March 19, 2024

What do you need for Thailand?

From perfect prep to enjoying your beach time – this is everything I’ve ever wildly recommended for your Thailand holiday, all in one place.

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What do you need for Thailand?

Let’s take this step-by-step. Obviously, you need money and a passport for Thailand – but I’ll leave you to figure out all that grown-up stuff. I just want to make the trip you have planned in your head even better. From perfect prep to enduring a long flight, to enjoying your beach time – this is everything I’ve ever wildly recommended about preparing for your Thailand holiday, all in one place. Hopefully they help you stay safe, connected and organised to get the most out of your trip.

1. You NEED dependable mosquito repellent

What Do You Need for Thailand Mosquito Repellent
1) Lemon Eucalyptus Repellent 2) My Favourite Repellent 3) Bite Relief Device and 4) Mosquito Repellent Bracelets

Sorry if this comes as a surprise, but mosquitoes in Thailand are excited about your visit. Luckily, you can stay bite-free while avoiding scary DEET completely. It's easy to find Off! brand repellent in Thailand, but you should bring your own natural products. For a spray, try Murphy's Naturals repellent (U.S.) or incognito (UK).

If you're lazy or forgetful, repellent bracelets might be the perfect mosquito solution. They're 100% natural as well and waterproof. If you’re extra susceptible to mosquitoes, add a tube of hydrocortisone cream to your toiletry bag (it's hard to find in Thailand) and/or a clicky-zappy mosquito bite relief device.

More questions about mosquitoes in Thailand? Answered.

2. You might need travel adapters

What Do You Need for Thailand Travel Adapters
1) Dual-voltage Travel Steamer 2) U.S. to Thailand Adapter 3) Universal Travel Adapter and 4) UK to Thailand Adapter

Do you need one for Thailand? Maybe, maybe not. For plug shapes, the U.S., Canada and parts of Europe use the same sockets as Thailand (two flat blades or two round pins), whereas the UK and other corners of the world have different plugs. As for voltage, Thailand uses 220 volts.

While most laptops/tablets/cameras/phones have dual voltage, double-check the power pack/charger before bringing it. (Yet another vote for my trusty dual-voltage travel steamer).

Americans/Canadians: Thailand Travel Plug Adapter. As a “just in case”, it’s useful to keep a universal socket adapter in your carry-on. If you have a layover in a third country, it’s useful to know you can charge your stuff no matter what plug species you find.

Brits: UK to Thailand Travel Adaptor. This adapter converts British plugs to flat Thai plugs. Some sockets in Thailand use two round pins, so a universal adapter is useful just in case.

3. You NEED to stay safe in the sun

What Do You Need for Thailand to Stay Safe in the Sun
1) My Favourite Face Sunscreen 2) SPF 50 Sunscreen 3) UPF 50 Sun Hat and 4) UPF 50 Swim Shirt

Take a quick look at Thailand’s proximity to the equator – the Thai sunshine can do serious damage to your skin in minutes flat. Come prepared with a high-SPF sunscreen that can handle water (whether in the pool or perspiration). Sunscreen is, of course, available in Thailand but it's expensive and there's far less selection than you're used to.

If you burn easily, add a wide-brimmed sun hat (Outdoor Research sun hats are packable, UPF 50, they'll stay on your head in gale-force wind and they float). When snorkelling or on the water, a UPF 50+ rash guard might save your hide. Also, consider switching to a lightweight powder makeup with SPF. Foundation and other heavy, creamy makeups are way too hot in the tropics.

More questions about the best sunscreen for Thailand? Answered.

4. You need good advice

What Do You Need for Thailand Travel Guidebooks
1) The Koh Samui Guide 2) Lonely Planet Thailand 3) DK Eyewitness Thailand and 4) Fodor's Essential Thailand

Get the best Thailand travel guide for you. I’ve reviewed most of them and, while Lonely Planet Thailand is a ubiquitous option, other brands might better suit your interest and itinerary. Having a guidebook around the house in the weeks or months before your trip is a great reference when questions pop into your head, or you just want an outlet for your building excitement.As a quick list, I recommend:

5. You need hot-weather back-up

What Do You Need for Thailand Hot Weather
1) Deodorant Wipes 2) Electrolyte Drink Tabs 3) Exfoliating Face Sponge and 4) Anti-frizz Hair Oil

Are you used to tropical heat? If high temperatures and astonishing humidity are new phenomena to you, I recommend packing a few bits to help with Thailand’s heat. Amongst these are some quick-refresh deodorant wipes (also ideal for marathon long-haul flights) and – crucially – electrolyte drink tabs.

This strange-looking sponge is my secret weapon to keep my face happy with spackle-strength sunscreen application and round-the-clock “tropical sparkle”. It gently exfoliates and just helps my skin breathe a bit. Finally, need a bottle of anti-frizz oil? If you don’t already know what 90% humidity will do to your poor hair … you don’t need it. (As for the rest of us ....).

6. You need your phone (to work)

What Do You Need for Thailand for Your Phone
1) Waterproof Phone Case 2) External Power Bank 3) Thai Tourism SIM Card and 4) In-flight Phone Holder

Beach days are one thing, watching your phone fall into the pool is quite another. Thailand is always ready with some form of water, whether you’re hanging around the pool, the beach, or your massive hotel bathtub. Or if you get a little too close to a lily pond or are caught out in a downpour. And then there’s Songkran ... the water festival. Basically, it’s your phone vs. Thailand, every minute. Come prepared with a waterproof phone case (this one is certified up to 100 feet deep, so it doubles as an underwater camera if you’re snorkelling).

Tip: You might need extra phone charge. Beach restaurants and street-food stalls aren’t typically places to top up your phone’s charge. If your Instagram habits mean you’ll be caught short with a dead phone – marry this device. It’s tiny and holds at least one full charge, depending on your phone model.

