17 Top Thailand Packing List Items + What NOT to Bring (2018)

What should I bring on my Thailand trip?

People often ask me, “What should I take on my trip to Thailand?” so I put together this essential checklist.

At the bottom I share, “What NOT to bring to Thailand”, as well as additional tips on what to wear and some frequently asked questions about Thailand travel.

In addition to all these physical items definitely make sure to also bring: an open heart & mind, patience, a balanced sense of humor and an adventurous spirit!

1) LifeStraw – Tap water in Thailand isn’t purified enough for Westerners to drink it without getting sick, but staying hydrated in a tropical climate is key. Bottled water is widely available, but in the chance it’s not when you’re going off the beaten track the LifeStraw is a literal lifesaver. It works by filtering the water as you drink through it. And it’s small, lightweight, and relatively inexpensive.
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2) Activated charcoal – If you’re careful with your food and water, you hopefully won’t have too many health problems in Thailand. That said, a lot travelers end up getting sick at least once, so pack some activated charcoal to be prepared. These capsules quickly absorb whatever toxins are in your system, stopping the dreaded diarrhea that comes with eating contaminated food in a developing country.
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3) Thailand Power Adapters: They use quite a few different outlets in Thailand so you’ll likely find that you need an international power adapter like the one pictured. This will ensure you always have the ability to charge your devices. Also note: most Southeast Asian countries can have strong power surges so you may want to bring a surge protector too.
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4) Quick-dry towel – Not all hostels and budget guesthouses in Thailand provide towels, so it’s a good idea to bring your own. Skip bringing a bath regular towel, though, as they’re bulky and take too long to dry. A quick-dry towel is sufficient, and these ones are small and lightweight.
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5) Electrolytes – Electrolytes are also great to have in case you get sick in Thailand, as diarrhea can leave you seriously dehydrated, which is especially dangerous in a hot, humid climate. If you get sick, drop one of these tablets in a bottle of water to replenish the electrolytes you’re losing. Even if you’re not sick, staying hydrated in Thailand’s climate is a challenge, so taking electrolytes on a regular basis isn’t a bad idea, especially if you’re spending a lot of time outside.
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6) Travel insurance – While travel insurance isn’t the most exciting thing to think about when you’re planning a trip, it’s really a necessity. You don’t want to find yourself unable to get home during a health emergency or having to spend money replacing stolen items. Thailand is a safe country, but things can still go wrong, whether it’s injury, illness, or petty crime. Knowing that insurance will cover those situations can give you some peace-of-mind while you’re traveling. I highly recommend using World Nomads insurance and they’re a really popular company among frequent travelers.
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7) Passport Pouch – You’ll obviously be taking your passport to Thailand, so it’s a good idea to bring a holder to keep it safe and keep other valuables organized. When you’re in crowded places, like markets and bus stations, it’s an especially good idea to avoid carrying valuables in your pockets. This pouch holds not only a passport, but also cash, credit cards, and even a cell phone, and it’s much less likely to get stolen than a regular wallet.
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8) Virtual Private Network (VPN) – If you’re planning to stay connected on your Thailand trip and there are certain websites that you require access to, a VPN like NordVPN is the best way to ensure you won’t get blocked. If you try to stream your favorite show via Netflix, HBO or a live TV event, many networks can be blocked and a VPN will solve this problem.

