Let’s take this step-by-step! Obviously you need money and a passport for Thailand – but we’ll leave you to figure out all that grown-up stuff. We just want to make the trip you have planned in your head even better. From perfect prep to enduring a long flight, to enjoying your beach time – this is everything we’ve ever wildly recommended about preparing for your Thailand holiday, all in one place.
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To stay safe in Thailand…
1. You NEED travel insurance
Travel insurance won’t *technically* keep you safe, but there’s nothing you need more in this category than good travel insurance that keeps you as un-dead, and un-bankrupt as possible. Your travel insurance for Thailand must cover, bare minimum, (A) all the activities you’ll do (even spontaneous things like snorkelling), (B) all the modes of transport you’ll use – scooters and motorbikes especially – and (C) medical evacuation home if necessary.
DON’T SKIMP ON YOUR TRAVEL INSURANCE!!!!!!
We often use World Nomads –
2. You NEED dependable mosquito repellant
Sorry if this comes as a surprise, but mosquitoes in Thailand are excited for your visit. Luckily, you can stay bite-free while avoiding scary DEET completely. It’s easy to find Off! brand repellant in Thailand, but you should bring your own natural products. For a spray, try Beat It! natural repellant: it’s a lemony and natural formula and is totally safe for children and babies too.
If you’re lazy or forgetful, invisabands might be the perfect mosquito solution. They’re 100% natural as well, and they totally guarantee they’ll work. If you’re extra susceptible to mosquitoes, add a tube of hydrocortisone cream to your toiletry bag (it’s hard to find in Thailand) and/or a Zap-It mosquito bite relief device.
3. You NEED to stay safe in the sun
Take a quick look at Thailand’s location in relation to the equator – the Thai sunshine can do serious damage to your skin in minutes flat. Come prepared with a high SPF sunscreen that can handle water (whether the pool or perspiration). Sunscreen is of course available in Thailand but it’s expensive and there’s far less selection than you’re used to. If you burn easily, add a wide-brimmed sunhat (Outdoor Research sun-hats, above, are packable, UPF 50 and they float!). When snorkelling or on the water, a UPF 50+ rash guard might save your hide. Also consider switching to a lightweight powder makeup with SPF. Foundation and other heavy, creamy makeups are way too hot in the tropics.
4. You need secure luggage
Ensure peace of mind while your bags transit – use a TSA luggage lock to secure the main compartment, with either extra locks or zap-straps/cable ties on any outside pockets. Arrive in Thailand with exactly what you packed; nothing more, nothing less!
To stay connected in Thailand…
5. You probably need to waterproof your phone
Beach days are one thing, watching your phone fall into the pool is quite another. Thailand’s always ready with some form of water, whether you’re hanging around the pool, the beach, your massive hotel bathtub, get a little too close to a lily pond or are totally caught out in a downpour. Basically, it’s your phone vs. Thailand, every minute. Come prepared with a waterproof phone case (this one is certified to 100 feet deep).
6. You might need extra phone charge
Beach restaurants and street-food stalls aren’t typically places to top up your phone’s charge. If your Instagram habits mean you’ll be caught short with a dead phone – marry this device. It’s tiny and holds at least one full charge, depending on your phone model. It’s basically magic!
7. You might need travel adapters
Do you need one for Thailand? Maybe, maybe not! For plug shape, the U.S., Canada and parts of Europe use the same sockets as Thailand (2 flat blades or 2 round pins), whereas the UK and other corners or the world have different plugs. As for voltage, Thailand uses 220 volts. While most laptops/tablets/cameras/phones have dual voltage, double check the power pack/charger before bringing it.
Americans/Canadians: As a “just in case”, keep a universal socket adapter in your carry-on (just in case you need to charge a laptop during a 3rd country layover – this one has USB inputs too).
Brits: This adapter converts UK to flat Thai plugs. Some sockets in Thailand use the two round pins, so a universal adapter is useful just in case.
To stay organised in Thailand…
8. You probably need sanity in your packing
Need to stay organised? How about clean? Packing cubes will help with both, no matter where in Thailand you’re headed. Many of our readers like the wizardry of Eagle Creek’s Compression Cubes (we like the bright colours of eBags). Whether you organise your luggage by clothing type or destination (i.e. beach clothes, sight-seeing clothes, dressy clothes in their own cubes), they’re the only way we manage to check out of hotels on time!
9. You need an adaptable carry-on
(1) Waterproof travel backpack + (2) Herschel market bag + (3) sling backpack + (4) Tumi Voyageur backpack + (5) Herschel pineapple tote + (6) laptop backpack + (7) mesh beach tote + (8) Herschel Supply Co. Little America Backpack + (9) Herschel palm tote
For sightseeing and a busy itinerary, a Herschel-style backpack makes a perfect carry-on and a day-trip bag, with great laptop protection. If you’re headed straight to a resort with no intentions of leaving, you might prefer a swallow-everything tote bag (the mesh one above has an insulated cooler section and won’t fill up with sand – it’s ready for boat rides and the beach). To easily discard or acquire things en route, tuck a squashable Baggu bag in a pocket and expand your carry-on space as necessary – ideal when you’ll start a flight wearing a jacket and finish in 84°F/29°C heat.
To get the most out of your trip…
10. You definitely need comfortable flip-flops
Day to day, you’ll live in flip-flops in Thailand. Unlike the fake version (which are readily available in Thailand but last about 2 days), genuine Havaianas are indestructible and really comfy. Our current pairs are in their 4th and 5th years of service, respectively.
11. You (probably) need a cultural clue
Concerned about culture shock? Love people-watching? Don’t want to make enemies overseas? The quick-to-read and very helpful ‘Do’s and Don’ts in Thailand’ guide is your easiest answer. It’s a must-read in, ahem, our books.
12. You need good advice
The best Thailand travel guide for you. We’ve reviewed most of them and, while Lonely Planet Thailand is a ubiquitous option, other brands might better suit your interest and itinerary. Having a guidebook around the house in the weeks or months before your trip is a great reference when questions pop into your head, or you just want an outlet for your building excitement.
13. For Bangkok, you need…
If we had to choose just one Bangkok travel guide, it would be the Nancy Chandler Map of Bangkok. It’s quirky and tremendously detailed – perfected over 27 editions and counting. No modern ‘app’ can come close.
14. You need an ace bathing suit + cover-up
While you’ll want to pay attention to Thailand’s modest dress code when visiting temples or generally sight-seeing, it’s likely you’ve got lazy intentions for the pool and the beach. Once you’re suited up with sunscreen, you can put full trust in SeaFolly to look flattering and stay in place – Aussies know how to look good and be comfortable on the beach! Just don’t forget to cover up when you leave the beach!
15. For Koh Samui, you need
The Koh Samui Guide. A biased but worthy inclusion; we’ve written the Koh Samui travel guide we’d give our very best friends.
16. What you don’t need for Thailand (but might want anyway)
As for something you definitely don’t need for Thailand: giant, ridiculous (slightly obnoxious?) pool floats and anything called ‘Chillbo Baggins’. If you’re planning to spend every second of your Thailand vacation at the beach (or will have a private pool), either of these ridiculous pool floats will add lots of sanuk (the Thai concept of having fun) to both your paddling and your photos. Enjoy!
Got what you need for Thailand?
Hopefully, these recommendations about what you need for Thailand have answered at least one question about your upcoming trip.
Excepting travel insurance (#1), you don’t need-need any of the above, but each suggestion might make a perfect Thailand vacation either less stressful (in preparation and transit), or even more enjoyable (once you’ve arrived and have filled up on Thai food! Priority one.) Enjoy!