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.
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.
- Being a girl in Thailand (xploreasiablog.wordpress.com)
- Asia What to Pack (virtualtourist.com)
- How to Pack for Southeast Asia…and What to Leave Behind (wanderlustandlipstick.com)
What to Pack for Asia: 6 Essential Items