Furthermore, a VPN protects you with 1-click from losing your passwords, credit cards and identity. Hackers are known to target tourists on insecure WiFi networks. I learned this the hard way!
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9) Travel sheet – If you’re a budget traveler in Thailand, you might run into some rooms that are less than spotless. When that happens, it’ll be nice to have a lightweight travel sheet, and they also work great when the AC is cranked way too high on the bus or train.
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10) Universal Waterproof Phone Case – If you want to protect your phone from dust, sand, dirt and water while also being able to take underwater photos and videos then this little phone case is a must. And it costs less than $10 on Amazon with amazing reviews!!
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11) Travel backpack – I usually find traveling with a backpack to be the most convenient, especially if I’ll need to haul my luggage around and there aren’t always sidewalks. The Osprey Porter is a popular travel backpack, with its lockable zippers, padded laptop sleeve, and technical suspension. You can also easily attach a smaller pack to the outside, in case you want more storage space or you’ll need a day pack on your travels.
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12) Packing cubes – A set of packing cubes is a savior when it comes to staying organized on the road. Instead of digging around in your backpack looking for that missing sock, just pull out the cube your socks are packed in. I resisted packing cubes for a long time, thinking they’d take up too much space in my backpack. They really don’t, and it’s worth a little space to be way more organized.
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13) Affordable Underwater Camera – This is a great little camera that won’t get damaged easily and won’t break the bank. It takes great pictures both on land and underwater and is a great solution if you don’t want a more expensive GoPro or DSLR camera. Also, a lot of wonderful things to photograph in Thailand are near water such as: the beaches, waterfalls and rain forests.
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14) Female Urination Device: Okay, don’t get weirded out by this one. Thailand is a place with limited toilets and if you do happen to find a public one it’ll probably be disgusting. Guys just pee on the street but that’s not possible for women. This little device allows Western women to stand and pee with no mess and no more hurting bladder 😉
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15) Sarong – You should definitely bring a sarong to Thailand, because they have so many uses for travelers: towel, blanket, swimsuit cover-up, curtain, skirt, beach towel, scarf – the list goes on. Sarongs might not be an absolutely ideal replacement for all of those items, but they work great in a pinch. Plus they’re lightweight, and they dry quickly.
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16) Hiking shoes: Women’s and Men’s – Thailand has lots of great hiking and trekking options, and I definitely recommended taking advantage of them. But some of the trails are pretty intense, and leeches are an extremely common sight on many of them, so you’ll want protective footwear. While waterproof shoes might seem like a good idea, they’re too warm for Thailand’s heat and humidity, so look for ventilated shoes instead. My husband and I both like these Merrells, which fit all the criteria.
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17) Lonely Planet Thailand – Maybe it’s a little cliché, but after years of traveling, I still swear by Lonely Planet guidebooks. They cover both popular and off-the-beaten-path destinations, and always give budget-friendly options. The Lonely Planet Thailand book is updated pretty regularly, so be sure to get the newest edition.
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Other packing list items to consider bringing to Thailand

The following items are also good to consider for your Thailand trip, regardless of the time of year you’ll be there:

What should I wear in Thailand?

thailand-tourists-wearing-clothesWhat to wear in Thailand depends on what part of the country you’re visiting and what kinds of activities you’re planning to do.

Thai’s in Bangkok tend to be extremely fashionable, and you’ll probably fit in best by wearing the same kinds of clothes you do back home, but do choose lighter-weight fabrics when possible.

On islands and in beach towns, you may see other tourists walking around town in their swimsuits, but it’s much more respectful to cover up when you’re away from the beach.

Visitors are also required to cover shoulders, chest, and knees to enter temples, so wear a long skirt or pants and a shirt with sleeves on days you’re planning to visit temples.

Lastly, for hiking and trekking, you should wear clothes made from synthetic fabrics, and long sleeves and pants are best for protecting against bugs and parasites (if you can stand the heat). You’ll also want good hiking socks and hiking shoes for more strenuous treks, and at least sturdy sandals for shorter ones.

What NOT to take to Thailand

1) 🚫 DON’T BRING expensive jewelry. Wearing flashy jewelry can make you a target, and there’s really no reason to risk it getting lost or stolen.
2) 🚫 DON’T TAKE unnecessary valuables. Theft does happen in Thailand, and stuff can get lost on the road. If you don’t really need something that’s valuable, it’s just not worth the risk.
3) 🚫 DON’T PACK more than one pair of jeans. You may want jeans for going out or for wearing on the plane, but limit yourself to one pair. They’re bulky and heavy, they take forever to dry, and you probably won’t want to wear them very often in Thailand’s tropical climate anyway.
4) 🚫 DON’T PACK a mosquito net. This is something I occasionally see on packing lists, and it’s really not worth bringing. Almost all accommodations in Thailand provide mosquito nets if they’re needed, and it’s often not possible to hang up your own anyway.
5) 🚫 DON’T BRING a sleeping bag. Unless you’re planning on doing a ton of camping and know that you’ll need your own gear, there’s no need to bring a sleeping bag. Use a travel sheet instead.
6) 🚫 DON’T TAKE lots of cash. There’s no reason to carry a lot of cash with you and risk it getting stolen. Except in the most remote areas, there are ATMs throughout Thailand, so it’s pretty easy to access cash once you’re there.
7) 🚫 DON’T PACK heavy books. When you’re trying to fit everything into a backpack, even one book takes up significant space and weight. Lots of guesthouses and cafes in Thailand have book exchanges, where you can pick up a paperback for free and drop it off at a future exchange when you’re done. Or, just bring a Kindle, and do your reading that way.
8) 🚫 DON’T BRING too many clothes. When you’re seeing different people all the time, you really don’t need to worry about repeating outfits. Plus, you can pick up new and second-hand clothes for cheap at local markets in Thailand. Also, Thailand is known for amazing tailoring so you can even have clothes made when you get there.


