We’ve had that melt-down in front of an empty suitcase, too. No more panic – perfect packing, here you come!
Find out exactly what to pack for Thailand to quell the panic and make your departure as easy as possible. Ready? Go!
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What to pack for Thailand?
Your Thailand packing FAQs, alphabetically:
Toiletries to pack for Thailand
1. Mosquito repellent bracelets
For your wrist: Genius! Neoprene mosquito-repelling wristbands and stretchy mosquito-repelling bracelets are your best ‘base layer’ against mosquitoes and superb back-up in case you forget to apply spray repellent (more on that, below). Both types are completely waterproof and DEET-free. They last between ten to fifteen days – the wristband variety has refill packs available.
2. Mosquito repellent spray
My ‘ride or die’ mosquito repellent for Thailand: 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 four+ years, this brand of repellent is my absolute FAVOURITE, and a “won’t-leave-home-without-it” necessity for Thailand. Incognito’s products are DEET-free, cruelty-free and they work.
3. Mosquito repellent … loofah?!
Must-have soap: Another necessity from Incognito – 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 my ‘no mosquito’ kit. The loofah itself is perfectly travel-sized and has a bar of anti-mosquito soap within. I pack one of these for every Thailand trip – the soap within lasts me about two weeks using it for two showers a day, and then I use the loofah for months afterwards just adding a little Dr. Bronner’s.
4. Hot weather health
Electrolytes: Each tube of Nuun electrolytes has 10 tablets within, and I try to drink one tab daily when it’s #$@&%*! hot in Thailand – especially if I’ve been active or walked around all day. It’s really easy to dehydrate if you’re not used to Thailand’s climate – be careful! Make sure you’re replenishing yourself with the salty/mineral concoctions that you need (fresh coconuts are good, too). Nuun tabs are great to drink in-flight as well – I always keep a tube in my carry-on and chug a bottle on any layover. Have I used them to alleviate hangovers? Indeed.
Nuun Tips: Give your Nuun tab about five minutes to fully dissolve or you’ll just drink a frothy batch of powder. You can also dissolve it in advance – just add it to your water bottle in the morning and chuck it in your mini-fridge to enjoy cold later. The tabs are scored down the middle so they’re easy to break in half and add to a regular-sized water bottle. I’ve tried a lot of the flavours and prefer strawberry-lemonade above all.
5. Anti-mosquito devices
For your hotel room: If you like the sound of non-toxic + no mosquito bites (and love a bit of travel tech), any of these three tools are non-toxic and totally portable. Incognito’s room refresher is a chemical-free alternative to mosquito coils and lasts about six weeks. I’ve tried it myself and really like the smell – though it’s not too strong. There’s nothing inside to spill so it’s easy to chuck in a suitcase. I haven’t tried the mosqui-go duo myself though can verify that it will plug directly into Thai plugs.
6. The best sunscreen for Thailand
Sunscreen: Lobster-red foreigners are a source of constant amusement and confusion to Thai people – a far wiser population that knows it should avoid the sun. Commit this to memory: Thailand’s sun comes much stronger than your [insert-Northern-country-here] variety. Need proof? The World Health Organization uses a UV index to measure potential skin damage – anything over 6/10 is considered high. Bangkok doesn’t fall below an eight, ever (and often falls off the extreme end of the chart at 12+). Do not mess around with the sun in Thailand – and take even more caution when you’re near water (or anything reflective, like a glass table top). I only pack SPF 30 and higher – the spray sunscreen, above, is particularly good in higher SPFs because it’s lightweight and sinks in immediately.
Pack your special sunscreen for Thailand – Thai shops stock predominantly Nivea and Banana Boat brands, in a limited selection of SPF numbers. Recently there’s been limited availability of “reef-safe” sunscreen in high-end hotel gift shops and health shops, but they’re not widely found. Sunscreen tends to be expensive in Thailand (on Koh Samui I’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. Note: I’ve never seen my favourite brands, Coola and Sun Bum, for sale anywhere in Thailand. If they’re your preferred sunscreens as well, definitely bring them with you.
Caution! 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.
7. Healthy face vs heat and humidity
Keep your face happy: To keep your face happy in Thailand, you might consider packing a konjac sponge. A what?! Here’s what (and why). If you’re not used to tropical heat or humidity, you face might thank you for this magic little sponge. This little guy helps my face to breathe a little easier, and feel much cooler, especially as sunscreen and sweat get involved.
