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Asian market seafood fish

15 Travel Tips for Clean Freaks Heading to Southeast Asia

by Family Globetrotters

Are you Worried About Cleanliness in Southeast Asia? Here are Some Practical Tips to Help you get Through the Holiday!

Are you heading to South East Asia with the family and you’re worried about hygiene and cleanliness? This can be quite distressing for those who are self-professed clean freaks or germophobic by nature. Having grown up in Malaysia, I can completely understand how this can be off-putting and it’s important to note that even the locals execute daily cleanliness practises because they know how dirty things can be. So, if the natives have measures in place it only makes sense that travellers be aware of some of these tips and tricks. Here is a general list of ideas for the mildly affected to those who may feel it could be a deal breaker for how to deal with cleanliness in Southeast Asia


OK. Let’s deal with this head on! Squat toilets in SE Asia range from proper ceramic cubicles to literally a hole in the floor. Contrary to popular belief, squat toilets are so much more hygienic than sit down toilets. With squat toilets, you don’t have to touch anything. No lifting of the lid or sitting on the seat. In most cases you don’t even need to touch the flush lever. I just use my foot.

You’ll actually find that the locals actually prefer it. Some cubicles even come with a hose if you really wish to wash yourself but I never quite worked out how to do that without getting all my clothes wet! Make sure you bring your own tissues though! Can’t guarantee they will have any.


This is a no brainer and a must in order to combat issues of cleanliness in Southeast Asia! They are also super useful and easy to carry around. When we travel, we all tend to carry a small bag or backpack each so I buy them in small packages and everyone has their own. That way, they’re not overly cumbersome or heavy and you always have them when you need them.

From squat toilets to disposable sheet, here are 15 Travel Tips for Clean Freaks Heading to South East Asia! #travelasia #familytravel #travelwithkids #cleanfreak Click To Tweet


This product from Sea to Summit is fantastic for anyone using a sleeping bag or even just wants to sleep in it if you’re worried about the cleanliness of the bed. These premium silk travelling sheets are made from the strongest, finest ripstop silk and have added Polyester/Lycra stretch panels along the length of the seams. These stretch panels allow the liner to move with you when you turn, roll and curl up in the night. They are also compact when rolled up and a great investment!


Even if you have passed the diaper stage, always carry some disposable nappy bags with you. They are so cheap and light and very useful for rubbish on the go and in case someone is sick.  The handles are handy as you can always find somewhere to hang it. Especially when travel from point A to point B. Those wet wipes need to go somewhere!


I must admit that whilst we may have the thigh muscles to hover over a toilet, it’s hard for the kids. LOL! So a great option is to invest in a portable toilet seat. Not only is this is a great help for toddlers just out of nappies, it’s light and can be folded into quarters.

They can easily fit into a small backpack. Yes you do still need to touch it and place it on the toilet but that’s what parents are for! I rather deal with having to clean it than let my daughter sit on a dirty toilet! Gosh, it’s so unpleasant talking about this!

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It is perfectly acceptable to clean your cutlery before you eat. My grandmother had a routine she would follow which started with wiping the table top followed by cleaning all the cutlery, plastic side plates and teacups. Some restaurants will even give you a small container of boiling hot water or Chinese tea so you can run all the tableware through it. If they didn’t provide it, she would simply ask. And she lived in Southeast Asia for 80 years of her life so it’s ok to do it!


It is very acceptable to wear face masks to help you deal with hygiene issues in Southeast Asia. Some wear it because they don’t want to get sick, some because they are considerate and don’t want to make other sicks as they are contagious whilst others use it to combat horrendous air quality and pollution. This may help with pungent smells that can sometimes be unbearable.

Asian woman face mask


Do not drink the tap water. Do not even brush your teeth with it! Always use bottled water.


Yes, you can buy disposable sheets! If you have a natural phobia against hotel mattresses, this is a great solution for you. If you happen to be bunking in less savoury accommodation I would definitely invest in these. You can also cut them up and place them underneath your nappy change mat too.


aLOKSAK bags are large heavy duty ziplock bags that are perfect for doing the laundry. They are well known for their durability and are completely waterproof. It is essentially a makeshift washing machine in the sense that you can dump all your dirty clothes in the bag, pour in some detergent and fill with hot water.

