How to Travel Light in Southeast Asia

More Backpacking Tips: How to Travel Light Across Southeast Asia

Budget airlines in Southeast Asia (SEA) impose a maximum carry-on weight limit of 7kg. It may sound impossible, but you can adhere to this rule everytime you fly.

Here are some practical tips on how to pack light when budget traveling in Southeast Asia.

Collect memories, not material things.

People travel for different reasons. Some go abroad for sightseeing, and backpackers are most probably in the mood to soak in as much Southeast Asian culture as they can.

Make sure you stick to your purpose. Material things can weigh you down, but memories stay with you forever. As we think back on the trips we made in the past, we don’t remember the things we should’ve bought. Instead, we smile at the memories of the adventures we took and the people we met, such as our rock-climbing experience in Laos.

That said, it pays to have a large smartphone or DSLR memory.

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Don’t pack for emergency situations.

What if it rains? What if you get sick? Don’t worry too much about emergency situations. Tendency is, your hostel or the nearby establishment has the things you need.

If you need a haircut, walk around town and you’ll find a barber offering cheap services. If you need an insect repellent, there’s a pharmacy for that.

Don’t forget to have travel insurance, though.

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Pack multi-functional pieces.

SEA is filled with adventurous outdoor activities such as hiking and trekking, so go for pants that can zip off into shorts. As pants, they can protect you from the elements, and as a pair of shorts, they’re perfect for walking on a hot day.

A sarong (or lungi) is also a must-have. It instantly becomes a blanket, a pillow, or even a private dressing room for girls.

Go for a pair of shoes that has a good traction for hiking and a nice exterior for picture-taking. Speaking of footwear, read our review on the Vibram Five Fingers

Quick-dry clothes are your best friend.

Laundry can take a toll on your budget, but to keep this expense to a minimum, pack quick-dry shirts and shorts and stay at a hotel or homestay that allows washing of clothes.

In SEA, detergents come in packets, so you can buy only what you need.

Hone your layering skills.

We’ve heard of funny “layering” stories from time to time. Remember this man who wore 15 layers of clothes to avoid paying for excess baggage?

You don’t have to do this, but if you have to, make sure you don’t appear suspicious.

At the airport before getting your boarding pass, put on your jacket (or wrap it around your waist), and neatly fold some clothes and tuck them nicely into your pockets.

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Volunteer in exchange for food and accommodation.

Sites such as HelpX and Workaway connect backpackers and hosts. The idea is simple. In exchange for your skills or your time, a host agrees to give you food and lend you a bed for an agreed-upon number of days.

You get to live at an authentic Southeast Asian home, learn the local language, gain a new skill, and immerse in the culture without paying for food and accommodation.

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