17 ways to improve your trip (for $100)
Want to arrive in Thailand totally prepared for a tropical climate and a brand new culture – ready to avoid every mosquito in your path?
17 ways to improve your Thailand trip
Here are seventeen ways to improve your trip to Thailand for under $100 total – whether by adding comfort or peace of mind, insurance against Murphy’s Law … or just a total determination that Thai mosquitoes bite someone else.
I’ve tried all of the following things personally and keep both my carry-on and day-bag stocked with a majority of them at all times. Consider it half “Oh Sh*T Kit” and half cunning plan to enjoy Thailand looking – and feeling – as fresh as Amal Clooney stepping off a yacht.
I’ve said it before: I love this stuff so much I’d drink it. You can read the entire history of this one-sided liquid love affair, or enjoy the brevity that follows:
- I've used Incognito on every Thailand trip for nearly 10 years.
- Very, very few bites.
- DEET-free and totally natural.
- Love the smell.
- No animal testing.
- One bottle shared by two people = 7-14 days’ supply (depending on where you’re going and how obsessively you apply it).
- Also deters house-flies!
I would sooner fly to Thailand without sunglasses than without a supply of Incognito.
These pop up as my top recommendation for Thailand on nearly every page of this site. Why? They idiot-proof your Mosquito Protection Plan. Pop one onto your wrist as you arrive in Thailand and you’re set for two weeks. (Multi-packs are available for longer trips).
I always avoid DEET because of that time it melted flip-flops and much prefer natural options. Assuming you sleep with hands vaguely near your head, you’ll be less likely to hear the world’s worst nocturnal noise: “bzzzzzz”, right beside your ear. Best of all, they’re waterproof – so you’re covered in any weather. Pair with some Incognito spray (#2) as often as you can remember are you are set.
A two-part recommendation, depending on your itinerary in Thailand. Most of the time, these waterproof pouches are just great back-up from killing your phone around the ocean, pool or hotel bathtub (or in a freak rainstorm – of which Thailand has many). As well, Songkran celebrations and a less robust waterproof case have claimed at least one phone from our family inventory.
Part two? This case turns your phone into a waterproof camera – up to 100 feet – making it ideal for snorkel trips. In such a case, you might consider adding a floating strap if you’re intending to take it swimming. There’s also a floating version of this case available at a fractionally higher cost.
Just a little more Incognito-Love, paired with a total quirk of nature. Apparently, something science-y happens when sweat combines with dead skin cells that make mosquitoes go “oh, yum yum”. The theory behind the loofah, then, is that exfoliating makes you less of a Mozzie Meal. Paired with the citronella soap bar hidden within, the results are compelling – I’m hooked.
Bug bites aside, from a pure vanity point-of-view, one of these used twice daily through your trip will leave your skin incredibly soft, smooth and happy. Travel bonus? As it’s a soap and loofah in one, there’s nothing to spill. Just chuck it in a Ziplock and you’re on your way.
A new item in my “won’t leave home without” kit. These electrolyte drink tabs are made for athletes but I find them indispensable for my most un-athletic moments: doing nothing but melting in the hotter points of Thailand’s climate (on Koh Samui that’s March, April and May). I drink one on the plane in a bid to stay hydrated and avoid jet lag, and then one per day in Thailand to make sure all my salty-electrolyte-y stuff stays in check in Thai heat.
Totally not a doctor but, in my experience, I find it prevents me from feeling “wilty” in extreme heat. (Totally “not” from personal experience? Add Nuun to a hangover, and be … not quite amazed, but certainly grateful).Thailand tip? Fresh coconuts – abundant in Thailand – are similarly packed with electrolytes but are slightly less portable. You get ten Nuun tabs per tube: They easily split in two so it’s easy to add half a tab to a regular water bottle, in the recommended Nuun/water ratio.
Why? At the time of writing it’s 27°C/80°F (plus 78% humidity) in Koh Samui. Cleanliness is extremely important in Thai culture, so I encourage you to further diplomatic relations with a discreet Shower Session in an airplane or airport bathroom following a presumably long flight to Thailand.
Thereafter, it’s a hot and humid country and these little beauties are an instant fix. Strange-but-true real-life application? When the power goes out in your hotel – cutting the entire water supply as well. Luckily, you’ve brought your own shower.
7. SPF Lip Balm
Sunburn on your lips hurts twice as much (and this stuff tastes good). No animal testing.
If you’re devoted to the steps above, your chances of avoiding mosquito bites in Thailand are as good as can be. However, should they find a chink in your armour (likely on a Bangkok canal tour where they wait in full phalanx formation), hydrocortisone comes to the rescue quickly. It isn’t easy to find this stuff in Thailand but it works wonders to reduce red bug bites and stop any itch.
