Thailand Travel Essentials
So you are about to fly to Bangkok & are wondering what to pack for Thailand. Our recommended packing list of Thailand travel essentials includes documents, and recommendations on what you can leave at home & what you should make sure you bring with you. Which toiletries to bring & which ones you can buy in Thailand. What is the most suitable luggage for Thailand? Check out our Thailand travel essentials guide for all you need to know.
Thailand Travel Essentials / Before you go
These are all Thailand travel essentials that you should prepare in advance of travel. These should be the first things on your what to pack for a trip to Thailand list. Keep them separate from your checked luggage.
- Hotel Booking Confirmation
- Debit/Credit Card
- International Driving Licence
- Scans of Important documents
Passport Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months after your arrival date. Also, make sure that it is not damaged or defaced in any way. If so, you can be denied entrance. If you have a tourist visa, it will be stamped inside your passport.
Tickets Make sure you have a print out of your flight itineraries or e-tickets. Thai immigration may ask to see them. If are entering on a visa exemption or visa on arrival you can be denied entry without an onward ticket. If you have a visa you can enter without an onward ticket.
Hotel Booking Confirmation On your landing card you must provide the address of your first accommodation in Thailand. You may be asked to provide proof, so bring a print out of your reservation.
Insurance Bring policy and claim forms in case you need to make a claim or check the policy terms & conditions. It is not compulsory to have travel insurance to enter Thailand but it is advisable.
Prescription If you bring prescribed medication with you, it is advisable to bring a copy of a prescription with you. It can be requested by customs for certain medicines.
Cash Always bring some cash with you even if you intend to withdraw at ATM during your travel. Bring in your home currency.
Debit/Credit Card Bring a debit and credit card with you. Thailand has plenty of ATMs where you can withdraw cash. You can also use it to make online bookings for accommodation, travel tickets & tours while traveling. Check before you leave home, that your card is authorized for use in Thailand. A credit card is always useful as a backup in case you run out of cash.
Driving Licence To legally drive a car or motorcycle in Thailand you need an International driving permit. A national driving license is not valid in Thailand. If stopped by the police you will face a fine if unable to show an International driving permit. You need to apply for a permit in your own country.
Scans of Important documents It is a good idea to bring a photocopy of your passport photo and visa page. You can be asked at any time by Thai police to show a copy of your ID. A photocopy of those pages is usually acceptable & more convenient than carrying your passport with you at all times. It is also advisable to have photos or scans of all important documents on your phone in case you lose the originals.
Another good idea is to email copies to yourself so that you can download them if needed. A list of important telephone numbers such as your bank in case you need to cancel a card or report it stolen or lost.
Packing for Thailand / Backpack, Suitcase or backpack with wheels?
Should you take a backpack or suitcase on wheels or even a backpack with wheels? Before you decide on what to pack for Thailand you need to figure this one out. The best answer is probably whatever suits you as an individual. A backpack is heavier to carry around. A suitcase on wheels is more convenient but take into account that Thailand is full of uneven surfaces & potholes. As a compromise, a hybrid backpack with wheels that has retractable wheels & a handle is worth considering as it can be pulled or carried on the back. Whatever you choose make sure it is a strong quality name brand. A daypack is essential as is a small bum bag that fits around the waist or shoulder. A daypack/bum bag can be bought cheaply in Thailand.
- Luggage – It’s better to buy a good quality strong rucksack or suitcase on wheels in your home country. All big brand daypacks, backpacks & suitcases are available in Thai department stores but are not cheap. You can buy cheaper no brand or brand name copies all over Thailand though the quality is not as good because of poor quality stitching. Luggage tags are useful for attaching to your bags.
- Travel Cubes – Travel cubes are useful for packing your luggage. They are small fabric zip containers that can be used to pack items by category making it easier to find things. Use different colors for easy identification.
What to wear in Thailand
Thailand has a tropical climate. Most of the time it is hot and humid though there are minor seasonal variations. Another factor is the location. The far north of Thailand has milder weather. November to February is the coolest time of year. March to June is hot, dry, and humid. July to October is the rainy season though that doesn’t mean it rains all the time! Usually once a day at similar times, for a short period.
Cotton and linen clothes are the best choice while avoiding heavy, thick fabrics that you might be used to wearing in your home country.
If you are planning on spending most of your time on the Islands, shorts, thin t-shirts, flip-flops & swimwear is really all you need.
In Bangkok or other cities, long trousers or a long skirt is a must for visiting temples as well as a shirt to cover your shoulders and upper arms. Add some smart casual shoes for going to nightclubs, upmarket bars/restaurants, and most rooftop bars. Men should avoid walking around shirtless outside of the Khaosan Road.
