Travelling Frequently Asked Questions About Asia!

Use these frequently asked questions about Asia to dispel concerns you may have about your first-time trip.

  1.  Will I have trouble with the language barrier in Asia?

You'll find some degree of English available in most tourist areas, or at least a friendly, English-speaking local willing to help out when you order food or purchase tickets. The language difference is rarely an issue and will not affect your enjoyment of Asia.

You'll encounter more language difficulties in remote places off the beaten path for sure. Even in places with little or no English, you'll be able to point or charade your way through with a little patience.

 2.  Are bed bugs a serious problem in Asia?

The recent resurgence of bed bugs affected North America far worse than it has Asia. Ironically, Westerner travelers are bringing bed bugs to Asia from home, rather than the other way around.

Once considered only a problem for backpackers staying in the most budget of places, bed bugs are a serious and costly problem found even in four-star hotels. With a little vigilance on your part, you can avoid coming into contact with them and ultimately avoid spreading the pests.

 3.  Is Asia really crowded?

For the most part, yes. A majority of the world's population calls Asia home, and most residents are squeezed into urban areas. You will notice a much higher density of people in public transport hubs, shopping malls, and even on busy sidewalks.

Don't be surprised if someone stands too closely while speaking to you. Or if trains and buses are consistently oversold beyond capacity. Have patience and keep in mind that the general considerations of privacy and personal buffer space may be different than that which you are used to at home.

 4.  Will I have to use squat toilets while in Asia?

 While Western-style sit-down toilets are more and more common, you will probably still encounter the odd squat toilet or two. Even modern shopping malls may still have squat toilets, mainly for sanitary reasons.

Tourist hotels and restaurants almost always have sit-down toilets available. You'll mostly find squat toilets in public places.

 5.  Do tourists pay double prices?

If you're lucky! Tourists are often quoted prices for goods as much as five times what locals pay. Sadly, many tourists are viewed as being “rich” and only a select few honest proprietors will give you the local price when shopping.

Keep in mind that many of the local people are struggling to make ends meet. The price may seem relatively high for a particular item or service, but you may not fully understand what is going on behind the scenes. Many business owners have to pay bribes to police, support family members, share profits with less successful neighbors, and so on.

Generally speaking, you should never pay the asking price. Good-natured haggling is a part of local Asian cultures and you actually contribute to inflation by paying the first price without negotiating.

 6.  Is Asia safe for children?

Absolutely! Even more so than in the West, a large emphasis is placed on family and kids in Asia. Asian people generally adore both children and parents alike; kids are a great way to break the ice when meeting people.

While some destinations may be rougher and more chaotic for children, you'll find plenty of family-friendly beaches, towns, and areas throughout Asia. Use discretion; perhaps Vietnam's anything-goes Full Moon Party isn't the right place to bring young children!

 7.  Do I have to worry about offending people accidentally?

Part of the magic of visiting Asia is experiencing a culture very different than your own. While there are a handful of ways that you could unintentionally cause offense and not realize, Asian people are forgiving and know that you may not understand local customs.

Consider if a foreign visitor at home was pointing with their middle finger and had no idea the gesture was rude. While you would probably notice, you hopefully wouldn't take offense and become angry.

 8.  Will my cell phone work in Asia?

That depends -- both on your phone and the way you wish to use it. In general, American phones will not work in Asia without some help. You can opt for international roaming with certain phones, but using it for anything aside from emergency contact will be very expensive.

Instead, you may be able to 'unlock' your cell phone and then purchase a local SIM card and number. Most Asian countries use a pre-paid system where you can purchase phone credit from kiosks or mini-marts. The rates for dialing and texting home are somewhat competitive.

If you just need to call home every now and then to check on things, you're better off using your smartphone, tablet, or laptop to call across the internet.

 9.  Will my electronic devices be safe in Asia?

More and more travelers are bringing smartphones, tablets, and laptops to Asia. Depending upon where you travel, the environment could be a little rough on sensitive devices. Sand, rain, insects, and bad power could cause trouble later.

Violent crime is less a problem in Asia than in the US or Europe, however, you should take precautions. Be vigilant with expensive devices; lockboxes are available in many hotels. Chargers are just as much a target for petty thieves; keep all electronics and accessories secure when using public transportation.

