What to Pack for Thailand: Thailand Packing List
Thailand is one of my favorite countries. From its diverse cultural elements, to its distinct regions, to its extraordinary food, there’s no end to the unique experiences Thailand offers. But to make the most of your visit, you need to pack accordingly.
What to bring is an important consideration, because you’ll likely find yourself in wide-ranging circumstances. Cities like Bangkok are very different from beach towns like Phuket, both of which are unique from small mountain towns and villages like Chiang Rai. While packing requirements for these various places largely overlap, you still need to know how to pack appropriately for wherever your travels take you. Let’s take a look at what to pack for Thailand.
Pack a Travel Backpack for Thailand
Thailand is best navigated with a backpack, especially if you’ll be traveling via motorbike at any point. Biking is impossible with a suitcase. You’ll also be happy to avoid wrestling a suitcase up the stairs to the elevated train in Bangkok amidst the sweaty Southeast Asian heat. Opt for a backpack instead.
And because it’s Southeast Asia, you’ll want something water-resistant. Sudden downpours are common. For this and many other reasons, the Outbreaker Travel Backpack is the perfect piece of luggage for Thailand.
Built for city travel, it’s well-organized, comfortable, and made from waterproof sailcloth to keep your stuff dry when an unpredictable afternoon monsoon rain hits.
What’s more, thanks to the fact that it’s carry-on-sized, not only will you avoid checked bag fees, lost or damaged luggage, and waiting at the luggage carousel, but an Outbreaker also makes it easier to navigate a city and its public transportation system.
I’ve traveled throughout Thailand with my Outbreaker on several trips. I’ve carried it through the backstreets of Bangkok, have worn it while motorbiking along the coast and across its islands, and have shouldered it from one town to the next throughout the country’s interior. Through it all, I’ve found that the Outbreaker’s versatility, capacity, comfort, and durability make it ideal for Thailand and Southeast Asia in general.
Thailand Packing List
Slip On Shoes
You have to take your shoes off frequently in Thailand. Whether you’re entering someone’s house, exploring a temple, or in some cases even when going into a cafe, restaurant, shop, or massage parlor, you’ll be unshod often. Instead of wasting time unlacing impractical hiking boots or strappy sandals every time, pack a pair of breathable, slip-on shoes.
Comfy flip-flops can be a good option but will become slippery in the seasonally-frequent rain. Slip-on sneakers like Toms aren’t the best since they’ll take forever to dry when wet. Good alternatives are slip-on sandals or some form of plastic or mesh slip-on shoe.
Let’s put it this way: there’s a good reason you’ll see a lot of Crocs in Thailand.
Even outside of the rainy season, which runs from May to October, there’s always the potential for rain in Bangkok and much of the country. Whether you’re hiking with elephants or zipping along via moto-taxi or simply wandering the streets, you’ll want to be prepared with a rain jacket shell just in case you get caught in a shower. Rain jackets with zip slits under the arms are especially nice since they’ll give you some ventilation while keeping you dry.
Sweater or Sweatshirt
Though it’s usually hot and muggy throughout most of the country, you’ll want something warmer for the plane ride and chilly air-conditioned buses and stores. Temperatures have been known to drop to as low as 68 degrees in Bangkok during the high season (December—February). A hoodie is perfect.
You can refill water bottles with filtered water for just a few cents in Thailand, so save some money by bringing your own water bottle and filling it up as you go. You’ll also help reduce the number of plastic bottles washing up on the gorgeous Thai beaches.
A Tortuga favorite is the Vapur Element foldable water bottle since it packs down extra small while I’m en route and is super durable.
Bug Spray and Sunscreen
You can get both in Thailand, but pack your own to avoid high prices and to make sure you have some right when you land. These aren’t “just in case” items. While malaria isn’t an issue, the mosquitos are real and so is the sun. I’d suggest packing at least a small bottle of each for your trip.
