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Different travel destinations require different essentials. I have been living in Thailand for several months, and I have gradually learned what should be on my list of items to keep on hand. After being caught without a few times, I have narrowed down what to carry in my purse at all times when backpacking through Asia.
9 Daily Essentials for Asia
by Evanne Allen
Scarf / Baby Powder / Tissues
Tissues make the top of the list when backpacking through Asia because they really are critical. If you’ve never been to Southeast Asia, you might not know that toilet paper in public bathrooms is a rare luxury. Even in nicer establishments, an empty roll is pretty common.
Tissues in Southeast Asia are also used at most casual restaurants as napkins. Embrace the trend and keep a pack of tissues in your purse for any spills or even for their intended use.
Yet another use for tissues is as a handkerchief. If you’re traveling in Southeast Asia you’ll need to embrace the heat, but having a tissue to dab your forehead is an easy way to make yourself a little more comfortable.
TFG recommends: 100% agreed! You can also re-stock in convenience stores and at 7-11 in Thailand for about 5 baht.
Close in importance to tissues is baby powder. Southeast Asia is a conservative region and many tourist spots require clothing that fits these standards. The best option in many situations is a skirt. Skirts in hot, humid weather can lead to unpleasant chaffing and baby powder is your best defense. Pick up a travel size bottle at any 7-11 in Thailand.
TFG recommends: A must in my toiletry list especially when I’m backpacking through Asia! Add it all over your body – legs, back, bum, breasts, chest, underarms – I douse myself with it every morning to help soak avoid sweat in unwanted places.
I rarely leave my apartment in Thailand without a scarf. I stick to a pretty conservative wardrobe in line with local culture, but I still sometimes wear shorts and tank tops.
There is never a shortage of palaces and temples to explore and I would hate to be caught without appropriate attire. Having a scarf on hand is an easy way to cover your legs or shoulders and instantly be appropriately dressed for a temple. Plus, Thais love their air conditioning and coffee shops are often freezing inside.
TFG recommends: avoid synthetic fabrics and choose a cotton or silk scarf. Learn more about travel fabrics.
It is hot in Southeast Asia and the sun is intense. Take a hint from the locals and protect your skin if you plan to be outside for even a short time. I find I’m most vulnerable when riding a scooter since the wind makes me forget that I’m getting burned.
If you’re really trying to stay out of the sun, use an umbrella. You’ll fit right in!
TFG recommends: 30 SPF Nivea is the most available but or for something stronger, bring it from home. I like Neutrogena 70 SPF on my face.
Not the prettiest item on the list, but tampons can be hard to find in Southeast Asia. If you have a preferred brand, they might not be available and who wants to try and explain what you are looking for when you don’t know how to say “feminine products” in the local language?
TFG recommends: OB Tampons are available at 7-11 in Thailand but you may want to consider a menstrual cup for convenience and money savings.
If toilet paper in public restrooms is a rarity, hand soap is unheard of. Carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer for staying healthy on the go (whether you’re backpacking through asia or anywhere else). Public transportation and stores are also prime spots for picking up germs. Stay healthy on your trip and carry hand sanitizer for whenever you can’t wash your hands.
TFG recommends: Wet Wipes are also great but you can’t buy them there so bring them from home! Alternatively, carry a hotel size soap in a Ziploc.
In any tropical climate there will be plenty of mosquitos and other biting pests. I keep bug spray in my purse to prevent bites and Tiger Balm for whenever I apply it too late. Mosquitos have a knack for finding any bit of exposed skin and having spray on hand can prevent a wonderful night from being ruined by a hundred bites.
TFG recommends: you can buy basic Off spray with 15% deet but if you need something stronger (I do) bring it from home. Tiger Balm can easily be purchased upon arrival.
What are your daily essentials when backpacking through Asia? Comment!
For more travel tips for backpacking through Asia, please read:
- Cross Body Purses: the Best Travel Shoulder Bags for Women
- Top 9 Southeast Asia Travel Essentials
- Southeast Asia Packing List for Women
- Do’s and Don’ts of Womens Travel Clothing in South East Asia
Suggested travel resources:
- South East Asia Backpacking Travel Guide
- Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Northern Thailand Travel Guide
- Thailand Travel Guide
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Author Bio: Evanne Allen is a traveler based in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Unable to choose between bustling cities and remote villages, she bounces around in search of new cuisine and interesting people. She left her job at a museum in Washington, D.C., to see the world in person, and co-founded Poplar Travels, where she blogs about experiences with adventure, luxury and culture around the world.