How to Pack for Southeast Asia as a Solo Female Traveler

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Southeast Asia is full of diverse interests for every young woman to enjoy! As a solo female backpacker, the goal is to pack as lightly as possible, bringing only the essentials. 

Here is your all inclusive packing list for solo female travelers in Southeast Asia!
And stick around for a free printable packing list!

Visiting Thailand soon? Check out the top 25 Things to do in Thailand as a Solo Female Traveler


Suitcase or backpack?

For solo travelers, backpacking backpacks are the best option! Especially when it comes to staying in hostels and country hopping, they’re the most convenient.

In my experience, a suitcase was more difficult to travel with and harder to store in hostels. Their structure can also add unnecessary weight (which is an airline fee you DON’T want to pay for!) as opposed to backpacks.

Hostels are much more accommodating to backpacks (you’ll almost never see a suitcase amongst solo travelers).


Check-in or carry-on?

The goal is to be minimalistic, packing only what you can’t find inside the country. Depending on the airline, you may have to check-in your backpack, but aiming for carry-on is the best way to save some money (especially since luggage is charged by the kilo). 


Clothing

1) Modest shirts and pants

Temples have a strict dress code! Shoulders and knees are to be covered at ALL times. You won’t be allowed in unless you’re appropriately dressed.

2) Maxi dresses and jumpsuits

Also perfect for temples! (and they make for cute Instagram pictures!)

3) Lightweight/airy shorts and tank tops 

These are your go-to when exploring cities and spending time at the beach. Keywords: LIGHTWEIGHT and AIRY

4) Bikinis/swimsuits

Unlike temples, there isn’t a standard for swimwear in Southeast Asia. Since beach cities are typically the “touristy” destinations, you’ll find a range of swimsuits from full-body cover ups to thong bikinis.

5) Lightweight rain jacket or poncho

Definitely have these ready if you’re visiting during rainy season (May through October). Although you can purchase them in Southeast Asia, their quality may not allow them to last very long (plus, the prices skyrocket due to supply and demand). I recommend purchasing them ahead of time.


Shoes and footwear

1) Tennis shoes (breathable)

Whether you’re country hopping, hiking, or zip lining, breathable tennis shoes will do the trick by keeping your feet airy and comfy.

2) Slippers/Flip flops

3) Back-strap sandals

Many rooftops bars and clubs have a specific dress code, which includes back-strap sandals (or shoes). Check their websites ahead of time!


Daytime accessories

1) Lightweight backpack

Make sure your backpack is sturdy and held on tightly! In tourist hotspots, drive-by robberies happen! And if relaxing at the beach, don’t let your bag out of your sight!

These are two of my favorite brands when it comes to daytime backpacks!

2) Crossbody bag

A cute, fun accessory for a night out! And if you’re in a tourist destination, ensure it’s wrapped around your body and faced away from the road.

Pro tip: purchase a woven crossbody bag anywhere in Southeast Asia for $6-$10 USD (see Amazon link for reference).

3) Fanny pack

If you want to be hands-free, this is the way to go. Especially if you’re going out clubbing, this accessory is a MUST.

Note: Although you can purchase fanny packs throughout Southeast Asia, I highly recommend purchasing them before traveling. During my time abroad, I purchased 3 and each lasted about a month before breaking.

4) Hat

I recommend saving yourself luggage space and purchasing these in Southeast Asia! The ones linked below are the most popular (and make for cute beach pics!)

5) Sunglasses

Be sure to remember these before you leave home!

6) Pareo/Sarong (or any sort of wrap skirt)

This is one of the best purchases you’ll make in Southeast Asia! They’re so versatile and can be used either as a beach mat, or a wrap when visiting temples! These are most commonly sold on the beach between $5 and $10 USD.

Toiletries

1) Sunscreen

Sunscreen is a MUST when it comes to solo budget travel! Although sunscreen is sold at just about any convenience store, the bottles are smaller and sold at a much higher price compared to the United States. A $2 tube of sunscreen in America retails for around $10 in Southeast Asia.

Sun Bum is my favorite brand! Their products are paraben free, vegan, hypoallergenic, cruelty free, and reef safe!

2) Tampons/Menstrual cup

Tampons are rare in Southeast Asia; I’ve only seen them at a couple stores during my 8-months there. If you’re planning on staying for an extended period of time, I recommend saving luggage space by taking a menstrual cup!

The following toiletries can be purchased in Southeast Asia (at any 7/11, Family Mart, or Circle K)

NOTE: many products contain whitener! Be on the lookout for labels that say “bright” or “white”. Here are the most common products you’ll find in Thailand!