Surges and sags in power can harm sensitive devices while they are charging -- avoid leaving things plugged up while unattended.

Vietnamese Dong or US Dollars? in Vietnam

 Managing money in Vietnam can be a little trickier and comes with a few more caveats than in other Southeast Asian countries.

Vietnamese Dong or US Dollars?

Vietnam runs on two currencies: Vietnamese dong and US dollars. Despite the government's push to get away from using foreign currency, US dollars are still used in some instances. Many prices for hotels, tours, or other services are presented in US dollars. Prices for food, drinks, and souvenirs past security in Saigon's airport are all in US dollars.

Using two different currencies increases the potential for miscommunication and getting ripped off. If a price is listed in US dollars and you choose to pay in Vietnamese dong, the proprietor or vendor can make up the exchange rate on the spot, usually rounding in their own favor.

Because the Vietnamese dong is weak and prices come as large numbers, sometimes locals simplify prices to the 1,000s of dong. For instance, someone telling you that the price is “5” can mean either 5,000 dong or US $5 -- big difference! Switching currencies on tourists is an old scam in Vietnam; always verify before you agree to a price.

Tip: Carrying a small calculator or using the calculator on your mobile phone is a great way to avoid miscommunication, calculate exchange rates, and haggle prices.

Spend all of your Vietnamese dong before exiting the country; it is very difficult to get rid of outside Vietnam! Vietcombank is one of the very few banks that will exchange dong back

Western-networked ATMs are available in all major tourist areas and dispense Vietnamese dong. The most commonly accepted cards are MasterCard, Visa, Maestro, and Cirrus. Local transaction fees are reasonable, however, they are in addition to whatever fees your bank already charges for international transactions.

Using ATMs attached to bank offices is slightly safer for avoiding card-scanning devices attached to the card slot -- a problematic, high-tech scam in Southeast Asia. Also, you stand a better chance of getting your card back if it is captured by the machine.

Tip: Find ATMs that give smaller denominations. Large banknotes (100,000-dong notes) can be tricky to break sometimes. The limit per transaction is usually 2,000,000 dong (approximately US $95).

Changing Money in Vietnam

While ATMs are typically the best way to access travel funds, you can exchange currency at banks, hotels, kiosks, and freelance 'black market' money changers. Stick to exchanging money at proper banks or reputable hotels, but always check the rate on offer. Exchanging money on the street comes with all the obvious risks and then some: 'fixed' calculators have even been created to aid in the scam!

Travelers' checks can only be cashed at banks in major cities; you'll be charged up to 5% commission per check. Don't expect to be able to use travelers' checks to pay for daily costs -- they'll need to be cashed for local currency. You will need you passport for the transaction.

Never accept torn or damaged banknotes; they are often pawned off onto tourists because they are difficult to spend.

Interestingly, US two-dollar bills from the 1970s are still in circulation in Vietnam; they are kept in wallets to bring prosperity!

Credit Cards

As with the rest of Southeast Asia, credit cards are of little use for anything more than booking flights or possibly paying for tours or diving. Paying with plastic means that you'll be charged a steep commission; using cash is always best.

The most commonly accepted credit cards are Visa and MasterCard. Fraud is a serious problem in Vietnam, so you'll need to notify the card issuer in advance to avoid having your card deactivated the first time that you use it.
Bargaining, Tipping, and Scams

You'll encounter more than your fair share of daily scams in Vietnam, even more so than in other countries. The first price quoted is often at least three times more than the fair price. Stand your ground and bargain hard -- it's expected in the local culture and a part of daily life.

Tipping in Vietnam

Tipping is not expected in Vietnam and a service charge of between 5% - 10% is often already added to hotel and food bills. Nevertheless, if a local guide or private driver has provided excellent service, a tip will certainly make them happy.

Don't allow anyone to grab your bags at the hotel or in transportation hubs unless you are willing to tip them. Taxi drivers commonly round up fares and keep the difference as tips.

How Can I Get Help if I Go Broke Abroad?