Using your hands, mix everything up for about 5 minutes to create that washing motion. To rinse off the detergent you can re-fill the bag with clean water; use the sink or even the shower! Other ingenious laundry ideas include the Scrubba washbag, WashEZE laundry sheets, portable elastic laundry lines and placing garments on a towel and rolling it to get as much moisture out as possible. If available, a salad spinner apparently does wonders too!


I never had food poisoning in Southeast Asia until I left Southeast Asia! I now have an Australian digestive system which means it simply isn’t strong enough to withstand street stalls or warungs. I tried to ask our Villa Manager in Bali last week to take us to some of their local eating hangouts as I wanted to eat real Indonesian cuisine. He politely refused and said there is no way I could avoid Bali belly.  Here are some tips:

  • When visiting local restaurants or street stalls, select one where they are cooking it right in front of you. This way you’ll know it hasn’t been sitting out somewhere for hours. Anything in boiling hot soup such as a hearty bowl of pho is a winner for me.
  • Don’t purchase any food that has been prepared earlier or pre-cooked. You have no idea how long it’s been sitting there. So as an example, if you want some pineapple by the beach in Phuket, get one where they actually cut it up for you.
  • Prior to leaving, boost your digestive system by taking probiotics. The live bacteria will set a solid foundation for your culinary adventures. Get some of the capsules for when you are travelling as they don’t need refrigeration.
  • Always have bottled water on hand, not just for drinking but it’s good for washing hands or even fruit.
  • Carry some medication with you in case you do get food poisoning. You would want them handy when you’re not well as making a trip to the pharmacy in time of need is no fun for anyone!
  • Make sure you also have some rehydration tablets or drinking minerals to replenish your salt and vitamin levels.
    Avoid Western food! This includes fast food chain. I have had friends getting sick from a chicken sandwich on the train and another being violently ill from a pork burger from MacDonald’s!
  • Asian street food stall


Avoid consuming ice in street stalls and local markets as the water may not be hygienic enough. Growing up, we would dine at the local stalls and watch them drag blocks of ice on the ground (sometimes a main road), hack them with an ice pick to break them apart and then just putting it straight into the drink. As hot as I was, I drank hot coffee Hanoi even though that iced coffee looked so enticing!


If space permits and you are physically able to, bring or buy your own supplies/equipment. This way you don’t have to dip into the communal pool of snorkels or sleep on other people’s pillows at an Air BnB apartment. If you don’t want to carry these items home, there are always charity bins you can donate to.


If you’re drinking out of a can or a bottle, be sure to wipe the area where your mouth will be on. There was a case some time ago when people got sick from drinking from cans as it was stored in an area where there was rat poison! This is something I still practise today out of habit.

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Fanta Bottle Cans


If you don’t normally wear shoes in the house, a great way to avoid that dirty, grimy feeling at the soles of your feet is to bring along some slippers. If you’re going down the Air BnB or hostel route, they are not provided so this way you’re not picking up dirt everywhere you go. Disposable slippers are also available for purchase so you can just throw them out when you’re at the end of the holiday. Also great to have if you want to take off your shoes on a long haul flight but obviously don’t want to walk around the plane in your socks or bare feet.

I hope some of these cleaning tips for travelling to SouthEast Asia will help you combat some of your worries. These tips aren’t just for the clean freaks but for anyone who may even have small concerns about cleanliness and hygiene in Southeast Asia. But no matter how many measures you put in place, you do need to come to terms with the fact that hygiene and cleanliness in this region is going to be out of your comfort zone. Otherwise the entire holiday will just be fraught with stress. Young kids simply wouldn’t understand that what they can normally touch at home is now out of bounds in a different city so constantly running after them would be exhausting. Good luck with your travels and do enjoy Southeast Asia for what it has to offer.


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15 Travel Tips for Clean Freaks Heading to South East Asia

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Nathan May 1, 2018 - 4:46 pm

Great tips you’ve shared here! I’m really not digging the toilet situation though and cannot imagine how kids will have to deal with it. Glad I survived using it during one of my rest stops in Laos. I thought I was the only one who got tummy upset after returning back home, so it seems I’m not that weird after all! 🙂

Family Globetrotters May 4, 2018 - 2:29 pm

OMG Nathan…you travel S.E.A so much you must have seen some terrible ones. Yuck! Yeah its hard with the kids so we try to pick some nicer restaurants with the hope that their toilets are also better. One of the many things we have to deal with when we travel I suppose!

