First time in Thailand and don’t know what to pack? Here is some hard-won advice on what to put in your backpack – and what you can leave behind
Strand bei Koh Samui © Stephanie Kraus
Packing for a new destination can be tough when you don’t know what to expect. How should you prepare for tropical weather? What if you forget to bring something you can’t buy when you arrive? This simple guide to packing for Thailand will help you remove the guesswork so you can relax and focus on having a good time once you arrive.
Preparing For Your Trip To Thailand
Make sure you’ve sorted these essentials well before your departure date.
- Flight Ticket – Compare flights on a site like Skyscanner and book about three months ahead. Print out all tickets, as you might be required to produce a return ticket at check-in.
- Bus And Ferry Tickets – If you’re heading to the islands, you will probably take buses and ferries. You can check times and prices, as well as booking tickets, at 12go.asia.
- Accommodation – Prices and availability fluctuate and, as with transport, costs will be considerably cheaper if you book in advance. Use Booking.com to find the best prices.
- Passport – Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months and has plenty of blank pages. A passport cover will protect it from damage and provide a handy place to stash tickets in transit.
- Do I Need A Visa For Thailand? – Many nationalities will NOT need a visa to visit. You simply arrive in Thailand and get a stamp that allows you to stay 30 days. See this official list for the full rundown of which nationalities do not require a visa to enter Thailand.
- Debit and Credit Cards – Check with your bank to make sure your cards will work with an international ATM and won’t be blocked when used overseas. It’s a good idea to have access to internet banking too.
- Document Scans – Take photos of your passport, credit cards, insurance information, and any other documents, with your phone, then save them to an online email account like Gmail. If you lose anything valuable, you’ll have copies available via your phone or an internet connection. Also keep a backup of the contact details of banks, etc, that you’ll need to get in touch with in emergencies.
- Vaccinations – At least 8 weeks before you travel, check with your doctor which injections you need – usually Hepatitis A and B, tetanus, typhoid and possibly rabies.
What Clothes To Pack For Thailand
Pack for comfort and think in terms of layers. Though tropical, the evenings can be cool in Thailand, so include something cosy and warm. If necessary, you can pick up cheap t-shirts and other lightweight items once you arrive, and packing less is always a good idea. See our full Holiday Packing List for Hot Weather.
Health And Grooming Items To Pack For Thailand
Many brands of toiletries and over-the-counter medicines are widely available in Thailand, so you only need to pack the minimum. Most of the items listed below are easy to come by, but are good to carry all the same.
- Prescription Medicines – Bring a full supply of any prescription medicines you require, preferably in their original packaging.
- Other Medication – It’s a smart idea to carry some form of medication for diarrhoea like Imodium, in case of emergencies. If you suffer from any kind of pollen allergy or have a sensitive nose, antihistamines are very cheap and available without prescription.
- Sunscreen – Always put on sunscreen when the sun is out. We recommend Neutrogena SPF 45 Drytouch Sunscreen, which is water resistant up to 80 minutes, non-greasy and is absorbed instantly.
- Insect Repellent – Be sure to apply repellent every morning and around 5pm, when mosquitos tend to be most active. It’s unlikely you’ll catch malaria but bites can be extremely irritating. There are plenty of brands on Amazon. It’s wise to bring something for mosquito bite relief and sunburn relief too.
- Refillable Water Bottle – Stay hydrated while travelling. Fill a water bottle so you always have a refreshing drink available. The Nalgene OTF is a great choice.
- Quick Dry Towel – Super lightweight and non-bulky, Sunland sells great towels that are priced fairly and small enough to fit into any luggage.
- Tissues – A pack of tissues are handy for a variety of small emergencies. Consider carrying some hand sanitiser too.
- Moisturiser – Using moisturiser on your face while travelling is wonderfully revitalising. My girlfriend got me into posh brands like CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion and Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream which genuinely feel a lot better than standard moisturisers. Your mileage may vary.
