Learn about elephant conservation and become a certified elephant handler on this one-week program. Bond with your mahout, a Thai elephant keeper, as you bathe, feed, and care for your elephant throughout the week. Ride into the jungle for an overnight camp and volunteer at the elephant hospital. Learn about the importance of the elephant in Thai history and culture as well as what you can do to conserve this wise and loving species.
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Here is a detailed packing list for your time in Southeast Asia this summer. Packing the right gear (and the right amounts) is the first step to an incredible travel experience. Remember that you will be responsible for carrying your belongings everywhere you go, so PACK LIGHT! If your bag weighs more than 35 pounds, you have overpacked!
Weather in Southeast Asia
The summertime is known as the “rainy season” or the “green season” in Southeast Asia—days are generally hot and humid, with brief and refreshing showers that keep the land very lush and green. Temperatures sometimes cool off once the sun goes down, making for more pleasant evenings. Because of the heat, you will need to drink a lot more water than you are used to drinking to stay hydrated! The clothing that you bring should be able to get wet, dirty, and/or destroyed during service work and program activities.
Important Notes About Your Luggage
Airlines in Southeast Asia have weight restrictions for checked and carry-on luggage. Please limit your checked luggage to no more than 33lbs (15kg) and your carry-on luggage to 15lbs (7kg). For your one checked bag, a backpacking backpack is perfect, or a duffel bag that is easy to carry. Make sure everything you pack in your carry-on complies with the carry on regulations of the TSA. Lastly, remember to leave your valuables or prized possessions at home. It’s easier for things to get lost, stolen, or damaged while traveling.
Our Dress Code Expectations in Southeast Asia
Southeast Asian cultures are very conservative. Despite the hot climate, people in these parts of the world show less skin than in many Western cultures, and you’ll rarely see low-cut shirts or short shorts in rural communities. As we seek to respect and preserve the culture of the communities we work with, we ask that our students dress conservatively while in country. If you are not wearing proper attire, we will ask you to change your clothes or abstain from the service project of the day.
To dress respectfully in Southeast Asia, please bring loose-fitting pants or shorts that cover just above the knees (think basketball length). Bring basic t-shirts that cover your shoulders, and please leave all tank tops, cut off shirts, low-cut, see-through, or crop tops at home. As mentioned in our packing lists, yoga pants and leggings are not appropriate because they are too form-fitting. The key is to show less skin and to stay cool by wearing loose-fitted clothing. Check out these tips about how to pack for culturally-immersive travel and why Rustic cares about preserving a conservative dress code on our programs.
Personal hygiene is important in Southeast Asia, so when visiting temples we want to clean up more than while doing service. Wearing modest, clean clothes that cover the knees and shoulders is a must, as per usual. Being respectful is the name of the game!
Access to laundry can vary, but most programs find access once a week, though not guaranteed. If you’re getting laundry done in a village or rural town, expect to pay $1-2 per kg. If at a hotel, it can be anywhere to $20 per load.
A school backpack or daypack is ideal as it will be used for hiking/day trips.
- Photocopy of passport
- Visa documentation
- Consent to Travel form
- Rustic Pathways emergency contacts
- Additional community service forms if needed
- Wallet/money/ATM card
- Pens and journal
- Outlet power converter (for transit only! Thailand uses the same plugs as the USA–just make sure all electronics are compatible with 220v)
- Ear buds / Ear plugs
- Reusable water bottle
- One change of clothing
A 50-70 Liter duffel bag or backpack is ideal.
- 2-3 pairs of lightweight pants, jeans (too hot to wear often) or capris. Leggings are not appropriate as they are too form-fitting.
- 2-3 pairs of shorts/skirts, which must go to the knees or longer.
- 8-10 pairs of underwear – Quick-dry material is best.
- 3-4 pairs of socks – lightweight cotton or quick dry athletic socks are best.
- 7-10 tops (t-shirts and sports shirts) – they can be cotton, or quick dry shirts like capilene or polypropylene. Tank tops are generally not acceptable unless for time at the pool/beach. Keep in mind you will find cool T-shirts and clothes at markets you will be visiting throughout the summer, which can supplement the tops you bring over.
- 1 light, long sleeve t-shirt – breathable is best for the sun and certain areas of the region can get buggy or chilly (if you’re lucky!) at night
- 1 lightweight hoodie – most likely needed on flights, in movie theaters, and in airports. Most people will be fine without one.
- 1-2 swimsuits – two piece suits are fine but need to be very modest.
- 1 Sarong/shawl/lightweight towel (not white!) – Many accommodations will have towels for you to use, but it is handy to have something of your own for sitting poolside or visiting a waterfall.
- A nice casual outfit – for special end of program dinners.
- Flashlight or headlamp – rechargeable batteries are preferable
- Ultra-lightweight rainproof jacket – fear not if you don’t have one, ponchos are widely available and do a better job!
- Hat – for the sun
- Comfortable flip-flops or crocs – Footwear that is easy to clean and easy to take on and off. You’ll be amazed at how often you’ll be taking on and off your shoes. Cheap flip-flops and crocs are widely available in Asia for a fraction of the cost.
- Closed-toed athletic shoes – shoes that dry quickly, that you can hike short distances in and that protect your feet are best. Shoes will get muddy and dirty, so don’t get too attached to your footwear.
- A color photocopy of your Passport.
Most general toiletries are available throughout the region at a fraction of the cost. We suggest packing all items that could leak in a plastic or ziploc bag.
- Shampoo and soap – you may want to bring biodegradable or natural soap and shampoo, but they are not required
- Toothpaste and toothbrush
- Lip balm
- Insect repellent – we suggest a natural option or something with DEET
- Hydrocortisone/anti-itch cream or after bite
- Hand sanitizer – 1 small bottle. We don’t want you getting sick this summer!
- Contact lenses and solution – widely available and inexpensive in SE Asia)
- Sunscreen + Aloe Vera – good quality sunscreen is not readily available in SE Asia and is expensive!
- Feminine hygiene supplies – tampons are not widely available in SE Asia. Past staff have suggested trying a diva cup. We recommend you bring what you think you will need for the duration of the program.
Additional and Optional Items:
- Phrasebook, guidebook
- Deck of cards, portable games
- Digital camera – Waterproof style shock resistant cameras are great for our programs. Again, do not depend on your phone-we encourage our students to disconnect from their phones while on program.
Want to get all your shopping done for your program in one place? We’ve got you covered. Check out Rustic Gear and get all the essentials sent right to your door.
Please cover your shoulders and knees while in Southeast Asia.
- Dressing respectfully is very important. Southeast Asian culture is conservative, with ancient customs based mostly on Buddhism. Regardless of gender, Rustic students should be wearing Bermuda or basketball length shorts or pants. Please leave your short-shorts at home, as well as leggings, which are too form-fitting. T-shirts should cover the chest and shoulders, nothing low cut, and no undergarments should ever be showing.