Thailand is a chaotic jumble of sights and sounds. Huge, golden Buddha statues greet visitors at temple doorways and in the capital, Bangkok, street food vendors sell green papaya salads and noodle soups to crowds of people.
From beach days to city nights, any trip to this diverse country is likely to include visits to ancient ruins, tropical islands like Koh Samui, and foodie tours.
So with a destination as varied as Thailand, how do you even go about beginning to pack?
We’ve got you covered with our essential guide to what to pack when travelling to Thailand. From toiletries and footwear to everything in between, this guide will take the hassle out of your Thai adventure.
Before you tackle any packing or put together a big master list of your essential items, you need to have some context about the country you’re travelling to.
The Thai traditions, culture, and climate will all have a huge bearing on what you bring. So it’s wise to get a good basic understanding of the country before packing and visiting.
Thailand is a large country and each region has its own unique culture. Northern Thailand, for instance, borders Laos and Myanmar and as a result, is influenced by Burmese culture.
Elsewhere Indian and Chinese influences can be seen, and in the city centres like Bangkok, there’s a melting pot of different cultures at play.
For your trip, the most important thing to remember is that the dominant religion is Buddhism. It informs a lot of traditions and principles in the country.
Etiquette is held in high regard, so if you’re visiting temples and other religious sites it’s important to be respectful. For travellers that means wearing the appropriate clothing (more on this later).
Thailand doesn’t have a winter as such, at least not in the same way as countries like the UK. The good news is that the weather is consistently hot. Being a tropical country you can expect high temperatures and humidity but also rainfall.
Whether you bring a rain poncho or stick to de-humidity hair sprays will depend on what time of the year you’re travelling. In general, you don’t need to overstuff your suitcase with lots of clothes, thin, light layers are key.
During monsoon season (between July and October) rainfall is heavy but usually comes in short hour-long spells. May through to October are the wettest months, peak temperatures come from March to May, and the cool season is from November to February.
One of the most important things to pack when travelling to Thailand… insect repellent. Beach lovers aren’t the only ones who descend on Thailand in hoards, mosquitoes love the tropical climate too and can pose a problem for visitors.
But don’t just run down to the nearest chemist and grab the first insect repellent you see. DEET-free and cruelty-free formulas are widely considered the way to go. It’s down to personal preference but these tend to be better for sensitive skin and also address any ethical concerns.
It doesn’t hurt to be liberal with your application either. For a one to two week trip a 100ml bottle of repellent per person is plenty. And don’t forget to top up throughout the day. Much like suncream, you need to reapply your repellent to stay protected.
Having said all of this, there is another way. You could hold off on buying repellent until you land in Thailand. Good insect repellent formulas are widely sold in most local shops and even in hotels.
Another benefit of waiting is that you will find homemade herbal remedies that locals swear by. If you do go for this option, make this purchase a priority to avoid days of unprotected skin.
Wash and re-wear
Now that you’ve got an idea of the context of the country you’re travelling to, hopefully, it’s clear that cool, summery clothing is what’s best. Obviously, this covers things like vests, shorts, summer dresses, and skirts. In general, pack less than you think you’ll need.
Our top tip?
Thailand has lots of laundrettes dotted about the country, particularly in areas favoured by tourists. A backpacker hack is to pack a selection of clothes you think you’ll need for a week and wash these rather than overstuffing a suitcase or a rucksack with clothes for two weeks or more.
Next, consider the materials you’re packing. Lean towards airy linens, sweat-wicking fibres, and quick-dry fabrics. These will serve you well in a climate like Thailand’s. Even better, these materials usually fold down well and take up less room in a suitcase.
Home to a staggering 40,000+ temples, Thailand has everything from ornate buildings with solid gold statues to peaceful retreats with calming, manicured gardens. Any traveller visiting the country will want to tick off a handful of these majestic sights, so make sure you pack appropriately.
But what to pack when you’re travelling to Thailand to go temple-hopping? A general rule is to ensure your shoulders, stomach, and ankles are covered. Shorts, and short dresses or cropped tops are frowned upon.
You’ll also want to steer clear of anything too form-fitting. Instead of a bodycon dress or leggings, opt for looser clothes with sleeves or pack a shawl or scarf you can use to cover up with.
Leave bulky, fluffy bath towels at home if you’re backpacking. They’ll take up valuable real estate in your suitcase or rucksack and take a long time to dry out after you’ve used them. Instead, invest in a quick-drying towel.
These are perfect for travelling thanks to their thin, lightweight design. They take up barely any room in a suitcase and dry much quicker than a normal towel. Ideal for all those beach days!
Bringing a pair of flip-flops is a no-brainer. But if your budget allows, try and purchase a quality pair that offers some support so that on days you do a lot of walking your feet will be protected.
