How To Survive The Hot Weather In South East Asia

How To Survive The Hot Weather In South East Asia

South East Asia is one of the most visited regions in the world. And you must be visiting South East Asia as well if you arrived here at this page. The reasons why you're going are not hard to guess: people are friendly, food is amazing, prices are lower (except you, Singapore), beaches are perfect and parties are lit. But the weather? Blisteringly hot.

And you may ask how do the South East Asians cope with such harsh weather? Well, I survived well all those years growing up in Malaysia and these are the tips that pulled me through.

Before The Trip:

  • Travel during the not-so-hot season: Although the weather is uncomfortably hot all year round, sometimes it's not as hot. Check the country that you're going and when are the coolest months. Different countries have different rainy seasons which will bring the temperature down and you can go right after the rainy season to enjoy lower temperature (we are still talking about 29C/84F).
  • Don't over pack: Under the torturing sun, the last thing you wanna do is to carry a massive backpack weighing 20kg. Pack some short sleeves, singlets and shorts. Don't stress too much. You can always shop for some clothes in South East Asia as they are inexpensive.
  • But pack at least one sweater: Although it's hot, buses and trains in SEA are famous for blasting their air-conditioning (if there's one). Remember, you can always buy something warm when you're already in SEA. So, don't stress out if you can't fit it in your baggage.
  • Pack lightweight cotton: Ever wonder how the heck do those South East Asians wear long sleeves? And you are sweating profusely under your singlet and shorts? Chances are, they are wearing breathable materials like cotton. Cotton allows your skin to "breath" and your sweat will dry up quicker.

Before Going Out:

  • Plan well: Before going out every day, plan well. Make sure you plan something that makes you indoor during midday. Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun, and you don't want to be that Englishman. Most of the South East Asians choose to take a nap in the afternoon and go out in the evening instead. This is because the night markets are up. So, you can chill at a café or a shopping mall in the afternoon and explore the city in the evening instead!
  • Use talc powder after showering: It's a common practice to use it on babies in SEA to make them feel comfortable by not sweating. You might call me a giant baby but I still swear by this. When I was in Malaysia, I would use a little bit of talc powder after my shower to decrease the amount of sweat I am gonna get throughout the day. Besides, it can also prevent you from getting that prickly pain after spending a day under the sun. This is probably one of the best advice I have for you.
  • Again, do not carry a big day pack: Like I said, you will sweat a lot at your back if you are carrying a heavy day pack. However, there are some essentials to pack:
    • Water: this might be a little heavy so just bring a small bottle. Remember you can buy it everywhere when in South East Asia so you don't have to buy a big bottle.
    • Sunglasses: Glare in SEA is unforgiving. Save yourself from squinting all the time and not enjoy the scenery that SEA has to offer.
    • Sweat rag: If you sweat a lot, it might be good to bring a sweat rag. 
    • Portable fan: You can buy a small portable fan in SEA and carry it around. It is by battery so it's really convenient.
    • Umbrella: Bring a small, foldable umbrella to save yourself from the melanoma-inducing sunshine.
  • Use a deodorant: You smell after you sweat, that's human. Use a deodorant to avoid scaring away all your newfound friends.

When you are out:

  • Drink a lot of water: I cannot stress this enough. Dehydration increases the chances of getting a heat stroke. 
  • Sidewalks: I have to say that most countries in SEA are not pedestrian-friendly. However, if sidewalks are available, they are normally sheltered by stretches of big trees so walk under the shade. If you are not using the sidewalk just because you wanna get your skin tanned, you will regret as you might get sunburn first before you get your perfect sun-kissed complexion.
  • Go to an air-conditioned place when you can't take it anymore: Fortunately, countries in SEA are well-equipped with air-conditioned places. Cities like Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Singapore house some of the largest shopping malls on earth. Convenience stores are ubiquitous. Most restaurants are also air-conditioned. Stop by for a drink if you need to.
  • When having a meal, find the coolest place: Look for the fan. It's the most precious asset in a restaurant. Some restaurants have such bad ventilation that you can't even have your appetite up due to how stuffy it is. In reality, you will eat a lot of street food where there isn't any proper establishment. If that's the case, try to find a shade or under the big umbrella the vendors might provide. Now the portable fan will be of great use.
  • If you can't take spicy food, don't take it: It's good to try spicy food, especially when you are in SEA. But trying it by the street without any air conditioning? You might want to have a second thought. Yes, eating spicy food will impress people, but you will impress people more with all the sweat that you are rapidly producing.
  • Walk slower, eat slower, do things slower: When it's winter in your home country, you'll try to walk as fast as you can to generate heat energy to warm your body up, right? So, in SEA, you want to produce as little heat energy as you can. So slow down your pace (but not too slow though).