10 Frequently Asked Questions about travel in Thailand

1) What vaccinations do I need?

lighting-lanterns-in-thailandTravelers to Thailand should be up to date on the following vaccinations: MMR (measles-mumps-rubella), Tdap (tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis), polio, chicken pox, hepatitis A, and hepatitis B.

In addition to those vaccines, most of which many Westerners already have, you need a typhoid vaccine before visiting Thailand. You should get a rabies vaccine only if you’re planning on doing significant outdoor activities, taking extended trips to remote areas, or coming into contact with animals.

2) Do I need to take malaria medication?

Malaria prophylaxis is only recommended for travel to Thai provinces that border Burma, Cambodia, or Laos. Both atovaquone-proguanil and doxycycline are effective in those areas. In other parts of Thailand, avoiding mosquito bites through using insect repellent, sleeping under a mosquito net, and wearing long pants and sleeves is sufficient for malaria prevention.

3) What kind of visa do I need?

For citizens of most Western countries, no visa is needed for tourist visits of up to 30 days.

4) What’s the best way to get around?

bangkok-boat-market-on-waterThailand is renowned for its long-distance rail network, and second-class train cars are most popular among travelers. To get to destinations not serviced by train, the country has a number of bus companies offering long-distance routes.

Bangkok also has an incredibly sophisticated intra-city train and subway system, as well as a network of river ferries that can be convenient (and an interesting experience). Uber is available and popular in both Bangkok and Chiang Mai, too. In most other parts of the country, a variety of taxis, tuk-tuks, motorcycle taxis, and songthaews (local buses) are usually available.

While tuk-tuks are the quintessential transportation of Southeast Asia, they’re mainly used by tourists and are rarely the cheapest option. For visitors who know how to ride a scooter, picking up a rental is another a popular way of getting around.

5) Are there ATMs?

Yes. With the exception of very rural areas and small islands, there are ATMs located throughout Thailand.

6) Is the tap water safe to drink?

tap-water-thailandNo, the tap water in Thailand is generally not safe for Westerners to drink. Some resorts and upscale restaurants offer filtered water, and otherwise you can use a LifeStraw to filter it yourself. Bottled water is also widely available.

7) Do I need to tip in restaurants?

Tips are appreciated in Thailand, but they’re not generally expected. However, it’s common to round up to the nearest bill when you pay.

8) How reliable is the Internet?

Internet reliability varies widely across Thailand. In Bangkok and Chiang Mai, high-speed Internet is common. In other towns, many guesthouses and cafes offer Wi-Fi, but it’s slower and less reliable. In extremely rural areas and on very small islands, it may be non-existent.

9) Is it safe to eat street food?

thai-street-foodEating street food in Thailand carries a small risk, but that shouldn’t hold you back (and honestly, eating in a restaurant is not necessarily any better). The best tricks for safely eating street food are to eat at local mealtimes and go to stalls that are busy – that ensures you’ll get fresh food, which is much less likely to cause a problem.

Beyond that, make sure everything is thoroughly cooked, avoid fruits and vegetables that don’t have a peel and skip drinks made with water or ice.

10) How can I respect the local culture?

  • Thais consider the feet to be dirty, and it’s extremely rude to point your feet, particularly the bottom of your feet, at people and at images of Buddha.
  • buddhist-monk-thailand Similarly, avoid using your feet to move or pick up objects, and do not step over people or even objects on the floor.
  • Thais consider the head to be sacred, and you should avoid touching Thai people’s head, face, and hair.
  • You also need to be very careful when discussing Thailand’s politics or government and do not say anything that could be construed as criticizing the Thai royal family.
  • Thais expect visitors to be especially respectful when visiting temples, including speaking quietly, removing shoes, and covering the shoulders, chest, and knees.
  • Finally, women should not touch or hand anything to Buddhist monks.

Last updated: January 8th, 2017

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Author: Jen Ambrose

jen-ambroseJen Ambrose is a freelance writer and editor who’s passionate about making travel a force for good. Originally from Montana, she served for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Rwanda and has a Master’s degree in International Development. She has traveled extensively in the U.S. and abroad, particularly in Africa and Southeast Asia (incl. Thailand). Jen and her husband recently left their jobs and their home in Boston to travel the world, working as freelancers and bloggers from the road. They blog at Passions and Places, focusing on responsible travel, outdoors adventure, and getting off the beaten path.