Being a traveler from South East Asia (SEA) where you do not experience things like the four seasons and where it is hot and humid all year round, there are some special necessities you would want to consider, especially when deciding to go abroad to a wintery country. This guide is aimed at fellow travelers from the SEA region but may pose useful to others as well.
When traveling, there are the basics you would need, like your passport, sufficient funds in the correct currency (or your plastic) and your own toothbrush. Then, there are the little things that people tend to forget. Here are a few of my must-haves on a trip, some things that I would not be able to live without and some things that would make life easier on the road. In this guide, let’s pretend that we are traveling to Europe in mid-winter, from hot sunny Malaysia. It doesn’t sound like a good idea yet but wait till you get to the end of the guide.
The first thing you would probably notice upon entering a hotel and wanting to charge your camera or phone, is that the power points are… yes, very different. In Europe, they use 2-round pin plugs for their electronic appliances. Your best bet is to purchase one of those multi-pin adapters that come with all the variations of plug heads for use across the globe. Most hotels (not low-cost accommodations like hostels) provide plug adapters at the front desk but it is always best to carry one if not more of your own. Without the adapter, you would be battery dead and I can guarantee that will not be fun.
That is not all. Europe runs on 220V which is good for us traveling from SEA as our power supply is at 240V to begin with, so there is no need to worry about step-down transformers and the lot. If you are however coming from Japan or America (100-110V) then you should make sure your chargers and gadgets are universally adapt, or you would need a step-down transformer which is actually quite a pain to travel with. Most gadgets like your laptop or battery chargers today are made to take power input from 100-240. However, before plugging your device into the socket, take a look at your power chord or charger and see if it matches the power input of your destination. Simply check your device for the power specifications and if needed buy the appropriate chargers before you leave home. They are usually cheaper than blowing the fuse on your gadget.
MOISTURIZER & LOTION
Bring plenty of moisturizer and anti-dehydration creams or lotion. This is especially important for those of us who come from the tropics and not used to wintery climates. This is probably that only time you wish the oil glands in your skin will NOT stop secreting. It sounds gross and disgusting but that is the truth. When back home you may be keeping your T-zone oil-free, you probably wouldn’t want that to be the case when traveling away from the hot sticky climate we know. The air in Europe is very much dry and less humid than what you are used to, so be prepared with lots of cream for the face, hands and legs! I often find myself experiencing extreme dryness in the face for the first week before the body adapts to its new surrounding. A lip balm or two will also help keep the chap away from your lips.
Laundry is probably the last thing on your mind when preparing for a trip abroad for FUN! Who cares about washing right? Yes, that may be true, until you start to cause discomfort to your unfortunate travel companions.
There are 2 ways to deal with this,
i. Bring enough clothes and underwear to last your whole trip so you don’t have to worry about laundry, or
ii. Not bring too much clothes as to not burden yourself with a heavy suitcase/backpack and be prepared for laundry
If you are going to go economy and avoid coin laundries, make sure to bring along some hand wash detergent. I prefer to not carry liquids in my suitcase so I would go for something like “Handy Detergent” which is a concentrated cream detergent. It won’t spill, and that is most important. If you are going to opt for using coin laundries, then I suggest you bring along a net for your delicates, it won’t take up space in your suitcase and can in fact act as a laundry bag.
BATHROOM & INDOOR SLIPPERS
If you cherish your feet and is icky about going bare feet in a tub or shower that has been used by many others before you, especially if you are lodging in hostels or even budget hotels with shared bathrooms, this is not optional, bring your own bathroom slippers!! When indoors, if you like to let your feet breathe after a long day of walking, slippers will help. As you know, in the west most are accustomed to wearing shoes indoors and carpeted rooms are places where you especially do not want to go shoeless as you do back home.
NICE WARM INNER WEAR
It’s hard to prepare for winter when in your country all you ever need for a cooling night is a pair of short-sleeved cotton shirt paired with long pants and at most a light blanket.
The best cold insulators in clothing have to be wool, fleece, and down, but whether it be minus zero outside, too many layers can cause a lot of hassle. This is especially the case when you go from being in the freezing impact zone to coming indoors, where more often than not the heat is turned up to over a moderate degree. I always find that a good inner layer or thermal that keep you warm and a proper winter coat is most important. It doesn’t matter if you throw many layers of clothing on if they do not insulate the cold and worst of all, if it disallows proper ventilation. I would recommend a coat with a zipper and not pullovers, so when it gets too stuffy inside, you can let some cold air in enough to breathe again. My personal favorite that has never let me down is wool, though it can be itchy and discomforting especially to those with sensitive skin. Fleece on the other hand, although not so susceptible to cold winds, is comfortable to wear and works best when you combine it with other material. The trick here is to get quality and durable wear, because it won’t matter if you have 5 layers of clothing on if they are all cotton.
It is also a good idea to buy your winter clothes in the country you are visiting for then you know for sure they are made for the local climate. With al that said, it seems to be a complete headache to travel in winter. That is not entirely true. The plus side about traveling in the midst of winter is that it is low season, which means less people at museums, queuing up for tickets at the theaters, at famous no-miss eateries and so on. Unless of course everyone catches up with the fad.