Rain Cover and Dry Sacks
Bring a rain cover for your bag as well if you aren’t carrying a highly water-resistant backpack like the Outbreaker Backpack I mentioned earlier. If you want to be super protective of your belongings, pack your things in dry sacks, especially electronics, just in case.
Warm (or Hot) Weather Clothes
Regardless of the time of year, be prepared for hot and humid temperatures. A solid Thailand wardrobe would include:
- 3-4 t-shirts or tank tops (no spaghetti straps, which can’t be worn in temples and other holy sites)
- 2-3 pairs of longish shorts or loose pants
- 2 skirts + 1 dress
As you’ll likely be wandering in the heat with an abundance of exposed skin, it’s also a good idea to pack a light wrap or pair of loose pajama pants to cover your legs or shoulders when entering temples like Bangkok’s stunning Grand Palace. Above-knee shorts or overly bare shoulders are not allowed. If you don’t come prepared, you’ll have to buy a wrap or pants at the door for $10-$30.
Definitely don’t pack too much. Hand-washed items will dry very quickly, and you can always find a laundry center to wash your clothes for you (in a machine) for just a few dollars per load.
Bathing Suit and Sarong or Quick Dry Towel
Between beaches and swimming holes, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to go swimming. Bring your bathing suit.
I’d also suggest bringing a sarong or a quick-dry towel, which can come in handy in a variety of situations, from swimming to sudden rain showers to covering up when entering temples.
Hiking Shoes or Sandals (Not Boots)
In the northern and central parts of Thailand, you’ll have great opportunities for hiking and exploring the jungle. If you plan on sticking to cities like Bangkok or beaches like Phuket, you might not need these. But pack a good pair of hiking shoes if you’ll be hitting the trails.
Definitely do not go for hiking boots. Opt for a pair of hiking sandals like Tevas or other waterproof trail runners. Hiking boots are simply too much in the heat and take up too much space in your bag. I prefer waterproof trail runners as they are both breathable and protective.
Your Old Pair of Rock Climbing Shoes
While not everyone will be interested in this opportunity, Thailand is one of the most renowned places for deep-water soloing (rock climbing without a rope over deep water). If you’re into climbing at all, bring your old pair of shoes and take a stab at it.
If you’re into climbing, you’re probably already planning on sticking a harness and 60-meter rope in your bag and heading straight to Koh Yao Noi.
A Sturdy Daypack
A friend of mine who lived in Bangkok for several years had her purse snatched off her while she was riding a moto-taxi to the airport. Her passport, phone, and money were still inside.
I don’t mean to scare you (it’s the only time it happened to her in two years of living there), but thefts like this do happen. You should consider bringing a sturdy daypack that’s hard to rip off you or cut.
I recommend the Outbreaker Daypack because a backpack is harder to snatch off you compared to a crossbody or single-shoulder bag.
Many of the outlets in Thailand are the same as those used in the U.S. and Canada, but they also use outlet type C: the circular two-prong outlet similar to that found in much of Europe.
Bring a converter just in case. If you’re trying to save room, just bring this specific converter. However, many travelers swear by a more versatile universal converter.
Apps for Traveling in Thailand
Before traveling to Thailand, download these handy apps:
- Grab: This is basically the Uber of Southeast Asia. Never get ripped off by a “faulty” meter again. Grab also provides food and package delivery.
- Next Station: Navigate Bangkok’s MRT (train) with this handy trip planning app.
- Google Translate: Translate signs and menus instantly with the camera feature in Google Translate. This is super handy when you know the word “larb gai” but don’t know what it looks like in Thai.
Finally, make sure you haven’t forgotten to pack your usual travel essentials:
- Camera (or your phone)
- A good book (or your Kindle)
When it comes to what to pack for Thailand, your biggest consideration should involve being prepared for the heat and occasional rain. Ease of mobility is also key, which is where a good travel backpack like the Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack comes in. From there, it’s all about being ready for the sun, sand, and spectacular jungles.