This post may contain affiliate links. Read the full disclosure
If you are heading to South East Asia soon, you want to be completely prepared to have the best possible trip and that means knowing what to pack for South East Asia too! We have spent a bit of time in different destinations around south east Asia and have worked out what items are essential. Especially if you are travelling with children.
Check out our ultimate South East Asia packing list to help you get organised for your trip. We have even put together an awesome printable packing list for Southeast Asia for you too so make sure you grab the packing list while you’re here!
THE ULTIMATE SOUTH EAST ASIA PACKING LIST
One of the best parts of travelling to Southeast Asia is the fact that you can get away with packing pretty light! So long as you have the essentials, you are well covered and if you forget something, it’s easy to grab an affordable alternative when you arrive.
Although no doubt you would much rather arrive prepared, which is why we have put together our mammoth list of what to pack for South East Asia, to make your job much easier! In fact, all you really need to do is follow our printable checklist and you will be ready for your Southeast Asia adventure!
What to Pack for Southeast Asia
The majority of our South East Asia travel has been with babies and young children, so we’ve also got you covered for family travel in Asia. But if you aren’t travelling with kids, don’t worry. This list is for you too!
That is why it is the ULTIMATE Southeast Asia packing list!
To make it super easy for you to plan your packing and ensure you’ve got the essentials covered, we will organise in categories. This way you can skip any of the categories you don’t need, like what to pack for babies if you are going solo or on a couples trip.
First things first… you want to have reliable luggage and bags suitable for the type of trip you are taking.
The Best Luggage & Backpacks for South East Asia
The last thing you want to worry about is having luggage that fails you on your trip, or a backpack that simply does not fit the things you need on a day to day basis. Having quality luggage and backpacks for your South East Asia trip are essential!
If nothing else, make sure you do invest well in these items. So do you need a backpack or suitcase for Southeast Asia?
The type of bags you need for your trip will depend on the type of trip you are taking. Obviously if you are backpacking South East Asia, you don’t need a sturdy suitcase and vice versa. Here are our top recommendations for the best backpack for South East Asia and the best suitcases and day bags.
South East Asia isn’t the easiest part of the world to roll a suitcase, so if you are moving around a lot, this is something to be mindful of!
Here are our recommendations for the best bags and luggage for your Asia vacation:
If you do choose to take a suitcase with you to Asia, choose one with sturdy spinner wheels so you have less of a struggle over the potentially bumpy sidewalks and curbs.
A soft case is our preference if you are planning to do any cruising in SE Asia or bus tours, as they will take up less room than hard cases. If you are unlikely to need to roll your suitcases far or if you are staying in only one or two places, a hard case is fine.
If you have not yet used packing cubes for your travels, it is time you started! These are the single most important thing for us when it comes to staying organised on any holiday. Even just a weekend away.
It means each type of clothing has its own compact storage, making it super easy to find what you are looking for.
This is also how we manage to only need one or two suitcases for every trip we take. Including for our Vietnam packing list, fitting everything in our suitcases for us and our toddler for a 2-week trip.
Now for the extra stuff you won’t want to forget! While some of these items you may decide to skip on, these are all really useful considerations.
Some are especially essential if you are looking for a backpacking South East Asia packing list, while others are great for all types of travel to the region! What you take will also depend on the type of trip, the length of your trip and who you are travelling with too.
The weather in the majority of Southeast Asia is warmer through most of the year, ranging to hot and humid climates in certain regions. For this reason, comfortable loose clothing is going to be your best choice with shoes you can walk in across a variety of conditions.
Here are our recommendations for clothes for Southeast Asia by gender and age:
Southeast Asia Packing List: Women
Tops – Tank tops are good for staying cool as well as some sleeved t-shirts that cover your shoulders in case you are visiting any spiritual or conservative sites during your visit. Choose lightweight fabrics such as cotton that are breathable and help you to stay cool.
Bottoms – Comfortable shorts, with at least one pair suitable for active days if you plan on doing anything other than lazing about a resort. Skirts are also fine so long as they are not too short. Maxi skirts are something I wore a lot of during our South East Asia travel. It is also useful to pack at least one pair of long pants if you are not fond of maxi skirts, as this will allow you to cover up appropriately at temple visits.
Dresses – A dress or two are an easy option for staying cool during warm days, for a swimsuit cover-up or if you plan to go anywhere a little dressier, such as a nice restaurant or bar.
Lightweight jacket or cardigan – You may find yourself feeling cool while in transit or when indoors in air conditioning, so always pack a lightweight cardigan or shawl that you can use for some extra warmth if needed.
