I knew Thailand was going to be hot, I knew Thailand was going to be humid, but I am from dry desert Utah and so I really had no idea what that meant. It meant it was going to be wet and hot and I wasn’t going to know how to handle it! But I also went in April, when it’s just about as hot as it gets. Still, if you’re not used to this hot and humid tropical climate, you’re in for a surprise!
There are a few things to help with this humid hotness, which will be included in the list below. Others are more for an “in general” when visiting Thailand.
A lot of these things can be purchased once you land, and for cheap. If you have a specific type/brand that you like, I would recommend packing it along. If that doesn’t matter, consider saving the packing room and purchasing it once there.
Of course this is something I recommend on all trips, but especially in a climate like this. You’ll really want to make sure you’re staying hydrated. I recommend the type that will keep your liquids cold because boy does it suck to feel like you’re about to pass out from heat, take a swig of water, only for it to be about as hot as you feel. I took the above water bottle with me and it stayed cold every single excursion. I highly recommend it (make sure to hand wash, if the coating flakes off, it loses its ability to keep drinks hot/cold).
You can’t drink the tap water most places here, but a lot of hotels and apartment buildings have water dispensers, so keep an eye out for those to reduce plastic waste and cut costs of buying multiple water bottles from the store.
Linen and Light Cotton Clothing
In this type of climate, you will find that linens and light cottons are your good friends. I didn’t even bring jeans with when I went to Thailand and thinking about it now, wearing them in that climate, kind of makes me feel a bit anxious 😛 You’re going to want to pack clothes that you’d expect to wear in a tropical climate.
Shawl, Cardigan, Something to Cover Up
Because you’re going to be wearing clothing that some would consider immodest, and you’re going to probably want to check out some of the temples and religious sites, you should have something on you that you can use in a pinch to cover up. Leggings, if you’re wearing a short dress or skirt, a sarong if you’re wearing short shorts, a shawl if you’re wearing anything showing your shoulders. Sexism is present wherever you go (but women, don’t we know), so just know that if you’re a man, you may not need to cover up at all. But to be on the safe side, you can carry something with you as well just in case you’re asked to cover up.
Some places will have provided cloth to cover up, but some will not. Don’t rely on them having something for you or you might miss out!
This is a good time to put into the local economy and get you a beautifully designed scarf or shawl that catches your eye once there. You can find them at just about any outdoor market or shopping mall.
I know, of course you want sandals. You’re going to be in Thailand. Some places you’ll have to take your shoes off to enter, so make sure they’re not too hard to get off. Make sure they’re the type that can get wet without getting ruined. I also had two pair of slip on shoes that I took with. The type you don’t need to wear socks with because who wants to wear socks in Thailand? Not me (though if you’re planning on extensive hiking, it’s kind of inevitable!). I highly recommend the ones pictured above. I love mine, they were so comfortable for extensive walking, and you can clean them with yoga mat cleaner, since they are made of the same material, to keep them in good shape.
If you’re bringing slip on shoes, you might want to invest in some Odor Eaters Insoles. They worked amazingly for me in Thailand, wearing shoes without any socks.
So many people that don’t burn forget to use/bring sunscreen. There will be some people that never leave home without it (good for you!), but there are going to be probably an even bigger number that kinda just forget sunscreen is a thing. I used to be one of these people because I don’t really burn. But that doesn’t mean the sun isn’t damaging your skin.
Make sure to pack along sunscreen, or buy some there, and actually use it. If you’re planning on getting in the water, make sure to pack it along on your daily excursions so that you can reapply.
If you’re not a sunglasses person, you might want to reconsider for Thailand. It can be so bright and especially if you’re in an area where you’re frequenting the beach. The reflection off the water is a powerful thing. I have to wear glasses on a daily, so I basically lived in my prescription sunglasses while I was there.
This one heavily depends on the type of activities you plan to do. If you plan on doing any activities on a boat, then you should probably get one. I had one mainly for kayaking, but it came in handy so many other times. Once we got caught in the pouring rain on a long boat and luckily I had it with because my friend had an expensive camera with no waterproof bag. It’s a great tool to have handy in Thailand, especially if you’ll be doing activities in and near water. Or you have valuables you don’t want to get caught in a downpour with.
