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 and make your departure as easy as possible. Ready? Go!
What to pack for Thailand?
Your Thailand packing FAQs, alphabetically (post contains affiliate links):
Toiletries to pack for Thailand
#1. Mosquito repellent
For your wrist:
For everywhere else:
For your hotel room:
How to avoid mosquito bites in Thailand? You can buy ‘OFF!’ brand repellent everywhere (plus strong DEET products and locally made lemongrass options), but after using Incognito’s full range of products for 2+ years, this brand of repellent is our absolute favourite, and a “won’t-leave-home-without-it” necessity for Thailand. Its products are DEET-free, cruelty-free and they work.
#2. Your ‘basic necessity’ toiletries
Face, body and teeth
2. Incognito citronella deodorant: Yet more mosquito warfare, with 100% natural ingredients. Note that North American-style deodorant is hard to find in Thailand, availability is mostly spray or roll-on anti-perspirant (with limited selection).
Makeup to pack for Thailand?
Good news for lazy girls: less is more in Thailand’s heat. See our tips for makeup in the tropics, plus tried-and-tested favourite makeup products for Thailand. They’re all non-toxic and 100% cruelty-free.
Tampon choice is usually limited: “A or B”. If you particularly love your brand, bring it with you.
For the shower
1. Anti-insect loofah soap: Fun fact – mosquitoes love sweat mixed with dead skin cells! This might look like a strange and extravagant thing to suggest for your Thailand toiletries – but it’s a crucial part of our ‘no mosquito’ kit.
2. Citronella hair and body wash: Locally available shampoo/conditioner is usually formulated for Asian hair. As a two-in-one, and a mosquito-fighter, this stuff is ideal for packing light.
4. Dr. Bronner’s travel soap: Another note for minimalists – Dr. Bronners is ideal for travel shower soap – it dilutes 4x!
‘Green’ or natural toiletries?
If you have sensitive skin or are environmentally-minded, pack your green or natural toiletries for Thailand (there’s some availability in expat centres in big cities and/or locally made products with Thai labelling, but you’ll probably be happier with your own selections).
#3. Medicine and ‘just in case’
Insect/mosquito bite relief
The ultimate ‘just in case’
Motion sickness (ferries, buses, etc)
Required medicine and 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 packing a lightweight first aid kit for minor scrapes or blisters.
Clothes to pack for Thailand
What to wear in Thailand?
- Bangkok: What to wear in Bangkok?
- Temples: What to wear to a Thai temple?
- Beach: What to wear at the beach in Thailand?
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 and T-shirts are the uniform. Still, a huge emphasis is placed on appearance – being clean and well put-together.
Women’s clothes to pack
Men’s clothes to pack
TIP! The above packing examples assume you’re spending a typical vacation itinerary in Thailand: a little sightseeing, some time at the beach, plus lots of relaxing (and even more eating). If you’re headed off the beaten track for much of your travels, you’ll want to pack clothes with this list in mind: ‘adventure’ clothes with better coverage, in wicking and quick-dry fabrics.
The best fabrics to pack for Thailand?
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, pack linen for Thailand over any other fabric. Light rayon or cotton (or thin silks on cooler days) are great, but can feel sticky in heavier fabrics. Modal holds water (ahem – your sweat) and stays wet for ages – avoid!
Bottoms to pack for Thailand
Leave jeans and denim shorts behind, it’s almost always too hot for them. Instead, pack dresses, skirts, shorts and capri pants. For men: pack shorts, swim trunks, man-undies. Avoid anything with a polyester lining, it will cook you.
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.
Tops to pack for Thailand
Again, choose tops made of linen, light-weight cotton or rayon. Perfect packing for women includes linen collared shirts (for sun protection), modest tank tops, T-shirts, and a light cardigan if there’s a cooler, rainy day. For men: pack T-shirts, polo shirts and a few collared options.
Swimwear to pack for Thailand
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 fabric you can find – and a wide-brimmed sun hat. Add UPF protection wherever possible!
What rain gear to pack for Thailand?
Packing for Thailand’s rainy seasons (which happen at different times of year in different parts of the country) is a whole different ball game. If you’re travelling during rainy season, learn what to pack for this wetter and slightly cooler time of year.
