There isn't any single Thailand packing list that is perfect for everyone. Varied budgets, destinations, trip durations, and travel styles create different packing situations.
No matter your style, bringing too much is a sure way to put a damper on the trip. Avoid blowing your funds on useless travel gadgets and use this list to get your head thinking in the right direction!
To Bring or Buy Local?
More than likely, you'll be arriving in Bangkok -- land of great shopping and cheap fakes. If you're willing to spend your first day or two on a mission in the city, you'll find great deals on personal items such as sunglasses, shoes, and other things you'll need on your trip.
Rather than risk losing or breaking your expensive brand-named items from home, you could opt to help out the local economy and have a little fun in the markets.
That being said, you'll still want to consider bringing these items to Asia with you from home.
- Get an edge by learning how to negotiate prices before going.
What Types of Clothing for Thailand?
Thailand is either warm or scorching hot, depending on what time of the year you visit; you'll rarely have to worry about being cold -- short-sleeved shirts and warm-weather clothing will suffice. Jeans are both heavy and dry slowly, best to leave them at home!
If you're on an extended trip, you'll find cheap laundry service everywhere. Laundry is typically charged by the weight -- another good reason not to pack jeans -- and is line dried.
- Bring One Jacket or Fleece: Long-haul transportation such as night buses and trains crank up the air conditioning. You'll definitely be glad you brought something warm when you see frost start to form on the windows! A thin rain jacket will also come in handy for unexpected showers that can pop up even during the dry season.
- Bring Conservative Clothing: Although temples in tourist areas are increasingly more lax, you can show respect by covering your shoulders and by wearing long pants when visiting sacred places. Avoid shirts with offensive images or messages. Read more about temple etiquette in Thailand.
- Pack Less Clothing: You really do not need as much in Thailand. Packing less leaves suitcase room for local shirts and wearables that can't be purchased at home. Finding tall or broad sizes can sometimes be a challenge in markets that cater to Asian body sizes.
Shoes for Thailand
Leave those heavy shoes and high heels at home: The default footwear in Thailand is the ever-useful pair of flip-flop sandals. You'll find plenty of cheap sandals on offer in Thailand, but they may only last for the duration of your trip. If you plan on doing some trekking, bring a pair of hiking sandals or lightweight hiking shoes.
You'll be expected to leave your shoes outside of temples as well as some restaurants, shops, and bars. Sandals without straps are easier to get on and off quickly. Expensive sandals that stand out in the shoe pile have a greater chance of mysteriously walking away while you're inside.
- Read more about what shoes to pack for Asia.
Packing First Aid
You can walk into any pharmacy in Thailand and purchase what you need -- including under-the-counter medication -- without a prescription. Brands and names may be different, so if you depend on prescription medication, bring enough with you for the trip.
- See this first aid packing list for Asia.
Travel Documents and Money
Make photocopies of your passport, travel insurance documents, receipt for traveler's checks, and any other important documents; keep them in a separate place outside of your money belt. Bring extra passport photos with you for visa applications if you intend to visit neighboring countries such as Laos or Cambodia.
Diversifying your travel cash is important. While local ATMs are still the best way to access funds, you'll be charged a US $5 fee each time on top of whatever your bank charges.
ATM networks do go down, so bring US dollars and a few traveler's checks for unexpected emergencies. Avoid making these six common mistakes that travelers make with their money.
See more about how to carry money in Asia.
Must-Have Items to Carry
Whether you purchase them locally or bring them from home, you'll certainly want each of these items with you:
- Sunscreen: Prices are essentially the same that you'll find at home.
- Sunglasses: They'll probably take some abuse, so cheap sunglasses are best.
- Mosquito Repellent: Dengue fever is a serious problem throughout Thailand. Mosquito coils can be purchased locally to keep mosquitoes away from your bungalow porch or balcony.
- Toilet Paper: You'll find it on tables in restaurants but not always in the restrooms!
- LED Flashlight: Power outages are a common occurrence.
- Hat: Expect the sun in Southeast Asia to be far stronger than it is at home.
- Waterproof Bag: Unexpected rain, even during the dry season, can take the fun out of carrying books and electronics to the beach. Consider investing in a waterproof day bag. Alternatively, dry bags -- the same kind used by scuba divers -- can be purchased at shops in the islands for around US $10.
Other Useful Items to Consider Bringing
- USB Memory Stick: If you're not traveling with a laptop, you may want a way to exchange photos with other travelers. Bring a card reader for backing up or uploading your photos in internet cafes.
- Hand Sanitizer: Soap is often lacking even in nice establishments; you'll certainly want some after your first squat toilet experience.
- Power Adapter: Most of the power outlets in Thailand accept both the US-style flat-pronged plugs as well as the rounded European-style power plugs. To ensure that you can connect everywhere, consider bringing a universal power adapter and check the voltage ratings (Thailand uses a 220-volt system) on your devices/chargers. See more about the voltage in Asia.
- Small Knife: You don't need a 30-function survival knife, but you'll need something for cutting the delicious local fruit.
- Electrolyte Drink Mixes: With tap water being unsafe to drink in Thailand, you'll eventually grow tired of bottled water. Drink mixes can help replenish electrolytes lost in the extra humidity.
- Guidebook: If nothing else, the maps will come in handy. Here's how to choose the best guidebook.
- MP3 Player: Some music or earplugs will help you survive noisy transportation or neighbors.
- Small Padlock: Some budget hotels and bungalows allow you to use your own lock on the door. You'll also want a padlock to use for lockers and luggage storage.
- Digital Luggage Scale: If you're a serious shopaholic, a lightweight digital luggage scale will allow you to fill your suitcase without worrying about overweight baggage fees at the airport.
Items to Leave at Home
These inexpensive items can be purchased locally when or if you need them:
- Beach sarong
- Snorkel gear
- Beach bag
- Aloe vera / after-sun lotion
You will not need any of the following items: water purifiers, GPS, weapon/pepper spray, portable DVD player, expensive jewelery or any flashy item that draws attention and ruins your chances of negotiating prices -- keep them off of your Thailand packing list!