We’ve had that melt-down in front of an empty suitcase, too. Find out exactly what to pack for Thailand to quell the panic & make your departure as easy as possible. Ready? Go!
Clothes to pack for Thailand
Thai dress code basics: The typical Thai (where ‘typical’ excludes Bangkok bar girls) dresses modestly, often keeping knees and shoulders covered. Rules are bent for tourists – Koh Samui and Phuket, for example, are relaxed resort spots and shorts & T-shirts are the uniform. Still, a huge emphasis is placed on appearance – being clean and well put-together.
TIP! Your crucial intro: Learn exactly what to wear in Thailand – in Bangkok, at the beach, at temples, and more.
The best and worst fabrics?
Remember the climate: It’s hot here! Hot. You could quickly come to hate your favourite summer outfit when you realise it has polyester lining and the material is too thick for the tropics. Where possible, choose light cotton, linen or light-weight rayon/viscose over any other fabric. Light silks on cooler days (or at night) are great, but can feel sticky in heavier fabrics. Modal holds water (ahem – your sweat) and stays wet for ages – avoid! Don’t pack anything synthetic – like polyester or nylon – except in rainy season.
TIP! Rainy season is a whole different ball game. Learn what to pack for rainy season – it’s a totally different list.
Tops to pack
Choose light-weight cotton, linen or rayon/viscose. Perfect packing = light cotton collared shirts (for sun protection), tank tops, t-shirts, and a light cardigan if there’s a cooler, rainy day. For men: T-shirts, polo shirts and a few collared options.
Bottoms to pack
Leave jeans behind, it’s almost always too hot for them. Instead, pack dresses, skirts, shorts & capri pants. For men: shorts, swim trunks, man-undies. Avoid anything with a polyester lining, it will cook you.
TIP! At night? Learn the best things to wear at night in Thailand: suitable outfits, fabric and shoes for casual or dressy nights out.
Thai massage? Hoping to enjoy a few Thai massages? Yoga pants or leggings are great things to pack. They’re comfy as pyjamas and will neither constrict you nor parade your parts mid-massage. A nice in-flight option, too.
Swim suits, etc.
Bikinis are fine at the beach/pool, but cover up as you leave – even for eating in beach/poolside restaurants. *Note that topless sunbathing is taboo in Thailand. As for cover-ups, pack good sun coverage in the lightest cotton or linen you can find – and a wide-brimmed sun hat. Add UPF protection wherever possible!
Sunshine: Don’t be sun-stupid! Thailand’s sun comes stronger than your [insert-Northern-country-here] variety. We doubt it’s much fun to fly 12+ hours with skin burnt to a lobster-red crisp. At the very least, pack a light cotton collared shirt and a big hat to avoid burning. Please? No wrinkles? For Thailand’s strong sun, ramp up your skin protection to at least SPF 30 – higher if you’re fair-skinned.
When visiting Thai temples, both men and women should wear clothing that falls below the knee and covers shoulders (as a minimum). On such occasions, women should wear long skirts or trousers, and preferably closed-toed shoes. Good to have such an outfit in mind when you pack! In a pinch, a pashmina can double as a cover-up.
Pack lightly! Laundry is easy in Thailand. You can easily find a laundry service anywhere. Really … anywhere. While Thailand’s resorts and villas have in-house laundry options, you’re bound to find a laundry shop near even the most back-water bungalow. Drop off your bag of washing and return to pick it up when instructed, usually the next day. Even your knickers come back ironed. Packing for Thailand is a matter of quality – clever fabric choices – not quantity.
Do you need rain gear for Thailand? It rains in Thailand sometimes! Ponchos are readily available and resorts have umbrellas for guest use. You might want your own light-weight, waterproof jacket, a travel umbrella or pocket poncho, especially if visiting during Thailand’s rainy season (Koh Samui’s is October through December…ish).
More packing tips
TIP! Choosing between two similar items to pack? Shirt A or B, red shorts or blue shorts? Choose the lighter fabric, or the more modest coverage for Thailand.
If applicable to your Thailand trip, find out what (else) to pack for:
Toiletries to pack for Thailand
#1. Mosquito repellent: To avoid mosquito bites in Thailand – You can buy ‘OFF!’ brand repellent everywhere but we far prefer a natural – and even more effective – approach. *Learn how to win your mosquito war in Thailand – no bites for you!
#2. Sunscreen: Pack your special sunscreen – Thai shops stock predominantly Nivea and Banana Boat brands, in a limited selection of SPF numbers. Sensitive skin or choosy about fragrance? Pack your own supply. Even the standard drug store brands are likely cheaper at home than in Thailand (where they know you need it!).
TIP! Beware of buying whitening cosmetics: Whether it’s sunscreen, moisturiser or cosmetics – many products sold in Thailand have whitening ingredients, even in the brands you recognise from home.