Lost your money somehow while traveling? Losing all your cash abroad is no fun, but it doesn't have to be a total disaster. Naturally, the first step is avoiding it -- if it happens, though, the U.S. government can offer financial assistance to destitute travelers, including repatriation loans. Let's look at avoiding that whole becoming destitute while traveling thing, and where to turn for help if you do go broke abroad.
Be Prepared

    Try to avoid being mugged!

    Learn about money belts and other, innovative ways to stash cash on your person.

    Get a debit card and if someone, like Dad, is willing to loan you money, hook him up with an account password or leave him some deposit slips and he can put money into your account if you must dial home for dollars. If your debit card (your checking account) is empty, ask him to "memo post" the deposit, and the cash will be immediately available.
U.S. Government Emergency Financial Assistance, Repatriation Loans

Overseas Citizens Services (OCS) is a division of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs and is responsible for the welfare of U.S. citizens traveling abroad. American Citizens Services and Crisis Management (ACS) is one of OCS's divisions. ACS is tied into U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide.

From the U.S. Department of State:

"If destitute, Americans can turn to a U.S. consular officer abroad for help. ACS will help by contacting the destitute person's family, friends, or business associates to raise private funds. It will help transmit these funds to destitute Americans.

 "ACS transfers approximately 3 million dollars a year in private emergency funds. It can approve small government loans to destitute Americans abroad until private funds arrive.

"ACS also approves repatriation loans to pay for destitute Americans' direct return to the U.S. Each year over $500,000 is loaned to destitute Americans."

With repatriation loans, just like when calling home for cash, you must wait overseas for the money to arrive and eventually repay that loan -- and explain how this happened, too: the situation in Lebanon in summer, 2006, showed this to be exactly the case, when Americans needing help to get out of the country got the help and a big bill -- though those bills were forgiven after public outcry, don't expect that to be the case if you have to dial Uncle Sam for dollars.

ACS can be reached at 1-888-407-4747 in the U.S. (in case someone from home needs to make the call to find out where you should go for help - i.e. the overseas phone number was in your stolen wallet) or at (country code first - learn about country codes)-317-472-2328 from overseas. They'll tell you where to go, what to do and, hopefully, solve your financial problems temporarily.

More Government Help
The government's actually got a whole host of helpful websites for travelers -- you really can get plenty of assistance from Uncle Sam just when you need it most, whether you've lost your passport, your money, or your mom's phone number.

Top 10 Tourist Destinations in Asia

With so many exciting destinations in Asia, deciding where to go can be the stuff of which nervous breakdowns are made.

Don't despair! Use this list of top 10 Asia tourist destinations in Asia to get ideas for the perfect trip.

    Consider planning your trip around one of these top UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Asia.

1.  Chiang Mai, Thailand

Many travelers prefer Thailand's pleasant northern capital over the hectic pace of life in Bangkok. Most of the tourist action happens within Chiang Mai's Old City, where orange-robed monks from the many temples smile as they pass.

From cultural festivals and sprawling night markets to mountain trekking and numerous temples -- Chiang Mai attracts over a million visitors annually who can't wait to come back.

    Read about how to start planning your Thailand vacation.
    See the top 10 places to visit in Thailand.
    Consider a visit to the riverside village of Pai, Thailand, while in Chiang Mai.

2.  Penang, Malaysia

Known as the "Pearl of the Orient," Penang is a place to relax, eat to the brink of misery, and appreciate Malaysia in a new way. Malaysians are quite proud of their large island.

A legacy of colonization in Penang has produced what is arguably some of the best cuisine in all of Southeast Asia. Penang hawker food combines the best of Malay with influences from Chinese and Indian immigrants to produce mouthwatering creations.

Superb eating is not the only indulgence on the island. Home to nesting sea turtles, the Penang National Park is Malaysia's youngest national park.

3.  Halong Bay

Located in the North of Vietnam’s East Sea, 165 km east from Hanoi. Halong Bay is one of the country’s most famous tourist attractions and was listed by UNESCO a World Natural Heritage, an area of outstanding nature beauty.

Halong Bay covers an area of 1.500 square kilometers. Among many pleasant beaches, along its winding coast line is Bai Chay in Halong City and the peaceful coves of Cat Ba Island. The marine reserve in the bay is flourishing and offers great potential for kayaking.

