I’ve been to Thailand several times, almost always during peak season (end of November through January). With my parents living in Bangkok for 3 years, it became an easy holiday destination with reasonably cheap direct flights from London (if you book in advance).
What I’ve learned during my trips is 1) don’t over pack, 2) bring comfortable walking shoes, and 3) bring a day pack with good pockets and a trusty zipper. Even though an endless supply of swimsuits, flip flops, and maxi skirts might seem like a wise idea, you’ll most likely end up not using half of it. Then there’s also the dilemma of saving some space for the elephant pants and other nic nacs that you’ll want to bring home from the markets!
If you only take away one thing from this post, here it is – pack everything in Ziplock bags in a large backpack (no larger than carry on size) and bring a small day backpack for the essentials (wallet, phone, camera, water, snack, soap,and tissues).
Trust me, the last thing you want to do in the humidity (and on the uneven streets) is drag a 23kg rolling suitcase from the bus, taxi, or Skytrain everywhere you need to go. I prefer the North Face Base Camp Small Duffel when I travel with just the backpack. It’s the perfect carry on size for most airlines. My favourite thing about this bag is that it doesn’t have the traditional backpacking straps that get tangled and caught in everything. I’ve managed not only to get my boyfriend hooked on this bag, but also my parents and brother and his wife! I’ve travelled with this bag everywhere – for long weekend trips across Europe, throughout Asia, and even on a 12-day trip through Japan. It’s been my best travel investment to date!
What to Pack
- The Essentials
- Base Camp Duffel
- Day Pack
- Comfortable Sneakers
- Birkenstock-like Sandals
- Water Shoes (don’t risk stepping on glass or a sharp shell on the beach)
- Quick Dry Towel
- Waterproof iPhone Case
- Small to Medium-sized Waterproof Bag (for wet clothes)
- Cash – USD or GBP (just in case)
- Copies of:
- Your passport
- Credit card
- Hotel address(s)
- Extra passport photos (for any visas needed on arrival, if also travelling to Laos or Cambodia)
- Clothes (Plain colours are better than neon when visiting temples!)
- Hat & Sunglasses
- A few pairs of workout clothes (for hikes & travel days)
- Belt, if needed
- Something black (in case you need to show respect or be extra modest)
- Knee Covering Skirts and/or Shorts
- 1 pair of lightweight khakis or linen pants
- Shoulder Covering Tops (no spaghetti straps)
- Loose Lightweight Sweater
- Large Scarf (to cover up at temples)
- 1 or 2 swimsuits max
- Sports bras (only bring one regular one)
- Longer Shorts
- Lightweight Hawaiian Shirts and/or T-shirts
- Swim Trunks
- Cold Medicine (Trust me)
- Re-hydration packets
- Imodium & Tums
- Emergen C or Berocca
- Band aids
- Antibacterial Cream (like Neosporin)
- Anti-Itch Cream and Benadryl
- Mosquito Repellent
- Antibacterial Wipes/Lotion
- Baby Wipes
- Technology Items (Don’t forget the chargers!)
- Extra Battery
Pro-Tip: Many hotels in Thailand will have sockets that account for both American and European plugs. Regardless, bring a converter with a few USB ports for easy charging.
Pro-Tip: Most Asian airports will ask you to also put your extra battery next to the liquids and your laptop/iPad when going through security to verify it’s safe to take on board.
What Not to Pack
- Expensive Jewellery
- Several Going-Out outfits, unless you’re honeymooning, or going to rooftops
- High Heels in any shape, fashion, or form
- Suit or Suit Jacket
- Anything see-through or extremely revealing
- Anything leather
- Straightener/Curling Iron
- Don’t bring too much makeup and hair products (you’ll sweat it off in the heat anyway)
- Bring 3 more pairs of underwear than you think you’ll need.
- Stock up on travel tissue packs and travel-size soap and bring them with you when you leave the hotel. Many toilets in won’t have either.
- Don’t bring VapoRub. Many places in Thailand sell small eucalyptus or peppermint smelling sticks for vertigo. They are excellent for a blocked nose!
- Buy a few facemasks at the market or at a pharmacy when you land. They’ll come in handy on heavy pollution days, or when riding in the back of a tuk tuk on a dirt road.
- If carrying the backpack hurts your back, buy some Tiger Balm. This stuff will work wonders!
- Ladies – Be careful when buying any lotions and sunscreens. Many contain whitening chemicals, which can be very harsh on your skin!
- If you don’t have any waterproof bags or iPhone cases, don’t fret! The markets sell these at every corner. Same for the water shoes, if you’re headed to the beaches.
- Buy the elephant pants & have fun with it!
Have you been to Thailand? If so, what do you think is missing from my list?