1. Do not pack a power adapter!
Chances are, you’re going to need a power adapter, as the outlet will be different to your home country. First things first… DO NOT buy one at the airport! Airport power adapters are stupidly expensive and you don’t need to be spending that kind of money before you even set foot in your destination.
My advice on the power adapter front, and it hasn’t let me down yet, is wait until you arrive at your destination before purchasing one. In both Bangkok and Kathmandu I simply asked the front desk at my hostel where the best place to buy a power adapter was and I was on my way. They can usually be found very cheaply ($1-$5) at a nearby market or store, instead of the at the airport where you’ll be paying through the roof ($20-$30). Just make sure your phone is fully charged on arrival! Airports and planes now are usually pretty good with this these days.
2. Temple clothing! – T-Shirts with sleeves, and cover your knees
When in Asia you will be sure to visit some temples. These are usually sacred places and have some quite strict rules about clothing and attire. The main and most essential one to remember is that women especially need to be modestly dressed. Most temples will have you cover your shoulders and knees at the very least, some may ask for long trousers or sleeves. Not all places have strict rules but it’s best to abide by these guidelines wherever you go in Asia as a sign of respect. Elephant pants are a personal favourite!
3. Do not over pack. Everything is cheap!
Not sure if you’ll need that extra little something? Don’t bring it. The biggest mistake I made when I first went to Asia (and admittedly a couple of times since then) is that I over packed. You really don’t need THAT many T-Shirts… no matter how long your trip is.
If you find yourself desperately in need of another shirt, a pair or socks, or a sun hat, then the local market is guaranteed to have what you need in a stitch, for a very reasonable price. The advantage to this system is that if you end up only wearing it once and not needing it again, you can easily throw it out or donate it as it didn’t cost you and arm and a leg. Many hostels in Asia have “free stuff” boxes where you can leave things. My friend acquired a beautiful shawl in Varanasi, used it for temple going, then put it back when we left.
4. Bring a raincoat!
IT WILL RAIN. No matter where you are going and what the weather forecast says, you are bound to hit some rain somewhere along the way. Make sure it’s a light jacket, as you will want it to pack up nice and small. If it’s not wet, then it can double as a wind breaker as well. I never go anywhere without mine.
5. Silk sleeping bag liner for night train
This one is very specific, but very useful if you know you will be in this situation. Vietnamese (and Indian, and I’m sure others) sleeper trains provide you with linen and a blanket for you overnight stay, which generally means you don’t have to worry about a bulky sleeping bag, however, not everyone is comfortable with this. If you don’t think you can handle not knowing how often that linen is washed… then a silk sleeping bag liner is for you. You can purchase these quite easily at markets around Asia, or look into ordering or finding one before you go. I had one my mother purchased years ago on her first trip to Vietnam and it saved my life. I got a good nights sleep (as good as you can get on the top bunk of a sleeper train) because I felt more comfortable knowing what I was sleeping in.
6. Bag with a zip
I’m sure you’ve heard stories of people having their wallets or cameras takin right out of their handbags whilst wandering through the streets. A way to combat this issue is to simply make sure that you are using a handbag with a zip, and make sure it is always zipped up. Bags with just a button or a flap are easily accessed by pickpockets and you become a target, which nobody wants on their travels!
7. Passport belt under clothes
This one comes hand in hand with the previous point but I thought I’d emphasize it here. Keep you passport safe!
Make sure you know where your passport is at all times and I would reocmmedn using a passport belt or similar when out and about. DO NOT leave your passport with your bags in your bunk room.
8. Lot’s of underwear
You will always need more underwear. Luckily, they are small and easy to pack. Put them in every bag your bring with you, including your carry on and maybe even your handbag. There are a couple of reasons for this…
The first is that most of Asia is humid and you sweat A LOT, meaning you may need to change your underwear more than once a day (ladies, panty liners are also a good option here!). The second is that if your checked bag gets lost, you don’t want to be without! The third is a slightly gross one, but certainly worth mentioning after my trip to India… you never know when food poisoning will strike… if you catch my drift…
9. Insect repellant
Very very important for safety and also comfort! You may be travelling to an area with a strong Malaria presence, in this case you need to always be wearing insect repellent and make sure it’s a strong one. Another reason is that nothing is more ANNOYING than having 50 insect bites all over your legs when you’re trying to sleep in the heat. TRUST ME. (Bushman is a great brand if you’re a kiwi)
10. Cash monies $$$
Most parts of Asia, including all the markets, street food stands, and many restaurants are cash only. If you’re from New Zealand like me then you won’t be used to carrying a lot of cash on you, but in Asia it is necessary. You can either get some currency exchanged before you arrive and bring the cash with you, or you can just withdraw it from an ATM upon arrival at the airport. There are pros and cons to each method and it really comes down to how you feel about carrying cash on the plane etc. If you do get the cash before you arrive, make sure to split it up between bags and wallets. Do NOT store it all in the same place.