In the north of Thailand during the cool season, a lightweight windcheater is advisable for evening wear.
What to pack for Thailand
What to pack for Thailand? Don’t pack too much. Thailand is well stocked with popular western products usually at cheaper prices than at home. You can buy almost everything you will need in Bangkok at the start of your trip or as you are traveling. We recommend you bring the items listed below when deciding on what to pack for Thailand.
- Medication – Bring any prescribed meds that you take – If you forget or lose something dont worry as most prescription drugs in western countries are available in Bangkok over the counter without a prescription.
- Extra-large size clothes – Thai shops don’t cater to large western sizes.
- Towel – Specifically a small thin one that dries quickly. Towels are always provided in hotels though not in all hostels. Some hostels give you a free one but others will charge you for rental.
- Camera/Go-Pro – If you are a keen photographer, bring your camera. There are many wonderful places to capture. Photography is a popular hobby in Thailand and there are many specialist shops full of the latest accessories. Cameras are not cheap in Thailand though you will often find good bargains on clearance stock. Remember that the brand name cameras in Thailand do not always have an International warranty. Always check. If you have a Go-Pro there is a large range of unofficial accessories available in Bangkok computer malls. New Go-Pro cameras are no cheaper than in western countries.
- Condoms – Sizes in Thailand are smaller.
- Tampons – Your usual brand could be unavailable in Thailand.
- Eco-friendly toiletries – These may be difficult to find.
- Smart casual shoes – You cannot enter some nightclubs and bars if you show up in flip-flops/sandals.
- Walking Shoes – If you are planning to visit national parks or go trekking bring suitable strong, comfortable shoes or boots with you. A comfortable pair of trainers or slip-on shoes are a must if exploring Bangkok. Brand names are available in malls and department stores but are usually no cheaper than in your home country. Cheaper local options can be found in markets and traveler areas but are often of a lower quality & can hurt your feet.
- A waterproof poncho – You only really need this if visiting between June and November. You can buy them in Bangkok but the one size fits all is too small for some people.
- Windcheater – If you are traveling in the cool season, a thin windcheater can be useful as evenings can be chilly especially in northern Thailand. They are also useful if you are taking overnight buses & trains as the aircon can be brutal.
- A pen to fill in your landing card on the flight. This will save you time at immigration.
- Spare passport photos.
- Some small padlocks are useful, though you can buy them cheaply in Bangkok.
- A small handheld digital luggage scale to weigh your luggage before checking in for your flight. Bangkok airports have now privatized luggage scales near the check-in counters so that now you must pay to weigh your luggage. Weighing at the check-in counter is still free.
- E-Books – If you have a book reader such as a Kindle, download some books before you travel. It will save on your data allowance if you buy a Thai Sim that does not include unlimited data.
- Waterproof Washbag – If you already have one bring it with you. They are no cheaper in Thailand.
- Waterproof Underwater Wallet – If you are intending do do any diving activities we recommend you buy a name brand and bring it with you.
What to pack for Thailand – What you don’t need to bring
If you are thinking about what to pack for Thailand there are things that you can buy quite easily in Bangkok. The cost of these items are similar or cheaper than in your home country or at your departure airport. Here are some examples ….
- Toiletries – Boots the chemist and Tesco will be familiar to visitors from the UK and have extensive store locations in the Bangkok area. They stock most of the same brands and products you buy in your own country. Shower gel, shampoo, moisturizer, sunscreen, toothpaste, lip balm, mosquito repellent, cosmetics, razors, shaving cream, hair gel, etc are all a lot cheaper in Thailand, so no need to bring them with you. Branches of 7-11 are on every street corner and stock small size toiletries which are useful when you are traveling and want to keep your luggage light.
- Clothes – Don’t bring too much because you can buy all the following cheaply …. hats, t-shirts, shorts, swimwear, sarongs, towels, sunglasses, sandals, flip-flops, etc. The popular Japanese store Uniqlo has many stores in Bangkok where prices are lower than in Europe or Australia. Their climalite range is good for the Thai climate.
- Cycling Gear – If you are planning on DIY cycling trips or hiring a scooter you don’t need to bring gear with you other. You can buy helmets, locks, lycra cycling gear & other accessories easily. Tesco stores sell the basics & there are many specialist bike stores. Khlong Thom Market in Bangkok has a section dedicated to the cyclist. If you are taking a commercial cycle or motorbike tour the equipment is provided. Some bike rental places also provide gear in the rental price or as an extra. Be SURE to wear a helmet.
