Some tips to packing for an extended trip to Asia

I was asked the other day about things to bring for an extended trip to India, China and various other Asian places. It’s been a while since I did this, but I had a few suggestions — concentrating on the cheap, small and simple things.

  • Take a pack of earplugs. Asia is noisy! And a sleep mask too.
  • Take a padlock for cheap guesthouses and for lockers— one that’s number based rather than a key (you can share the number and can’t lose the key)
  • Take several big black bin bags: keeps wet clothes away from the dry ones; make sure they’re big enough to put over your backpack when you have to stow it in a bus luggage hold, or on the roof: keeps some of the dirt, rain and curious fingers out.
  • Take micro-fibre towels: they wring out & are much smaller than a terry towel
  • Take space: Don’t pack to capacity: you will buy stuff & you’ll need to carry it. Make sure you can carry your luggage: there’ll be moments that are exhausting, hot, dirty, and irritating.. don’t take too much!
  • take zip-lock bags for documents — email photos of them to yourself too.
  • Take a cheap compass: good for quickly orienting a map and navigating in strange cities. (especially Venice but that’s another tale..)
  • fleecy tops are handy: they are warm, double as a cushion, have a hood.
  • A mini umbrellas keeps out the rain and the sun.
  • Mini-first aid kit: for obvious reasons. Extra Diaralyte sachets: for re-hydration
  • A toy or a game: I had a lot of fun with this game — kids and fellow travellers/locals would all get the idea immediately & it’d be fun ice-breaker
  • postcards of your home town: makes answering the honest questions of ‘where are you from’ a lot easier to answer.
  • Zip-ties: Another handy security device. Obviously they’re not going to stop serious pilfering but it makes harder to pickpocket. I especially use them on planes. If you have a penknife you can re-use them too (and not have to cut them away each time)
  • A good book! on paper! There’s lots of second-hand bookshops in Asia but I’m never without a good book - it’s interesting to read ‘Kim’ in India, or Wild swans in china. I like to print out a poem or two for hiking: when weight is really tight — gives you something to read and re-read.
  • I like phrasebooks & language books too: learning some phrases really opens the door to new experiences.
  • Emergency whistle. They’re so loud! For personal protection or hiking rescue?
  • Stationary: notebook, post-it notes & a high-lighter pencil are handy for organizing yourself
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