Since its first draft in 2008, my “What to Pack for Thailand” advice has been amongst the most popular posts on this site – shared 26,200 times and counting.
Its popularity makes perfect sense. While hotels, activities and restaurants are subjective choices, packing the wrong shoes will be wrong on every pair of feet. Given the huge demand for packing help, I’ve spruced up and fine-tuned my Thailand packing tips into a tidy A-to-Z. Below you’ll find helpful gadgets, great bits and pieces for day-trips and enjoying the beach, plus tips for staying safe and comfortable in Thailand’s heat. Enjoy!
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A is for Anker External Battery
If like me, you rely on your phone for most of your vacation pics, this portable charger is a fantastic back-up. Ensure that you’ll have a functional phone after long days out, or adventures that don’t include reliable access to plugs. It weighs nothing and fits easily in a pocket or small bag. (For iPhone, Samsung, HTC and more).
Do you try to avoid chemicals wherever possible? If so, this natural brand of mosquito repellent gets consistent rave reviews. I myself never use DEET products as my mosquito repellent for Thailand – find out why – but you should choose a level of mosquito protection that you’re comfortable with. This will depend on your travel plans for Thailand.
Unlike elsewhere in Thailand, Koh Samui is malaria-free, so it’s an easier choice for my usual itinerary. Whatever the product you choose, you’ll want to bring some bug spray with you. Repellent brands like OFF! are readily available in Thailand, but ‘bug spray shopping’ seems like a waste of your vacation.
With OCD levels of application, expect that one 2 oz bottle will last you (one person) about a week. For longer trips or with a family, an 8 oz bottle is also available.
C is for Crocs Shoes
Crocs?!? But indeed. They aren’t what they used to be and they’re THE perfect shoe for Thailand’s shoes on/off culture. These slip-on shoes (aka “Crocs in disguise”) do triple duty:
- They don’t have laces or buckles (crucial!)
- They’re appropriate footwear to visit temples
- They’ll keep you safe on rocky beaches and slippery surfaces, and;
- They can handle torrential rain without consequences
Better still, they’re very light-weight for packing and they’ll keep your feet cool in Thailand’s hot climate.
D is for Dos & Don’ts in Thailand
Is this your first time to Thailand? If so, consider this book crucial reading. It’s especially useful if you hope to venture into ‘real’ Thailand, visit temples or make new friends. It teaches you how to put your best foot forward (but never upwards – learn why in the book). Fantastic cultural tips for any ‘farang‘ (foreigner) visiting Thailand. Available for Kindles or in used paperback.
E is for eBags Packing Cubes
Whether you like to keep everything in its place or have an expensive habit of losing clothing on vacation, I think packing cubes should earn a deserved place in every suitcase. Do you fight slightly compulsive tendencies? eBags offers the chance to colour code the contents of your suitcase. I know, I know … deep breaths. Need more packing help? Shop the best bags for Thailand.
FRiEQ Universal Waterproof Case (fits all large phones)
Remember when the annoying cell phone store guy asked a thousand times if you wanted the warranty and you said: “no, no, no, go away”? Now you’re heading to a country where you’ll sit by the pool, go snorkelling, ride on boats and possibly experience torrential, tropical rain. Bring back-up for your little buddy! (Fits all large smartphones – iPhones, Samsungs, the whole gang)
G is for Germ-X Hand Sanitizer
Well it can’t hurt, right? I’m one of those people who wipe down the plane tray table and armrests with antiseptic wipes – find out why – and the habit continues with a dose of hand sanitizer whenever I sit down to eat. Slightly non-scientific theory? The germs are out there. Brand new Thai germs we aren’t used to. Wouldn’t you rather they get someone else? Exactly.
H is for Havaianas Flip Flops
My favourite pair of Havaianas lasted seven years. Seven! These little beauties are quality stuff. While Koh Samui’s bright red dirt can colour light flip-flops pretty quickly –when you get home you can instantly bring them back to life with a power-washer. They’ll look like brand new in five seconds… ready for the next decade of their life.
I really prefer to use natural mosquito repellent for Thailand and these exfoliating loofah soaps go one better: your skin becomes less and less appealing to mosquitoes as you exfoliate (find out why). They work perfectly for travel as there’s nothing to spill and we use them constantly. Add strong product guarantees, natural ingredients and fantastic reviews? Dancing lady emoji.
J is for J Pillow travel pillow
Bare minimum, it’s a twenty-hour journey to Bangkok from JFK, LAX or O’Hare. Add an eye mask and some earplugs to triply guarantee that you’ll arrive happy and well-rested. Cheaper than business class!
K is for (what else?) The Koh Samui Guide
No matter what stage of holiday planning you’re in (whether you’re deciding on Koh Samui as a destination or are sitting on packed suitcases), The Koh Samui Guide puts everything you need to know in one tidy place.
L is for Lonely Planet Thai Phrasebook
When I last checked, this Thai phrasebook was the most popular book that my readers buy before Thailand travel. Weirdly, it’s often #1 on Amazon for Vietnam travel, too.
