What to Pack for Thailand

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If you are reading this you have most likely bought your ticket to Thailand and now are faced with the task of planning your Thailand packing list! Worry not, this stage can be a fun way to get even more excited about your trip to the ‘land of smiles’.

Choosing the Right Luggage

When planning to pack for Thailand,  luggage is a critical part of your experience. Let’s face it, you will be living out of this bag – so let’s make your life easier by choosing the right one – otherwise, you will regret it later.

Size and Capacity

Choosing the size of your luggage depends on your travel style – do you travel light or try to be prepared for everything and pack lots? Regardless of your main backpack, it’s always good to have a lightweight ‘daypack’ for carrying items during the day, while your main luggage stays in your accommodation. 

The pros of travelling light: 

When you pack light, you get an extra sense of freedom. Quite literally, your possessions no longer weigh you down. You get the freedom to run for the bus, climb stairs without breaking into a sweat, you can jump off a long tail-boat into the sea waist deep, easily carrying your bag above the waves. And for those travelling hand luggage only, you can smugly leave the airport without having to wait for your luggage to appear on the carousel.

However – it can be reassuring if you pack with everything you might need. And have enough room in your bag to bring back some souvenirs.

There is no right answer and you will soon discover your own preference.

Backpack or Suitcase?

Backpacking doesn’t strictly require a traditional backpack. Many people travel to Thailand with a wheeled suitcase without any problems. Thailand is not the Wild West, and you are not likely to be trekking up a steep mountain with all your belongings. As mentioned, a backpack gives you extra mobility, but this comes at the expense of comfort and dealing with weight.

if getting a backpack, consider one with side-opening zips. Stuffing your clothes in through the top gets tiring very quickly and means you have to empty your bag to get something buried down.

Clothing Essentials

Lightweight and Quick-Dry Options

The first rule, is don’t take your coat.

It doesn’t take a genius to point out that lightweight clothes are the way to go in Thailand. Cotton, breathable clothing will give you airflow and freedom of movement. Layering clothes gives you the most versatility and combinations.

Although Thailand has a tropical climate, airports and transport often have very cold air-conditioning. Make sure you pack one warm top like a hoodie for these occasions. The same applies to long trousers, like jeans.

Modest Attire for Temples in Thailand

There are situations where you will need to cover up, like temples.

1. Shoulders and Knees Covered:

Both men and women should cover their shoulders and knees. This means no sleeveless tops, shorts, or short skirts/dresses.

2. Avoid Tight or Revealing Clothing:

Clothes should not be too tight or revealing. Transparent clothing is also considered inappropriate.

3. No Ripped or Torn Clothing:

Even if covering the body, ripped or torn clothing is considered disrespectful.

4. Footwear:

Shoes must be removed before entering the main temple buildings. Socks are usually acceptable to keep on.

Beachwear and Swimsuits

This is a no-brainer, you can’t go to the beach without these. A sarong is ideal for a lightweight towel and cover from the sun, and no matter if you are male or female.

Footwear

Comfortable Walking Shoes

This doesn’t mean taking hiking boots. Just have a pair of shoes you will feel comfortable wearing all day, on a long walk. This could be a sturdy pair of trainers that you do not mind getting a bit dusty.

Sandals and Flip-Flops

Another no brainer. A pair of Havaianas are probably perfect for some situations, but be aware that the etiquette for entering a building in Thailand is to take off your shoes, don’t be too surprised if someone else walks off with the wrong pair (especially if everyone has been drinking). On the plus side, you can easily pick up cheap sandals wherever you go.

Water Shoes for Beaches and Waterfalls

Water shoes are handy for slippery waterfalls and rocky beaches. Koh Lanta is one of the gems of Thailand, but it can have some rocky/coral beaches. Some water shoes can prevent cuts and slips. 

