Packing List For Thailand

Need a packing list for Thailand? Here’s some packing tips about what you can leave at home and what you should make sure you bring to the Land of Smiles

The shadow of a jumbo jet coming in to land at Bangkok Airport
The shadow of a jumbo jet coming in to land at Bangkok Airport

Trying to work out what you should put in your backpack before you travel to Thailand can be a bit daunting. Here’s a list of what I found to be most useful during my own Thailand backpacking days, before I wound up living in Bangkok.

Before You Begin To Start Packing Stuff For Thailand…

Some of the most important things you will need for your trip to Thailand won’t actually be in your backpack. Make sure you’ve got these essentials for your trip sorted out – they all need a bit of time before you plan to travel to sort out.

  • Vaccinations – Check what injections you need to get or renew at least 8 weeks before you go to Thailand (usually Hepatitis A and B, tetanus, typhoid and possibly rabies, plus maybe malaria tablets, although they are usually not required)
  • Travel Insurance – Make sure you have travel insurance that covers your full range of activities e.g. scuba diving (World Nomads backpacker travel insurance is recommended by Lonely Planet amongst others and can be bought immediately online)
  • Flight Ticket – It pays to start looking well in advance for flights because sadly they only seem to get more expensive the closer you book to your flying time. Three months before you are due to fly is apparently the sweet spot for finding cheap flights – any earlier or later and it gets more expensive. Compare flights online and also consult your local travel agent – they sometimes can unearth bargains websites can’t.
  • Bus And Ferry Tickets – Thailand is a big country and if you’re heading to the islands chances at some point you will take a bus or ferry (or both). You can check bus and ferry times and prices as well as booking tickets online at useful ticket site This is particularly worth doing if you’re travelling in peak season (December to January) as ferries can sell out on specific days for certain routes.
  • Passport – Ensure your passport is valid for at least a year and has plenty of blank pages. Also get a passport cover – they’re cheap, and will protect your passport from damage plus provide a handy place to stash tickets etc whilst in transit.
  • Do I Need A Visa For Thailand? – Many nationalities do NOT need a visa for Thailand – you simply arrive in Thailand and get a stamp that allows you to stay 30 days in Thailand. (This is technically known as a visa waiver stamp). See this official list for the full rundown of which nationalities do not require a visa to enter Thailand.
  • Prescription Medicines – Have a full supply of any prescription medicines you require
  • Credit Cards and Debit Cards – Have credit cards and a debit card that will work in international ATMs and won’t block you due to being accessed from Thailand.
  • Document Scans – Take cellphone photos of your passport, driving license and all your credit cards, insurance info and any other important documents and save them as JPEGs to your online email account like Gmail or Yahoo Mail. That way if you lose any of your documents, you have copies of them available anywhere with an internet connection – and on your phone too. Also keep a list of the numbers of your banks etc that you need to call to cancel your cards in your internet email account.A quick way to do this is lay out all your cards on a table face down and take a photo with your cellphone. Every card has the emergency contact number written on the back so you now have an instant record of all those numbers – just make sure your photo is not out of focus!
  • A Well Made Backpack – Invest in a decent backpack brand like Osprey or similar that can hold all your stuff comfortably without crippling you. You need to make sure the harness on the pack is going support the weight you’re carrying – the weight should be supported on your hips rather than your shoulders. See Amazon for bargain priced backpacks, although you may well want to go to your local store and actually try different models on rather than ordering unseen online.
  • Travel Cubes – whatever backpack or other type of luggage you decide to travel with, investing in some travel cubes to make it easy to unpack and repack quickly will save you a huge amount of time and hassle. By grouping all your clothes into three or four travel cubes, you can rapidly unpack to find something and repack just as quick, rather than emptying a mess of clothes on the floor and having to sift through them. If you’re strapped for cash, you can do the same thing with big Ziploc bags or just plain old carrier bags – get different colours so you can tell them apart easily.
  • Travel Wallet – With all the documents and bits of paper you need to carry around for travelling – passport, boarding cards, hotel reservations, plus cash, credit cards etc – having a place to stash all of it can be invaluable – provided, of course, you keep the wallet safe. A travel wallet you can hang around your neck and so keep hidden under clothes is favoured by many, while there are various options for storing in trouser pockets too. (It’s wise to always carry a wallet in your front pockets, and to split cash etc between both pockets so you don’t lose everything). Some travellers worry about getting mugged or some other terrible misfortune but frankly that is very unlikely – what’s far more likely is that you will lose or misplace your wallet yourself, so finding a way to keep it safely on you and reassure yourself it’s there is important. As mentioned above, make sure you have scans of all your passport, credit cards and other important documents.
  • Thailand Guidebook – while there is a plethora of great info about Thailand online, if it’s your first time to Thailand, a guidebook is probably still the easiest way to rapidly get an idea of all the options available to you. It’s worth getting a guidebook a few months before your trip so you can really thumb through it and highlight the stuff you’re really interested in. Lonely Planet Thailand would be my personal preference, but there are numerous other guidebooks too.
  • Bangkok Map If you are planning to spend more than a couple of days in Bangkok, investing in a map will save you a huge amount of time and frustration. I’ve written before how Groovy Map is hands-down the best map of Bangkok which helps you swiftly understand the sprawling metropolis and where all the good stuff is. It’s definitely worth getting a copy before you arrive in Bangkok and study it on the plane as you come in to land.