#3. ‘Green’ or eco stuff: If you have sensitive skin or are environmentally-minded, there’s next to no availability of green or eco toiletries in Thailand (outside expat centres of Bangkok). Pop them into 100ml travel bottles & you’re sorted.
#4. Medicine: Required medicine/general ailments – Thailand’s chemists/pharmacies are very well-stocked and many speak English, but you might find comfort in the things you know. If you’re travelling widely around Thailand, consider a lightweight first aid kit for minor scrapes or blisters.
TIP! A blanket tip for toiletries: if you have a specific product for any purpose, bring it.
What’s hard to find in Thailand? Definitely pack your own brand-name cosmetics, electronic toothbrush heads, tampons, deodorant (only roll-on and antiperspirants are available) and Western product ranges of shampoo (locally available products are for Asian hair).
Shoes to pack for Thailand
*Find out the 5 pairs you’ll need, including flip-flops: the best shoes for Thailand (with examples).
#1. Flip-flops: THE choice for Thai footwear. In Thailand you take off your shoes before going into homes and many shops – flip-flops are most convenient.
#2. Closed-toe shoes A very light-weight, closed-toe option, like slip-on TOMS, are convenient for flying, go with everything and are suitable for visiting temples. An honourable mention goes to Crocs, which are great in Thailand’s heat … but might be the ugliest things on earth. *Not required, ever: Socks. Especially black socks. British Isles, this means you.
#3. Running shoes: If you’re hoping to get a bit adventurous, bring hiking or running shoes (or at least something closed-toe and slightly protective). Remember, “it’s a jungle out there!”
#4. Dressing up? A pair of nice women’s sandals or men’s boat shoes make a nice change if you want to dress up a little for dinner.
Electronics to pack for Thailand
TIP! Thailand uses 220 volts, 50 Hz. If your home country uses 110 volts (U.S. & Canada), note that many items such as laptops, Kindles, cameras and mobiles are dual-voltage and will work in Thailand (220v). Check your electronics in advance to be sure you won’t need to pack a voltage adapter.
#1. Travel adapters: Sockets, plugs, power adaptors – Thai sockets will fit two plug types. Pictured above: (A) European with 2 circular pins and (B) North American with 2 flat blades.
- Brits, Aussies (and anyone from countries with creative plug shapes) – you’ll need a socket adapter.
- Americans – while your plugs will work in Thailand, we recommend a global adapter if your flight/s route you through a 3rd country.
#2. Cell/mobile phone: Charging your phone/tablet? If you’ll be hours or days between safe or convenient places to charge your phone or tablet in Thailand, an Anker external battery charger is both genius and tiny.
How to get organised to pack
All of these guys come in a huge choice of colours – great if you’re sharing luggage. To make it easier to find your identical black suitcase, consider a vivid luggage strap.
Is your suitcase safe and secure? A TSA-approved luggage lock is just common sense (as is setting every lock you own to the same code).
Packing your carry-on for Thailand
If you have a bag that will serve double-duty as a carry-on, then a day or beach bag in Thailand, so much the better! Otherwise, if you have a long journey or multiple connections – wheel your things to Thailand.
TIP! Do you have connecting flights in Bangkok? Learn how to transfer at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport like a total pro.
How to stay comfy: Chances are, you’re facing a long flight to Thailand. Besides suggestions to pack snacks, load up your Kindle and drink lots of water – sleeping is the fastest way to get to Thailand. The J Pillow travel pillow is the strangest shaped pillow you’ve ever seen and yet… it just might be genius. Pair it with a sleep mask and some earplugs to ensure total separation from every discomfort of flying.
Your pre-flight checklist
#1. Print your e-ticket: Do you have an e-ticket with connecting flights? Be sure to print your flight itinerary, including the booking reference (or download it somewhere obvious on your phone or iPad – don’t just leave it in your email). You’ll need it to get your onward boarding passes printed at a transfer desk. (Especially important if you’re using more than one airline!)
#2. Thai Baht: What’s in your wallet? Thai Baht. Baht is the only currency accepted in Thailand (no US dollars), so check your bank’s international service fees before departure. There’s no need to travel into Thailand with Baht, unless you’d find it more convenient. International ATMs are very readily available all over Thailand (including at Koh Samui Airport, in the arrivals area). Perhaps exchange a small amount before you leave or at your home airport as a nice back-up plan? (Note that many small restaurants and beach cafés are cash-only).
Misc. packing for Thailand
What’s on your itinerary? Any given day of a Thai vacation might include hanging out by the pool, enjoying the beach, dining somewhere nice, renting a car & hiking a waterfall, visiting a magic garden or sailing the seas – there’s lots to do. Can your suitcase handle the activities you have in mind? Be sure to pack for every possibility. More packing questions?
- Perfect prep: Pre-Thailand tips
- Packing list: The A to Z Thailand list
- Koh Samui: The Koh Samui Guide
Let’s review the contents of your suitcase. Will your clothes and shoes allow you to try everything, stay cool, and keep your naughty bits put away? Then you’re ready to roll. Enjoy!