7. You need secure luggage

What Do You Need for Thailand Luggage
1) TSA Luggage Locks 2) Anti-theft Bag 3) Packing Cubes and 4) Portable Travel Safe

The goal: Arrive in Thailand with exactly what you packed; nothing more, nothing less. Ditto for the return – we’ve all seen Bridget Jones 2. Make sure you have a TSA luggage lock for each piece of checked luggage and plan to use either extra locks or zap-straps/cable ties on any outside pockets.

My clever tip for luggage locks: Set one code for your whole family (your dog’s birthday?) so that every lock is the same. Same lock code, every lock, forever and ever. Then you can buy a four- or eight-pack of locks, chuck one in every suitcase and they’re always there, ready and waiting for the last-minute panic.

If you’re concerned about travelling with any valuables or electronics, you might use an anti-theft bag as your day bag, or bring your own packable alternative to a hotel safe: a Pacsafe Travelsafe can fit two 15” Macbooks.Tip: While you’re preparing your suitcase/luggage, throw in the following: a variety of Ziplocks (large and small), some Scotch tape, a few squares of bubble wrap and a bottle opener/corkscrew. At some point on this trip or the next, you’ll be SO impressed with your past self.

Need to stay organised? How about clean? Packing cubes will help with both, no matter where in Thailand you’re headed. You might like the wizardry of compression cubes, but I swear by colour-coded packing cubes. Get a different colour for every member of your family. Then your spouse can’t steal all the extra-useful small ones and pretend “he thought they were his”. They are not his.

More packing questions for Thailand? Answered.

8. You might need a carry-on kit

What Do You Need for Thailand Carry-on
1) Travel Pillow 2) Ginger Chews 3) No Jetlag Remedy and 4) Packable Shopping Bag

How long is your door-to-door travel time to Thailand? Coming from London, Sydney or LA you might have a 10-, 12-, or 20-hour flight to Bangkok. That’s if you’re lucky enough to find a direct or direct-ish route. (For what it’s worth, you can’t complain about travel time unless you’re flying from Lima – the furthest city on earth from Bangkok. That might take you 38 hours).

So. Start by adding sanity and creature comforts to your carry-on. Pack a super travel pillow, a stash of gin-gins and – this is genius – a tray-table phone holder to watch movies without having to hold it. (A larger size is available for iPads). If you’re crossing datelines or too many timezones to count, you might look at ‘No Jet Lag’ remedies. I haven’t tried them myself but they’re popular and well-reviewed.

Travelling from winter into Thailand’s tropical heat complicates things too. To easily discard or acquire things en route, tuck a squashable bag in a pocket and expand your carry-on space as necessary – ideal when you'll start a flight wearing a jacket and finish in 84°F/29°C heat. (This, too, will prove doubly useful when you discover that plastic bags are banned in many Thai shops and chain supermarkets).

As for your carry-on bag, what’s best for Thailand? For sightseeing and a busy itinerary, a backpack makes a perfect carry-on and a day-trip bag, with great laptop protection. If you’re headed straight to a resort with no intentions of leaving, you might prefer a swallow-everything tote bag that can double as your beach bag.

9. You probably need a cultural clue

Concerned about culture shock? Love people-watching? Don't want to make enemies overseas? The quick-to-read and very helpful Thailand - Culture Smart! is your easiest answer. It's a must-read in, ahem, my book. It's particularly ideal for longer visits or any itinerary where you’ll leave Thailand’s tourist people and encounter real life.

Prefer to read a good book? Try a novel set in Thailand or a superb expat memoir: Sightseeing and Mai Pen Rai Means Never Mind are particular favourites (see them all).

10. I think you NEED travel insurance

Travel insurance won't *technically* keep you safe, but there's nothing that I think you need more for Thailand than good travel insurance. When looking for travel insurance, I recommend considering  (A) the activities you'll do (especially adventurous things like snorkelling or Muay Thai), (B) the modes of transport you'll use – scooters and motorbikes especially – and (C) coverage for medical evacuation home if necessary.

I often use World Nomads

  • their coverage is super easy to understand
  • their help desk is really helpful
  • they can cover every activity a human has ever considered
  • you can even choose to insure your laptop/GoPro/expensive things

To get a quote, you simply fill out a quick online form with (1) the countries you’re travelling to, (2) your travel dates, (3) your country of residence, (4) how many people you want on the policy – e.g. just yourself, your and your partner or more family members and (5) your age. So it's something you can do as soon as you've booked your flights and have your dates.

Next, you’ll probably see a page of coverage options like World Nomads’ Standard Plan or Explorer Plan. If you’re doing this while half-watching Netflix, take a few minutes to compare the differences in coverage and what you might want. For example, in my sample search, an Explorer Plan offers more trip cancellation and trip interruption coverage, and higher reimbursement for lost baggage. Speaking only for myself – this is never somewhere I’d want to skimp.

Final step? After you’ve purchased travel insurance, make sure to save your policy documents to your phone (actually downloaded to the device rather than saved to the cloud). Next, for extra credit, print two copies: keep one hard copy with your travel documents and give the second copy to your trusted travel companion. Bonus points? Email it to a close friend or family member. Should you ever have an emergency, you want to know where this policy document is and be able to get it as easily as possible.

Got what you need for Thailand?

Hopefully, these recommendations about what you need for Thailand have answered at least one question about your upcoming trip. Each suggestion might make a perfect Thailand vacation either less stressful (in preparation and transit), or even more enjoyable (once you’ve arrived and have filled up on Thai food. Priority one.) Enjoy!

P.S. You can find every tip for Thailand packing and prep in the archive, or subscribe by email and get all the details straight to your inbox. Enjoy!