    It’s also worth noting that Google Maps have detailed maps of Bangkok, and it can be hugely helpful to use GPS on your cellphone to let the map guide you. I would still recommend the Groovy Map as a general overview and use your phone maps to guide you to specific destinations. Also be aware that Google Maps are not 100% accurate – quite a few places are incorrectly located so watch out for that.

What Do You Need To Pack For Thailand?

The golden rule is always pack less. Don’t buy half of the local camping shop in an attempt to be prepared for every situation – simply buy it when you need it while you’re travelling. In Thailand this is particularly true, because, assuming you’re starting your journey in Bangkok, pretty much every Western thing you could need is available and is often cheaper too.

Stuff You Don’t Need To Bring Lots Of As You Can Buy It In Thailand

  • Toiletries – Brand name toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoo, soap, razors, tampons, pain relievers (eg Tylenol or Panadol), toilet paper and deodorant are all plentifully available in every 7-11 which are almost everywhere in Thailand. Obviously you want to bring some of this stuff while you travel, otherwise you’ll honk on arrival. My point is that you don’t need to bring a suitcase full of it.
  • Tshirts – Don’t bother buying expensive tshirts at home as you can pick them up for cheap (100 Baht or less if you bargain well) in Bangkok.

Stuff You Should Bring To Thailand

  • Fleece – It may seem crazy to bring a fleece jacket to a tropical country, but Thai buses and cinemas – and indeed, many other indoor spaces like shopping malls – are notoriously chilly due to arctic air conditioning. Plane journeys can also be cold. A lightweight fleece can make all the difference for your comfort. Check Amazon for cheap womens fleeces and men’s fleeces – you don’t want anything too expensive in case you lose it.
  • Quick Dry Towel– Super lightweight and non-bulky, one of these towels is a real godsend for minimising your travel load. They’re also pretty inexpensive – check Amazon for a good variety of quick dry towel options.
  • Water Carrier – You’ll need to drink a lot of water while travelling in Thailand. A hands-free hydration pack (Camelbak are popular) is worth considering if you are going to be active – it’s a lot easier than dragging a 2 litre bottle of water around everywhere. Incidentally, safe to drink bottled water is available pretty much everywhere in Thailand – you’ll only need water purification tablets if you plan to go camping etc for more than a couple of days.
  • Sunscreen and Mosquito Repellent – I can’t stress this enough: make sure you put on sunscreen and mosquito repellent every morning before you head out for the day, and definitely reapply mosquito repellent around 5pm before dusk, when mozzies tend to be most active. It’s very unlikely you’ll catch malaria in Thailand unless you’re spending a lot of time in deep jungle (which is also unlikely) – however, mosquito bites can be extremely irritating and just generally take the edge off your enjoyment.

    Preventing them ever getting near you is the best way to go – covering up in the evening with loose fitting trousers or long skirts is also a good idea, as mosquitos seem to love ankles, and obviously a hat, sunglasses and long sleeves are great for blocking the sun. There are plenty of mosquito repellent and sunscreen brands on Amazon, and you can buy most major international brands in Bangkok too. My personal favourite is Banana Boat, which is super quick to apply and absorb. Sunscreen sticks are also great for rapidly applying to the face. It’s probably wise to bring something for mosquito bite relief and sunburn relief so you have it immediately to hand if required.