Raincoat or poncho – If you are doing any hikes or backpacking in South East Asia, you will want something waterproof so a proper raincoat is ideal. If not, a plastic poncho would suffice just in case you have unexpected rain during any day trips and excursions.
Socks – Pack a pair of warm socks just in case you get cold during flights. This is something I so often forget when travelling to warm destinations so I don’t want you to make the same mistake of suffering cold tootsies!
Swimsuit – There are some glorious beaches and resorts in Asia and after a hot day of exploring, you will appreciate the chance to cool down in the water so make sure you pack your swimsuit or two.
Sarong – A sarong up is a great option for moving between your room and the pool or as a backup for providing some extra coverage when you are visiting any conservative areas. It’s amazing what you can do with a sarong!
Hat – Whether you prefer a cap or a wide-brimmed sun hat, be sure to pack one! A cap packs easily but a sunhat provides extra sun protection if you have the room.
Sunglasses – Don’t spend your holiday squinting! Good quality sunglasses are a must, although you may consider leaving your really expensive pair at home for more budget-friendly ones. I’ve broken more than one pair of sunnies while travelling!
Underwear – And let’s not forget those essentials… underwear and bras. Make sure you bring comfy options. Once again, choose non-synthetic fabrics like cotton where possible.
PJs – What you would normally wear at home in the summer would be suitable unless you are backpacking, in which case you may not bother bringing any.
TIP: Keep flashy jewellery to a minimum as you don’t want to attract the wrong kind of attention. Consider leaving any of your expensive jewellery at home. Substitute it for some cheap, fun inexpensive pieces instead of you feel naked without your bling!
Southeast Asia Packing List: Men
Tops – Bring a mix of T-shirts and tank tops for your trip. Be mindful of any logos or images on your shirts that may cause offence if you are in a conservative part of Asia. You will be able to stock up on plenty of beer-branded and novelty shirts when visiting too if you run short.
Bottoms – A few pairs of shorts that are comfortable for all weather are ideal, plus a pair of long pants for going out or visiting sacred areas. Choose light material for your pants and leave the jeans at home.
Rain jacket or poncho – A rainproof, lightweight jacket if you plan on doing any Asia backpacking route or hiking. If not, a plastic disposable ponchofor emergency bad weather is a cheap and easy option for wet weather days out.
Swim shorts – Don’t forget your swimming gear, whatever that looks like for you. Board shorts, speedos, sun vest. Essential for those beach and pool chill out sessions!
Hat – Bring a cap or wide-brimmed hat to keep your head and face protected from the sun. A bucket hat may be an easy option since they fold down small and provide all-round protection compared to a cap.
Collared shirt – A dressy shirt for when you go out for dinner somewhere nice, to a trendy bar or even just to visit a sacred site is a must. Go for one that doesn’t crinkle too badly in your luggage as you may not always have access to an iron.
Socks – A pair of warm socks are useful for flights in case you get cold with the air conditioning during long haul travel. Always handy to have, even if you plan to spend the majority of your time in flip flops. If you are backpacking or doing hikes, you will want several pairs of good quality socks.
Underwear – Bring comfortable cotton underwear in your preferred style. If you purchase new underwear for the trip, make sure you road test them first because you don’t want to arrive only to find them really uncomfortable and annoying!
Sunglasses – A pair of good UV protection sunglasses. If you have a spare pair, bring your backup rather than your expensive ones from home just in case!
Southeast Asia Packing List: Children
Tops – Cotton T-shirts and tank tops that are easy to wash and wear. Go for darker prints and avoid white, as we all know how messy kids can be! While you will be able to wash during your trip, being able to rinse out a kids top in the sink and hang over the bath can be a great option too.
Bottoms – Comfortable shorts in a variety of lengths are ideal, with at least one pair of comfortable, loose-fitting long pants.
Dresses – For little girls, you may wish to pack one or two sundresses for day or night wear and for easy cover-up while at the beach or pool.
Swimmers –Swimsuits, sun vests and any other essentials your kids may need for swimming. This may include arm floaties or vest and goggles.
Hat – A hat that offers good sun protection such as a bucket hat style or one with a flap at the back.
Socks – Kids get cold pretty easily, so make sure you pack them a pair of socks that can go in their carry on for keeping feet warm during flights or on cold floors.
Waterproof jacket or poncho – A rainproof jacket if you are doing a lot of hikes as a family, or just a plastic disposable poncho to throw over their clothes for rainy weather.
