I shouldn’t have to write a blog post separately just for the ladies, but unfortunately, there are differences between the two genders in the vast majority of cases. This is a short and sweet list of things I found that were especially helpful for me while I was travelling Asia.
Keep toilet roll with you at all times. If you’re travelling in rural Asia, chances are you’re going to need to pop a squat over a squat toilet, and these places don’t come with toilet roll. Ladies here seem to operate the drip dry method instead. I took plastic sandwich bags everywhere I went, and in one of them was a roll of toilet roll with the cardboard removed from the middle. If you’re unsure how to use a squat toilet, I’d advise looking up a how-to guide before leaving. For similar reasons, take some hand sanitiser.
Get yourself some Tiger balm. It’s a great, multi-use product. Use it rubbed into temples to soothe a headache, muscles to ease those sore legs after a day of hiking, or on mosquito bites to stop the itching. Use to repel insects (an absolute life saver for me!). It’ll help to relieve a blocked nose if you’re feeling under the weather, and best of all – the menthol smell covers the odour in the not so clean bathrooms in Asia when you pop a small dab of it under your nose. Be aware, that Tiger Balm used to be known for animal cruelty as it used to contain tiger bone dust – this is not a modern practice, and it’s perfectly alright to buy now.
Take several pairs of sunnies. Some cheap ones will do. You will lose some, you’ll break some, and you’ll loan some out to friends who weren’t as smart as you. You’ll need them to fight the glare of the sun, and hide makeup-less or hungover eyes.
Take tampons. Feminine hygiene is different in Asia. You CAN get things, but they won’t be the standard or type that you’re used to. Depending on the length of your trip, either pack as many tampons as you can or speak to your doctor about a better solution. You DON’T want to get caught out in the middle of a jungle trek because even 7-11 won’t save you there.
Shorts, vests and bikinis all seem like great ideas when you are going to hot countries. They aren’t. Be aware that a lot of south Asian countries are quite reserved and wearing these clothes can not only cause offence but can also mean that you’re refused entry to some places. Most temples will allow you to use a long sarong wrapped around your waist to cover your legs, but I’ve seen a few that won’t allow that. Although it was a popular tactic among female travellers to wear a scarf over their shoulders, even more places will not accept that either. Bear this in mind when you pack, and think about how much time you’re going to spend in places that might be stricter. Pack some loose trousers and tops that cover your shoulders and stomach – you’ll appreciate those clothes when you see how sunburnt other people manage to get, too!
Make makeup work for you. For the love of god, take waterproof mascara. A number of girls I saw with panda eyes from sweating their makeup off was insane! If you’re going to take makeup, think about what makes sense first. If you want a brow pencil, take a shade that can double as a lip liner. If you want a foundation, take something light, that isn’t greasy, and that has an SPF protection in it. Remember, if you’re going in a sunny season, you’re probably going to tan, so don’t choose a shade that’s too light. A bold shade of lipstick can really make the need for other makeup minimal and takes up very little space too. If you want to take a bronzer or blusher, take a shade that works as a shadow too.
Mix n’ match bikinis. There’s no point in taking a hot pink one, a green one and blue one if they don’t go together. Every single female traveller I met in Asia wore their bikinis as underwear at some points, so make sure if part of it needs washing, you’ve got something to wear the other part with. Think about taking several shades of the same colour, or complimentary colours.
A sarong is the most useful thing I took with me. At nights, I could use it as a bed sheet when it was too hot to sleep with covers. When it was cooler in the evenings I could combine with bed covers to make it warmer, or wrap it around me when we were sat outside. In the day, it shielded my shoulders or legs from the sun. On the beach it was something to sit on. It gave me something to lie under on the lengthy buses from place to place, or sometimes it was used as a pillow. Once, I even used it as a bag when mine split in a busy Thai market place. It was invaluable and I recommend it!
Don’t bother with electronics like hair straighteners. The heat and humidity will dry your hair (eliminating the need for a hairdryer) and it will just curl up all your straightening efforts. Not to mention the space and weight they’ll take up, as we’ll as the effort you’ll have to make to find a space to plug it in. Chances are, if you really, absolutely must do your hair, there will be someone in the hostel who made the decision to bring some with them.
Razors, like tampons, can be hard to find in Asia. You can get them, but they won’t be very good quality. If you’re going to want to give yourself a trim, take a good quality razor and some disposable heads and you’ll be sorted. Try using conditioner instead of shaving cream before you leave. If it works for you, as it does for some others, then that’s one less thing to pack before you go.
If you’ve got any tips, I’d love to hear them! Pop them into the comments and they may even make it into the article!