Last year was my first time visiting Southeast Asia and there's a few things I think you should know if you're venturing there yourself soon! Following my post about Kuala Lumpur here, these tips are directly from my own experience in various parts of Malaysia but I'm pretty certain most of these apply to neighbouring countries such as Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Luckily, a lot of the hostels we stayed in were situated centrally in a building so there was no chance of an open window and a swarm of mosquitoes getting in whilst we were asleep - except one. And we paid the dire price next day. I bought a mosquito net for about a fiver on eBay before I left. Pack it at the bottom of your rucksack just in case. If you do find yourself sleeping next to an open window or outside, make sure this is the first thing you put up whether you think you need to or not. You wont; know until you wake up the next day covered in bites!
Take a roll-on insect repellant with you if possible, anything containing over 50% Deet is great. It's often said this product is bad for you but when used sensibly (I used it on an evening and before going to sleep) it really helps keep the mozzis at bay.
Keep bags with you
Some locals mentioned to us in the highlands that in the cities, particularly Kuala Lumpur, to always keep your bags to hand. Same as in any country, there's the risk of someone grabbing your stuff from right under your nose. We were told specifically to hook the strap of a bag round a spare chair (if there's one) beside you so it becomes difficult for anyone to make off with it.
Similarly, if you're travelling and will be moving from hostel to hostel, keep a padlock handy because a lot of the hostels have free lockers or storage for you to use. A padlock will mean you have peace of mind when leaving your stuff when you go out to explore for the day. This being said, we had no issues with security whatsoever on our travels and usually left our rucksack in our shared room. Obviously, always keep your passport and any important documents on you at all times if possible.
If there's anything you take from this post, as useful as the rest may be, I'd advise you to buy clothes when you arrive. I didn't take a huge amount of clothing as it was but I definitely would take less next time; more room for harem pants and pretty tops that are super cheap to buy when I get into Malaysia!
It's predominantly a Muslim country so be aware of the dress code when out and about. In KL and major cities it's perfectly acceptable to wear shorts when the weather requires it but try to cover your shoulders when you can and obviously, cover up if planning to visit any religious temples or churches. In many places, particularly those that are less touristic, it's best trousers that fall below your knee and a long sleeved top. I just bought some baggy t-shirts from Primark and lived in them throughout the entire trip!
Most importantly, take a comfy pair of trainers with you. I got these for £10 (another last minute Primark bargain before leaving) and I wore them almost every single day. Even after walking many, many miles they were comfortable, practical and although not waterproof they dried quickly when we did happen to get caught in a downfall!
Be ready for any weather
Firstly, always remember suncream if you're going on holiday to anywhere with a high temperature or if you're going to exposed to the elements.
Secondly, in Malaysia when monsoon season is upon you, an umbrella will be your best friend. You can use it during the day to shade out of the sun when it hits the highest temperatures and then it will protect you come crazy rainfall in the evening.
And finally, take a raincoat. The one I'm wearing (above) is a super cheap and really lightweight style from Boohoo that did me really well on my travels. It can be stuffed into any small bag and if you do get caught in the rain, it dries very quickly afterwards. If you're travelling for a long time however, it may be worth investing in something more durable.
Caxton FX Travel Money Card
Chiara said she'd been recommended a Caxton FX card to take with us before we left. This works like a credit card, you load it with your currency (limited currencies available) and wherever you are in the world, you can withdraw money in the correct currency from most ATM machines and use it in shops. This was an absolute lifesaver and I'll be using my Caxton FX card on every holiday going forwards. Get one for FREE on their website and even better, there's 0% commission and no crazy withdrawal fees abroad.
And that's it! Hope some or all of these snippets of advice are useful to you or anybody you know that will be travelling in the future!