10 Southeast Asia Travel Essentials

Last year I spent two months volunteering in Sri Lanka and recently came back from backpacking Southeast Asia with my partner. It has been a great experience - living out of a backpack and carrying only stuff we actually needed. I realised how many things I own and not need (and haven't used in ages) and that we have been a bit materialistic. Thanks to living and travelling in developing Asian countries I gained a new freedom and have changed the way I lived.

People seem to be surprised when I tell them I didn't need that much and managed to pack my life into a little backpack. Really, it's not that difficult and makes you feel free. Check out my 10 Southeast Asia backpacking essentials.

1 Backpack

A stable and high-quality backpack is what you should aim for. Mine is by Osprey, about 30l and serves alright as a hand luggage. During my travels, I really appreciated a backpack rain cover and a raincoat for myself - sometimes it starts to rain heavily and out of nothing in the Southeast Asia.

2 Basic first aid items 

First aid is a must, accidents happen and you never know when. I really appreciated it when I cut into the joint of my hand and was bleeding like stuck pig in Sri Lanka.

3 Mosquito repellent

These little creatures were my worst enemies in the Southeast Asia! Mosquitos are likely to carry dengue fever and malaria there, so bear that in mind and try to avoid them. Cover your legs and arms, wear natural colours and avoid sweet smelling scents on your body (perfumes, shampoos, oils etc). Also, don't buy repellents with flammable substances, you can't have them in your hand luggage.

4 Sleeping mask and earplugs 

If you plan on sleeping in hostels and busy cities - get your earplugs and the sleeping mask ready.  You may not use them but if you will have to, you'll be grateful for having them with you. Especially when you're a sensitive sleeper.

5 Sun protection

A hat or a cap is necessary to protect your head from the heating sun otherwise, you may get crazy. When I lived in Sri Lanka I really loved using local coconut oil for my hair as they got very dry from the sun. I tried to avoid using sunscreen because I'm not a fan of all those chemical ingredients and how sticky it gets on my skin (mixed with transudation, yummy!). I used a shea butter instead.

6 Shea butter

I love using unrefined shea butter as a sun protection - it has SPF about 6 and works great for me even though I have a pale skin. It also works as a moisturizer, massage butter, lip balm and has antioxidant and healing powers (good for sunburn too). All organic!

7 A light scarf or a sarong

That can be used in many ways - as a fashion accessory, a sun protection, a blanket to snuggle in or a cover to put on when entering a temple. I also used a sarong instead of a blanket. It's very handy at the airports when sleeping or just waiting in air conditioned halls. I always snuggle in my sarong and feel super safe and cosy. 

8 Water filter

Drinking water in Asia can cause you an infection and therefore, you should avoid drinking it. Bottles of water are inexpensive and available everywhere, though I find it more comfortable and sustainable to use a mini water filter (mine is by SAWYER) and drink water through it. Super handy when travelling to distant and lonely places too!

9 Clothes and shoes

I didn't bring many clothes to my Southeast Asia journey, a couple of short sleeved T-shirts and shirts, some tank tops, bikini, a long sleeved shirt, joggers and left some space for the clothes that I bought during the trip. I prefer natural coloured clothes without any brand prints, so that I am able to better fit in and not look like a tourist. Also, a microfiber towel is definitely recommended - it's lightweight and quick drying which is all you should aim for when backpacking.

I brought only two pairs of shoes with me, cheap flip flops and NIKE free run trainers which I  would definitely recommend you - they are comfortable, breathable, alright for both running and hiking plus they look great on feet.

10 iPad mini

I love bringing my iPad mini for my travels with me. It's loaded with books, travel guides, I keep copies of my travel plans and travel documents in there and use it for writing and journaling as well.

+ I couldn't travel without my camera (to take tons of pictures and capture all the amazing moments) and I found really handy having a Revolut card with me. It's in fact a prepaid travel credit card (managed through a phone app) which allows you to spend money globally with no fees - a pretty good deal.

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