  • Travel Diarrhoea (or Diarrhea) Treatment – There’s no getting away from it – at some point on your travels, you will be struck with a case of Bad Guts. While you should heed timeless advice about avoiding drinking non-bottled water and eating anything that hasn’t been cooked, a lot of travel toilet troubles are simply caused by the change of diet that you’re going through while travelling, coupled with the extra exertion of being probably more active than usual. Most symptoms pass (ahem) in 24 hours and it’s best just to rest and drink plenty of bottled water. If you absolutely have to move on, then something like Imodium or another travel diarrhea remedy is a good stopgap (sorry) but it’s not something you should rely on for days on end. Take for a couple of days and if you still have problems after that, you should go see a doctor.
  • Tissues / Toilet Paper – While we’re on the topic, it is also worth noting that you should always keep some tissues or toilet paper on you. In Thailand water hoses, or bum guns, are often used rather than toilet paper. This is a gently pressurised water jet, a little like a bidet, that you use to clean up which is far more effective and hygienic than toilet paper. However, you may still need some tissues to dry up or deal with a not so sanitary lavatory, and paper is not always available. Camper’s toilet paper is a clever compact travel solution, but tissues are also always available at 7-11 in Thailand too. You should also keep some hand sanitiser handy too, as soap isn’t always available either.
  • Tshirts, shorts, skirts – Tshirts are easy to find in Thailand, but if you veer towards a larger frame, remember that it will be difficult to find bigger sized clothing in Thailand. Therefore it’s worth having decent quality shorts and skirts that will deal with everyday travel and getting washed a lot. Sturdy zipper pockets on your shorts are also invaluable for storing passports and other valuables.

    While cotton is a good default choice, linen clothes are my preferred favourite – it’s even more breathable than cotton and, to my mind, definitely worth the extra expense.

    The only problem with both linen and cotton is that they retain sweat and can hang wet and heavy on you if you’re being active – just walking an hour during the daytime in Thailand can cause a Niagara of perspiration. I’ve recently converted to UnderArmor Coldblack T-shirts for daytime use in Bangkok which live up to their promise of staying relatively dry and light. There are plenty of other brands that promise to do the same things – I just got these in a sale.

    Also make sure you have a light top and trousers that will cover your arms and legs – you might need it at dusk when the mosquitos come out. You’ll be able to find this easily in Bangkok – Thai fishermen’s pants are cheap and all over Khao San Road.

    A sarong is also a very useful item to have as it can double as a makeshift towel, pillow etc too.

  • Underwear – For underwear, it’s really worth investing in something that withstand the heat and your body’s sweat. I’ve found that Underarmour underwear, while expensive, has been invaluable for staying cool in the Bangkok heat and also avoiding chafing if you’re doing a lot of walking or cycling. (NB – a workaround to avoid chafing is to apply some lubricant jelly, like KY Jelly, to your Zones Of Potential Pain. If you’re planning a hike or long day of walking, it could really help maintain your comfort levels. Just don’t ask me how I worked that out).
  • Footwear – shoes tend to be poor quality in Thailand, unless they’re expensive imports, and hard to find in bigger sizes. You will be doing a lot of walking so it pays to have good footwear to keep you comfortable and your feet in good condition. Check Amazon for cheap men’s sandals and women’s sandals. After years of wearing sandals, I recently switched to very lightweight, breathable Keen CNX hiking shoes which I find far superior (and protects your feet from ground ickiness in case you step in a swamp puddle etc). If you go with trainers (or sneakers) as your preferred footwear, make sure they have plenty of ventilation otherwise you will cause yourself blisters, heat rash and other issues.
    You should also bring a spare pair of lightweight “formal” shoes if you plan on going clubbing or any of the more posh bars in Bangkok (like Vertigo). It’s a bit overkill to wear massive mountain hiking boots in most of Thailand. Even if you are going trekking, unless you’re going to be really hardcore about it and spend more than a couple of nights away from civilisation, it’s not really worth bringing them. Sneakers will probably do fine.
  • Cellphone – it used to be that you’d have a separate digital camera and an MP3 player, but nowadays your cellphone can do all of that. (It’s easy to get a Thai SIM card when you arrive in Thailand, which is much cheaper for data and making calls home).

    As your cellphone will likely be the single most valuable and most fragile item you are carrying on your travels, a few things to consider:

    • Make sure you have a suitably rugged case for you cellphone which means it can withstand being dropped and splashed with water. Otterbox provide some excellent Defender cases which, while not that stylish, turn your cellphone into a tank. I’ve dropped my iPhone numerous times and the Otterbox Defender saved it from even getting a scratch every time.

      (If you are coming to Thailand during Songkran, the annual nationwide week-long water fight, you will want to either leave your cellphone at home or wrap it in several ziploc bags. Even the most rugged case won’t be able to protect it from the inevitable soaking it (and you) will get).

