19 August 2019

What Clothing To Pack For Southeast Asia

Railay Beach, Thailand
Railay Beach, Thailand

Packing is always one of the biggest tasks when preparing to go on a trip, and a huge factor that you have to consider is what clothes to take. 

It can be one thing looking at the weather of the country you're going to and then throwing in all your summer clothing into your case or backpack, but you'll soon come to realise that there are some items that are unsuitable or unpractical. 

This is especially true to for Southeast Asia, where as well as the different climates you also have to think about respecting local customs of how to dress. 

If you are going to be backpacking to a few different countries in the continent, you'll want to make sure every piece of clothing you bring with you can earn its keep - can you wear it with the other items you take with you? Is it durable enough to last however long you're backpacking for? Does it look okay without being ironed? 

When I sort out my clothes for travelling, I always treat it like a mini capsule wardrobe, making sure I pack items that can be worn in multiple combinations. This normally means I pack a fair amount of clothing in block colours with a couple of patterned pieces thrown in (I only pack one or two black items as black really absorbs heat, and you want to be staying as cool as possible in Southeast Asia). 

Regardless of how long you're heading to this beautiful part of the world for, I'm going to split up your travel wardrobe into different sections to help you to figure out what to pack and what to leave at home. 


Tegallalang Rice Terrace, Bali
Tegallalang Rice Terrace, Bali

Separates like tops, blouses, shorts and trousers

I practically lived in separates during my time in Southeast Asia - they were easy to wear, comfy, and great for rolling to pack in my backpack. Make sure you go for thin elasticated waistlines as thicker ones can get super sweaty (disgusting but true) and try and avoid denim. I ended up taking only one pair of denim shorts and jeans and only reached for them if I was in a colder climate. 

Elephant pants, however touristy, will be your best friend as they keep you cool while keeping you respectfully covered if you're visiting temples or religious areas. 

Dresses and jumpsuits

A great option for going out in the evening, try and bring a few in varying lengths to give yourself a few more options when going somewhere where you need to dress respectfully. This is where you can add in a few crazy prints and colours if you feel like you're lacking that in your separates. 


This is for if you plan on working out (obviously) but also if you are planning on going on any hikes or adventure activities. I also found that my go-to travel uniform was leggings, a t-shirt and a hoodie for maximum comfort. 

Bayon Temple at Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Bayon Temple at Angkor Wat, Cambodia


With this, I'm mainly covering things to help you cover up if you're heading to a temple. While some temples let you hire out a robe, others won't even let you in the gate without being covered. To make life easier, throw in a couple of coverups like kimonos, light cardigans or even a long scarf that you can wrap around your shoulders as long as it isn't see-through. You might also find they come in handy in the evening if the temperature drops.

Koh Rong Sanloem, Cambodia
Koh Rong Sanloem, Cambodia


Most swimwear is okay as long as it isn't too revealing, but normally as long as you don't wear it anywhere else other than the beach or pool, you should be fine. If you will be doing any kind of water sports, maybe think about bringing a more durable swimsuit.


A given surely. But how much should you bring? If you're only going for a short trip then this should be pretty easy, but I decided to take a week's worth of pants and socks plus a spare pair for 5 months backpacking. Bra wise, I took 3 of my faves plus a sports bra. 

When it comes to specialist items like leech socks, that is totally dependant on where you are going and what you're doing. If you know you'll be doing some hikes through deep jungle areas, then I'd suggest looking at some, but if you won't be venturing that far then there's no need. 


Penang, Malaysia
Penang, Malaysia

Sandals & flip flops

An obvious one you may think, but to save space if you're backpacking I suggest you only pick a few to take that you'll get a lot of wear out of but that won't fall apart. I say this because the Havaianas that I had bought new for the trip broke while we were in Cambodia (luckily we were near our apartment so I could change shoes) so try and grab a durable pair that you know will last. 

Also having a dressy pair of sandals are great to wear out in the evenings, as well as a pair for outdoor adventure activities (I lived in my Teva's when we did any low endurance hiking). 


You will find yourself living in your trainers for when you are going between destinations, but they are also great for when you're in a city to give your feet a little more support. They're perfectly fine for light hiking if you don't mind getting them dirty, or to work out in. 

Hiking boots

This is only if you know you're going to be doing a lot of walking or any hard hikes while in Southeast Asia. I really regret not bringing a pair for some of the hikes we did, so don't make the same mistake as I did. 


Universal Studios, Singapore
Universal Studios, Singapore

Day and night bag

A comfy day bag like a backpack is ideal for exploring during the day, just make sure you keep it protected from any thieving hands. A crossbody bag to use in the evening will allow you to look a little more dressed up without worrying about security. A clutch is probably a no go as these can easily be snatched out of your hand or off a table, so anything with a handle is probably best. 

Bum bag

You'll thank me later for taking a bum bag. This is the perfect bag for holding all your essentials while travelling, so gone will be the days when you're frantically hunting for your passport at the bottom of your bag. Knowing all your valuables are close by is very reassurin, especially if you're in an area known for pickpockets. Plus, they're back in fashion now, and you can find so many fab designs at the moment.


Pick out a fairly durable pair to wear while doing any sports or activities, and then feel free to add in a nicer pair for general mooching about in the city for example. Leave the expensive designer glasses at home if you're backpacking as you'll find yourself a target for thieves, but if you're going to be mainly in resorts then this shouldn't matter too much. 


Again, try not to go for anything too showy if you're travelling on a budget, but select a few pieces that you wouldn't be sad about if you lost them. You'll find that you'll probably pick up some pieces of jewellery on your travels so don't bring your whole collection. 


I hope the above helped you in your mammoth task in preparing your clothes to pack for Southeast Asia! It can be really confusing trying to figure out what to bring - I still make mistakes when I pack but definitely not as many as I used to.



  1. i live in those comfy sandals now! they are life changing - also great tips. I wish to go visit Laos soon(:

    Cate ღ 35mm in Style

    1. Yey they're amazing right?! Oh yes me too x