Underwear – Plenty of comfortable underwear. Make sure they are well-fitting before you leave. Kids with wedgies are not happy kids!
PJs – Cotton PJs are perfect. Something light and comfortable.
Toys – Keep it compact and simple but make sure you pack a couple of small items that will keep your child entertained during your travels.
We always pack our girls travel activity packs and this tends to keep them happy for the majority of the trip, always including a colouring book and pencils/crayons. You can also pick up some super cute handmade toys around Asia too which make a nice souvenir for kids.
What Shoes Do I need for South East Asia?
Depending on the length of your stay, 2-3 pairs of shoes maximum should be enough for your whole trip.
Bring a pair of comfortable closed-in day shoes that you can wear for walking around cities or nature and a pair of flip flops or sandals.
If you are backpacking or hiking, you will also want a pair of sturdy and comfortable hiking shoes on your SE Asia packing list too.
Ladies, leave the high heels at home. In many places, the foot paths are not really heel friendly (or even stroller friendly), so stick with sandals you can dress up.
I love Sanuk Yoga Sling sandals because they are super comfy plus you can dress them up with a maxi dress pretty easily, for day to nightwear.
What to Bring to South East Asia For a Baby
If you are travelling South East Asia with a baby or toddler, there are a lot of extra considerations you need for your packing list.
It is amazing how someone so small uses so many things, but in saying that, there are a lot of items you could bring that you really don’t need to!
TIP: Our advice is to slim down what you bring as much as you are comfortably possible. This will make your travel easier and mean you aren’t lugging everything plus the kitchen sink!
Here is your packing list Southeast Asia for babies:
Nappies – You can get nappies and diapers in most places around South East Asia, however, they will likely not be the brands you are used to so if your child is prone to irritation when you use different brands, or if you’d rather just not have to worry, bring enough to last you for your entire trip. We always pack enough to cover our average per day for the duration. The best thing is that when you use up the nappies, you have space to fit your shopping! HA yes… it’s a great bonus!
Nappy rash cream – Don’t forget this! A new environment means your baby may be more prone to diaper rash than usual, and there is nothing worse than trying to track down a tube in an unknown country!
Nappy bags – I don’t mean the big bulky bag you carry all your baby paraphernalia. No I mean the plastic bags you use to dispose of stinky nappies to reduce the smell and potential mess. Bring them! You may not always be able to pop down the hall at your hotel to dispose of in the garbage chute so this will reduce some of those smells.
Baby wipes – There isn’t much you can’t use baby wipes for so even if you are travelling with older kids or no kids, baby wipes are always useful!
Bottles & feeding related items – If your baby is breastfed, you won’t need a lot. A nursing cover will give you a little extra privacy and as a whole, most parts of Asia are quite accepting of breastfeeding mothers so long as you are discreet. If your baby is formula-fed, aim to bring enough to cover your trip as well as any bottles or sterilisation items you need to feed your child. The quality of formula you buy overseas may not be the same as back home, which is why we recommend taking enough for your stay.
Baby food – If your baby has started solids, you will need to bring baby food with you too. Yes, you can absolutely get baby food in Asia! However, it won’t be the brands you are used to if you use pre-made baby food. Also if you are travelling for more than a couple of days, you may want to take supermarket baby food with you instead of homemade for convenience. Bring enough for your whole trip. The pouches are easier to pack than jars!
Bowl & spoon – Bring the items you need for feeding your baby while on the move so you don’t need to worry about not having anything suitable when you arrive.
Pacifier – If your child uses one, take at least one back up, if not 2. They are easy to lose!
Bibs – We actually took disposable bibs with us during our Asia and European travels with toddlers. This means not having to worry about messy bibs while travelling, but if you do decide to take them from home, you can wash them in hotel sinks and hang to dry.
Swaddle/wraps – Bring light to medium swaddles or wraps to keep your baby comfortable for sleep and settling.
Onesies/Outfits – Cotton onesies that you can easily wash and wear. Leave the heavy fabrics at home so baby doesn’t get too hot. Bring enough for an outfit a day plus a couple of spares, unless you know you have washing facilities where you are staying.
Socks – Keep those tiny toes warm during transit and at night.
Swim nappies – If your baby is joining you in the pool or beach, make sure you are prepared! Swim nappies can be either washable or disposable.
Swimsuit – Keep little arms and shoulders safe from the sun with an all in one swimsuit, ideally with long sleeves and 3/4 legs to prevent little ones from getting too much sun exposure.
Hat – A soft flap style hat that protects their face and the back of their neck.
