A (Stylish) Packing Guide To South East Asia

A Buddhist temple in Vientiane – Laos

Packing for South East Asia can be tricky because it often involves traveling through very different locations in a very short time. One minute you may be in Bangkok visiting temples and the next partying on a beach in South Vietnam or hiking through some remote mountains in Northern Laos.

Whilst reaching for your biggest suitcase and stuffing it with everything you may need might seem like a good idea at first, it’s actually the worst thing you could possibly do. Trust me, the last thing you’ll want to do when jumping in between ferries, overnight trains and 10-hour bus rides will be to carry massive luggage around with you!

Now I’m not saying that you should go all out and start wearing Crocs, cargo pants or even carry a backpack. This is a ‘stylish’ packing guide after all and call me vain or whatever but  fanny packs just aren’t my style (neither are Crocs for that matter).

However, with a little bit of planning I think that you should still be able to rock that ‘stylish tourist’ look and get away with traveling with a small but perfectly formed bag.


♥ Clothes

Versatility is key. Neutral/ Complementary colors with a few bright accessories will allow you to mix and match and get the most out of your outfits. Avoid whites though as they will be impossible to keep clean and you’ll spend half of your holiday hunched over the sink trying to get stains out of your clothes. Not fun!

For a two week trip I’d pack:

  • One pair of light pants, jeans or capris
  • One skirt (knee lengthish – Asian countries are often quite conservative so this is not the time to rock that mini skirt)
  • One or two pairs of shorts (navy and sand are good versatile colors – again, nothing too short)
  • Five tops (1 for night time, 1 tank top, 2 tee-shirts and a long shirt/tunic to wear over your jeans, pants or leggings)
  • Two dresses – 1 light maxi dress to wear day or night and a nice cotton or little black dress for night time.* (If you’re a dress girl like me than you can always replace your skirt or short allocation with another dress.)
  • Seven pairs of underwear & three bras
  • A swimsuit
  • One or two pairs of socks
  • One pair of leggings – particularly handy if you’re planning on visiting religious sites or if you end up traveling through colder areas. I’m told they’re good for exercising too – I wouldn’t know since I consider shopping exercising.
  • One cardigan or a light jacket – air conditioning can be a real pain.
  • Pjs or a long tee to sleep in
  • I also like to buy a sarong when I get to the beach as they are so comfortable and you can do so much with them.

* Note that, traditionally, most Asian women only wear black at night time as they consider it to be a bit of a ‘racy’ color.  That being said, you’ll probably want to avoid wearing black during the day anyway as it can get very hot!

♥ Shoes & Bags

Don’t even think about packing more than three pairs of shoes and please leave those skinny high heels at home; they won’t be any use to you when you’re partying on the beach and you’ll be praying for flat shoes after a full day of sightseeing. Wedges are a nice compromise though if you really need the extra height and they can be worn day or night. Apart from that you should only need a pair of Chucks to walk around (or trainers if you insist!) and some nice sandals or flip flops.

I always carry a small cross-over bag when I’m traveling as I find it’s the best way to keep my money safe at all times. It also leaves my hands free for looking through all the clothes I want to buy :)

♥ Make Up

This is an area I always struggle with as I love make-up and I always think that the holidays will be the perfect time to try out new looks. Wrong! It’s generally too hot or humid to wear make up in South East Asia and every time I’m there I end up not wearing any make up at all after just a few days.

The last time I was in Asia I only packed BB cream, waterproof mascara and my mini MAC eye shadow/bronzer/lip gloss palette and it was perfect. I might even only pack BB cream next time. Might.

♥ Toiletries

It’s really easy to buy toothbrushes, toothpaste and soap when you get to Asia but I would recommend you bring your own bug repellent, and favorite sunscreen as those can be a little bit more tricky to find in certain regions (and a little bit more pricey). Tampons are also less widely available than pads so come prepared if need be.

♥ Medication

Many people get a funny tummy when they first get to Asia due to the change of food and temperature. Nothing to get too stressed about but it’s always good to bring along some Immodium (or something similar) with you just in case. Nurofen/Aspirin is also a good thing to carry around, if only to survive the ‘morning afters’.

♥ Extras

  • Your camera and your camera charger (I’ve made the mistake of leaving one or the other behind too many times)
  • An international power plug so that you don’t blow up the place when trying to plug in the said charger
  • Your phone – if you must – but please don’t be one of those people who spend most of their holiday checking Facebook or looking up cat videos on You tube. It’s just sad.
  • Earplugs – in case you decide to go to bed before anyone else on the island

That should do it! Remember to leave a little bit of space for some local shopping as well, worse comes to worse you can always buy a bigger bag before coming home! -)

Happy Travels!

x Pearl

ps. What to pack for New Zealand, What to pack for France.


  • I usually post comments from my iPhone and somehow end up posting comments on the wrong post! Lucky I’m doing this one from my new iPad :-)

    I love this packing guide. Very useful! I need all the holiday packing guides I can get! The first time I went to Fiji I had a huge suitcase which included jeans and boots and a leather jacket. I spent 80% of my time in togs and the other 20% in shorts. Great comment on airconditioning!

    • Thank you Charlotte (ps. sorry it’s taken me so long to reply to your comment, I overlooked it somehow!). I know what you mean, I’m not sure if I could ever travel without any makeup :)

Comments are closed.