M is for Master Lock TSA Luggage Lock
With a much longer locking cable loop than other luggage locks, this guy makes it easy to secure just about anything. Keep your precious bits locked shut, whether during your flight or in your hotel room.
N is for Nancy Chandler’s Map of Bangkok
I know how much work I’ve put into seven editions of The Koh Samui Guide. Meanwhile, the Nancy Chandler team have just called time on their fantastic, hand-drawn pocket maps after an incredible twenty-eight editions. Cheers to that! It’s truly your insider’s guide to Bangkok and has no equal.
O is for Outlander Packable Travel Backpack
This is a very clever piece of packing. It’s a backpack when you need it, and no extra weight when you don’t. We’ve all seen “make it tiny” bags before – but this one has the quality of a normal bag, with a lifetime durability promise from Outlander. Its side-pocket for a water bottle is doubly appreciated once Thailand’s sun kicks in.
P is for Private Dancer
A fast-paced thriller along Miss-East-meets-Mr-West-and-now-someone-will-die lines. I agree with press reviews that it offers the best insight into Bangkok’s bar scene – it’s amongst my favourite audiobooks about Thailand. It’s perfect to read on the plane or the beach.
Q is for Quiksilver Men’s Pierside Straw Hat
I’d wager that girls are more likely to remember to pack a sun hat than guys. Whether I’m right, take this hat as a prize-winner for Thailand: it has a massive brim. A baseball hat or fedora can leave your ears and the sides of your face too exposed (and sun-hat options available on Koh Samui are U-G-L-Y!).
R is for Ray-Bans
Pack your Wayfarers, your Aviators, your Clubmasters – whatever shape and size – as long as they’ve got quality UV protection for your dainty eyeballs. Squinting causes wrinkles! Folding Wayfarers = minimalist packing victory.
S is for Sanuk Women’s Yoga Flip-Flops
In terms of comfiness, these flip-flops mean you’ll:
- walk upon an extra-squooshy yoga mat
- that’s strapped to your feet with a t-shirt
Can happy feet get happier? While there are a few tricks to picking the right shoes for Thailand – these puppies are perfect for all sorts of itineraries: enjoying your resort, relaxing after a tough trek or backpacking session, and so on. If they’re on your feet, I’m jealous.
T is for Travel Tote
A pocket-size, reusable travel tote is ideal for all your random Thailand tasks, like:
- carrying 6-packs of Singha home from 7-Eleven
- stashing your sweater when you leave the airport to head into Thailand’s heat
- carting wet swimsuits and sandy flip-flops back from the beach
Just totally, utterly useful. Update! Plastic bags were banned in all major stores in Thailand on January 1st. On Samui, supermarkets and convenience stores have reusable totes available for purchase – you might prefer the smug satisfaction of bringing your own.
U is for Universal Travel Adapter
Thailand has two kinds of plugs. While one of them is the same as the U.S., you might find it useful to have a universal adapter in case:
- you meet only round pin sockets, or;
- if you’re stopping in a third country en route to Thailand
Hong Kong and Singapore, for example, have different plugs again.
V is for Vapur Reusable Water Bottle
How much does a bottle of water cost at an airport? Enough to make you bleed! While Koh Samui’s tap water is not potable, I recommend a Vapur bottle as a great travel tool for getting to Thailand. Airports have water fountains galore, so you can cart a flat, empty Vapur bottle through security and then fill up at a water fountain (and on any subsequent layovers that you have). At approx. $3+ per bottle at U.S. airports, a Vapur bottle will pay for itself in one trip.
W is for Waboba Water Bouncing Ball
Yet another way Australians do ‘beach time’ better than anyone. They’ve invented a ball that bounces on water. Whether you’re a competitive couple or are headed to Thailand with boys (of any age), this is the answer for energetic types and how to spend hours/days/weeks at the beach and pool.
A cheeky X, but an X no less. Quality ear-plugs are:
- Great for sleeping on planes, and;
- Indispensable when the Thai temple next to your hotel throws a karaoke party until 4 am.
If you hope to sleep on your flight to Thailand – please – add a pair of quality earplugs. Many people turn to sleeping pills, but ear-plugs and an eye mask are the tickets!
Y is for Youphoria Travel Towel
Great for day-trips or long journeys through Thailand – even a surprise spot of rain total, utter, Thai-style drenching downpour!
Z is for Zap-It Mosquito Bite Relief
Yet another product that our readers introduced me to (same with the Waboba ball). Bring along a small tube of hydrocortisone cream and you’re Eagle Scout-prepared for fixing the mosquito bites you’re not going to get (because you followed these 12 tips).
See these complete trip-planning lists:
- Thailand travel FAQs – includes culture, customs and elephant-riding questions
- How to prepare for Thailand – solve every “what to wear” question and learn how to pack perfectly
Obviously packing all 26 suggestions would leave no room at all for clothes or souvenirs. I intend the list as an exercise in Thailand travel logic and to jog your memory for things you’d perhaps have forgotten (or might be excited to now include). Enjoy!