Umbrella and Rain Poncho
Going off of what I said in the above paragraph, you might hit some rain. You can always check the time of year you’re going to see if rain will be likely or not. Another option is to buy an umbrella once you’re there because you’ll find that they have nice ones for really good prices. So decide if you’d rather save on the packing room and spend a a few bucks extra once there, or save those extra few dollars and pack one along. You’ll find a cheap rain poncho once there, too.
There will be touristy areas, especially in the bigger cities, that you will be able to use your card. But don’t rely on that. Especially if taking part in local tours or markets, or shopping local, you’re going to need cash. If you book tours online, you can pay for it with your card online, but if it’s a local one you’re booking in person, just be prepared with the cash on hand.
I’m used to this since I frequent Japan. If the thought of this freaks you out a little bit, you can get a money belt that goes under your shirt for safety. They have quite slim designs that don’t feel bulky.
Wet wipes of some kind are good to bring along. Because of the heat, you may find you get sweaty and sticky more than normal, and might need an extra wipe down here and there while you’re out and about. They’re also pretty good at helping get sand off of you if it’s stuck. For those beach days, anyway. You never know when you might need one in a pinch, anyway, they’re great to have on hand. If you’re taking tuk tuks or other shared taxi services, there are a lot of surfaces you’re touching, so having those wipes is also helpful in that situation.
Hand Sanitizer/Soap Sheets
I’ve spoken to a few people in other countries (I’m in the US) that had never heard of soap sheets, so I’m not sure if it’s something you’re familiar with in your country, but I love these things! You can usually find them in the camping section of big box stores like Walmart. There are a lot of public restrooms in Thailand that don’t have soap, but will have a little bit of water. In these situations, I break off half a sheet of soap (that’s all you really need). In the situations where there isn’t any running water, I might use a wipe first, followed by sanitizer. Or just the sanitizer, depending on the situation.
As it is with soap, it often also is with tissue/toilet paper. I would highly recommend carrying around a travel tissue pack with you for the restrooms you hit that don’t have any toilet paper. You just may become the savior of a group tour when everybody needs to go to the bathroom. But please also take care to note if there are garbage bins you should be throwing the tissue into, rather than flushing it down the toilet. The sewer systems aren’t equip to handle toilet paper being flushed in some areas.
Quick Drying Towel/Hand Towel
It’s Thailand, it’s humid, it takes material a while to dry, so you need something built to dry fast. You’re not going to find a hand dryer or paper towels in most places. I suggest bringing either a quick drying towel or hand towel, or both if you think it would be beneficial. My quick drying towel comes with me on every trip, anyway, but I don’t take it on my daily excursions unless I know I’ll be by water. A hand towel easily fits in the smallest of day bags, so it might be worth bringing along.
Waterproof Phone Case
This was a lifesaver for me! When we were sea kayaking, on the boats getting splashed with waves, in the pouring rain or just as the beach, I had my phone around my neck in the waterproof phone case. You can use your camera and not have to worry about your phone getting wet or falling in the water. Leaving a little air in there prevents it from sinking, too!
I used the kind above, as well as Avon repellent wipes on the go, and I can report that I didn’t get a single mosquito bite, to my knowledge. You’ll want to make sure you grab some of your favorite repellent, because it is definitely needed.
Especially recommended if you’ll be staying in hostels. You can have that layer between you and the other sheets. It’s also great on those frigid overnight buses and trains, or long layovers at the airport.
Nancy Chandler’s Maps
If you’ll be staying in Bangkok or Chiang Mai (which you most likely will), consider purchasing the Nancy Chandler maps. I own the Chiang Mai one and I love it! It’s so much fun and really does come in handy. There is also one of Hanoi, Khao San and old Bangkok.
The brands overseas will be limited, so make sure you pack your own if you have a preference, especially period products for those individuals that will apply to.
Of course you don’t need to bring everything on this list! It definitely is ultimately up to you, what types of things you would like to pack along. This list contains items that were helpful to me, that I wanted to share for those of you in a similar boat that I was in, when planning my first trip to Thailand 🙂