The benefit of paying a more generous fee for your backpack is that it should last across multiple travel trips you will go on over the years. Think of it like £100 divided by 20 years = £5 per year, now it’s a bargain haha.
  4. Detachable Day Pack: Like I said earlier my backpack came with an integrated day-pack. This was essential for when you go on a day trip and want to leave your belongings in the hostel while taking other items with you like towels etc. When flying on your next journey you can even clip it back to the main backpack if you’re struggling for room.

Something you should not even consider is a suitcase. A suitcase is not practical for the tough terrain you’ll encounter in places like Indonesia or the Philippines.

My Top 3 Backpack Recommendations

I’m going to provide you with three options, one light, one heavy and the one I think you should choose. We’ll start with the BEST backpack, in my opinion, for Southeast Asia.

Osprey Farpoint 55L + Daypack

This is the backpack I had during my travels around Southeast Asia, trust me when I say it was perfect.

This backpack allowed me to:

Pack for over a week and have enough space✅

Include all the toiletries I wanted ✅

Have enough room for souvenirs and new clothes ✅

Provided comfort and perfect weight distribution, meaning no back pain

A detachable daypack means you can leave the bulk of your clothes at accommodation ✅

Amongst many other things, this backpack hit the mark perfectly and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to travel.

Osprey Farpoint 40L

Perfect for those who want to store their bag in the overhead locker and pass through security with a breeze

Being just a 40L, you of course have limited room. Finding space in your bag can be a challenge but if you can fit everything in there’s an argument to say this is the perfect bag for travelling Southeast Asia

Easy to manoeuvre crowds and breeze through airport security ✅

Compact and lightweight ✅

Saves you hundreds of £££ by being able to fit in the cabin luggage ✅

Can pack a lot of items ❌

Osprey Farpoint 70L + Daypack

For those who just can’t be without ALL their favourite outfits. The Osprey Farpoint 70L is the travel backpack for you. In this bag, you’ll have more than enough room to pack everything you need and more. Be careful though, airlines can put extra charges the heavier your bag weighs.

Can pack everything you need ✅

A 13L detachable daypack ✅

Perfect for 5+ months travel ✅

Easy to manoeuvre ❌

What To Pack Backpacking Southeast Asia [Clothing]

Look, I’ve been there. Packing your bag you realise you’ve left a certain top, pair of shoes or trousers out. You feel the need to either start again or just cram it in because “oh I can just fit it there” Just stop!  Less is more!

As you all should know by now, Southeast Asia is very VERY hot. You’re going to sweat an awful lot, the humidity is no joke. That is why breathable tops and sh** shirts should be at the top of your list. With that in mind as you’ll be using the laundromat a lot, it might be worth leaving your favourite items behind preventing any damages or theft. With this in mind here are some tips to consider while packing your bag:

  • Less is more: This is the Number 1 tip. Don’t pack as if you’re going on holiday and relaxing for a week. Your bag will be attached to your bag more often than you imagine, there are no wheels to drag it around this time. If you can pack enough to last approximately one week before needing to wash your clothes, you’re doing it right and that’s exactly what we did.
  • Buy cheap alternatives: As I said already, taking your favourite clobber to Southeast Asia could be a disaster. Buy some cheaper alternatives before you leave so that any damages or theft won’t cut too deep. I had a few socks taken during my time but you do hear bad stories from time to time.
  • Leave heavy clothes at home: Things like jackets/jeans etc. These can be left at home you’ll have no use for them in this climate.
  • Tie your shoes to your day-pack: I know not all of you will pack light, so for those who need that extra room tie your shoes around your day-pack straps and put the bag into the holding luggage. This reduces weight and frees up a lot of room.

This list will be predominantly for male travellers, I don’t want to speculate on what additions you might need as a female because, well, I’m not female. The list is fairly transferable between sexes so it will still be beneficial.

You should take:

  • 1 Hat
  • 5 Breathable Tops or T-shirts (for example Nike Dri-FIT Miler)
  • 3 Sh** Shirts (for example, this Hawaii fit)
  • 2 Smart Going Out Tops
  • 1 Waterproof Jacket
  • 3 Shorts (1 Evening Pair, 1 Sportwear for the day, 1 Swim shorts)
  • 1 Pair of Slim Joggers
  • 9/10 Boxers
  • 7 Pairs of Socks
  • 1 Pair of Trainers (make sure these are extra comfy for any long hikes you plan to go on, I took Nike Pegasus 40)
  • 1 Pair of Sliders or Sandals: (you’ll be living in these so make sure they’re comfy and reliable)
  • 1 Pair of Sunglasses

What To Pack Backpacking Southeast Asia [Electronics]

When it comes to electronics it is more person-specific. In this list, I will start with the most important, followed by the less important suggestions. 

The more electronics you pack the heavier your bags will be and the bigger the chance of damage/theft. Only take items with you that you’ll be sure you’ll be using. Having the right insurance can be critical in this case.