Baby carrier – A carrier is definitely the better option rather than a stroller when travelling through Asia. No need to worry about uneven sideways or dodging motorbikes! Plus it keeps your baby nice and close too. We love the Ergo carrier and it was our choice for travel when our girls were young. So many benefits for babywearing in SE Asia.
Portable high chair – While most resorts will have high chairs for feeding older babies, most smaller hotels and restaurants will not. Take a portable one instead. There are a few different options. We used a fabric chair sling style high chair, or you can get Booster seats that sit on a chair. These are larger so make sure you have the room in your luggage.
Car seat – If you will be travelling via car you can request a transfer with a car seat, however, the quality is not always wonderful! We had to install one ourselves when we arrived in HCMC with a 1-year-old!
Taking your own from home means you know the quality and know how to install it (hopefully). Car seat laws are a lot less strict in many parts of Asia so it is worth checking them out before you travel. If you’d rather leave it behind (we did), do your research and see what alternatives you have for hiring or using alternative means of transport.
What Should You Leave Behind?
Stroller / Pram – Use a carrier instead! It packs easier, one less thing to carry, plus you don’t have to get frustrated trying to navigate around motorbikes while crossing the road, or the fact that in parts of South East Asia locals park their motorbikes on the pathway so you have to walk on the road anyway. Bumpy footpaths, potholes.
The toiletries you bring when packing for SE Asia in part depend on the items you use in your day to day life, and there may be must items for you that aren’t on this list.
We’ve covered the basics here, with just the things you can’t be without.
Leave the heavy make up supplies at home if you can stand it. Stick with a lighter alternative such as tinted moisturiser with SPF protection, mascara and lip gloss! You will just be a hot mess after a day of exploring anyway!
Make sure you don’t forget any of the essential tech items you want for your trip. The obvious stuff is often overlooked and you don’t want to be caught trying to find a charging cable because your phone is flat.
Aim to minimise the amount of excess stuff you take though, so bulky laptops and tablets may not be essential, unless you are travelling for work or for a short trip.
Alternatively, if you are travelling with kids, a tablet with some educational games and videos can be a complete sanity saver!
We actually survived with a couple of Peppa Pig videos on my phone during our first trip with a toddler, just to keep her occupied waiting for meals to arrive in restaurants as this was usually when the tired travelling child meltdowns kicked in! We are better prepared these days!
A tablet can also double as a Kindle if you enjoy reading while you travel. I have an Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscription which I use on my iPad for an endless supply of reading material and this means no bulky books to pack!
Tip: If you plan to get a local SIM card while travelling, you may want to just take an old unlocked phone with you instead of your primary phone.
This way you don’t have to worry about losing your phone or the potential of losing your every day SIM card from home. This is usually cheaper than overseas roaming charges with your existing telecommunications provider usually!
Another option is using a global WiFi device such as Skyroam, so you can stay connected no matter where you go.
Use code “FOURAROUNDTHEWORLD” to save on your Skyroam device!
Free Printable Packing Checklist
We have put together a 3 page printable South East Asia packing list for you, to help make your travel planning a complete breeze. It includes a checklist section for men, women, children and babies, as well as travel essentials and gadgets. Click below to get your printable checklist:
What Countries Form South East Asia?
While there are a lot of similarities in terms of what to pack for Asia, regardless of which region you are visiting, it is always good to know exactly what countries form South East Asia. Southeast Asia is the region that lies south of China and Japan and north of Australia and the Indian Ocean.
Southeastern Asia sits across both the Northern and Southern hemispheres, which means there are some variations in climate. South East Asia forms around 10% of Asia, making it a significant region within the world.
The big things to know before you visit South East Asia for the first time is if you are travelling from a western country, the culture will likely be distinctly different from what you are used to.
But that’s the best part! Their traditions are incredible to learn about but they also need to be respected as a guest in these countries.
With this in mind, dress to suit where you are. This is so important if you are visiting temples or sacred sights around Asia. Cover your shoulders, cover your legs. Men and women!
Take care with your belongings. While we had no issues with crime. it does happen so take precautions to take care of your belongings always. Keep your money and valuables on your person whenever possible This is common sense whenever you travel as you can never be too careful.
The road rules are very different so if you are planning to drive or ride a motorbike, make sure you are aware of the way things work locally and that you have the right identification you need.
If travelling with kids, take care to avoid spicy foods and to avoid the dreaded travel belly, choose fruits that can be peeled for extra safety.
We hope our South East Asia travel checklist helps you plan the perfect adventure!