Packing List For Thailand

Need a packing list before you’re travelling to 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. Check flight comparison sites like Skyscanner, as well as consulting your local travel agent
  • Passport – Ensure your passport is valid for at least a year and has plenty of blank pages
  • 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 – Make scans 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. 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 Well Made Backpack – Invest in a decent backpack brand like MacPac or similar that can hold all your stuff comfortably without crippling you. See Ebay for bargain priced backpacks.

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 Because 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 Ebay 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.
  • Tshirts, shorts, skirts, underwear – 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. Try and get pure cotton wherever possible – it’s much better for your skin as it lets it breathe more easily. 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.
  • Decent trainers and sandals – shoes tend to be poor quality in Thailand, 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 Ebay for cheap men’s sandals and women’s sandals. With trainers (or sneakers), it’s probably wise to avoid buying anything too expensive as they will probably get trashed walking on muddy trails etc. You may also wish to bring a spare pair of lightweight close toed 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.

  • 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 sunglasses listed on Ebay if you want to avoid paying top dollar.
  • Digital camera, iPod and other boredom buster gadgets – A digital camera is a must to capture your travels, and an iPod and other gadgets can break up the monotony of long journeys. Buying a camera in Thailand (or an iPod in Thailand) can be fun but not particularly money saving. Check the latest Ebay listings for cheap digital cameras and iPods to get them at bargain prices.

There are plenty of other great packing tips and lists around on the Web – see HolidayPackingList.com, and useful articles like Nomadic Matt’s What To Pack On Your Trip, IndieTravelPodcast.com’s What Clothes To Pack and Kim Mance’s Easy Packing Tips for Marie Claire magazine.

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!


Comments

  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 comparethemarket.com 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

    best
    Chris

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

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