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So, you’re heading on a big backpacking adventure across Southeast Asia, and you’re wondering what the heck you’re going to take. Don’t worry! We’ve got some great suggestions for you here, from our seasoned pro.
Check out our Ultimate Packing List for Southeast Asia and this Thailand Packing List.
Do’s and Don’ts for What to Wear in South East Asia
by Swenja from BlondeTraveler
First of all, don’t take too much clothing with you. Usually when you travel with a backpack, you have to throw out a piece of clothing for every new piece you buy. Plus, shopping in Asia is one of the most incredible and enjoyable experiences you’ll have.
I’ll never forget my first time in an Asian shopping mall – so many different colors and styles hanging in the shop fronts – I couldn’t believe it! So I suggest starting your trip with some shopping! Follow this list of do’s and don’ts for your packing and shopping list and you can’t go wrong.
South East Asia Do:
- Pack like you’re going on the catwalk. You can’t take more than 15 kg with you in your backpack, so use packing cubes to help you pack light. Every piece in your capsule wardrobe has to be chosen carefully to ensure coordination purposes. Before you go, invite your girlfriends back home and let them help you check all possible combinations to mix and match travel outfits for every destination.
- Pay attention to the dress code. Have a pair of fancy sandals with you at all times. You shouldn’t miss a rooftop bar with an unbelievable view of the skyline just because you don’t have the proper footwear!
Check out our favorite dress sandals for a beach getaway.
- Take a sarong with you. There are endless ways to use a sarong: as a sheet, a dress, a towel, a pillow cover, a handbag, a skirt, a yoga mat …
- Dress up. Cotton is comfy and you can’t see marks on dark colored cotton fabric but keep in mind that during your trip through Southeast Asia you will be in thousands of photos. This is your time to dress up! Show your girlfriends at home amazing scenes from tropical islands you and your brand new summer dress playing in the sand.
Read about choosing the best fabrics for humid climates.
- Grab unique fashion finds as travel gifts and souvenirs. Imagine a colleague at home compliments you on your necklace and you answer: “Thanks! I got it in Bali from this cute street vendor.” Nothing feels better.
South East Asia Don’t:
- Show too much skin. Southeast Asians are quite modest dressers and this is an integral part of their culture. This is especially important if you are going to visit temples. When you do, wear shirts or blouses with sleeves and carry a sarong or wear a maxi skirt to cover your legs.
- (2017 update) Due to the king’s recent passing, the country is in mourning and wearing bright colors and clothing that’s overly revealing is discouraged.
Read these tips about choosing clothing for conservative countries.
- Travel without a pair of flip-flops. Flip-flops are perfect to travel with, because you can wear them in the shower of a hostel or bungalow, on the beach and on your shopping tour downtown.
Check out our favorite flip-flops for travel!
- Be careless. In areas where the population is primarily Muslim, cover up or expect to be propositioned, followed around by men and/or put in uncomfortable and even dangerous situations.
What are your tips for what to wear in Southeast Asia? Comment Below!
For more Southeast Asia packing tips, please read:
- Backpacking Southeast Asia: The Ultimate Packing List
- What to Pack for Thailand
- How to Keep your Passport Safe
Suggested Travel Resources
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Author Bio: Originally from Germany, Swenja discovered her traveler’s heart during university and decided to go on a world trip in 2009. Till now, she has travelled more than 40 countries, lived in Germany and Thailand. In 2011, she became the beauty and fashion advisor for Blonde Traveler, a travel support service, magazine, and community for women traveling and living in Southeast Asia.
Hii, im going to South east asia for 5/6 months oktober 22nd l. And most of my clothes are black red yellow and all go together. Buuut can i wear those colors in thailand? Because of the political meaning it had and the kings passing? I think ill be in thailand around February. Also im bringing two crop tops, one for under a long dress so i can wear it af temples but also as shirts. I onky have high waist skirts and pants so i wont show a lot of stomach, but still is it appropriat?
Hi Megan, thank you for your question! Have a look at TFG’s article on packing for Thailand for more ideas: https://www.travelfashiongirl.com/thailand-packing-list-islands-beaches-and-buckets/ Also have a look at this South East Asia packing list which mentions dressing appropriately for temples: https://www.travelfashiongirl.com/southeast-asia-packing-list-for-women/ To get you the best feedback possible, I am going to post your question on TFG’s facebook page. Our readers have the best advice so keep an eye out for their replies from Thursday: https://www.facebook.com/TravelFashionGirl/ Hope this helps! Have a fantastic trip to South East Asia! 🙂
Good practical advice. I feel I wear so much more colour in Asia – much more than at home anyway. Agree about covering up and not showing too much skin. I have a traditional tattoo on my back and always try to have it covered when I a travelling in Asia.
Thanks for the feedback Catherine!
I live in Malaysia and wearing black during the day is a norm here 🙂
Thanks for the insight Vanessa 🙂
Haha! Where did you go in SEA? In Singapore it definitely isn’t stressed to wear modest clothing. Most locals are wearing short-shorts and bandeaus and stuff of that sort
Haha, Singapore is a bit different, this is a guest post by locals who live in Thailand and travel the region. This is my take on the clothing: https://travelfashiongirl.com/what-travelers-wear-in-thailand-and-other-parts-of-southeast-asia/
Thanks for this article. I am curious about the statement that black is considered lascivious in Southeast Asia. Is this commonly known? Will I attract stares if I wear black during the day? Loose black cotton/linen t-shirts, not a slinky cocktail dress 🙂
You may or may not attract stares but so long as it’s not a sexy short dress you’ll be fine 🙂
I agree that holiday time is a good chance to be a bit braver with your fashion choices! I went for a pair of hot pink paisley harem pants and I loved wearing them. Now that I’m home, they look like pajama pants though!!
haha yes, some things look better traveling than they do at home 🙂