I have never seen any issues with theft in Southeast Asia but I have seen a motorbike crash followed by his mobile phone being completely written off. Further showing why the relevant insurance is critical with different electronics.

Mobile Phone

The most important electronic in your armoury. Having an unlocked phone is critical for your trip to Southeast Asia packing list. 

For important apps like Booking.com and Skyscanner, you’ll need your mobile phone. When arriving at the airports you’ll be able to purchase new SIM cards and having an unlocked phone where you can use any SIM card is vital.

An alternative to purchasing a new SIM at each airport is having an E-Sim. With a company like Airalo, you can select a new plan based on the country you are entering. Far more convenient when you’re on a bus or coach and cannot access a SIM card shop.

Power Bank

Another hugely important item for your Southeast Asia packing list that you must make sure to bring. 

On long travel days when you’re on a bus across borders, these power banks become critical so I could charge my phone. 

The Power Bank I took was the RETMSR Portable Charger and it worked perfectly for my time abroad. Other good power banks include the Anker Power Bank and the HETP Power Bank.

GoPro

I can make a pretty convincing argument that a GoPro is just as important as your phone! I can safely say it’s one of the best things to take with you on your Southeast Asia packing list.

Imagine snorkelling around Koh Tao or the Similan Islands and having no way to document your underwater adventure. That’s why a GoPro or underwater action camera is critical to include on your Southeast Asia packing list. 

I wrote an article on the best GoPro for snorkelling so be sure to check it out! To summarise, if you’re looking for the BEST product on the market I would get the GoPro Hero 12 black. If I wanted a more cost-effective solution I would get the GoPro Hero 10 black. Finally, if I was looking for the best underwater action camera that’s not a GoPro I would get the DJI Osmo Action 4. 

All these cameras have one thing in common, the PERFECT solution to capturing all your video underwater!

Air Tags/Location Device

These little devices will give you peace of mind when you’re travelling making it an important component of your Southeast Asia packing list.

Place one inside different bags or wallets etc. As long as you’re within range you’ll be able to track the exact location of that device. If not in range you will be given the last known location.

I lost my bag in Indonesia and luckily I was able to retrace my steps because of my Air Tags.

AirPods/HeadPhones

I think the majority of you reading this will have an iPhone and AirPods are perfect for listening to music. Small, easy to store away and easy to use. Perfect I’d say. 

For Non-Apple users other companies have similar products. I’m no expert as I have Apple products myself but JBL seems to do good replicas.

No one likes someone who has their music out loud so having some AirPods are essential in your Southeast Asia packing list.

Drone

As we come further down the Southeast Asia packing list for electronics you’ll find the drone section.

Why could drones be beneficial in your Southeast Asia packing list?

I think the perfect example of when a drone is beneficial is when you’re at a viewpoint. I can remember being in Chiang Mai, at Doi Suthep, watching someone fly their drone above us as the sun was setting. The footage was INSANE, I wish I had it myself.

If I had had my own drone this footage would still be with me. If I could go back in time, from the reviews I’ve read the DJI Mini 2 SE Drone with RC-N1 Controller is what I’d invest in. Small size and light, perfect for any travels you go on to do.

Hair Dryer

I know this one is not essential for your Southeast Asia packing list but to some people it is. Yes, I am one of these people.

Without a hair dryer, I may as well change my name to the mop, there’s no life in this hair without my hair dryer. You can pack it in your main bag or hand luggage and you’ll have no issues on land or by air.

I packed my hairdryer from home and didn’t need a special travel dryer.

Laptop

For most of us, a laptop just is not an essential item to go travelling with.

If you’re a remote worker/blogger and want to know what the BEST travel laptop is, well I have a suggestion for you.

It might come as no surprise that I’m going to recommend the MacBook Air. Noting the durability and light weight of the MacBook Air it is a perfect travel companion for those wanting to work when abroad.

What To Pack Backpacking Southeast Asia [Toiletries]

When it came to packing my toiletries I had two toiletry bags. Looking back this was a bit excessive. I rarely used stuff like paracetamol or plasters ever and you can easily buy this when you’re abroad so it’s not essential to include it in this list but in case you’re a worrier I’ll include it anyway.

Like I said earlier, most items you’ll be able to buy in any country in Southeast Asia however there are some things I would overpack. I found getting any form of decent hair products an absolute nightmare, so for your favourite clays/sea salt sprays overpack and take two.

Other items, like sunscreen, tend to be more expensive in Southeast Asia. I guess because of the high demand and high import fees of these overseas products shopkeepers put the prices up. Bringing some extra bottles from home will help save you a bit of £££.

