As some of you might already know from my Instagram, I’ve been backpacking through South-East Asia for a whole month after my exams. It’s been the first time I’ve been backpacking, and since I was pretty nervous before leaving I want to write down some advice regarding packing and preparing your trip, in case anybody feels the same way!
First of all I didn’t really want to plan much, and since I had my final exams I didn’t have much time either (I worked until 5h before my flight, so I mainly packed and got infos in the 2-3 evenings after work once I finished my exams). I used a backpack I already had at home (35 + 10 liters from Deuter), so I had to pack light to fit everything inside. I managed to pack 8kg (came back with 9kg, probably the one kg more was mainly sand since I didn’t buy much), and next time I would definitely try to take even less with me.
My packing list for 25d in South-East Asia (Feb):
Clothes/ Shoes: you definitely can save space for this one since you can buy all clothes over there (tshirts for 2-3$, bring things you think will be difficult to buy, for example if you have very big/small feet or need special sizes for bras/ bikinis) and can give up everything for laundry even cheaper. I took with me:
– long pants (something made out of a light cloth is definitely better since it saves space compared to jeans), 2 shorts (cotton & jeans), jeans skirt
– 3 dresses (dresses are probably the most amazing thing! They take up almost no space and make you look fab day & night!)
– flip flops, Toms, Nike running shoes
– 6 pairs of socks (less would have done too!), 3 bras, 8 pair of underwear, 1 bikini (I didn’t plan on spending a whole week at the beach, but one was more than enough)
– 1 big sarong scarf (also used it as a dress/ towel at the beach later on)
– cashmere pullover, hoodie (I decided not to take a jacket with me, since I didn’t want something that bulky. A cashmere pullover was handy when it got really cold, since I could fit it under the hoodie)
– 1 pajama (top & shorts) (usually there is lots of air-condition in hostels, but if there isn’t you’ll be glad if you have shorts & a top and not long pants)
– 1 t-shirt, 1 long sleeve top, 1 long cotton chemise (din’t use it, could be handy in more conservative regions), 3 crop tops (crop tops are great! they look good with high waist shorts/ skirts and take up less space than regular tshirts!)
Toiletry: less is more! After reading several advises about what to take and not to take I tried to minimize to the strictly necessary things. I didn’t take any make-up with me besides a mascara and some eye-shadows and I bought some small containers where I could fill in creams/ shampoo etc. so I didn’t have to carry the whole bottle with me. Make sure you get containers which don’t break when the fall down, I had quite a mess when mine exploded.
– 1 big & 1 small microfiber towel (more convenient than regular towels since they are light and don’t use much space)
– shower gel, shampoo, conditioner (travel sized), razor (never know how good waxing might be in certain countries), deodorant
– Victorinox Card (scissors, tweezers, nail file, knife,…)
– Eyeshadows + 2 brushes, Mascara, make up remover + pads, lip balm, lip stick
– Parfume in a refill ampule
– tampons (might sound weird, but not all countries have them!)
– hairpins & hairbands
– contact lenses
– tooth brush & tooth paste
– small foldable hair brush with mirror, handkerchiefs, cotton buds
– face cream, sun screen, after sun (this things are really expensive in touristy spots in south of Thailand, make sure to bring them from home or from a less touristy spot)
Medicines: I didn’t really bring a lot of medicines or consult a doctor before going on a trip..if you go for a longer trip that might be a good idea. In Zurich the “Tropeninstitut” gives good consultation about what medicines to take and if to do any vaccinations (it all depends on the places you’re planning on going). I didn’t get seriously sick, just some minor aches or little food poisonings, but I guess that’s part of the adventure. I used all the medicines I took with me at least once and didn’t feel like I needed any more (I’m usually not the type of person who takes lots of medicines). The last day I must have eaten something bad and felt sick for about 3 weeks after being back (apparently I got an elevated level of acidity in my stomach)- if you get sick when you’re back, go to the doctor!
– Ponstan (500mg), Dafalgan (1g): pain killers
– Loperamid: against diarrhea, might come in handy if you get food poisoning on a long bus journey
– Buscopan: against stomach cramps
– Motilium: against nausea
– Moskito-Spray (used it almost on an hourly basis, you can buy it very cheap in Thailand/ Laos)
Tech: less is more also here! Try to take only the things you really need
– Nikon D300 camera: I enjoy taking pictures very much, so I decided to carry a big camera with me. The pictures came out amazing and even if carrying around such a heavy camera was a big burden, it was definitely worth it. Next time I might even take a tripod with me in order to get pretty pictures at sunset/ sunrise/ night.
– GoPro: I didn’t think I would really use the camera, but it turned out to be very fun and I’ve done over a 100 short clips! Very fun, especially when riding bikes, jumping down waterfalls or snorkeling
– iPhone: I opted for the iPhone instead of iPad/ MacBook since it was only a short trip and I didn’t want to carry around much weight with me
– chargers, USB stick, headphones
– cotton sleeping bag (didn’t use it, but a small sleeping bag can come in handy if you happen to stay in a hostel which doesn’t look very clean. I would recommend one that you can also use as a blanket, preferably made out of silk, even though way more expensive: the material is lighter and doesn’t absorb sweat so it’s more hygienic), light blanket (very very handy in case you have strong air-con or it’s cold on the bus/ train/ boat, take one with you if you don’t have any sleeping bag)
– small bag, clutch, big day bag (definitely too many bags- one day backpack and a small clutch both for going out as for the documents while traveling will do it! In Thailand it was full of fake backpacks which very very cheap to buy…)
– snacks (I brought some crackers and trail mix- this things can come in handy in long trips in case you don’t like the food or get home sick but if you don’t have extra space you can buy a lot of those things once you’re there and not risk to get things smashed or infested by aunts)
– travel guide (I took a Lonely Planet guide with me, but I would recommend to download it on your phone and not to carry such a heavy weight with you)
– map (I like having maps in printed form, it gives you something to talk about with other travelers and doesn’t take up much space)
– tickets & passport (be sure you have a copy or have written the passport nr. somewhere safe, I kept all my ticket/ receipts on my iPhone so they were saved in the cloud- never know..)
– books (I usually read on my iPad/ iPhone so I decided not to carry any heavy books with me..in case you are the old school type take 1 book with you, most hostels have book exchange in various languages
– lock: essential to lock your stuff away in hostels
– plastic bags: I divided all my stuff in plastic bags, so I could take out the stuff I needed from the backpack. Very handy to keep things neat, especially if you have a backpack you can only open from the top
– travel journal (even if you’re not the type who writes in a journal every day, bring one with you or buy one there..you’ll regret not writing down (the best) moments of your trip and infos like hostel names and other places you like!)
– credit cards, cash, student ID, driving license (make sure to have the numbers of your cards + emergency numbers written down, just in case they get stolen! And check before you leave how much it costs, if you use your cards to take out money from an ATM)
– eye mask & earplugs, laundry bag, foldable bag (in case you plan on doing some shopping before heading back- I didn’t use mine since I didn’t buy anything),
Friends and people I met on my trip kept asking me about how it was to travel alone as a girl and if I wasn’t scared. I must say that in all the places I’ve been on this trip, I’ve always felt safe and never really worried much about getting into trouble. The important thing is to keep your eyes open and avoid risky situations (for example try to stay in nicer parts of town and go out in groups, don’t do drugs/ drink excessive amounts of alcohol etc).
Let me know if you want to know anything else in particular about my backpacking 101, I’ll be happy to answer all your questions! Next up will be more details about the places I’ve visited in Singapore, Thailand and Laos – is there anything in particular you would like to know? Have you done similar experiences? Looking forward to getting your feedback 🙂