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What to Pack for Asia: 6 Essential Items

One of the reasons we travel is to experience other cultures. We’re prepared to see how the locals live, what kinds of food they eat and how, where they shop and maybe even attend their local festivals (like this and this). We can hope to be invited to more intimate traditions such as a wedding (like this and this), or into their homes (like here and here).

However, we often forget it might not be common to find things we consider norms or even necessities in our lives, like good coffee or hot water or toilet paper. I read a lot of information before I packed my bags for Thailand the first time, and none of it told me how difficult/impossible it would be to find the following:

1. Deodorant – It’s not uncommon to see shelves lined with deodorant in every 7-11 or quick mart, but finding one without a whitening ingredient is very difficult. In Thailand and China, you’ll be amazed at all the products with whitening agents, including makeup, lotions, gels and creams for all parts of the body, but deodorant is the one I find the most entertaining. Who really needs whiter armpits?

2. Tampons – Ladies, consider yourselves warned. Asians don’t use tampons, so unless you’re in a very touristic place, you’ll have a hard time finding any to purchase. In Thailand, even if you do find them, you’re only option will be O.B. (the kind without an applicator), so either come prepared or go local and use pads.

3. Toilet Paper – Traditional Thais don’t use it, however, it’s not necessary to ship yourself a bulk package of rolls. You can buy toilet paper, napkins and small packs of folded tissues almost everywhere, so I recommend always keeping a roll or pack in your purse. In more metropolitan cities such as Bangkok and most airports you’ll find t.p. in the public restrooms, but good luck in the rest of Southeast Asia, China and India.

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4. Medicine – If you prefer a specific kind of headache or other kind of medicine, bring it from home. All countries are different, but Thailand prefers a kind called Paracetamol which differs greatly from my brand of choice – Ibuprofin. In the rural areas, I couldn’t find anything that worked. In China and India, you can find almost anything you want, over the counter and at a price equivalent to pennies, but there are no guarantees they’ll have exactly what you want, when you need it.

5. Bras & Underwear – Another one for the ladies. Asians are often built much smaller than us westerners, and therefore it’s hard to find undergarments (and clothes) that fit comfortably. You might be able to find a bra in your cup size, but chances are it still won’t fit in all the other areas. Underwear are easier to find, but unless you’re going for the half-covered look, I’d bring plenty from home.

6. Neosporin – I love this stuff, and Asia has no idea what it is. I’ve bought similar kinds in Thailand, China and India, but none of it compared to the name-brand stuff we’re used to in The States. If you’re like me and you use it for everything from small cuts to lip ointment to zits, stock up before you come.

If you’re traveling for a long period of time, it would be silly to stock up on a year supply of certain items, but at least now you’ll know what to expect when you do run out. And, you can learn from my mistakes and be sure to stock up on tampons before you head off for a two-week vacation on a quiet island where buying them is absolutely impossible, making a tan and a swim in the ocean equally so.

Happy packing!


What to Pack for Asia: 6 Essential Items
Written by:Jessica J. Hill

11 Comments

  1. Points 1, 2, 3 and 5 are very important points to me. You can buy anything on Amazon these days, so I guess I’ll order something there if the situation becomes dire. haha.

    • jessicajhill says:

      That’s true, I suppose you could order from Amazon as long as you get placed somewhere with a decent postal service! I’m excited for your adventure!

  2. The Paracetamol is definitely different from Ibuprofen – we commonly use it in the Netherlands and it’s simply less strong compared to Ibuprofen. And for your first ‘hit’ always start with two, to build up sufficient plasma for them to kick in 🙂 (after that one every 6 hours will do).

    I have to say though that an advantage of Asia is that you can buy pretty anything by the piece – two bandaids and one small pack of tissues, coming up!

  3. Edna says:

    Paracetamol is just the British English term for acetaminophen — aka Tylenol 🙂

  4. FreeBird says:

    I cant really advice you until it is India but that said – I am sure China is not far behind and you can find Deo almost everywhere in that country( you need to check for Aluminium in the deo) to avoid those whiter levels. I would budge you to carry more of hygiene/ liquid hand wash and anti-mosquito bites spray/creams.

  5. avangundy says:

    I remember cutting my foot in Hainan and trying to buy some Neosporin-type equivalent. The people looked baffled and managed to rustle up some hand sanitizer for me. I was like ooookkkay? that might work. Always an adventure!

    • jessicajhill says:

      Always an adventure is right! What did they think hand sanitizer would do? Ha. Probably burn. For future reference, they do have a similar kind that comes in a little white tube that I managed to find somehow after asking for “something to put on cuts and scrapes” and turning down the first three items they showed me!

  6. I can’t even convince myself to go north or south of the U.S. border with Canada and Mexico, much less overseas!……….lol

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