After the day:

  • Take lukewarm showers: Do not have really cold showers! Have you ever had the experience of being out for the whole day under the hot sun, and then come home and have a very cold shower? And you sweat even more after the shower? When you are feeling hot, your body will try to keep your temperature at a constant by making your blood vessels closer to the skin so that you can sweat more to stay cool. When you have a cold shower, the regulation is disrupted as the skin becomes cold. The body will then increase the blood flow to the skin to bring back the temperature and then you will be sweating again right away! So don't take a super cold shower!
  • Change your clothes every day: You will smell bad and feel uncomfortable if you are re-wearing the same clothes that drenched your sweat yesterday. Make it a habit of washing your clothes everyday if you can. Even if you only have 3 changes of clothes, you will have a fresh change every second day.
  • Retire to a cooler place if you can't take it anymore: No all South East Asian destinations are hot. There are places that you can go if you've had enough of the hot weather. A few places that you can consider are:
    • Malaysia: Bukit Tinggi, Cameron Highlands, Kundasang, Genting Highlands
    • Thailand: Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai
    • Vietnam: Hanoi, Sapa, the Truong Son mountain range
    • Philippines: Sagada, Baguio, Tagaytay
    • Indonesia: Ruteng, hills near Bogor, Puncak Kaya near Papua, Mount Bromo

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31 thoughts on “How To Survive The Hot Weather In South East Asia”

  • I’ve been researching affordable locations for vacation and a lot of places in SEA are on my list. You have a lot of good tips that i haven’t come across in my research. Thanks!

  • I love these advices. Cotton clothes are a must, as is water and light packing. I’ve been to Egypt and I’ve felt the hot sun and how heavy it can be.

    • Yes! I see a lot of foreigners bringing a lot of clothes before coming to SEA and still ended up buying in SEA because their clothes are of non-cotton material! How good is Egypt!! I would love to go to Egypt soon!

  • I have never been to Asia but I’d love to visit someday! I went to Jamaica in October and it was quite hot so these tips would come in handy in any hot climate!

    • Yes, exactly! In fact, all the countries close to or at the equator! Jamaica must be really humid as well!

  • I’m actually pretty excited to add Asia to my vacation list in 2019. But I never knew it got really hot! Gonna read up more on it as I get closer to my Asian vacation date. Great post!

    • Yes it can get really really hot! Actually if you look at the temperature, it’s not that high compared to other regions (like middle eastern countries). It’s the humidity that made it unbearable. Hope your Asian trip will be amazing!

  • It’s not easy travelling to a country with high humidity levels, well not for me anyway. I learned the hard way that the key is “adapting” – these tips that you’ve shared are certainly key for making travel to such destinations more comfortable.

    • Yeah adapting is probably the best and the most long-lasting way. But the prickly hot powder and the tiny fan are saviours. Seriously =D

  • Great advice! I have never been to SE Asia and now my children are too young they would feel uncomfortable in this weather, I will wait a couple of years till they grow older.
    thank you for all the useful tips!

    • Yeap I think it’s a little too hot for the kids and it won’t be enjoyable for both you and your children. But there certainly are places with cooler climates (the mountain region) if you really really want to visit SEA! =D

  • These are great tips! I really love your organization and reminding us of the obvious while also highlighting your own tips. Gracias!

    • Hahahaha I am actually going to the Philippines in Nov and Dec to check out how you guys celebrate Christmas! Hope that the weather there will treat me well.

  • I didn’t realize Southeast Asia gets so hot! I remember when I traveled to South America in the summertime it was VERY hot. In saying that, I definitely agree with your tips for traveling light, drinking a lot of water, and bring a sweat rag. Really great tips!

  • South East Asia seems like that of Cape Town, It gets so hot here that one feel like wearing nothing. Your tips are really essential to keep one alive in such weather.

  • Great tips! It can get very hot in San Diego, California too. I always try to drink lots of water to avoid over-heating and to stay hydrated 🙂

  • We go to Asia often and indeed it can be very hot. You gave some great tips, so we will implement them on the next trip. Thank you for the helpful suggestions.

  • Staying hydrated is very important. I cannot imagine how the heat is in south east asia. Granted, I lived in japan and it was humid, but my gah, this seems like it’d kill me! I hate heat

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