As for ‘regular rain’, do you need rain gear for Thailand? Possibly – it rains in Thailand sometimes! Ponchos are readily available at convenience stores like 7-Eleven and resorts have umbrellas for guest use. If you’re backpacking or will be spending most of your time ‘out in the real world’ you might want your own light-weight, waterproof jacket, a travel umbrella or pocket poncho.
What to pack for lounging / yoga / massages / being lazy?
Hoping to enjoy lots of R&R and 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.
What to pack for visiting temples in Thailand?
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.
Laundry options in Thailand
Pack lightly! Laundry is easy to find in Thailand’s tourist destinations, with full-service laundry and ironing at reasonable prices and usually a 1-day turn-around. Drop off your bag of washing and return to pick it up when instructed, often the next day. If your itinerary doesn’t afford waiting around for laundry or if you’ll be packing lightly and need your clothes in constant rotation, the items above will keep you clean.
Shoes to pack for Thailand
#1. Comfortable sandals
If you’re headed to a beach vacation, flip-flops are THE choice for Thai footwear. In Thailand you take off your shoes before going into homes and many shops – flip-flops are most convenient. If we had to pick from the entire shoe universe, the above are our absolute favourites for keeping our feet happy, safe and comfortable on Thailand’s sidewalks and beaches (and they last forever – Havaianas can be power-washed to look like new for years!).
If you’ll be doing a lot of walking/sight-seeing, you might prefer a sturdier sandal – just be sure it’s a slip-on-and-off variety.
#2. Slip-on shoes
If you plan to do a lot of walking in cities (sightseeing in Bangkok or Chiang Mai night markets?), you’ll want also want to pack a closed-toe pair of shoes for Thailand. If you’ll be visiting temples, these are more appropriate to wear than sandals. So what’s best? A light-weight, closed-toe option is convenient for flying, goes with everything and is suitable for temples. The shoes above are really breathable, with holes and ventilation everywhere – exactly what you want in Thailand’s climate. Again, your shoes should slip on and off rather than lacing or buckling.
TIP! Be sure to avoid white shoes as dusty Thai roads will dirty them in seconds flat. Not required, ever: socks. (Especially black socks. Britain, this means you). Instead, use disposable shoe liners: they’re paper thin and have charcoal and baking soda to absorb odours and keep your feet dry and comfortable. Sometimes, you can beat nature.
#3. ‘Adventure’ shoes
If you’re hoping to get a bit adventurous, in this category you’ll absolutely want to pack something with straps, clasps, velcro or buckles. Thailand has so many gorgeous places to explore – but they’re often views you have to earn.
Even the “getting there” (jumping on/off ferries and long-tail boats) will be safer in a slip-proof water shoe or hiking sandal than a flip-flop. Depending on your itinerary, a sturdy water shoe might be sufficient or you might prefer something closed-toe and protective. Remember, “it’s a jungle out there!”
#4. Dressier shoes
If you can’t be parted with your heels, pack wedges for Thailand (instead of spike/stiletto heels); this is a country with plenty to trip over. Make sure your shoes can be adjusted for size or easily slide on (like those pictured above), as your feet will swell in Thailand’s heat.
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 or a night out. Are you not sure about the ‘dressiness’ required of your itinerary? Compare and contrast our recommended examples for what to wear in Bangkok versus a Thai beach town – easy.
Electronics to pack for Thailand
Taking your phone to Thailand
waterproof phone case (universal fit)
This waterproof phone case not only saves your phone from accidental swims (and surprise storms), but transforms it into an underwater camera (up to 100 feet deep).
Portable phone charger? If you’ll be hours or days between safe or convenient places to charge your phone or tablet in Thailand, an external battery charger is both genius and tiny.
Travel adapters for Thailand?
Do you need a travel/plug adapter for Thailand? If your plugs are British, Australian or more creative than above – yes, you do need one. Thai sockets fit two kinds of plugs:
(A) North American with 2 flat blades
(B) European with 2 circular pins
If your plugs are compatible in Thailand, check whether you’ll still need a universal adapter for any layovers in a third country.
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.
UK to Thailand travel adapter
This thing (an earthed, 4-socket + 2 USB travel adapter) is game-changingly useful. If you can see yourself needing to use and charge your laptop/phone/iPad/Kindle/Fitbit/etc regularly (or are travelling as a family), you’ll probably want this one (as opposed to the smaller, 2-socket version pictured above). Its metre-long flex cord means you won’t spend your holiday crawling under hotel furniture to find sockets – incredible. Welcome to the future.
