Girl to Girl Tips for Travelling in Southeast Asia

Talk to most backpacker lads and they’ll generally agree that as long as they’ve got a supply of decent T-shirts and a stash of cash, they’re good to go. Not so for us girlies. While we’re just as intrepid as the boys, there are unfortunately a few extra things that we need to consider. Here are some tips I wish someone had told me, girl to girl, before heading to Southeast Asia. Here I bequeath my wisdom to you, fellow backpacking ladies!

Laundry services in Southeast Asia are often excellent but they’re ruthless; your clothes will be scrubbed and thrashed within an inch of their lives. Leave your best threads at home and stock up at markets (in Thailand) or shopping malls (in Malaysia) and put together a backpack-specific wardrobe. Clothes in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam tend to be more for locals than Westerners. Make the most of Bangkok while you’re there!

Most cosmetics in Asia will be packaged to look like the real thing, but they’re just low-quality copies of home brands. It’s difficult to find good quality make-up unless you go to retail outlets such as Boots in Thailand or a Revlon store in Cambodia.

If you’re on the pill, bring as much as you can from home. If you can only get a short supply, don’t panic – just bring the box and advice leaflet with you. Common brands such as Dianette are available over the counter under different names (Diane 35 or Sucee).

It’s difficult to find non-scented, lightweight moisturisers by makers such as Neutrogena or Simple. In Southeast Asia, old school cold creams and heavily scented whitening creams abound. If you’ve got sensitive skin, bring a supply of small throw-as-you-go bottles of your trusted products from home.

Fans of waxing take note: beauty salon experiences are very hit and miss. It’s impossible to buy waxing strips (I’ve spent eight months looking!) so unless you’re willing to take the risk with boiling wax and uncoordinated hands, switch to a decent brand of razor for your trip.

Sanitary towels are cheap and easy to find, but tampons are like gold dust in smaller towns. There’s no need to bring a supply from home, just stock up in major cities as you go.

Finally, my golden tip: underwear. (How I wish someone had warned me about this!) Asian ladies wear teeny tiny polyester bras and knickers, so if you’re anything above a 32-inch bra or hip size, bring at least three bras and lots of new cotton underwear from home. Hand wash any sexy look-at-me naughties or they’ll be lost/ruined/stolen before you know it!