Few places conjure images of fun and adventure quite like Thailand. Immediately, the mind pictures pristine beaches, tropical palms, bustling streets and the warm, welcoming smile of the locals. A country of distinct beauty with a vibrant culture and cuisine loved the world-over, Thailand is a must-visit destination for many travellers. If you’re planning your first trip and aren’t sure what you need to take with you, here’s my guide on what you need to pack for a trip to Thailand.
It’s most likely going to be hot in Thailand so make sure you pack tops that are made from lightweight or breathable fabric. Matt prefers to wear sweat-wicking t-shirts as they keep him dry and cool, especially if we’re out doing activities. I like to wear t-shirts or singlet/vest tops. You might like to pack things that are strappy, loose fitting and breathable, the type of clothes that allow you to catch a cool breeze and don’t weigh you down. If you are visiting in the cooler months, especially in Northern Thailand, a jumper, jacket and scarf for your shoulder may be needed.
Again, you want to opt for a material that is either quick dry or extremely lightweight and breathable. This is not the time to pack jeans or other thick material. Matt spends most of his time in boardshorts and I tend to wear shorts or skirts that are nice and light. You want to stay away from material that will trap your sweat or not allow you to breathe – things like rayon or polyester aren’t a good idea.
Keep in mind, if you plan on doing outdoor activities like hiking, you’re going to need appropriate clothes. You’ll want to pack activewear or gym style clothes that dry quickly are lightweight and breathe well. You may also like to consider packing a quick-dry towel and refillable water bottle.
Some light summer dresses are perfect for Thailand, anything that allows your skin to breath but doesn’t cling to you too tightly. A cotton dress with spaghetti straps would be ideal or some boho-style flowy dresses would be amazing too.
You may like to throw a cotton scarf or something similar into your bag, just in case, it gets a little cool in the evening (depending on the time of year you visit). A scarf will also come in handy if you’re inside a restaurant with super cold air conditioning. I tend to use scarves when I’m out in the sun for a long time or whizzing along on the back of a scooter and want to wrap my hair up.
Thailand is pretty laid back so you won’t need to pack anything over the top but there are quite a few nice restaurants and bars so, if you do want to dress up a little, you absolutely can! A nice dress with cute sandals would be perfect and, for guys, just a decent pair of shorts with a nice shirt t-shirt or breathable button-up shirt is more than fancy enough.
Those wearing boardshorts are pretty lucky as the material is quick-dry whereas bikini material takes longer to dry out. I recommend packing two swimsuits so one can be drying one set out while you’re wearing the other one (no soggy bikini bits!). You might also like to pack a sarong or kaftan, something easy you can slip over your swimmers to and from the pool or beach.
One other tip with clothing, pretty much every hotel room has air-conditioning that will keep you really cool when you sleep at night. I tend to get really cold, so if you’re like me, it could be worth your time to pack a warmer set of jammies. Otherwise, a pair of cotton pyjama shorts and top will be perfect.
Most people get around in their flip-flops or flat sandals. If you plan to hike a mountain or trek into the jungle you will need appropriate closed-in shoes. If you plan to sprawl out on the beach for 10 days straight, one pair of flip-flops or sandals will do. The club/bar scene in Bangkok and Phuket is brutal so you won’t need high heels. I usually pack two pairs of sandals and one pair of closed-in shoes.
If you’re planning to visit temples in Chiang Mai or the Grand Palace in Bangkok, for example, you will need a temple outfit. In most places, this just means clothes that cover your needs, cleavage, midriff and shoulders. You could go with a long skirt and t-shirt or a long dress and a scarf to cover shoulders. However, at the Grand Palace, the rules are far more strict and a scarf won’t cut it – your outfit must cover you. Don’t wing it, cos they won’t let you in if you aren’t dressed appropriately.
Other important things
Aside from clothes, there are other essential items you’ll need to pack for your trip to Thailand…
Always keep a pocket pack of tissues with you, just in case you forget to grab some toilet paper off the communal roll before you go into a toilet stall at a local market. You should make sure you always have some change on you as some places will charge you to use the toilet. I also recommend carrying hand sanitiser at all times and be prepared to brave a squat toilet.
Good quality luggage
Bags tend to get thrown around quite a bit and it’s worth investing in good quality luggage that can stand a good punch and lock securely. A good quality suitcase with a strong lock should be good enough. Matt and I always lock our valuables in the safe when we go out and, anything that doesn’t fit in the safe gets locked inside the suitcase.
You’ll need a power converter to ensure you can recharge your camera, phone and other electronics. In Thailand, it can either be the one with two round or two straight prongs. I always pack a power-board with me or a multi-USB. It means I can charge my iPhone and cameras while using my laptop. Yep, I’m a technology addict. If you forget a converter you can buy one there pretty cheap, so don’t stress.
Beach bag and backpack
Pack a light tote you can put your beach essentials in, this will make it easier to pack up your towel, hat, sunglasses, book, camera and sunscreen when you head down to the water or go for a walk around town. If you plan on spending a few days out exploring or hiking, you might like to bring a backpack instead. It can be a better way to carry heavy gear like cameras. Make sure you have a plan to keep your valuables dry if it rains suddenly, which it can in Thailand. A waterproof bag, umbrella or even just a spare plastic bag can be a lifesaver.