10 Tips for Long Term Travel Health and Well-Being February 19, 2018 - 11:18 pm

[…] 15 Travel Tips For Clean Freaks Heading To South East Asia […]

Jasmine North November 19, 2017 - 8:41 am

Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland….Oz, New Zealand, Canada, Sardinia, Corsica, Fiji, Ireland, Japan, Switzerland (home for me)….possibly even Bhutan, where the hygiene is excellent. As the first person said, they’ll give SE Asia a miss……me too!! Eeek.

ps You forgot to mention the flying cockroaches and rats 🙂

Family Globetrotters November 28, 2017 - 12:39 pm

Hahah Jasmine! Yup it’s not for everyone. Flying lizards scare me more!

Ozzy Mick September 18, 2017 - 9:37 pm

Great, practical tips.
I was born in Malaysia too, and love SE Asian cuisine. On my last trip from Dec 2016 to June 2017, I visited Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and China. I only experienced diarrhea, repeatedly, in the Philippines. So anti-diarrhea tabs were a must.
Also carried a small spray bottle of alcohol cleaner.

Family Globetrotters September 18, 2017 - 10:16 pm

Oh no! That would have been such a terrible experience. Do you know what it was exactly that caused it? Yup, the tablets are a good idea to have with us at all times.

Izzac July 12, 2017 - 4:16 pm

Asia is such a nice region for visit and where tourist can see a lot of most incredible and and such a nice kind of places. I have been there before going to enjoy my about few times ago with my mates and we spent good quality time there. It was a memorable moment of my life while while I was captured many beautiful views of fabulous attractions in my camerae.

Family Globetrotters July 12, 2017 - 4:41 pm

We love SE Asia too! Well, I was born there so it will always have a special place in my heart. I’m so glad to hear that it gave you memorable experiences! Very special.

Ms Jelena August 14, 2016 - 7:10 pm

Great tips! Never been to SE Asia, but we’re planning a trip, so these tips are very handy!

Family Globetrotters August 15, 2016 - 8:02 pm

Hey Jelena! How exciting for you! Its such a different world. Everything from food to culture to sights and sounds. But you do need to be careful. Don’t want it to ruin your holiday! Would love to hear about it when you come back!

Kathy Marris August 13, 2016 - 9:25 pm

I’m so glad that someone has tackled this topic. I have travelled to SE Asia many times and normally get a tummy bug. I will definitely be heeding some of your advice.

Family Globetrotters August 15, 2016 - 8:01 pm

Thanks Kathy! Yeah, we just got Bali belly from the beach club pool 2 weeks ago! Apart from not going, that one is pretty hard to avoid. Glad to hear the tips may be helpful!

Nicola August 12, 2016 - 9:44 am

Great advice thanks! Even after traveling a lot, I love finding new ways of doing things better 🙂

Family Globetrotters August 12, 2016 - 10:09 am

Thanks Nicola and I agree! Some of these tips are gathered from listening to other travellers over the years and practising it myself. Thanks for stopping by!

Sydney Fashion Hunter August 11, 2016 - 12:51 pm

Some fantastic suggestions here! I love SE Asia and have never had any issues but it is always better to be prepared. Especially with little ones!

Family Globetrotters August 11, 2016 - 1:27 pm

Thank you! We love SE Asia too considering it’s so close to us! Eating and shopping, eating and shopping! Can’t go wrong:)

Amanda Mann August 10, 2016 - 9:51 pm

Great tips! You make it sounds so easy!

Family Globetrotters August 10, 2016 - 10:01 pm

Thanks Amanda! It just takes a bit of planning and everything is light and compact so its doable!

Farrah August 10, 2016 - 9:49 pm

Ahhhhh! Great tips! But that’s just way too much work lol .. I’m just going to avoid SE Asia at all costs! Lol

Farrah & London

Family Globetrotters August 10, 2016 - 10:01 pm

You know what Farrah, I was contemplating making that tip #16. Honestly, if its going to be too stressful, it may not be worth the trip. I’d hate to discourage families from going to SE Asia but we have to pick our battles!


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