8. The ultimate ‘just in case’
Very Bad Situations: Pharmacies are extremely easy to find in Thailand but … there are “occasions” when you need the above, and you need it immediately. We’ve all seen Bridesmaids. I don’t like this discussion any more than you do … but let’s agree this is a wise thing to keep on your person at all times. Avoiding eye contact and moving on….
Gin-Gins: I also like to keep a few Gin-Gins chewy candies in my bag (more accurately – a few in every bag) … something about the ginger just makes me feel better if I’m ever feeling “bleh”. I use them kind of like the My Big Fat Greek Wedding dad uses Windex. Sore throat? Gin-gins. 20% hungover? Gin-gins. Crack-of-dawn wake-up call? Gin-gins. In-flight meal is never getting served? Gin-gins. You get the idea.
9. Insect/mosquito bite relief
Zapping mosquito bites: Admittedly, using the Zap-It device for the first time is scary – are you going to Taser yourself? Fear not – I’ve tested it for you. It’s the slightest little pin prick – a 0.0001 on the pain scale. Does it work? Yes – I think so! In fact it can get pretty addictive.
Hydrocortisone: Far more useful for the appearance of bug bites is a tube of hydrocortisone. Mosquito bites in Thailand tend to go bright red (much redder than those I’ve experienced in the States, although they don’t itch as much) – I use hydrocortisone to reduce the redness otherwise they last for nearly a week.
10. Jetlag zombie?
Puffy eyes: For most of my readers, it’s at least a twenty-hour flight to Thailand (or flights, many plural flights). While hand-sanitizer currently tops the list of carry-on toiletries, these eye-gels are wildly popular. They come in packs of four or eight – just pop them on ten minutes before landing (right around when they’re announcing the local weather in fifty different languages) and bingo! Who’s not a zombie? You’re not a zombie.
Jetlag remedies: I recently got brave desperate enough to try melatonin to combat jet-lag and found that it worked really well for me (however do your research before taking any kind of supplements!). In the same vein, this homeopathic remedy has great reviews – you chew one tablet at take off and another at landing.
11. Your hair vs Thai humidity
Hair, humidity and packing light: Locally available shampoo/conditioner is usually formulated for Asian hair. As a two-in-one, and a mosquito-fighter, this citronella hair and body wash is ideal for packing light. If your hair goes frizzy in humid weather, note that Thai people don’t tend to suffer this problem and you won’t find much to remedy it (other than maybe a hat and a strong slick of coconut oil).
12. Makeup for tropical weather
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.
13. Travel razors
Razors and razor blades: For women’s razors especially, don’t expect to find much product choice in Thailand. Expect to find one or two disposable varieties, not a whole aisle! Disposable Bic razors are pretty easy to find – less so options at the higher end of the quality scale.
14. Sanitizing travel toothbrush
Sanitise your travel toothbrush: Love any intersection of germ-killing, zero chemicals and clever tech? This electronic travel toothbrush comes with its own UV sanitising case (because living in 2020 is actually the future). Steripods are an alternative for your existing toothbrush – just make sure to start with a clean one.
Toothpaste: You’ll easily find Crest, Colgate and the gang but ‘Whole Foods-y’ products can be hard to find in Thailand. Also pack dental floss (and, for longer trips, replacement toothbrush heads). Meanwhile, I just discovered that Jason toothpaste comes in travel size!
15. Wash every body part (“and all major crevices”)
Travel soap and hand sanitiser: Another note for minimalists – Dr. Bronner’s is ideal for travel shower soap – it dilutes 4x! If you prefer to keep things eco and avoid chemicals, you probably already know and love Dr. Bronner’s. If it’s new to you, know that you can use it for everything – both shower gel and hand soap. As for ‘flavours’, I like the mint because it’s cooling in Thailand’s hot weather. The eucalyptus, tea tree oil and unscented versions would also be ideal for insect-proofing yourself.
2020 update? Yea, we all know the drill – hand sanitiser, count to ten, repeat.
