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My 10 Packing Essentials when backpacking South East Asia

Updated On 26th April, 2020

Honestly, as we left for South East Asia we were clueless.

I had no idea what it would look like, smell like, be like and how much money i would spend.
The only advice that had really stood out to me was ‘Make sure you and Leanne stick together at that Full Moon Party- it can be a very dangerous place’.
That really didn’t prepare me for much.
Anyway half of the fun really is in finding out yourself and making it up as you go along.
If you’re looking for particular information about Visas, Insurance, Jabs & what Electronics i took click here,  likewise you can see exactly what i packed in my backpack in my YouTube video here.

1. Travel Vaccinations 

Now, I don’t know how i managed it, but I was bitten by a dog AND a Monkey whilst I was travelling. 
The dog didn’t pierce my skin however the monkey did. Whilst these are great stories to tell, obviously i had risk of exposure to Rabies, which would most certainly not have been as great a story to tell.

You have to understand health and safety is NOT a priority in SE ASIA like it is in England, and I had to wait until the end of our 6 hour boat trip to be taken back to the island to seek medical attention.
Luckily I had the Rabies pre-exposure jab in the UK, which gave me 24 hours to seek medical attention. This cost £150, but in my case it saved me alot more, as it makes post exposure treatment alot more simple. 
My advice? Do not cut costs with Travel vaccinations, it’s definitely not worth the risk.
2. Tiger balm

All HAIL the Tiger Balm.
However much you are ‘unbiteable’ it is almost certain you will be bitten by mozzys and midgeys, whilst in SE Asia. Some worse than others (Leanne..:D).
You know that uncontrollable itch that you just HAVE to scratch? 
Answer = TIGER BALM.
Honestly, i don’t know how we only just discovered it.
You can buy them in the UK, so I would buy one to pop in your toiletries bag to get you started.
Whilst your out in SE ASIA you can get them anywhere and everywhere so when you run out, you need not panic.
You will 100% thank me.
3. Jungle Formula
What’s even better- is to prevent the bites in the first place.
I recommend the Maximum strength.
You can get hold of them in nearly all BOOTSTESCO and local pharmacies.
I got my Jungle Spray off Amazon. (Cause i’m lazy and they bring it to me).
4. Aftersun / Aloe Vera Gel
Incase you accidentally stay out in the sun a wee bit too long, or incase you fall asleep for 2 hours on a boat in the midday heat with no suncream on- Aloe Vera is going to be your BEST friend.

I had an extremely bad experience of Sunburn, and not only was it painful- i had to stay out of the sun for over 2 weeks to allow it to heal, and from then on had to be very careful.
I got through a silly amount of Aloe Vera but now, apart from a little scar on my chest, you wouldn’t be able to even tell i’d suffered. 
Thailand is home of cheap massages and god forbid should this occur- you can even pick up an Aloe vera body massage for about £5.

The picture below was my chest a week and a bit after falling asleep on the boat. (Not cool). This was a pretty bad case, but your skin is so delicate and shouldn’t be over exposed. 

So be prepared!

5. Ipod + earphones and a travel pillow

If you’re covering a lot of ground and doing it, like us, on a budget, then you will be spending many hours on coaches/trains/boats. 

You soon get used to it as will you get used to sleeping anywhere and everywhere. But to soften the blow a travel pillow is going to be another of your best friends.

Likewise will a portable charger and earphones be.
6. Mini Backpack

This was something i only decided to take last minute. Leanne and I were comparing backpack contents the night before (bit late really) and this was the one thing i was missing. Luckily, my friend helped me out and lent me hers, and now i wonder how on earth i would have done it without!!!
From hopping on a moped around the island with your essentials, going on a 2 day trek with a spare change of clothes and a toothbrush, going for a picnic on the beach to having a little walk around the capital… 

…it was perfect, and is a must must must.

7. Underwater camera /waterproof accessories

If you get caught up in the wet festivities of Songkram (Thai new year) and you want to take any form of photo over those 5 days- then you will need something waterproof.
For this you can get away with a case like i did.
If you want to go kayaking, canoeing, snorkelling or diving, then quite obviously you will also need something waterproof. 
If you have no idea which GoPro to get, watch my video guide here:

8. Waterproof backpack cover

When it’s rainy season in Thailand (May-October), it really does rain. Short down pours but the heavens really do open. And if it happens to occur when you are travelling around with your backpack on then you will 100% want to make sure you have a waterproof cover with your backpack and if not get one. 
Your clothes will be creased (and tatty) enough, without adding a nice damp smell to them. And if you are travelling to less touristy places you may not have a laundry service for a while so all around its best to just get a waterproof cover!
9. Bumbag

Whatever you say, they ARE in fashion.
There is always going to be a risk of pick pocketers when you travel and they are always more likely to target young people. Luckily i had no bad experiences and nothing got taken. But where your passport and money are concerned it’s not something you can just brush off lightly and call mum to sort out for you.
The ‘bumbag’ comes in handy for when you’re on the move as you have quick access to money/passport/tickets and you don’t have to keep taking off your (heavy) backpack to search and then load it back on.

Handy too for nights out and the Full moon party where you don’t want to take a bag but you need money/room key etc and holding it in your hand/ loosely in your pocket just isn’t a sensible idea.
Fashionable or not, it’s definitely one of my backpacking essentials.
Shop bumbags here

10. First Aid Kit.
As i have already mentioned. SE Asia is a danger hazard- particularly where buckets/Chang are involved. 
In Koh Phangan for example, every other person has a bandage/ an eye patch/crutches or an injury of some sort.
If you can manage to avoid monkey bites and getting sea urchins in your foot then thats a good start. 
But for the little cuts and knocks you pick up, you will still need a first aid kit. Just with basic little plasters and cleaning material. 
Life and accommodation isn’t as clean as you would like when you’re travelling and to risk infection in open wounds isn’t worth it.

My Extra Tips, Tricks ‘n’ facts:
Thailand- Flat 2 pin adaptor, 
Malaysia- UK plug socket, 
Indonesia- Round 2 pin adaptor, 
Singapore- UK plug sockets.
– Become a toilet paper thief. 
A lot of toilets will be holes in the floor and won’t have toilet roll. If your at a hotel and they have a spare toilet roll, fit it in a corner of your backpack! Take one from the UK to start you off also.
– There is wifi EVERYWHERE. 
Perfect way to back up your photos to Facebook, make a skype call and check in back home.
– Getting from A to B is more simple than you think
Navigating around and hooking up with trains/buses/boats couldn’t be more straight forward, particularly in Thailand. There are tourist travel shops and advice on every single street, they cater for us tourists.
– Dogs are like street rats. 
They aren’t fed and cared for like they are in England and you will immediately see that in their appearence. This too means they don’t behave in the same way, hence i went to stroke one and it bit me. Just be aware.
– Transport is relaxed, just like the people and life in SE ASIA. 
Buses will be late, and journeys will take 5 hours longer than expected. But you will get there- eventually.
– 7eleven (co-op equivalent) will become your best friend. 
Cheap food / drink sells most essentials.
– Be extremely careful with alcohol. 
Do not buy spirits from local shops, or anything which seal has been broken. Try stick to bottled beer or drinks you can see being opened.
Sometimes you need a scare to realise it’s serious- British Backpacker dies in Indonesia, 2013.
If i’ve missed anything or you have any questions then pop me a message or a comment below 🙂
but otherwise…book a flight!!!
(within reason, come on)

Thank you for reading!

Have you guys been to South East Asia?!
What were your packing essentials?

Mollie xxxx
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