Weather Protection

Rain Gear

Unless you are going in the rainy season I wouldn’t worry about waterproofs. And even if you are, a simple waterproof poncho is more than enough. In the rainy season you may want to consider a waterproof cover for your backpack to make sure your belongings stay dry in a downpour.

Sun Protection (Hats, Sunglasses, Sunscreen)

The sun can be severe in Thailand, especially if you are fairer-skinned or sensitive to the sun. Sun cream and aftersun is available in supermarkets but are not as common or as cheap as you might imagine. Many Thai skin products incorporate skin whitening/bleaching agents – so you may find it better to bring these products from home.

A simple sun hat can also protect you from the sun and reduce the effects of sun stroke. 

Don’t forget your sunnies though. You gotta look cool too.

Health and Hygiene

First Aid Kit Essentials

Thailand has plenty of pharmacies, so don’t feel like you need to go overboard. However, a few basics will come in handy. Some plasters for cuts and scrapes will be useful and do not take up any space. A pair of tweezers are handy too for splinters etc. Antiseptic cream is also handy, as are antiseptic wipes. The tropical climate is ripe for infections, so keeping things clean can help prevent any irritations.  Don’t forget to bring any medication you take at home, and a doctor’s note if needed. Another essential is some antihistamines, creams and pills. This is especially needed if you are sensitive to insect bites. For dehydration, electrolyte sachets are easily available in shops, so don’t worry about bringing them.

Insect Repellent and Mosquito Protection

Mosquitos and not a major health hazard in Thailand for tourists, and anti-malarials are not needed except in maybe some remote border regions. Bite prevention is always recommended, and many people recommend a deet based repellent. Some popped swear by the local repellents which are readily available in 7-11 everywhere. There are plenty of other products out there for mosquito protection – with anecdotal evidence for efficacy.

Travel-Sized Toiletries

You don’t want to be carrying around large bottles everywhere you go, for several reasons, leakages, weight, and obvious flight restrictions. You might find that a travel-sized bottle of combined shampoo and conditioner can also act as a body wash. Travel-sized deodorants are quite good for a couple of weeks, and offer a good size to usefulness ratio.  A travel-sized toothbrush and toothpaste are refreshing for the long flight. These items are easily available everywhere, so don’t worry about having to bring to much from home. Carry-on liquids are still restricted, and the risks of leakage on check-in luggage can be high. So I’d recommend just buying most of your products when you arrive. That being said, if you do pack liquids, I’d advise some zip-loc bags just as extra leak protection.

A hanging toiletry bag will be useful for bungalows and accommodation with minimal surfaces to place items.

For hygiene reasons, and even after covid, I’d recommend having some hand wipes and hand gel for situations where hand washing facilities are not found. Some beach-bar toilets can be sketchy to say the least.

Travel Documents, Money & Security

Money Belt and RFID-Blocking Wallet

There is a whole industry set up around RFID wallets, and I’m slightly baffled, as I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a firsthand account of it occurring. There are much easier and more effective ways of committing theft.

Money belts, or some sort of discrete money storage are a good idea. There are plenty of options for everyone and here are some examples. Its also good to spread your Thai Baht and cards into more than one location, so if you do lose  a wallet or purse, you have a backup.

Ziploc bags again are my recommendation for important documents such as your passport, and details of your travel insurance. You won’t be the first or last person to water damage their passport, which can cause unnecessary stress on a trip.

Although violent theft and muggings are relatively rare in Thailand, people using deception and room thefts are much more common. Hotel safes are not safe at all, and just give thieves an easy target. Hostels also have a mixed bunch of people, although usually fine, a small travel safe gives you some reassurance. One item I would recommend is a travel safe by Pacsafe. One of these has worked for me in a bungalow in Thailand, where a thief had broken into my room and had attempted (and failed) to break into my safe which held my passport and valuables while I was out on a tour. I am a fan of the Pacsafe brand as their products are very well made, and my personal experience shows they work.