The bay is the filled with thousands of islets of all shapes and sizes. A wide variety of birds and animals including bantams, monkeys and iguanas live on the islands. Pearl and coral is also exploited in some areas. With its spectacular beauty, Halong Bay is a wonderful destination. Tourists who visit Halong Bay at any time of the year are always enthralled

 4.  Malaysian Borneo

Sabah, one of two states belonging to Malaysian Borneo, is a natural paradise. Plentiful rainforest, endangered orangutans, and indigenous cultures are certainly worth grabbing a cheap flight from Kuala Lumpur.

Sabah is the perfect balance between wild and developed. Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah, is a happening tourist city in the shadow of towering Mount Kinabalu. When you've had enough shopping and cheap seafood, trade the concrete for East Sabah, where there are plenty of opportunities to experience Southeast Asia at its wildest.

 5.  Islands in Thailand

Some too small to merit a dot on a map, the islands in Thailand are among the world's most beautiful. Imagine white sand and blue water, cheap diving, and your choice of isolated tranquility or savage nightlife -- all for far less than the cost of a trip to Hawaii.

The diversity of the Thai islands is amazing. Phuket and Koh Samui are developed, tourist hot spots with vibrant nightlife, while tiny Koh Lipe barely maintains electricity. Beautiful Koh Lanta is the perfect compromise.

 6.  Siem Reap, Cambodia

Siem Reap is the gateway for exploring one of Southeast Asia's most fascinating UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Angkor Wat. Over 900 years old, the temples of Angkor are scattered across 600 square miles of jungle. The jungle is slowly reclaiming the ancient temples as vines strangle ruins and break apart bricks.

The picturesque Angkor temples frequently serve as movie sets and bring to life the inner-archaeologist in over one million visitors each year.

 7.  Beijing, China

Crowded, polluted, dreadfully appealing -- love it or hate it, Beijing is the pounding heart of China. Amazing UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as the Great Wall and the Forbidden City make navigating Beijing's urban sprawl well worth the effort.

Give Beijing a chance; rather than fleeing from the madness, stick around long enough to become a part of it. Wandering the busy streets can actually become quite addictive!

 8.  Bali, Indonesia

Bali, with its miles of beaches and volcanic landscapes, is nothing short of magic. Once only a destination for honeymooners and surfers, Bali is now one of the top destinations in Asia.

Most of the action culminates in South Bali at hedonistic Kuta Beach. Travelers in search of more than a hangover head for Ubud -- the peaceful cultural center of Bali -- or even opt to climb a volcano in the Kintamani Region.

Excellent beaches, a welcoming Hindu culture, and beautiful scenery make Bali the busiest island in Indonesia.

 9.  Tokyo, Japan

Perhaps not the cheapest of places to visit in Asia, bustling Tokyo is the world's largest metropolitan economy, even exceeding New York City. Urban marvels, talking toilets, and an aloof culture begging to be understood await as soon as you exit the airport.

Learning a few Japanese travel tips will help you save money while traveling in Japan.

    If in Tokyo, consider a trip to the cultural city of Kyoto, Japan.

 10.  Rajasthan India

While Goa gets a lot of attention because of the beaches, intrepid travelers head west into India's desert state of Rajasthan. Rich with history, stories of romance, camels, and impressive forts, Rajasthan is an unforgettable destination.

If the sun and tourists become too much, consider heading north to the Himalayas with a visit to Manali or the home of the Dalai Lama.

Where to go Asia in September?

Traveling through Asia in September is as enjoyable as any other time, however, the monsoon is peaking in some Southeast Asian countries; typhoons sometimes move in to threaten East Asia and produce rain throughout the region.

Rain or no rain, exciting festivals in Southeast Asia and hints of cooler fall weather approaching in China make September a good time to visit Asia!

 Enjoying Asia in September

While much of Southeast Asia is wet and humid during September, many backpacking students and families traveling with children have already gone home to begin a new school year.