- Diving Gear – Flippers, swimming goggles, snorkels & water shoes can all be bought in Thailand at reasonable prices if you don’t want to bring your own. There are plenty of specialist shops on the islands and in Bangkok.
- Laptops/Tablets – Laptops can be heavy to lug around with you but are an essential part of modern life. They are also indispensable for bloggers who want to record and publish their travels. Most hostels & hotels no longer have free desktop computers & Internet cafes are now thin on the ground. A new brand name laptop/tablet can be bought for 9-10,000 baht in Bangkok.
- Photographic – Selfie sticks are for sale everywhere as are disposable cameras. SD cards are cheaper. Cameras are no cheaper than in your home country. Also, some guarantees are not valid internationally.
- Phone accessories – USB adapters for local plugs are easy to find as are power banks. There are many plug free charging points in malls, airports, on trains, and on buses. If you bring your own power charger you will need to use it with a plug adaptor. Remember that not all power banks are allowed on airplanes. Check first if yours meets regulations.
- Sim Card – You can buy a special tourist Sim card at the airport on arrival or in the city. Portable WiFi devices are also available but are more expensive.
- Batteries – Duracell and Energizer are much cheaper here.
- Maps and guidebooks – Free maps and information booklets are available at official tourist information booths. Transport systems such as the BTS/MRT have free network maps available at stations. You can buy bus maps and more extensive city maps at bookstores. All popular travel guides such as Lonely Planet/Rough Guides are available in local bookstores but are no cheaper than in your home country. Also buying one before you travel gives you something to read on the plane.
- Paperback Books – There are several good secondhand bookstores in Bangkok and in tourist areas around Thailand. Books are heavy and are best left at home.
- Memory Cards – SD Cards & Memory Cards are cheaper in Thailand. All the top brands such as Sandisk & Kingston are easily available. However, there are a lot of fakes around. Don’t buy from market stalls or online. Reliable retailers are Power Buy, Tesco, 7-11, Jib & Banana. Shops in IT Malls such as Fortune Town are ok. The fake ones are cheap and can mostly be found on Lazada.
- Antiseptic cream and paracetamol – Essential for cuts and headaches. They can be bought very cheaply at Boots.
- Electronic Cigarettes & Vapes – Both are illegal in Thailand. You will see some people smoking them but be aware that there are fines of up to $1000. It is also illegal to import them.
- Small Bags – These are on sale cheaply throughout Thailand. A Bum bag or similar is good for keeping your phone, passport, keys & small items in. Plastic bags are now banned in Thailand. A small cloth bag is essential for shopping though you can buy one cheaply in any 7-11 store.
- Torch – It is a good idea to have a small torch. You don’t need to bring one with you as they are on sale cheaply in stores such as Tesco. A torch is useful if you are visiting the Islands or the countryside where lighting is not always good.
- Travel Wallets – Wallets that fit around your waist or neck can be bought easily in most tourist areas. It is cheaper to buy them in Thailand than at an airport or in your home country. You can also buy plastic waterproof ones though these are not recommended for underwater use.
- Toilet Paper, Tissues, Wet Wipes, Hand Sanitizer – These are available everywhere in Thailand at a cheap price.
- Waterproof Backpack/Suitcase Covers – These are available in Thailand at a reasonable price.
- Water Bottles – Personal water bottles are cheap in Thailand. No need to bring one with you.
Thailand Travel Essentials – Travel Insurance
One of the most important Thailand Travel Essentials is insurance. Bangkok is generally a safe travel destination, though accidents, sickness, and theft are not uncommon. Traveling without Insurance is risky as you can never tell what may happen and you could be left with a large bill or financial loss. The following are all travel Insurance essentials …
- Medical expenses due to illness/accident
- Evacuation to your home country
- Repatriation of your body if you die
- Personal Liability
- Trip cancellation/curtailment leading to the loss of non-refundable deposits or pre-payments
- loss/theft of personal money/possessions/baggage/travel documents
- Flight/baggage delay/missed connecting flights
- Airline/Travel company bankruptcy
Read more detail about Thailand Travel Insurance
Thailand Travel Essentials – Insurance Advice
If you are planning to hire cars or motorbikes make sure you are fully insured for that vehicle as you will be responsible for any damage to it and any others involved in the case of an accident if not insured. Check policies carefully for coverage details.
Don’t try to make false claims on your Insurance by claiming false theft. Thai police are wise to this and they will fully investigate your claims. Penalties are harsh if you get caught cheating.