    • Selfie sticks are everywhere in Thailand these days, so don’t feel shy if you want to get those holiday shots of yourself – just do be aware of those around you so you don’t whack someone in the head with it.
    • If you use your phone a lot, you’ll probably want to get a backup power source – there are some excellent cheap power banks to give your phone an energy boost. This is definitely worth bearing in mind if you plan to use GPS and Google or Apple Maps on your phone which burn power quite fast, as does uploading photos to Facebook, Instagram et al.
    • One key issue with a phone being a Swiss knife is that if you lose it, you lose a lot of stuff in one go. Make sure that you have cloud access to upload your photos so you have a separate copy – or download them onto a laptop if you’re bringing one with you. It’s a hassle, but you’ll be heartbroken if you lose all your photos without a backup. (If you do bring a laptop, get something low cost so you won’t be too heartbroken if it gets lost or trashed. Laptops are remarkably cheap these days).
    • Also, given cellphones are expensive, make sure your travel insurance covers it as a specific item – World Nomads, for example, let’s you pay a bit extra and insure your phone, laptop or other expensive item for its full value so if you lose it, your insurance will cover the full cost of replacing it. A lot of travel insurance, by default, only pays out a certain limit for high value items so check the policy carefully if you’re travelling with a lot of gadgets.
    • Don’t forget to bring your phone charger! It’s relatively easy to find replacement chargers in Bangkok (try any major shopping mall or Fortune Town IT mall at Phra Ram 9 MRT station) but it’s an inconvenience to trudge around to get it when you could be doing more interesting stuff.
  • Antihistamine tablets – If you suffer from any kind of pollen allergy or have a generally sensitive nose, I highly recommend you take antihistamines, not particularly for your Thailand trip but specifically for the long flight there. I’ve found popping an antihistamine at the beginning of a flight stops sneeziness and general miserable allergy symptoms brought on by breathing dry, canned air. They are very cheap and available without prescription.
  • Tissues – a few packs of travel tissues easily accessible in your carry-on bag (and in your back pocket) is definitely worth keeping handy in case you get the aforementioned sneezes or just have to mop up some random spilt gunk and wipe your hands
  • Moisturiser – keeping some moisturiser handy for your face on long plane flights (and actually, just generally day to day while travelling) can do wonders for making you feel better at the end of a long day. My girlfriend got me using some quite posh products like CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion and Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream which genuinely feel a lot better than bog standard moisturisers. Your mileage may vary.
  • Ear plugs – if you’re a light sleeper, ear plugs are an essential for plane, train and bus journeys and, perhaps most of all, if you’re sharing a dorm room with a snorer. Moldex ear plugs are an excellent brand and very cheap too.
  • Pen – keep a pen in your carry-on luggage too to fill in immigration forms on the plane before you land – saves you time doing it when you get into the airport. Also useful in endless random situations. If you plan to travel on from Thailand to Cambodia, Laos etc it’s also worth making sure you have several passport-size photos of yourself to attach to visa applications – again, it saves you running around looking for a photo machine at the last minute
  • Luggage Locks – an inexpensive purchase, but very worthwhile to keep your bags firmly zipped shut and away from opportunistic tampering. If you are travelling to and from the USA, you want to make sure they are TSA-approved locks.
  • Condoms – International brands like Durex are common in Thailand, but Thai condoms are built for – how do I say this? – the smaller frame. They also have a reputation of not being especially good quality. All sniggering aside, it’s very important you look after yourself by making sure you take responsibility and use protection if you’re going to be sexually active. Best bring your own if you think you’ll need them. If you’re too shy to buy them in person, Amazon can help.
  • Sunglasses – you’ll be able to find plenty of cheap sunglasses in Thailand, but you might want to invest in a decent pair that will properly screen out harmful ultra-violet rays. The sun in Thailand can be savagely hot and if you plan on travelling for a while, it’s wise to protect your eyes. You can find quality sunglasses listed on Amazon if you want to avoid paying top dollar.
  • Swimwear – No doubt you’ll be spending time on one of Thailand’s iconic beaches – you may already be planning to do nothing but hang out on the sandy white. Make sure you pack a couple of pairs of swimwear – bikinis, boardshorts and the like – so you can leave one set to rinse out if you’re spending multiple days by the sea. It’s also important to ensure you get swimwear that’s a good fit and good quality. Remember that it’s not considered polite in Thailand to wander around bare-chested or in skimpy clothes when off the beach, so having a tshirt or sarong to cover up when you head into town is considerate – and helps keep the sun off too.
  • Noise-cancelling headphones – If music is important to you, consider investing in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. They are more expensive than normal earbuds but can be worth their weight in gold on a long flight or bus journey blocking out your surrounds.
  • Camera – You may still want to invest in a camera if you’re looking to take a lot of photos – I’d recommend the Canon Powershot range which are super compact, easy to use and quite cheap.