September is a month of transition between seasons in Asia; weather can be unpredictable. Countries with scorching summers and suffocating humidity such as China, Japan, and India will begin to cool off slightly in September, making for more pleasant days. Many countries in Asia will be celebrating the harvest period in September.
Asian Festivals and Holidays in September

Lucking upon a big festival in Asia may become the highlight of your trip, or a complete nightmare if you find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Transportation can slow to a crawl and accommodation may increase in price or be completely booked up -- plan ahead!

Many Asian holidays and festivals are based on a lunar calendar, so dates change annually. The following festivals could be celebrated in September:

    Phuket Vegetarian Festival: Dates vary
    The Full Moon Party in Thailand: Monthly
    Chinese Moon Festival: Dates vary
    Malaysia Day: Always on September 16
    National Day in China begins on October 1; travel throughout China around the end of September will certainly be affected as many people leave smaller towns and flock to Beijing.
Places with the Best Weather

Rain can pop up at any time and roving tropical storms can throw all predictions out of whack, but these countries have lower average rainfall and slightly less humidity during the month of September:

    Much of Indonesia including Bali
    The northern part of Sri Lanka
    Beijing and Northern China
    Hong Kong

Places with the Worst Weather

While sunny days are common, average rainfall is high during September in the following countries:

    Thailand -- September is often the wettest month in Bangkok (See the best time of year to visit Thailand)

Note: Peak typhoon season in Japan is from August until October. You can track current tropical storms on the Japan Meteorological Agency website.

Travel During the Monsoon Season
The monsoon season in Asia doesn't always begin or end on time, and it certainly doesn't come in a straight line. While one side of a country may be dealing with torrential rain, the other side may be enjoying sunny days.

Traveling during the monsoon or 'off' season does come with many advantages: smaller crowds, discounts for accommodation, and cooler weather with better air quality. Travelers with tight itineraries may find rainy days interfering with plans, and in the worst case, transportation may be delayed as roads flood and seas become rougher. Outdoor activities such as trekking or snorkeling may end up postponed or become impossible altogether.

Increased rainfall brings additional mosquitoes and an increased risk for dengue fever, particularly throughout Southeast Asia. See some tips for avoiding mosquito bites.

The Islands in September

Rowdy places famous for parties such as Bali, some of the Thai islands, the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia, and the Gili Islands in Indonesia may be slightly more quiet now that younger backpackers have gone home to study.

Peak season in the Perhentian Islands, Tioman Island, and the Gili Islands is beginning to wind down in September. Seas may be rougher but the weather remains mostly sunny, making September a good time to enjoy the islands with less crowds.

Some islands in Thailand such as Koh Lanta are practically closed down during the month of September. Many restaurants and hotels close to do seasonal maintenance. You can certainly enjoy quieter beaches on sunny days, but there will be fewer choices for eating and sleeping. See more about Koh Lanta weather.
The Weather in Singapore

The weather stays relatively the same -- warm and humid -- in Singapore throughout the year with the potential for rain at any time. The rainiest months are between November and January.

Monsoon Season Travel Tips - Dos and Don'ts

Peak travel season in Asia coincides with the beginning of the dry season: the outdoors are relatively free of rain (barring the occasional light shower) and the temperature varies from cool to tolerably warm. The dry season turns into all-out summer (hot and dry all around) before giving way to the monsoon season - the wet rainy months from May to October beloved of rice farmers, but mistrusted by travelers.

 American tourists may find the monsoon season somewhat inconvenient; after all, the beginning of the monsoon rains coincides with the start of the summer break, the only extended period available to most U.S.-based tourists for undertaking family travel.

Pros and Cons of Monsoon Season Travel

If you think there's nothing good about traveling during monsoon season, you're wrong. There are a few advantages to planning a trip to coincide with the local monsoons.

    Off-peak prices and capacity. Booking a hotel is a breeze during the rainy season. Hotel rates and airfare can come down by up to sixty percent of peak season rates, because the summer-season crush has fled with the onset of the rains. And getting around on local transportation can be easier and less crowded.

    Cooler weather. The monsoon season comes on the tail of the hottest months of the year - the afternoon showers in the first two months of the rainy season can come as a cooling relief, although the high all-day humidity can be stifling.

    More scenic sites. As mentioned in the previous page, places like the Angkor temples benefit from the increased rains: the canals are topped up, and the lush greenery makes the stone templework feel more alive.