I’m encouraging prudence here, not paranoia, but let’s figure a luggage lock is the suitcase equivalent of a dog bowl at your back door: “No thank you, Baddies! You'll find easier pickings elsewhere, move along please…”
Because these locks always seem to vanish the minute before departure, I recommend the following: Buy a four-pack of locks and, when it arrives, set all the locks’ codes to the same thing (not 1-2-3-4!). Then, grab your luggage and carry-on bags and tuck one or two locks in the outside pockets so they’re there when you need them. While you’re at it, add a corkscrew, some Ziplocks and a roll of Scotch tape to your suitcase exterior pocket and you’re officially Eagle Scout Prepared.
Pop quiz: What’s the rudest thing you can do with your feet in Thailand? Get reading! Grab a copy of this helpful book and flick through it while you half-watch Netflix. Any attention paid to Thai etiquette raises your Good Citizen Points on a minute-by-minute basis.
No way will this book teach you conversational Thai. But it’s interesting to flip through: you’ll get a good idea of Thai sentence structure and can then try out phonetic phrases on real live Thai people (then jot furious notes as they correct, and recorrect, your pronunciation). Great for visual learners to learn Thai language basics: counting to ten, colours, hello, how are you, etc.
The less said the better. (But one day, when we’re all a few drinks in, I’ll tell you about the time I starred in Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights – Amoebic Dysentery Edition).
The Audible book cover for Private Dancer looks racy indeed – but don’t be dissuaded. This work of fiction offers a must-read insight into Thailand’s bar industry (Bangkok’s bars and bar girls especially). It’s by no means high-brow literature but is an interesting peek into what goes on behind smiles and shiny lights. If going the audiobook route, pair with headphones (Bangkok’s bar scene is, unsurprisingly, NSFW).
You get a free book when you sign up for an Audible trial with Amazon. This book lasts nearly 12 hours in audiobook format so it's long enough for pretty much any long-haul flight to Thailand. A great use for your freebie. Highly recommend this book in any format – it's fast-paced and juicy. Love audiobooks? Other Thailand novels available for free listening with an Audible trial:
Good morning. Nice to meet you. Can I have the bill? Turn left at the next street. I’m thirsty. Learn to say this – and much more – in Thai. An easy way to arrive in Thailand with a few key phrases. Any foreigner that can say more than ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ is an instant superstar on Koh Samui.
15. Hand Sanitizer
See #12. Apply liberally.
Things that make noise at night in Thailand: Frogs. Bats. Crickets. No, but seriously, the frogs. Temple parties. Fireworks. Firecrackers. Your neighbours. Air-conditioning. Dog politics. Geckos. Lizards. Other people’s kids. The guys that bring their own speakers on vacation and play music that goes ‘douche-douche-douche’. This composite list paints a pessimistic picture of Thailand by night and, most likely, you’ll never hear any of the above – certainly not at high-end hotels.
However, if you’re a light sleeper and plan to find accommodation as you go (travelling towards the budget end of the spectrum especially), a pair of noise-cancelling earplugs safeguards your sleep in all circumstances. Let the frogs sing the song of their people – you’ll have no idea.
Thirty-six pages of stuff your mother wants you to know before going to Thailand. Covers everything that routinely hits the headlines when things go badly for tourists in Thailand: especially scooter safety and common scams, plus need-to-know details about Thai laws, dengue fever and more.
Free, with instant download. If you skipped this part in Lonely Planet, read it here.
Thailand travel kit grand total: $99.57
Drumroll … The grand total of your Thailand travel kit: $99.57 (at time of writing) – and everything on Amazon has free Prime shipping! Bonus! Have $10 left to spare? Pay it forward with a donation to a Thai charity.
Leave room in your travel budget
Finally, make sure to leave room in your travel budget (and time on your to-do list) to buy travel insurance before your departure. Your exact policy will depend on things like trip length, whether you’re going to Thailand only or other countries as well, and what your adventures will include. (No surprise, extreme sports cost more to insure).
As a vague idea, travel insurance for Thailand through World Nomads can range from approximately US$26 up to $389+ for a long trip – but it’s quick to get a quote for your exact dates once you have them. Travel insurance questions for Thailand:
- Thailand Survival Guide [Free]
- Travel Insurance: What Is and Isn’t Covered
- How to Avoid Getting Sick in Thailand
- How to Avoid Malaria and Dengue Fever in Thailand
More suggestions for your Thailand travel kit
Once you're set with useful travel gear (and travel insurance!), don't miss these wonderful resources for Koh Samui travel specifically and Thailand itineraries in general.
- Koh Samui: See inside The Koh Samui Guide
- Total travel prep: Favourite products to travel more prepared
- Thailand 101: DK Eyewitness Thailand [Book Review]
P.S. Set for the details but still wondering what to wear? You can find every tip for Thailand's dress code in the archive, or subscribe by email below and get all the details straight to your inbox. Enjoy!