Updated on February 20, 2020 by Asher Fergusson
I also include what to wear in Thailand as well as additional tips on what NOT to bring and some frequently asked questions about general Thailand travel.
In addition to all these physical items definitely make sure to also bring an open heart and mind, patience, a balanced sense of humor, and an adventurous spirit!
What to Pack for Thailand – 17 Essentials
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9) 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!
Other Thailand packing list items not to forget
Antibacterial toothbrush cover
Deodorant: Women’s and Men’s
Razor: Women’s and Men’s
Lonely Planet Thai phrasebook
Reusable cloth bag
Stainless steel water bottle
Top Baby Gear
Sunglasses: Women’s and Men’s
What to wear in Thailand?
No matter where you are, choosing the right fabrics can help you stay cooler in Thailand’s tropical climate. Clothes made from thin, lightweight materials like linen, cotton blends, and active fabrics are best – avoid heavy denim.
Shorts, tops, skirts, dresses, and capris made out of lightweight fabrics can all be good options for women visiting Thailand. On the other hand, denim is one of the worst fabrics for hot climates, and while denim shorts aren’t too bad, full-length jeans are uncomfortable and take forever to dry. Lighter-weight pants or capris are a much better option for your Thailand wardrobe.
Like most places, social norms regarding how to dress in Thailand definitely put more restrictions on women than on men. Even in beach towns and large cities, women should cover their midriffs and avoid super-short shorts and skirts. But in general, Thai clothing reflects Western fashion, and visitors to Thailand can wear similar styles as at home. Just err on the side of lighter fabrics and a little more coverage.
Shorts, pants, and short-sleeved shirts made from lightweight fabrics are the best clothes to wear for men in Thailand. Again, jeans are not a great idea in a climate this hot – pants made from linen or a cotton blend will be much more comfortable. As long as you’re wearing a shirt (and not an open button-down with nothing under it), the Thailand dress code for men is pretty lenient.
Thai men mostly wear Western clothes, so the styles you wear at home are generally acceptable. That said, Thais dress more formally than you might expect, especially in the cities, and Thai men are more likely to wear pants and a collared shirt than shorts and a t-shirt. But the most important thing for male visitors is that singlets or other too-revealing tank tops should not be part of your Thailand wardrobe (regardless of how many other tourists you see in one). Slip-on shoes like loafers are most convenient for removing at businesses and will also keep your feet cool.
HOT SEASON – March, April, May, June.
Heat climbs quickly and is quite oppressive due to the dense humidity in this region. Rains happen occasionally and only add to the humidity. You’ll want light, quick-dry fabrics, comfortable sandals that strap on, a good sun hat, cute sunglasses, and plenty of sweat-resistant (and reef-safe!) sunscreen.
Hydration is also key, so bring a water bottle to ensure you always have a supply of safe drinking water! Temperatures average between 85°F to 90°F (29°C to 32°C) with April and May being the hottest months.
WET or MONSOON SEASON –
ANDAMAN (West) COAST: June, July, August, September, sometimes October.
THAI GULF (East/South) COAST: September, October, November, December.
Flooding is common regardless of area, and the temperature is still quite warm – humidity makes it feel warmer! Wet season timing can vary from year to year, so be sure to do some research and look at the forecasts before you go.
You will absolutely need a windproof umbrella and a dependable rain jacket. You should also plan to bring a couple of pairs of shoes – waterproof hiking shoes are great, and sandals that strap on snugly and can be dried quickly are also a good idea. Temperatures average between 80°F to 90°F (27°C to 32°C).
COOL SEASON – November, December, January, February.
In several areas of Thailand the temperatures will drop a bit during this season, and drier air will move in. Don’t expect it to be too cool, though, unless you’re at a higher elevation and further north for an extended period of time.
Everyone reacts to temperatures differently, so you’ll want to pack according to your comfort level in the expected temps, and bring a rain jacket just in case. Long-sleeved, lightweight shirts are great as long as they can dry quickly.
Linen pants are perfect, and good walking shoes are always crucial. You’ll still have plenty of sun, so be sure to pack a sun hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen! Temperatures average around 78°F (26°C) in most areas, with a colder snap for about a week in December.
Visiting Temples – The Thailand dress code is perhaps more important for visiting temples than anything else. Temples are sacred to Buddhists in Thailand and are generally active places of worship and spiritual study. Revealing clothes are considered extremely disrespectful in these locations, and you’ll likely be turned away if you’re not dressed properly. In general, both men and women need to cover at least their shoulders and knees. Men should wear pants, and women can wear capris or longer skirts or dresses. T-shirts are acceptable, but sleeveless tops are not, though women can cover bare shoulders with a scarf or shawl.
Hiking/Trekking – Thailand has lots of great hiking and trekking options, and the same clothing you wear for outdoor activities at home will probably work. The key is to wear clothes made from sweat-wicking fabrics, which will keep you more comfortable on the trail. They’ll also dry quickly if you get splashed at a waterfall, and they usually don’t take up much space in your bag. Despite the heat, you should definitely wear pants when hiking in Thailand. Brush and leaves and all manner of biting insects will be kept at bay by a good pair of quick-dry hiking pants. Opt for ventilated hiking shoes so that your feet won’t get too hot.
Diving, Snorkeling, or Surfing – What’s a trip to Thailand without getting into the ocean? It’s home to some of the best – and cheapest – diving in the world, and has a few up-and-coming surfing spots as well. Though most people just wear a swimsuit for snorkeling, many of them end up with very sunburnt backs, so a rash guard is a really good idea. You’ll definitely want a rash guard for surfing, and probably a wetsuit for diving. While most surf and dive shops provide attire, it’s definitely better to have your own.
What NOT to bring to Thailand
The cutout tank or “singlet” tops the list of what men shouldn’t wear in Thailand (especially away from the beach), though the same goes for unbuttoned shirts without anything underneath. Both men and women should also refrain from wearing just swimsuits unless they’re on the beach.
The second most important thing is not to look too grungy. Thai clothing generally isn’t that much different from what you’d see back at home, and many people are just as fashion conscious. They also often dress more formally than you might expect, especially in Bangkok, but in other areas as well. Travelers should keep their clothes clean, and overly casual outfits should be avoided.
FAQs about travel in Thailand
1) What vaccinations do I need?
Travelers 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. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) update this list sometimes, so double-check their site a few months prior to your trip.
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. Check your requirements here.
4) What’s the best way to get around?
Thailand 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?
No, 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 in Thailand?
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) What’s a Virtual Private Network (VPN) and why do I need one?
VPNs are crucial for the protection of your personal and financial data while you’re using the internet. Unsecured networks put you at risk of being hacked, and a VPN will add a layer of encryption between you and those would-be thieves. It can also help you gain access to blocked or censored content if you’re in a country where certain things are censored – this is common in certain Asian countries. I personally use NordVPN and highly recommend them. They’re affordable and offer great plans and service.
10) Is it safe to eat street food?
Eating 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.
11) How can I respect the local Thai 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.
- 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.
Author: Jen Ambrose
Jen 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.