Whether you’re a backpacking newbie or a seasoned traveller, adventuring when you’re on your period can be a challenge. Painful cramps on jungle trekking tours, heavy flows on beach days, and unexpectedly starting your period halfway through an overnight bus journey (yes, I’ve been there), can all make travel a nightmare.
Don’t panic though, there are some things you can do that will make holidaying while menstruating so much easier! Like practising these easy yoga moves to reduce period pains. In this post, I’ll be sharing things that I’ve learnt along the way (sometimes the hard way!). Travelling – especially around Asia – on your period doesn’t have to be stressful. Follow these tips and you’ll feel way more prepared for any menstruation situation you encounter.
Be prepared and pack supplies
If you haven’t travelled to Asia before, you might not know that period products can be hard to come by, especially in remote villages.
On the whole, I’ve found that tampons are pretty much non-existent in a lot of places in Southeast Asia, and the ones that you can find are relatively expensive and don’t have applicators (which might be a struggle if you’ve been spoilt with Western tampons).
Sanitary pads are more commonplace, but these will still be different to the ultra-thin, discreet ones you’re used to. Some of the pads, I discovered, were thick and bulky, which doesn’t make you feel comfortable – especially when you’re wearing a dress.
It’s still a taboo to discuss periods in some Asian and Middle Eastern countries, so you may find yourself in a situation where you’re too shy to ask for sanitary products too. My advice? Load up on supplies before you jet off to your destination. Pack the number of tampons or pads that you’ll need (and then a few more for good measure). While you may end up lucky at some destinations, it’s always best to be prepared to avoid any period panics.
If you’re going for any length of time and you’re worried about filling your rucksack to the brim with tampons, you can always invest in a menstrual cup instead. These are eco-friendly and compact, so you’ll have plenty of space for other essentials in your bag.
Have an emergency period kit
Bringing along pads and tampons isn’t enough when you’re travelling on your period. What if you’re cramping and can’t find a pharmacy to buy painkillers? What if the bathroom you’re using has no toilet paper or soap? It’s best to anticipate these situations and pack accordingly.
Packing an emergency period kit means you have a plan for all sorts of period emergencies. It’s up to you what you put in it, but I would start with painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen for when your period pains get too much (ibuprofen tends to only be available over the counter).
Anti-bacterial gel, fem wipes, and tissues are a must-have for any sticky situations and gross toilets you find yourself in. Always keep these in your day bag in case you end up having to sort a ‘sitch’ on a night bus or on a mountainside.
Period panties are also a great shout, especially if you’re worried about night time period leaks in hostel dorms, surprise early starts, or those in-between days. You can also pack cramp-soothing heat patches that are like a travel-sized hot water bottle you can stick to your tummy. I wish I’d had some of these when I went backpacking, instead of lying foetal on a bunk bed, clutching my stomach.
Track your period
I found that tracking my period when I was travelling was incredibly useful. There are plenty of great period tracker apps out there now, so it’s not like you have to spend time doing menstruation math either.
This way, you can plan activities based on your cycle so you can really relax and enjoy your trip. For example, if you think you’re going to be on your period, maybe delay that island-hopping boat tour and head to a bustling city like Bangkok instead, where you’re surrounded by plenty of accessible toilets and shops. Trust me, those beautiful sandy beaches are a lot less appealing when you’re panicking about where you can change your tampon and leaking on your towel.
It’s also worth noting that travelling can affect your cycle — anything from stress to jet lag can shift your period, so don’t panic if you’re a little later than normal. It’s also worth mentioning that some airports are working towards period normalisation too. So travelling is becoming easier; we just need to hope that these efforts make their way to Asia.