It is one of my favorite countries to visit. There are no limits to the unique experiences Thailand offers, whether it’s its diverse cultural influences, its distinct regions, or its extraordinary food. You need to pack appropriately, however, if you want to get the most out of your trip.
You’ll likely find yourself in a variety of situations, so packing accordingly is essential. There are several differences between cities like Bangkok and beach towns like Phuket, as well as between small mountain towns and villages like Chiang Rai.
Despite the fact that packing requirements for these different places largely overlap, it is still important to know how to pack appropriately wherever you are going. Here are some tips for packing for Thailand.
Related: What to Pack for Ireland
Pack a Travel Backpack for Thailand
Traveling around Thailand is best done with a backpack, especially if you plan to ride a motorbike at any point.
It is impossible to bicycle with a suitcase. Additionally, you will avoid the sweaty heat of Southeast Asia by avoiding lugging a suitcase up the stairs to the elevated train in Bangkok. Rather than a purse, consider a backpack.
As Southeast Asia is a humid region, you will need a waterproof jacket. It is common to experience sudden downpours. The Outbreaker Travel Backpack is the ideal piece of luggage for traveling in Thailand for this reason as well as many others.
The bag is well-organized, comfortable, and made from waterproof sailcloth for rainy afternoon monsoons.
As it’s carry-on-sized, an Outbreaker allows you to avoid checked bag fees, lost or damaged luggage, and waiting at the luggage carousel, but it also makes navigating a city and its public transportation easier.
My Outbreaker has been with me on several trips throughout Thailand. It has been with me through the backstreets of Bangkok, on the coast and across its islands, and throughout the interior of the country.
Thailand and Southeast Asia in general are ideal places for the Outbreaker’s versatility, capacity, comfort, and durability.
Thailand Packing List
Slip On Shoes
Thailand requires you to remove your shoes frequently. There are a lot of places where you may be required to remove your shoes, including homes, temples, cafes, restaurants, shops, and massage parlors. Pack breathable, slip-on shoes rather than impractical hiking boots and strappy sandals.
The seasonally-frequent rain can make comfortable flip-flops slippery. Wet slip-on sneakers like Toms take forever to dry, so they’re not the best choice. Plastic or mesh slip-on shoes are good alternatives, as are slip-on sandals.
The reason you’ll see so many Crocs in Thailand is simple: they’re comfortable.
There is always the possibility of rain in Bangkok and much of the country, even outside of the rainy season, which runs from May to October.
A rain jacket shell will keep you dry if you get caught in a shower while hiking with elephants, zipping along in a moto-taxi, or simply wandering the streets. You’re more likely to stay dry when your rain jacket has zip slits under the arms.
Sweater or Sweatshirt
You’ll need something warmer for the plane ride and chilly air-conditioned buses and stores, even though it’s usually hot and muggy in most of the country.
During Bangkok’s high season (December-February), temperatures can drop as low as 68 degrees. The perfect hoodie is one with a hood.
Fill up your own water bottle with filtered water in Thailand for just a few cents, so save some money by bringing your own. As well as reducing plastic waste on Thai beaches, you’ll help reduce pollution.
The Vapur Element foldable water bottle is a Tortuga favorite because it’s super durable and packs down small.
Bug Spray and Sunscreen
Despite the fact that you can purchase both in Thailand, you should pack your own to avoid high prices and ensure you have some on hand when you arrive. These items aren’t just for emergencies.
It is true that malaria is not an issue here, however mosquitoes and the sun are real problems. It would be a good idea to pack at least one small bottle of each.
Rain Cover and Dry Sacks
Unless you are carrying a highly water-resistant backpack such as the Outbreaker Backpack I discussed earlier, you should also bring a rain cover for your bag. Make sure your belongings, especially electronics, are packed in dry sacks just in case.
The dry bags offered by REI come in a variety of colors and sizes. The Sea to Summit brand is the one I personally use.
Warm (or Hot) Weather Clothes
No matter what time of year it is, you should be prepared for hot and humid weather. The following items would make up a solid Thailand wardrobe:
- Wear 3-4 t-shirts or tank tops (no spaghetti straps, which are forbidden in temples)
- Several pairs of loose pants or shorts that are longish
- One dress and two skirts
Pack a light wrap or pair of pajama pants when entering temples like Bangkok’s stunning Grand Palace to cover your legs and shoulders in the heat. In addition, overly bare shoulders and above-knee shorts are not permitted. You’ll have to buy a wrap or pants at the door for $10-$30 if you don’t bring anything.
Packing too much is definitely a bad idea. You can always find a laundry center to wash your clothes for you (in a machine) for just a few dollars a load if you wash them by hand.
Bathing Suit and Sarong or Quick Dry Towel
You’ll have plenty of swimming opportunities between the beaches and swimming holes. Make sure you have your bathing suit with you.
You might also want to bring a sarong or a quick-dry towel to cover up when entering temples or swimming during sudden rain showers.
Hiking Shoes or Sandals (Not Boots)
Thailand’s northern and central regions offer great hiking and jungle exploration opportunities. You might not need these if you plan to stay in cities like Bangkok or on beaches like Phuket. Be sure to pack a good pair of hiking shoes if you plan to hit the trails.
Hiking boots are definitely not the best choice. Make sure you wear waterproof hiking sandals such as Tevas or other trail runners. Hiking boots are simply too hot in the summer and take up too much space in your bag. In addition to being breathable and protective, I prefer waterproof trail runners.
Your Old Pair of Rock Climbing Shoes
In spite of the fact that not everyone will be interested in this opportunity, Thailand is one of the best places in the world for deep-water soloing (rock climbing without a rope over deep water). Bring your old climbing shoes and try your hand at it if you like climbing.
You probably already have a harness and 60-meter rope in your bag if you’re into climbing.
A Sturdy Daypack
While riding a moto-taxi to the airport, a friend of mine who lived in Bangkok for several years had her purse snatched off her. The passport, phone, and money were still inside her purse.
In spite of the fact that it was her only theft in two years of living there, thefts like this do happen. Bring a tough daypack that’s hard to tear or cut off.
Compared to crossbody bags and single-shoulder bags, the Outbreaker Daypack is harder to snag off you.
In Thailand, many outlets are the same as those in the U.S. and Canada, but they also use outlet type C, which is similar to the circular two-prong outlets common in Europe.
Make sure you have a converter on hand just in case. This specific converter will save you room if you’re trying to save space. Many travelers, however, swear by a universal converter that is more versatile.
Apps for Traveling in Thailand
Take advantage of these handy apps before you travel to Thailand:
- Grab: It’s basically the Uber of Southeast Asia. Don’t get taken advantage of again by a “faulty” meter. In addition to food delivery, Grab also delivers packages.
- Next Station: Plan your journey with this handy app for Bangkok’s MRT (train).
- Google Translate: You can translate menus and signs instantly with Google Translate’s camera feature. You can use this when you know the Thai word “larb gai”, but aren’t sure what it looks like.
Last but not least, be sure to pack your usual travel essentials:
- Obtain a passport
- Various toiletries
- Take a picture (or use your phone)
- A charger
- Your Kindle (or a good book)
Packing for Thailand should include being prepared for the heat and occasional rain. Travel backpacks like the Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack provide ease of mobility as well. After that, it’s all about getting ready for sun, sand, and spectacular jungles.