That way your one pair of flip-flops can double up as footwear for the beach but also for city centre shopping, boat trips, and even some easier hikes.
It might not be the first thing that comes to mind, but if you’re travelling to Thailand and wondering what to pack, slip-on shoes are a really useful addition too.
Most holy sites don’t accept beachwear like flip flops and they sometimes require visitors to completely remove their shoes before entering. So having a pair of relatively smart slip-on shoes that you can visit temples in will make your life a lot easier.
That said, there is the option to rent appropriate clothes and shoes at the temple. So if you’re short of space in your case, this can be a good idea.
Lastly, swerve large, cumbersome hiking boots. If you’re planning on sticking to the well-travelled tourist routes trainers are perfectly acceptable. Specialist walking boots are only required on more challenging trails, and even then you’ll want a breathable pair that feel lightweight.
In truth, most of the local hiking guides will probably be wearing flip-flops! You’ll want something ventilated and supportive, but there’s no need to go overboard.
Suitcase or backpack?
Thanks to the number of laundrettes and lightweight clothing you’ll be packing, you can comfortably fit everything you need for a one to three-week trip in a backpack. But it does depend on your itinerary.
If you’ve decided to include fine dining restaurants as well as island trips, boating excursions, and epic mountain hikes, you may find yourself needing more room for all your extra kit and clothing.
If that’s the case it’s a good idea to look into shipping. It is possible to ship your luggage to Thailand ahead of time.
Shipping your items ahead will ensure a seamless airport experience. Instead of queuing at baggage reclaim and worrying about lost luggage, you’ll be able to breeze through security and leave the airport in a timely fashion.
It also enables you to pack extra items as you aren’t limited to a single backpack. Check out Sherpr’s luggage shipping for more information.
Other essential items for Thailand
Along with the obvious electronics like your phone, a camera, and chargers, add a SIM card to your what to pack when travelling to Thailand list. Whilst your hotel and some cafes might have WiFi, it certainly isn’t as widespread as in the UK, for instance, or America.
If it’s important to you to stay online, grab a SIM card either at the airport or ask at your hotel. There are even services that will deliver these to your hotel for you.
Waterproof phone case
Thailand is home to some majestic bodies of water, like the Songkhla Lake, the Mekong River, and the Erawan waterfall. It’s likely you’ll spend your days exploring these watery sights and so it’s a good investment to get a waterproof phone case.
Even if you don’t plan on taking your phone into the water specifically, it will protect it from soggy towels, any splashes, and even wet sand.
Tissues and wet wipes
Not all Thai toilets will be stocked in quite the same way you might be used to. Water, rather than loo roll, is used for cleaning. If this is something you’d rather avoid, be sure to bring your own.
In the capital of Bangkok, the wobbly paving slabs are notorious for splashing unsuspecting tourists. Whilst there’s nothing to worry about, it’s a pro tip to bring some wet wipes so you can give your legs or shoes a quick wipe after a stroll in the city.
Whether you’re creating a packing list for Thailand for females or males, consider the Thai climate before sorting out your toiletries. When you’re packing your toiletries, take a moment to consider the climate. It’s hot and dry.
So thick moisturisers for the day, layered with sunscreen are going to feel heavy. Instead, you’ll want to choose heat-appropriate hydrating options like lip balms and light moisturisers.
For women packing makeup, setting spray is a good idea in a country as humid and warm as Thailand.
And for both men and women, packing diarrhoea medication is a must. Most visitors to the country are keen to dive into the street food and there’s a chance your stomach may take some time to adjust. Packing things like activated charcoal are a good way to make sure your trip doesn’t get spoiled by an upset stomach.
Happily, this is one you can probably cross off your what to pack when travelling to Thailand list. If part of your routine usually involves a heated hair tong, straightening iron, or hairdryer, you might want to consider leaving these at home.
Firstly there’s a chance that the hotel you’re staying in will have these items already. But also, there’s the humidity to consider. Humidity leave-in sprays will take up much less room in your case and could do a better job of keeping your hair in check than these bulky tools.
This is down to personal preference but the humidity can render hairstyling tools pretty ineffective.
And finally, a water bottle. A no-brainer in a country as hot as Thailand and you’re going to want a large reusable one. An extra hydration hack is to add electrolyte powder to your water bottle at the beginning of the day, this will help you rehydrate faster.
Enjoy your Thailand trip to the fullest with our packing list
For the unprepared visitor, Thailand can prove to be stressful. Without prior research and some handy hacks, the country’s diverse landscapes and fast-paced cities can be a struggle to navigate. But keep our Thailand travel packing list to hand as you go through your prep and you’ll be sure to get the most out of your trip.