Backpacking in South East Asia: A Pre-Flight Checklist


In a couple of months I’ll be heading out to South East Asia to go backpacking around Bali and Thailand. It’ll basically be like a “gap yaaah” that’s condensed into three-and-a-half weeks and two countries. When I booked the flights in November it seemed like I had ages to go, but, time being what it is, it’s come around in the blink of an eye. I’ve been wanting to do something like this for as long as I can remember, so the fact that I’m actually doing it hasn’t quite settled in yet.

I’ve never travelled as far as this before – in fact, I’ve never actually been to Asia, and I’ve never backpacked in my life. So preparing for the actual trip itself has been a bit confusing. “What kind of clothes can I wear? How hot will it be? How much stuff can I actually fit in a backpack?” The whole thing has been mind-boggling; it’s not like I’m going to Majorca for a week and a few bits from the Primark summer department will be enough. I’m going somewhere that’s a day’s flight away with completely different customs and traditions to what I’m used to. But, with a bit of research, I’m a bit more clued up and prepared – and you can be, too.

So, whether you’re planning a backpacking trip to South East Asia for a couple of weeks or a couple of months, here’s a handy little list of all the things you should do before you go.

Do your research.
Find out everything you can about the country you’re visiting before you jet off. Faraway countries in Asia often have an array of odd customs, traditions and local laws that may take you by surprise when you get there, especially if you haven’t done any research beforehand. For example, it’s a custom in Indonesia to take off your shoes before entering someone’s home, and it’s common knowledge that visitors should cover up their arms and legs when visiting temples and holy sites. For more info on local laws and customs in 225 countries head to

Get ya vaccinations.
It’s a bit mental how many people travel to faraway countries without getting their vaccinations first. This should be at the top of the list – it’s your health, innit? Most vaccinations are available for free on the NHS, and can be done in the space of a few minutes at your local GP. Travelling to SE Asia will usually require the following vaccinations:

  • Hepatitis B
  • Typhoid
  • Diphtheria 
  • Cholera

Invest in good insurance.
I used to not really give a shit about getting travel insurance before going anywhere, but being the accident-prone blonde I am, I’ve learnt that it’s just not worth the risk, especially since I get clumsier every year. There are hundreds of websites offering cheap travel insurance with an abundance of benefits. I compared loads of different travel insurance companies through MoneySupermarket and ended up paying about £35 to cover me for the three weeks I’m in Bali and Thailand. Lost property, baggage, cancellations and, of course, the medical elements, are all covered. I can kind of understand going on a short city break and not bothering to get travel insurance, but if you’re travelling halfway across the world backpacking, you’d be a bit of an idiot to not get it.

Make a packing list.
I’m terrible when it comes to over-packing, and usually have to pay additional charges because my suitcase is too heavy. So it’s been pretty challenging to come to terms with the fact that I’ll have to cram 3-and-a-half weeks’ worth of clothes, plus everything else I’ll need, into a backpack. Luckily I’ve invested in a good, sturdy, spacious one, so I’m just praying that everything I’ll be taking will fit! Here’s what I think is a reasonable amount to take, and what I’m planning to pack:

  • Pair of flip-flops
  • Pair of good trainers
  • Beach towel
  • 10 x underwear
  • 1-2 x bras
  • 7 x trainer socks (stuff inside trainers)
  • 2 x shorts
  • 2 x bikinis
  • 2 x maxi dress
  • 1 x short dress
  • 2 x playsuit
  • 1 x jumpsuit
  • 2 x loose-fitting trousers
  • 3 x vest tops
  • 2 x T-shirts
  • 2 x T-shirts for night
  • Travel-size clothes detergent
  • Travel-size shampoo & conditioner
  • Cleanser
  • Wipes
  • Makeup bag
  • Hairbrush
  • Small backpack for beach days & day trips (taking as hand luggage)
  • Bumbag (fanny-pack if you’re American, lol)
  • Nicer bag for evenings
  • Purse
  • Asia plug adaptor
  • Straighteners
  • Sun lotion
  • Aloe Vera gel
  • Travel insurance documents

So that’s a rough estimate of what I’m planning to pack. All the clothes will be rolled to save space, and stuff like body wash and razors can be bought when I’m there. The more space I’ve got in my backpack, the better!

Please note that I have never been backpacking before, and I am in no way, shape or form, an expert. So if you have any other helpful suggestions or tips to offer your amateur backpacker here (and her very limited readership), comments below would be much appreciated.


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