Which is not to say that traveling during the monsoon season is entirely free of downsides. The rainy season increases risks to travelers in more ways than one.

    Greater health hazards. A number of diseases particular to the rainy season can strike even the healthiest tourist down. Mosquito bites spread dengue fever; feces-ridden runoff can contaminate the groundwater, spreading cholera, hepatitis, leptospirosis and food poisoning.

    Riskier travel. If you've gotten past those washed-out roads and cancelled flights to get to your destination, the dangerous rip tides at your overcast beach resort or the flash flood at your riverside stop just might do you in.

    Reduced travel options. See above: roads are prone to flooding and flights are prone to cancellation due to inclement weather. Some ferries and bus operations cease altogether, and not a few hotels and budget inns close down as the tourist tide dries up.

Dos and Don'ts of Monsoon Season Travel

You can enjoy all the benefits of travel during the monsoon season - and very few of the downsides - if you prepare adequately for your trip. Follow the dos and don'ts below to ensure that you'll remember your monsoon trip warmly, instead of regretting it entirely.

    Monitor the situation. Before you make your way to a particular location, check the local weather to ensure a safe trip. Most Southeast Asian countries now have online resources that let you check in on the local climate from anywhere. (See this article for links to those resources: Early Warnings for Volcanoes, Floods, Tsunamis, and Earthquakes.)

    Keep your ear open for English-language TV or radio forecasts in your destination; the Asian feeds of CNN, BBC or other news cable channels can provide up-to-date weather reports on your neck of the woods.

    Pack carefully. Traveling during typhoon season carries with it particular dangers; make sure your baggage reflects the risk you face. Moisture and humidity? Bring plastic bags and other waterproof containers for documents and clothes; put silica gel packs in your handbags. Mosquitoes? Bring DEET along. Electricity outages? Bring extra batteries and a flashlight. Read this article for more details: What to Pack for Monsoon Season Travel in Asia.

    Prepare for mosquito season. More rains mean more pools of standing water, where mosquitoes can breed. Cases of mosquito-borne diseases like malaria and dengue fever proliferate throughout the monsoon season. Put DEET (or any other mosquito repellent) in your travel toolkit; even better, read this article on how to prevent mosquito bites.

    Don't wade in flood waters. Cities like Manila, Jakarta and Bangkok are often overwhelmed by flooding during the monsoon season. Don't wade into the overflow if at all possible. If this is unavoidable, take a long scrubby shower as soon as you get out of the floods.

    The flood waters are horribly unsanitary - they pick up whatever's in the sewers and bring it gushing out to the surface. These waters are breeding grounds for cholera, leptospirosis and a million other nasties you probably never got shots for.

    Another reason for avoiding the flooded streets: the cloudy waters obscure hidden traps like open manholes. It's not uncommon for an unsuspecting wader to just disappear, never to be seen again.

    Avoid raw vegetables. Fecal-to-oral diseases like cholera spread like crazy in the monsoon season. So this is a good time to leave the raw veg aside. (The Vietnamese, who love their raw herbs and vegetables in their pho and other dishes, experienced a serious cholera epidemic in 2008.)

    Allow plenty of waiting time in your travel itinerary. This is the monsoon season, where buses and planes can be canceled without further notice. Arrange your itinerary with some allowance for delays - ask your airline or bus about their policies for schedule changes, cancellations and refunds, and make sure you have a fall-back accommodation just in case you're forced to stay an extra day.

Packing advice for the first-time traveler to Asia?

 When traveling throughout Asia's top tourist sites, you mainly need to pack light, loose cotton clothing; you can't go wrong with these for most destinations in Southeast Asia, all year round. Be mindful of the local culture: wear clothes that cover your shoulders and legs when visiting temples, mosques, or churches. (More details here: Do's and Don'ts for Buddhist Temples and Mosque Etiquette.)

Everything else depends on where - and when - you go.
Summer or Monsoon?

Between April to May, most of Southeast Asia tends to be hot and dry. From the end of May to October, the monsoons arrive and the climate gets extremely rainy and humid. The rains give way to cool and dry winds blowing from the north from November to February.

