How to win rainy season in Thailand? Let’s start with my favourite travel sentence ever: “There’s no such thing as bad weather. Just people wearing the wrong clothes”. Brilliant. So that’s my take on what to wear for rainy season in Thailand: pack the right things and even “big, old, fat rain” won’t slow you down.
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What to wear for rainy season in Thailand?
Tip: Note that rainy season occurs at different times of the year in different parts of Thailand. On Koh Samui it’s roughly October, November and December (and occasionally lasting into early January).
First, to make sure you’re PhD-levels of prepared, learn the Thailand dress code. Then, find out how to win your rainy season war against mosquito bites. You know who’s excited for your rainy season visit? Thailand’s mosquitoes. Find out how to stay safe (or at least improve your odds that they bite someone else). Total victory, totally naturally:
Underneath it all
Step one: Start with Mosquito Warfare and never skip this step. Thailand’s mosquitoes are greedy on the driest of days, but get especially voracious in rainy season … when they know we’re outnumbered and behind enemy lines. Ideally, start with a liberal application of quality mosquito repellent as soon as you’re dry from the shower. (It goes on top of sunscreen with – ideally – twenty minutes’ “sink in time” in between).
My favourite mosquito repellent (and the only one I use) is incognito but, as explained here, it’s currently hard to find outside of the UK and parts of Europe (blame Covid). Americans and Canadians might prefer Murphy’s as a natural alternative, though I haven’t tried it myself (and I never use DEET). Rest of world? Recruit a Brit to mail you some incognito.
Step two: Add a mosquito repellent bracelet. These are really clever as they’re waterproof and will work for about two weeks straight. So you can put a wristband on and forget about it.
Your rain jacket
First order of business: your rain jacket. Leave your sissy “water-repellancy” at home. Thailand’s rainy season will not be repelled. You need waterPROOF. Ideally, you want a lightweight but sturdy, and properly waterproof rain jacket (with a big hood). These Columbia rain jackets get my vote for their:
- totally waterproof taped seams
- adjustable hoods
- lightweight/breathable fabric for Thailand’s steamy weather
Better still, they pack down to nothing and have tons of reviews to back up the waterproof promise.
Can you get rain jackets in Thailand?
In Bangkok, shopping successes are easy. Elsewhere, especially in beach destinations like Koh Samui, you can find rain jackets (of dubious quality) in most supermarkets, and expensive imported brand-names (like Superdry) in department stores. In most cases, both varieties will be for Thai-sized people (roughly a Western size small or medium).
Tip: If you’re bigger than ‘Thai-size’ (more or less a Gap Kids size large), bring your own rain jacket from home.
Are rain ponchos suitable?
Disposable plastic ponchos are the easiest rain-gear to find. They’re available all over Thailand, but they don’t last long and don’t feel nice to wear – you start to feel like a goldfish swimming in a plastic bag. If you prefer to pack your own quality control, bring along an ultra-lite poncho – it will last for years. Extra credit? A really good travel umbrella that will survive strong wind.
Your rainy season shoes
My no-contest, #1 vote for a rainy season shoe? Crocs and friends. They:
- have great traction on slippery surfaces
- are comfortable for walking long distances
- are absolutely ideal for wet weather
There are a few kinds of stingy insects on Koh Samui, including the occasional scorpion. During rain especially, they love to hide in dry shoes. Ideally, bring slides or sandals over closed-toed shoes to avoid needing to shake them every time you put them on. With an open-toed sandal, you can immediately see that the coast is clear. That’s not possible for all itineraries – sometimes you’ll need a proper shoe – but you’ll definitely want a pair of quality sandals.
Avoid flip-flops at all costs (as I explain below). Yet sturdier sandals are great options – all of the sandals above are made to get wet. Choose sandals that have great grip and will stay on your feet (rather than committing acts of slippery treachery). I wouldn’t recommend wearing these to dinner at a nice resort, but they’ll get you through days of sight-seeing, exploring and activities in comfort and safety. As for closed-toed shoes, look for anything that’s waterproof and offers good grip on wet floors.
Tip: For more shoe advice – and why to avoid shoes with laces – see the best shoes to wear in Thailand.
The worst shoes for rainy season
Although flip-flops are a perfect choice in Thailand the rest of the year, during rainy season, the entire country becomes a slippery banana peel. Flip-flops can be downright dangerous. You don’t want to mince about in a scared-to-slip-shuffle, you want to enjoy your holiday.
Can sports shoes be worn in rainy season?
Running shoes/trainers will get wet, but they’re much safer than flip-flops. A light-weight, thin fabric style of mesh sports shoe – like water shoes or synthetic boat shoes – will dry more quickly than traditional leather-uppers gym shoes. However, if you’re stuck with regular running shoes and get soaked, set to them with a hotel hair dryer and stuff them with balled-up newspaper overnight.
Tip: Leave canvas sneakers, like Converse, behind – they’ll get wet, then muddy and will never dry. Also ditch any white shoes that will stain.
