It is that time of the year again when our new exchange students headed to Asia are starting to wonder what should go in their travel bags. Typically, it is always recommended to travel light as this makes it more convenient to get to one’s destination, yet there are definitely a few things that an exchange student should always remember to pack. 20 or 30 kilograms of luggage allowance with a decent backpack as a carry-on should be enough for most exchange students, unless one is willing to travel with some sports equipment or their whole wardrobe. We wanted to make packing easier for all the students heading to Asia by creating this packing checklist of the items an exchange student 100% should not forget to pack.
- Phone. We know… You couldn’t possibly forget it. Just make sure to not make it too obvious when catching rare Pokemons or desperately swiping left and right on Tinder while waiting to get your passport checked, as the otherwise friendly customs officers may not be so appreciative about your phone use.
- Any important documents. Pack all the significant paperwork so that it’s easy for you to access when necessary. Plastic or cardboard sleeves are handy for making sure the documents also stay in nice shape all through your travels. Nowadays it’s easy to reduce paper waste by using an electronic copy of your flight ticket, so you can often just use your smart-phone and forget about having to print out any tickets. Passport is considered a travel document as well so please make sure you don’t forget it.
- A proper backpack. Not only is a nice backpack a great option for using as your carry-on, it will also do its job as a school-bag and the carry-it-all solution for all your day trips while on exchange. A nicely padded bag will protect your computer, camera, and all your other precious items.
- Any prescription medication. Make sure you also have the original prescription written by your doctor handy in case the customs officers were to get interested.
- Local currency. If you are sure that you can withdraw some local money from the airport as soon as you arrive, this may not be so necessary. However, having a bit of a ‘safety net made of cash’ in local currency to pay for a taxi and a meal when you arrive, can often be quite convenient. 100 euros exchanged into local currency should be enough to ensure a smooth landing in case the ATM you try to use is not functioning. Most airports in Asia have currency exchangers but their rates are usually nowhere near as good as the ones you will find at the money exchangers in the cities.
- Personal hygiene. Both guys and girls appreciate it – so don’t be a smelly cat! For the flight, packing at least a toothbrush, toothpaste, and a deodorant will help you fight the unwanted odours. Make sure any hygiene products you pack into your carry-on luggage are in 100ml, or smaller, containers, and packed neatly in some zip-lock bags to please the customs officers. Don’t forget to also pack a good supply of contact lenses in case you use them.
- Clothing. We highly doubt you’d try traveling without clothing, but still wanted to mention it as something you should pack with you. For the flight, wearing comfy and warm clothes is usually your best bet. Remember that even though you might be headed to a tropical destination, the air-conditioning during your flights can make you feel a little chilly – so jeans and a sweater might be a better outfit than shorts and a sleeveless shirt. If you have many connecting flights, consider having a spare t-shirt in your hand luggage to be able to quickly switch into a fresh one when needed. While it’s easy to do a bit of shopping as soon as you arrive to your destination, packing some of your favourite t-shirts and jeans might not be a bad idea. For university, you should have nice attire that also covers your shoulders, midriff, knees, and toes.
- Proper shoes. You are likely to do some walking or trekking in various conditions during your exchange, so a pair of decent running or trekking shoes is a highly recommended item to include into your travel bag. Surfers note: flip-flops are not considered proper footwear in this case.
- Tampons. This one may not have be on your packing list if you are a male. But for the female, it’s good to be aware of the fact that finding these little necessities can sometimes be tricky in Southeast Asian countries – so better safe than sorry!
- Power adapter. Different countries have different voltage and wall plugs for electronic appliances, so you might need an adapter to be able to charge all the gadgets you are bringing from your home country. In case you forget to pack a travel adapter, you can always pick one up at one of the electronic stores of any airport.
- Computer. Or a tablet if you wish. Just make sure you pack it securely and have it easily accessible, as you will need to separate your computer from your carry-on luggage going through most of the airport security checks. If you have layovers or long connections when flying, don’t forget to have your charger in your carry-on bag!
- Camera. More and more people are using their phones as their cameras but having a proper film or digital camera equipped with a sharp lens will make your travel photos turn out better. You can’t put a price on memories, and to have a high-quality camera for capturing all the amazing experiences you will gather during your exchange, will be something you will appreciate later on in your life. Have a couple extra batteries, memory cards or rolls of film, and remember to pack the charger as well!
- Sunscreen. Whereas it is not a necessity to carry with, if you want to save kilos, in many cases you might save a bit of money by buying sunscreen from your home country; most sunscreen in Asia is imported and therefore a bit on the expensive side. But remember: don’t try and save by not using sunscreen! Skin cancer is the last thing you want to come home with from your student exchange. Your tan will be great even when you use a bit of SPF to kill those unwanted sun-rays.
- Smile. Self-explanatory. Everything from checking into your flight with slightly overweight luggage to impressing the girl or guy of your dreams will be a lot easier. Use your smile in any locations visited and any times of the day possible. You are going on one of the best trips of your life so there’s absolutely no reason not to wear a big smile at all times.
You can also take a look at our Semester Abroad checklist here.