Useful electronic extras
In addition to the aforementioned gadgetry, you might find these electronic bits useful in Thailand:
Travel case/electronics organiser? Neat-freaks will understand.
Headphone splitter? Again, optional, but a nice way to listen to My Dad Wrote a P*rno watch movies together on the plane, or during a long layover.
Waterproof Bluetooth speaker? Definitely in the optional category (as are jet-lagged hotel room dance parties), but a much more fun way to take to the seas (yes, it’s really waterproof).
Also consider packing an extra SD card. Deleting photos during a sunset is horrendous.
Sun protection to pack for Thailand
Sunscreen to pack for Thailand
Pack your special sunscreen for Thailand – Thai shops stock predominantly Nivea and Banana Boat brands, in a limited selection of SPF numbers. Sunscreen tends to be expensive in Thailand (on Koh Samui we’ve found it ranges from 150-300% above Amazon prices): it’s imported, and they know you need it. Sensitive skin or choosy about fragrance? Pack your own supply.
TIP! Beware of accidentally buying skin-whitening cosmetics in Thailand. Whether in sunscreen, moisturiser or makeup – many products sold in Thailand have whitening ingredients, even in the brands you recognise from home.
Sun-safe gear to pack for Thailand
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 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.
Packing your carry-on for Thailand
New York to Phuket? 20 hours, minimum. Sydney to Samui? Nearly 12 hours. So let’s assume, wherever you’re headed in Thailand, you have a l-o-n-g flight ahead of you. (It’s worth it!) Good news, though: with a little preparation you’ll easily sleep on the plane, pass the time quickly and arrive still feeling like a human being. Here’s how:
#1. Sail through security
#2. How to sleep on your flight?
The fastest way to get to Thailand? Sleeping! Three things make the difference between sleeping on the plane or not: a good travel pillow, quality ear plugs and a blackout sleep mask (that doesn’t cut off circulation to your ears).
#3. Avoid elephant legs (and a lost passport)
Compression socks can stop your legs and ankles inflating to elephant size on a long flight. As for the seat pack, something zippered keeps your bits and pieces from falling everywhere (and your passport and a pen handy for filling out the landing card).
#4. The best carry-on bags for Thailand
TIP! Coming from winter? You might find that an extra fold-up bag, like a Baggu, is handy for carrying your plane snacks and, later, discarding winter coats/sweaters when you arrive in 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!
#5. Avoid jet-lag (and stay “hydrated”)
Ever been on a flight where turbulence prevented them serving water (let alone food) for most of an ocean-crossing? Never again. A collapsible bottle pays for itself after 2 or 3 refills from an airport water fountain (as opposed to buying mega-bucks airport bottled water). As for the flight drink? We really like Nuun electrolyte tabs (both for flying and extra-hot days in Thailand), but this stuff promises jet-lag fighting aspects as well. We haven’t tried it ourselves but it’s all-natural and has great reviews.
#6. Your in-flight entertainment
Audiobooks set in Thailand
Thailand colouring books
In-flight entertainment? Other than (A) loading up an iPad or (B) watching Guardians of the Galaxy again, we can highly recommend colouring as a compulsive, time-consuming habit. For added cultural savvy, consider a novel set in Thailand (find our favourites here).
#7. Twenty+ hours later…
And >drumroll< here’s the genius finale. Arrive in Thailand (perhaps with a change of shirt and underwear if your bag has the space), find an airport bathroom and enjoy a total refresh before stepping out into your vacation. All the waiting is finally over – Thailand, here you come.
Your pre-flight checklist
#1. More packing questions?
#2. Get organised to pack
Of the above, only the luggage lock is an absolute necessity for Thailand (seen Bridget Jones 2?) – everything else just makes your packing process a little (or a lot) easier. If you’re looking forward to shopping in Thailand, an extra, fold-out duffel bag gives you mega buying power.
#3. 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!)
TIP! Do you have connecting flights in Bangkok? Learn how to transfer at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport like a total pro.
#4. 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).
#5. Heading to Koh Samui?
If you’re headed to Koh Samui, don’t miss The Koh Samui Guide. Enjoy!
Are you packed?
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.
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.
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