PacSafe – Travel Safe 3 Litres PacSafe – Travel Safe 5 Litres PacSafe – Travel Safe 12 Litres

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Electronics and Gadgets

Thai plug socket

Thai plug sockets sound quite confusing:

Type A: This socket has two flat parallel pins.

Type B: This socket has two flat parallel pins and a grounding pin.

Type C: This socket has two round pins.

In reality, it means you can use either a round 2-pin connector or a flat 2-pin connector interchangeably as the picture will show.

Universal Travel Adapter

You will want to pack a universal power adaptor will be needed if you are travelling with plugs that are anything other than this. 

Portable Charger and Cables

These days we find ourselves slaves to our chargers. Well with a little investment you can cut down on the number of chargers by getting a quality GAN charger. These are more lightweight than your standard charger and also can deliver charge to multiple devices at once, some even are powerful enough to charge a laptop.

If you are being super smart, you can also get GAN chargers that also operate as universal adaptors too, so you only need to pack one item for all of these things. These are not so common in shops so you are best buying one of these online. The following link is to a 70W adaptor that has a USB-C port that is powerful enough to charge a laptop – or your phone very quickly, which is important if you are in a rush.

Oneworld 70W Gan universal Travel Adapter

Camera or Smartphone Accessories

We cannot live without smartphones now, so it’s worth protecting yours on your trip to Thailand. A secure travel sling by pacfsafe is ideal. Even if your phone is waterproof, a waterproof phone much on a lanyard is an ideal way to protect your phone from sand and dust, plus makes it harder to drop overload a boat on a snorkelling trip!

If you want to keep track of your items – why not invest in an AirTag or equivalent for tracking your bags? Popping one into your checked luggage is a reassuring way to know that it has been loaded onto the plane, or that you haven’t left it behind in your hotel as you enter your taxi.

SIM cards are easily available from 7-11 and phone shops in Bangkok. The best deals can be found in the major outlets in the top of ‘Terminal 21’ shopping mall. SIM cards can be bought from the airport, but you will find they are much more expensive. If you want to buy an e-sim it is possible, but they are also expensive. If you are worried about contacting home when you first arrive, there is usually free WiFi available at the airport.

Miscellaneous Items

Quick-Dry Towel

These are great and compact. Cheaper accommodation tend not to supply towels so it’s advisable to have at least a small micro fibre travel towel. A sarong is just as good and is more versatile for all sorts of situations.

Reusable Water Bottle

Bottled water is cheap everywhere, but you might want to bring an insulated water bottle for long trips where you want the water to stay cold.

Packing Cubes for Organization

A neatly organised backpack can quickly turn into chaos. Packing cubes give you the ability to keep everything segmented and also help you be able to empty your bag and re-pack it without causing mayhem. An absolute no-brainer, A plastic bag for washing and wet swimwear is useful too.

4 Packing Cubes

What Not to Pack

Items Easily Available in Thailand

Thailand has plenty of cheap shops for all those essential items. So don’t try and bring everything. You are more than likely arriving via Bangkok – if you can’t get what you need here then I would be very surprised.

Unnecessary Valuables

You don’t need fancy jewellery or expensive gadgets. Unless you are a digital nomad, do you really need to bring that laptop? Will you be getting permission to use your drone? Having expensive items stored in your accommodation will just give you something to worry about. Wearing expensive jewellery just makes you a target.

Overpacking Pitfalls

Everyone is different, but many people over-pack clothes. In reality, if you are going to be on the beach, you will will probably find yourself wearing the same basic swimwear and light tops and shorts. It’s nice to have a few pieces to dress up with occasionally but if you are a backpacker, everyone is on a chill vibe.

Packing Tips and Tricks

Rolling vs. Folding Clothes

This is an age-old debate. Rolling clothes is a great way to prevent creases. Packing cubes in combination with this makes packing much easier.

What are your top tips for planning a Trip to Thailand?

Leave us your thoughts in the comments below!

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