Tap water isn’t drinkable and you may not drink as much water as you normally do at home, so give your body a boost with an electrolyte drink, especially because of the humidity which you may not be used to. You’ll be especially happy to see an electrolyte drink if you experience stomach problems from eating food you aren’t used to. I usually just tuck a sachet into my medicine bag for ‘just in case’ situations.
Be sure to pack a good amount of bug spray! You’ll want to cover yourself in bug spray if you’re staying anywhere where it seems like there are a lot of mosquitos hanging around. When I’m in Thailand, I tend to apply bug spray and sunscreen every morning. I’ll also apply a liberal amount of bug spray if we’re going out for dinner. Be sure to buy a good quality brand.
It can be really hot in Thailand and I usually find it easiest to put my hair in two plaits when the weather gets sticky. It’s easy to put a hat on top and my hair stays out of my face and frizz free. I pack my hairbrush, a few little hair bands, bobby pins plus one or two big hair ties so I can pop my hair up in a ponytail or bun. If you like your hair to be slick, throw in some gel or hairspray as you will find it frizzes up with all the humidity. If you’re swimming a lot, you might like to pack something to put moisture back in your hair, like a treatment or leave-in conditioner.
I was really surprised by how dry it was in Northern Thailand and found great relief in the moisturiser and rosehip oil I had packed! A few of the girls we travelled with commented on how dry their hands, arms and legs and even their cuticles were. I’d definitely recommend slipping some good quality, thick moisturiser in your bag, at least for your face and hands.
Be sure to pack sunscreen from home as it’s quite expensive overseas if you forget it. When you go out for the day be sure to slather it on to protect against the harsh sun or you will get sunburnt (it happened to me at a resort and it was the worst!) We use good quality, high SPF, water-resistant sunscreen on our arms, shoulders and the rest of our bodies. I use a dedicated, SPF50 sunscreen for my face that is non-greasy and water resistant.
Something for bug bites
Despite the vast amounts of bug spray we spray on ourselves we’re usually still bitten by bugs at some point. I would recommend packing something to put on your bug bites to stop the itching or annoying you. Personally, I like to keep a tube of Lucas’ Paw Paw Ointment on me when I travel as it’s a great cure-all.
This one may seem a little extra but hear me out! With all that sunscreen and bug spray you’re covering yourself with, you’re going to find it mixes with the sweat from the humidity and the dust and dirt in the air, caking your body with a film of scunge. Trust me, scrubbing your body with a pair of loofah gloves is going to feel amazing! They’ll scrub all the sunscreen out of your pores and leave you feeling fresh and clean.
I pack a little medicine bag which includes Imodium/something for an upset tummy, paracetamol and ibuprofen for headaches or injuries, loads of band-aids, hayfever/allergy medication, asthma inhaler, a very strong antihistamine, sleeping pills, valium in-case of a bad anxiety/panic attack, eye drops, cold and flu medicine, throat lozenges, travel sickness medicine, hand sanitiser and ginger tablets.
Feminine hygiene products
Ladies may like to pack their own tampons, pads etc as the brand or type you prefer may not be available in Thailand. You will absolutely need to pack hand sanitiser and might like to bring a small pack of anti-bacterial wipes to clean the toilet seat and a pack of baby wipes, just in case! You may like to tuck a few plastic bags into your day bag, just in case there’s nowhere for you to dispose of your products and be sure to always have tissues on you as there may not be toilet paper where you go. Bear in mind, the toilets in Thailand do not flush very well.
You might like to bring a few separate bags to put your dirty shoes, clothes and underwear in to keep your bag from stinking out and making your fresh clothes smell bad. Laundry is cheap to have done on the streets of Thailand so don’t pay ridiculous hotel prices, just take your laundry out onto the street and you’ll find someone offering a laundry service.
Packing hacks and tips
A few tips and tricks to help you hack your packing!
Stash some eco-friendly bags and reusable sandwich bags in your luggage, they come in so very handy for storing dirty shoes and clothes as well as bars of soap, wet swimwear or leaky toothpaste tubes!
Stop leaky bottles
If you’re worried about your shampoo, conditioner or body wash leaking in your bag simply unscrew the lid, place some cling-film over the top and screw the lid back on. It’ll stop everything from leaking and potentially ruining your clean clothes.
I use Tupperware or similar hard plastic containers to put all my toiletries in. This ensures no leaks will destroy my clean clothes and makes it really easy for me to grab my toiletries in one easy swoop, keep them together in the hotel and makes re-packing easier too. I also use a small container for all my jewellery and another one for electronics like adaptors, cords and chargers. It keeps me organised and stops me from losing things!
Put dryer sheets in your suitcase to keep your clothes smelling good throughout the whole trip. If you don’t have dryer sheets, a few drops of essential oil on a tissue, laid flat in-between layers of clothes, works wonders. I also have a little bottle of spray which instantly freshens up clothes, it’s from The Laundress and it’s amazing! No musty smelling clothes for you, my friend.
Watch us get tattoos in Chiang Mai with a game of Tattoo Roulette!
Phoebe is a travel writer and photographer with a love for storytelling and making people laugh. Matt is a videographer and photographer with a passion for the great outdoors and big adventures. Together we inspire big adventures through our guides, videos, vlogs and photographs. Find out more about us here.