16. Mosquito-repellent deodorant
Repellent deodorant: Turn to Incognito again, for its citronella deodorant. Yep – 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). Another tip? The fewer scented products you use, the less appealing you’ll be to mosquitoes. The coconut wipes are good back-up to keep in your carry-on or day bag – reminding you at least 239 times in this post – it’s insanely hot in Thailand.
17. Motion sickness (ferries, buses, etc)
Boat trips, bus trips and more: Either Sea-Bands or Dramamine (or both) are ideal to have as a just-in case. If you’re planning boat trips in Thailand but “never get seasick” … note that ocean conditions can change quickly and what looks like a calm day from, say, a Koh Samui beach can get really choppy as you head into open water towards, perhaps, Koh Tao.
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.
18. Tampons, etc.
Tampons/feminine products – Tampon choice is usually limited: “A or B”. If you particularly love your brand, bring it with you. More and more, we’re noticing that travellers recommend Diva Cups or similar, silicone products. Certainly better for the environment and the products claim to be better for your health, as well. All I can offer is that, in places such as Koh Samui, you don’t get much choice in feminine products – come prepared!
19. ‘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).
Shoes to pack for Thailand
1. Comfortable sandals
If you’re headed to a beach vacation, flip-flops and slip-on sandals are THE choice for Thai footwear. In Thailand you take off your shoes before going into homes and many shops – you’ll find anything else really inconvenient to constantly take on and off. If we had to pick from the entire shoe universe, the slip-on sling sandals above are our absolute favourites for keeping our feet happy, safe and comfortable on Thailand’s sidewalks and beaches.
If you’ll be doing a lot of walking/sight-seeing, you might prefer a sturdier sandal – just be sure it’s something that’s easy to slip on and off. Velcro-strapped Tevas, for instance, are far preferable to sandals with buckles or complicated fasteners. Double-duty for a beach vacation? The straps dry really quickly.
2. ‘Adventure’ shoes
If you’re hoping to get a bit adventurous, in this category you’ll absolutely want to pack something sturdier than sandals – something that will stay on your feet. 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!”
Also remember to check reviews for where you’re staying: is the beach rocky or is there coral offshore? If so, a pair of water socks are ideal to add to your shoe packing list.
3. Slip-on walking 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 walking 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.
Walking shoe tips for Thailand: 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 odour-fighting 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.
4. Dressier shoes
Not sure if you’ll need dressy shoes in Thailand? These packable, foldable flats are the ultimate back-up – and they pass the slip-on/slip-off test.
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.
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.
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
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?
- 1. Linen
- 2. Light rayon (or light cotton)
- 3. Wicking and quick-dry fabrics
- 4. Skin-protecting UPF 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, 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.
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 is stripping naked in a beach restaurant).
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.
Sun-safe gear to pack for Thailand
Don’t be sun-stupid! We doubt it’s much fun to fly 12+ hours with skin burnt to a crisp. At the very least, pack a light collared shirt and a big hat to avoid burning. Please? No wrinkles?
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 one-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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Tip: In January 2020 plastic bags were banned in all major chain stores in Thailand (including 7-Eleven). You can buy the stores’ own reusable bags at checkout, but a Baggu folds to nothing and is pretty indestructible.
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
In-flight entertainment? Other than (A) loading up an iPad or (B) watching Bohemian Rhapsody 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. 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.
#2. 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!)
#3. 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).
#4. Prep your Hazmat kit
If you’re a born germaphobe like me, adjusting to this coronavirus-craziness isn’t much work. See what I’ve always done to my plane seat – decades before covid-19 – … and join me for an in-flight Purell Party.
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.
More packing questions?
Useful resources mentioned in this post
- How to Avoid Mosquitoes in Thailand
- The Best Shoes to Wear in Thailand
- 14 Podcasts to Last Your Entire Flight to Thailand
- Why Linen is the Best Fabric To Pack for Thailand
- 4 Tips to Have a Healthier Flight
- A Steamy Love Letter (to My Travel Steamer)
- The Best Toiletries for Thailand: What to Pack?
- What’s the Best Makeup for Thailand?
- How to Be the Rudest Tourist in Thailand
- What to Wear at Thai Temples?
- The Best Books about Thailand
- 33 Can’t-Miss Audiobooks about Thailand
If you’re headed to Koh Samui, don’t miss The Koh Samui Guide. Enjoy!
Sources: World Health Organization – UV Index