- Ear Plugs – Ear plugs are essential for long journeys or when you’re sharing a dorm room with a snorer. Moldex ear plugs are an excellent brand and very cheap too.
Electronics To Pack For Thailand
- Plug Adaptors – Depending on where you are in Thailand, you may encounter three or even four types of plug socket. There are sockets that require plugs with two flat prongs, sockets that take plugs with two round pins, and sockets that accept plugs with two flat prongs and a round pin at the bottom. The only solution is to bring a universal power adaptor, preferably with surge protection. Something like the CleverTrips Universal Travel Power Adaptor would be a good option. Mains electricity in Thailand is 220V AC, compatible with most UK and European appliances, with a 50Hz frequency.
- Cellphone: If you need to buy a local SIM card and your current handset is still locked to a provider, buy a cheap phone for the trip.
- Thai SIM Card – It’s much cheaper to switch to a Thai SIM on your phone rather than use roaming on your domestic contract. You can buy a Thai SIM card online with Klook and pick it up at the airport when you arrive. Otherwise, buy a SIM at one of the telecom shops at the airport or once you’re in the city.
- Make sure you have a suitably rugged case. Otterbox provide some excellent Defender cases which turn your cellphone into a tank.
- You’ll need a power bank to keep your phone charged while you’re travelling.
- Make sure your travel insurance covers it as a specific item. World Nomads lets you pay a bit extra to insure expensive items to their full value.
- Noise-Cancelling Headphones – A pair of noise-cancelling headphones cost more than earbuds but are totally worth it on a long journey or for blocking out your surrounds.
- Camera – You may still want a separate 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.
- Be sure to bring plenty of memory cards. Change them regularly and backup images immediately.
- Kindle – A Kindle reading device can be an absolute godsend during the inevitable downtime in places like airports. You can store thousands of books on these lightweight devices.
- Chargers and Cables – Don’t forget your chargers and cables to power up! It’s easy to find replacements in Bangkok – try any major shopping mall or Fortune Town IT mall at Phra Ram 9 MRT station – but it’s an inconvenience when you could be doing more interesting stuff.
Luggage For A Visit To Thailand
- Backpack or Suitcase – Invest in a decent backpack brand like Osprey that will hold all your stuff comfortably without crippling you. Make sure the harness on the pack is going support the load you’re carrying and the weight should be supported on your hips. See Amazon for bargain priced backpacks.
- Travel Cubes – Whatever luggage you travel with, travel cubes will change your life. By grouping all your clothes into three or four cubes, you can rapidly pack and unpack, rather than emptying a mess of clothes on the floor. Get different colours to tell them apart.
- Wash Bag – A decent, waterproof pack to store all your toiletries is invaluable. Pick a well-designed one that opens up to let you access just what you need, and that’s also durable enough to stop any leakage. The Magictodoor travel kit is a thoughtfully designed and inexpensive example.
- Since most airlines have a 100 mL limit on liquids, pack large bottles into your checked luggage or transfer them into smaller containers before you pack your day bag.
- Luggage Locks – Inexpensive but worthwhile to keep your bags free from tampering. If you are travelling to or from the USA, make sure they are TSA-approved locks.
- Travel Wallet – Invest in a quality travel wallet to keep your cash, credit cards and important items out of harm’s way. We recommend the Lewis N. Clark RFID Security Wallet – big enough to fit your passport, cash and other essentials but still small enough to wear comfortably beneath your shirt.
Travel Insurance For Thailand
Make sure you have travel insurance with full health coverage, the full range of activities you intend to try, and any valuable pieces of equipment. World Nomads travel insurance is recommended by Lonely Planet and can be bought immediately online.
Planning What To Do And Where To Go In Thailand
- Thailand Guidebook – A guidebook remains the most convenient and trustworthy introduction to Thailand. It’s worth getting a guidebook a few months before your trip so you can really thumb through it. Lonely Planet Thailand is my personal preference.