    The other popular alternative is a GoPro, a tiny rugged waterproof camera which is great for recording first person viewpoints while you’re doing adventure activities like climbing, kayaking, diving and surfing.

  • Whatever camera you use, be sure to bring plenty of memory cards to store all the images – you should regularly change the cards, and backup the images immediately. Imagine if you stored all the pictures of your trip on one card and then, right at the end, accidentally deleted everything (yeah, done that), or, worse, lost it completely.

  • Torch – you’ll have a torch function on your cellphone, but having a dedicated torch if you’re going to be outside cities is a good idea. Nitecore Tube torches are small, cheap, incredibly powerful and fit on your keyring.
  • Kindle – if you like books, a Kindle reading device is an absolute godsend while travelling. You can store thousands of books on an extremely lightweight device and avoid straining your eyes as you would if you were looking at a phone or tablet screen for a prolonged period. There’s always inevitably downtime while travelling – waiting in airports etc – and a good book is the ideal way to occupy yourself, especially if you’ve got some books about your destination to inspire you. You can get the Lonely Planet Thailand for Kindle, and a few classic Thailand books include Alex Garland’s The Beach, Jerry Hopkins’ Thailand Confidential, Stephen Leather’s Private Dancer and John Burdett’s Bangkok Eight. Don’t forget your Kindle charger and mini-USB cable to power up.
  • Surge Protector – If you have a lot of electronics, you should also invest in a travel surge protector to avoid your gear getting fried by fluctuating currents – it’s rare, but it does happen.

There are plenty of other great packing tips and lists around on the Web – see, and useful articles like Nomadic Matt’s What To Pack On Your Trip and’s What Clothes To Pack.

If you have any tips about what else you think is indispensable for bringing to Thailand, please leave a comment so other travellers can benefit from your knowledge. Thanks!

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  1. I might just add that you should pick up some sun cream before you go as well. Just because you’ll be more familiar with your home country brands and what you prefer. As well I have to say in Asia (can’t say specifically in Thailand though) I’ve seen out of date products on souvenir shop shelves, so if you do forget make sure you go to a ‘proper’ shop.

  2. Always remember sunscreen!!! Whether you get it there or buy it at home– it is an essential!

  3. These are great tips, especially about scanning the documents (and I would also suggest that you copy your passport–most places that want a passport (like hotels) will accept that and once someone has your real passport, you can be at their mercy.) As an expat in Thailand for 4 years, I would only change 3 things…. You should definitely buy sunscreen back home–it easily costs 2x more in Thailand (especially in tourist areas) and you will (should) be using a lot of it. Also, a swimming shirt (poly/poly blend like for the gym) or rash guard for snorkeling/scuba–an all-day boat trip is the olympics of sunscreen application! And for tampons, you can get them here, but only OB junior/regular are widely available (and not always “widely” in the countryside or on the islands).

  4. Great tips, thanks Kimberly!

  5. Hey firstly id like to say, great site! by far the bets ive come across so far. My next question is regarding travel insurance.. i see u recommend one – the same as the one lonely planet recommends – but i notice its a lot more pricey than the ones i found on comparing site such as etc

    why are they significantly more expensive?

    I am planning to do scuba diving but i think u can add that on as extra on any insurance.

    Im asking you because well its the first time im actually purchasing proper insurance so i really have no idea about the pro and cons of this type of thing

  6. Hi Natalie – it’s good you’re going to get travel insurance :) I’ve always found World Nomads to be competitive, but if you are happy with policy of the company you’ve found that’s much cheaper, then you should go with that – provided it covers you for all the countries you will be visiting and the activities you will be doing and it’s a reputable provider. Google for reviews from people who have had to make claims against the provider to see what their claims process is like.

    Scuba diving coverage is not an automatic add-on for many insurance companies unfortunately – some simply don’t cover it and some add steep fees. you need to make sure you are certified to dive to at least 18 metres if you are learning to dive and 30 metres if you think you will go to Advanced Open Water status.

    Hope this helps and happy (and safe) travels


  7. Don’t forget that you also need a visa if travelling to Thailand for more than 30 days (from the UK).

  8. Sarah-Jayne says:

    Amazing site, loads of information as it is my first time traveling this site has been great. Thank you :)

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