Most places in Southeast Asia generally follow these three seasons. Read up on the local weather to find out what the climate's like where you're going, and pack accordingly. (More here: Early Warnings for Weather in Southeast Asia.)

Traveling during Southeast Asia's monsoon season? Avoid packing that heavy parka, which might be too warm for the humid tropics. Instead, bring sandals, a light waterproof raincoat, and a portable umbrella. More information here: What to Pack for Monsoon Season Travel in Southeast Asia.

Going during the summer months? Bring a hat and sunglasses to ward off heatstroke. Bring light cotton clothes, sandals, and flip-flops. Alternatively, you can simply buy your clothes at your destination, if you're staying in or near the cities. More information here: Pack UV-Resistant Clothes For Your Southeast Asia Trip.

Going during the cool months? Bring warm clothing - warmer if you're headed to higher elevations. A sweater might do in Bangkok in January, but may not be warm enough for the mountainous North.

City, Beach, or Mountains?

Cities are notorious heat sinks - in urban areas, cool seasons tend to be less cool, and hot summer months can be positively hellish. Light cotton clothing ought to see you through.

Most cities in Southeast Asia have places that sell really cheap clothing, so you might consider packing very light and buying your clothes at your destination instead! (Caveat: if you're extremely tall or broad, this might be a bad idea, as the clothes sold at such places are made to fit smaller Asian body shapes.)

    Where can you buy clothes, cheap? Check out our article on Shopping in Southeast Asia's Markets.

Beaches may enjoy fresh breezes blowing in from the sea, but they offer little protection from the sun. Apart from the summer clothes mentioned in the previous section, bring or buy a towel, flip-flops, and a sarong. (The sarong is the Swiss Army Knife of clothing. Wear it to the shower to deter peeping toms! Use it as a makeshift blanket, bedsheet, sunshade, or curtain! Use it in lieu of a towel! The possibilities are endless.)

    How can you protect against the sun in the searing tropics? Read this: Sunburn & Sun Protection Tips in Southeast Asia.

Higher elevations tend to be cool in the summertime and positively frigid in the cold months. Bring warmer clothing, like a sweater or a fleece jacket, if you're headed to places like the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia or North or Central Mountains in Vietnam. Supplement this with a flannel blanket.
Odds and Ends

Travel Documents: Protect your important travel documents from theft. Copy them in triplicate: passports, driver's licenses, airline tickets, and traveler's cheques. Staple the photocopies together and pack each copy in separate locations. Keep the originals in a secure location, like a hotel safety deposit box. Alternatively, you can scan your documents and keep the files in an online storage service, for easy printing when you need them.

Pharmaceuticals and Toiletries: Pharmacies in urban areas can provide all your day-to-day stuff - shower gel, suntan lotion, deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste, and shampoo. While medical supplies are also easy to find in cities, you may want to be absolutely sure and pack your own - antacids, rehydration sachets, anti-diarrhea pills, analgesics.

If you're bringing prescription drugs, bring the prescription too. Keep your insurance number handy, just in case.

Bring toilet paper for the eventual emergency, and soap or anti-bacterial gel for use afterwards.

Don't forget sunscreen and mosquito repellent. Leave them behind at your own peril.

    Top 5 Travel First Aid Kit Supplies

Electronics: Electrical systems in most Southeast Asian countries use different voltages. Bring a transformer or adapter if your electronics don't play nice with the local electricity. Bring extra batteries and film, in case you go someplace where you can't buy replacement stocks.

Extra Luggage: always a good idea, especially if you're bringing back more stuff than you came in with.

More stuff: You might want to bring one or more of the following items, if you find yourself some way off from the beaten track. If you're hitting the hiking trails, please read this page to see what else you might be missing: Packing Tips for your Southeast Asia Hiking Trip.

    Swiss Army Knife (pack this in your checked-in luggage so this won't get confiscated at the airport)
    Tiny flashlight
    Water bottle/canteen
    Duct tape (Compare Prices)
    Ziploc bag
    Ear plugs and sleep mask
    Hand sanitizer
    Travelers' First Aid Kit
    Wet wipes
    Bug spray
    Mosquito repellent lotion
    Powdered sport drinks
    Portable water filter
    Solar battery recharger