So what toiletries should you consider taking into your Southeast Asia packing list:

  • Shampoo (+ Conditioner if you use it)
  • Face Wash
  • Body Wash or Soap
  • Moisturiser
  • Deodorant (Spray or roll)
  • Aftershave/Perfume
  • Hair Brush
  • Hair Products (Clay/Hair Spray/Sea Salt etc.)
  • Toothbrush and Toothpaste
  • Electric Shaver
  • Wet Razor
  • Shaving Foam
  • Nail Clippers and tweezers
  • Paracetamol 
  • Plasters
  • Bug Repellent
  • Hand Sanitiser
  • 2 x Sunscreen 
  • Any medication you take or need

Extras

This section is as equally important as all the previous sections. It is home to all the items that don’t fit into any specific category but are ESSENTIAL for your Southeast Asia packing list 

Phone Charger

Well, you need to charge your phone right? A non-negotiable for your Southeast Asia packing list.

Travel Locks

Simple really, if you want peace of mind that your luggage remains private when travelling through airports or staying at hostels then you need a set of travel locks.

I used these locks during my travels and had no issues, so that’s what I recommend for your Southeast Asia packing list.

Quick Dry Towel

In most of your accommodations, they will not provide you with a towel for everyday purposes. This means you’ll have to pack one in your luggage. 

What you need is something easy to fold, takes up little room and dries fast. Something that ticks all these boxes is a microfibre towel. I used these daily in Southeast Asia and they were perfect for everyday use.

Universal Adapters

Don’t expect to be charging your gadgets unless you have the right travel adapter. The Universal adapter I brought allowed me to make use of the various plus sockets that occur in Singapore, Thailand etc.

If you do decide to continue travelling after this trip, this adapter can be used anywhere in the world so for such a low fee the reward is huge!

Packing Cubes

To help you pack your bag tidy get yourself a few packing cubes. Keep separate items of clothing in different cubes and stick a label on top of each one this way everything is guaranteed to fit in your backpack and there’ll be no mess.

Perfect for keeping your clothes neat and tidy for your Southeast Asia packing list.

Earplugs

Honestly, this is one I didn’t have but wish I did. Some people in the hostels are king snorers…

I remember being in Phuket and Ho Chi Minh thinking I’m gonna have to move out or I wouldn’t get any sleep. If only I had some earplugs all this could’ve been avoided.

Eye Mask

Accompanying the earplugs with stuff I wish I had is an eye mask. When you’re in a hostel expecting a lay-in and people are switching the lights on and off all the time, trust me, you’ll wish you had an eye mask.

An eye mask accompanied by earplugs is guaranteed to give you a good night’s rest.

Money Belt 

This is something I didn’t have and it is certainly not essential but my mate Brad swore by the money belt and therefore it makes the list.

A money belt hides underneath your clothes and is usually tied around your waist. Inside it, you can keep important items like your bank cards, money, your passport etc. The idea is that if someone does try to rob you, you’ll have nothing in your pockets meaning your valuables are kept safe.

Like I say not essential but a handy piece of kit if you’re a clumsy person.

Tips And Tricks

This section isn’t something you necessarily pack but more a few tips and tricks that I thought would be handy before you set off around Southeast Asia.

Download Important Apps

Something I wish I had known before arriving in Bangkok was some of the best apps to save money. Here is my list of apps you NEED before planning a trip to Southeast Asia.

  1. Grab: Taxi app used all over Southeast Asia
  2. Bolt: Taxi app used all over Southeast Asia
  3. Gojek: Taxi app used predominantly in Indonesia
  4. Booking.com: For all accommodations
  5. Agoda: For all accommodations
  6. Skyscanner: For your flights
  7. Traveloka: For your flights
  8. Hostelworld: For your hostel accommodation
  9. Xe Currency: Live currency conversion so you know you’re not being mugged off.

All of these apps are free to download. With some of the bonus features attached, this can save you hundreds of £££.

Bag Tags

You’ll be surprised at how many of the backpacks look identical. When they come off the carousel at the airport you need something to be distinctly different so you don’t end up checking every bag.

All I had was this bag tag and that’s all it took. As my Osprey Farpoint came off the carousel my little tag let me know that that’s indeed my backpack.

Final Thoughts

The majority of you will visit the main eight, these are:

  1. Thailand
  2. Cambodia
  3. Vietnam
  4. Laos
  5. Malaysia
  6. Singapore
  7. Indonesia
  8. Philippines

If you forget a item don’t stress too much about it. You’ll be able to find a replica or something similar. I’ve seen some people mention taking a water bottle, for me this is completely unnecessary. You can buy bottled water on the cheap everywhere you go, so save yourself the hassle of packing a water bottle.

Pack light, there’s nothing worse than being just a few days in and thinking I’ve overpacked here. The back pain slowly follows and you end up dreading all travel days which isn’t how it should be. I packed for a week and I never had an issue.

I hope this Southeast Asia packing list has been of value to you. Follow this list item for item and you’ll be sure to create some unforgettable memories that you’ll cherish forever.