3) Mosquito spray/lotion

4) Face wash and moisturizer

5) Hand sanitizer

6) Body lotion

7) Deodorant (spray is most common in SE Asia)

8) Shampoo & conditioner

9) Body wash

10) Toothpaste & toothbrush


Miscellaneous

1) Phone charger

I don’t about you, but as a solo traveler, my worst nightmare was losing or breaking my phone charger. You can find chargers abroad (lightning connecters are more difficult to find), but it’s better to be prepared ahead of time!

2) Outlet converter

American plugs fit in most outlets, however Southeast Asia has a different voltage. For instance, Thailand’s voltage is 220 volts at 50 cycles per second, compared to 110-volt current in the United States. To avoid burning out your electronics, be sure to pack an outlet converter.

3) Earphones/Headphones

The most common earphones you’ll find abroad have the original headphone plug (lightning connectors are harder to find). I HIGHLY recommend this extremely handy AirPods case! It comes with a snap hook and has a cover for charging. This makes it so easy to ensure your AirPods are safe and secured at all times (and easy to spot in your backpack!).

4) Portable charger

ALWAYS have this charged up and ready to go!

5) Camera or GoPro

You can’t travel without documenting your experience abroad! These are the highest rated cameras for traveling abroad.

6) Travel cubes and an assortment of mesh bags

These are ESSENTIAL for solo travel! They easily keep your belongings organized and save SO much space in your backpack!

7) Umbrella

When rainy season rolls around, you’ll want to have one on hand! If you purchase one abroad, it’ll likely cost twice as much due to its demand during rainy season.

8) Digital luggage scale

I HIGHLY recommend purchasing this lightweight travel scale! It’s compact and very easy to use. This relieves me from the stress of guessing the weight of my luggage (and praying they’re under 7 kg). This is by far the BEST purchase I’ve made when it comes to solo budget traveling!


Share your packing tips and tricks for solo travel in the comments for other readers to enjoy!

Click here to download your free Southeast Asia packing list!


Looking for other useful tips on traveling Thailand solo? Check out these!

Choosing an Ethical Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand

How to Properly Wai in Thailand

15 Mistakes to Avoid on Your Solo Trip to Thailand

Do’s and Don’ts When Visiting Thailand | Tips for Solo Travelers


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18 Comments

  1. August 1, 2020 / 8:35 am

    So, so useful! Really comprehensive list but not overkill. Thanks for sharing.

    • Kylie
      Author
      August 2, 2020 / 2:12 am

      You’re welcome! 🙂

  2. August 1, 2020 / 10:01 am

    Nice guide, I traveled to southeast Asia only once and it was awesome but packing for it can be pretty stressful, so thanks for the heads up!

    • Kylie
      Author
      August 2, 2020 / 2:28 am

      Thank you! I had no idea what to expect when I first went to Southeast Asia!

  3. August 1, 2020 / 5:50 pm

    I am always so horrible at figuring out what to pack for my trips. This is such a great list and super helpful.

    • Kylie
      Author
      August 2, 2020 / 2:29 am

      Thank you! 🙂

  4. Kelly
    August 1, 2020 / 10:23 pm

    Love this! Great tips!

    • Kylie
      Author
      August 2, 2020 / 2:29 am

      Thank you so much!

  5. Kelli
    August 2, 2020 / 12:52 am

    I always forget my rain coat!!

    • Kylie
      Author
      August 2, 2020 / 2:29 am

      Same! I learned the hard way hahaha

    • Kylie
      Author
      August 2, 2020 / 3:37 am

      Thank you! 🙂

  6. August 2, 2020 / 4:02 am

    This is a super comprehensive list! I managed to get all of this into a carry-on and a tote bag when I spent a month in Southeast Asia last year 🙂 ended up being the perfect amount of stuff!

    • Kylie
      Author
      August 3, 2020 / 10:08 pm

      That’s amazing!! Packing is definitely a skill that takes practice 🙂

  7. Sam
    August 2, 2020 / 2:34 pm

    I traveled through SEAsia for a month and I made the big mistake of having a giant suitcase! This is deff a helpful guide!

    • Kylie
      Author
      August 3, 2020 / 10:10 pm

      Same! My suitcase fit carry-on standards for the US, but rarely made the 7kg limit in Southeast Asia – packing was always super stressful!

  8. August 3, 2020 / 12:44 pm

    This is a great guide! I had no idea there was brightener or whitener in products but I’ll be sure to lookout for it. With sensitive, very pale skin that’d be a disaster!
    Side note, you mention a scale early on but there’s no link to one. You may want to add it in

    • Kylie
      Author
      August 3, 2020 / 10:12 pm

      Right?! I’m sooo grateful I was told about whitener ahead of time. And ooh thanks for the heads up! I’ll add that in 🙂

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