Helpful rainy season extras
“Is it still raining?” Oh yes you have noticed. Four quick tips for any girls headed into the fray (Thailand’s peak humidity). They’re not “can’t-live-without” necessary, but will be definitely helpful for looking (and feeling) like a human being, no matter how hard it rains:
- A waterproof phone case
- Anti-frizz hair oil. If you don’t need this … Monica Geller and I are jealous.
- Waterproof mascara
- Waterproof hair ties
The best fabrics for rainy season
The rest of the year, when Thailand is sunny but not quite as humid, your best fabrics include linen and very light-weight cotton, rayon and silk. For rainy season, erase all notes to date and start over. When wet, cotton is undesirable as it takes ages to dry. Instead, pack quicker-drying fabrics. Specifically:
- synthetics with wicking and/or quick-dry properties, like thin polyester and nylon
- linen (my favourite fabric for the tropics, year-round)
Avoid these fabrics in rainy season:
- cotton (especially if it’s thick)
- anything absorbent, including rayon, lyocell, Tencel, etc.
As a test, the next time you take a load of clothes out of the washing machine, consider which you’d rather put on right then and there. It won’t be your jeans.
What colour clothing for rainy season?
Can you wear white? Sure … if you’re planning to win a wet T-shirt contest. Otherwise, no matter how much you associate white linen trousers with vacation, white clothes aren’t much use to one’s modesty when wet. As such, I only recommend wearing dark coloured clothing in rainy season. Juuuust in case.
Are pants/trousers or shorts better for rainy season?
In terms of bottoms, try to strike a clever balance with the length of your clothes’ hems. Longer clothes will offer you more protection against Thailand’s mosquitoes (kept very happy in rainy season), while shorter ones won’t get wet in puddles. As such, a mixture of shorts and pants (and skirts/dresses of varying lengths) are great to pack. You’ll then have choices depending on your itinerary each day. Shorts and pants made of a quick-dry material are ideal. If you can’t quit the zip-off pants-into-shorts magic trick, they would – I admit – be very useful in rainy season.
What tops are best for rainy season?
For tops, pack shirts with different sleeve-lengths, including a long-sleeve option. While it doesn’t get cold (low 20s C / 70s F), it can be breezy in rainy season and at times it’s properly windy. Light layers will help you to easily adjust if a hot day turns into a cooler, windier one. In addition to your light-weight rain jacket, a pashmina or a light sweater or cardigan are nice to have, especially early in the morning and at night.
Tip: If you’re an “always cold” person, pack an ultralight merino long-sleeve t-shirt/base layer. Look for ‘150’ weight – anything thicker is too hot. This is my favourite top when it’s cooler and windy, and serves double-duty to keep you warm on the plane. I’d never bring a sweater to Koh Samui in any weather – a top like this is your “cold weather” option.
Can you wear skirts and dresses in rainy season?
Yes, certainly – once they’ve passed two tests:
- First, the ‘Marilyn Test’. It can be very windy during rainy season.
- Next, consider its silhouette when it’s drenched and sticking to you – some options will fare better than others.
Leggings in rainy season?
For women (or fairly confident men), leggings or yoga pants are a great rainy season option. They dry quickly and are comfortable for the best rainy season activities: lounging, massages, yoga and eating.
What not to wear in rainy season?
Jeans. No, no, no, no. Yuck. When was the last time you tried to peel off soaking wet jeans? You can’t.
Your rainy season packing checklist
Now that you know exactly what to wear for rainy season in Thailand, run through this quick check-list before locking your suitcase shut. As a final test, use this worst-case rainy season checklist to review your clothes and shoes:
1. Best case, what if it’s actually hot and sunny?
Not to get your hopes up, but who knows. Can your suitcase adjust for nice weather surprises? Double-check what to wear in Thailand to help your suitcase reach its fullest potential.
2. Can you wade?
Do you have shoes or sandals that can (A) wade through big puddles, (B) stay on your feet while doing so, and (C) survive to see another day?
3. Are you slip-proof?
Do you have shoes or sandals that can safely handle slippery tiled surfaces? The sandal options mentioned above all promise great wet-weather traction.
4. The ‘Marilyn’ test?
Will your clothes hold up in a wind tunnel?
5. Forrest Gump-style rain?
Can your shoes and clothes withstand getting caught in a torrential downpour without endangering you (or getting ruined)?
6. Leaving white at home?
Will your clothes accidentally feature you in a Wet T-shirt Contest? Avoid white, girls! Above all else, make sure you’re prepared against Thailand’s mosquitoes – an inevitability when the humidity rises.
What to wear in rainy season – recap:
- A totally waterproof rain jacket and/or…
- A quality rain poncho
- Slip-proof sandals
- Slip-proof shoes
- Quick-dry fabrics, but no denim
- Dark colours instead of white T-shirts
- A lightweight merino long-sleeve tee
- Pants, shorts, leggings and “Marilyn-proof” dresses
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