What to Pack vs. What you’re Told | Thailand

There are many preconceived thoughts on what to bring to Thailand. For instance, maybe you’ve heard “Thai people are very conservative.” So you’re told not to bring clothing items like tank tops and jean shorts. Another opinion you might have heard is “the weather is too hot for jeans, jackets, flannels etc..” Many people believe that Thai culture is very modest. However, you’re not going to be shunned for wearing jean shorts and a crop top. In fact, many vendors sell brands like Levi’s and Wranglers.

I brought a minimal variety of clothes that were more modest then they had to be. Although you are required to wear long pants and cover your shoulders in order to enter a temple, daily casual wear is totally okay.

In this blog post, I will list the items I ended up packing because of what I was told. I will also list the clothing items I wish I should’ve brought.

Pack Luggage


What I was Told…

  • Loose Pants
  • T-Shirts that cover your shoulders
  • Shorts that are longer then your fingertips
  • No jeans or jean shorts
  • Closed toe shoes
  • Toiletries
  • Tampons
  • Medications
  • No hair products
  • Bug spray
  • Laundry Detergent
  • No phone plan
  • Reusable Water Bottle

Ill start at the top of the list and work my way down on why or why not these items were beneficial to bring.


Loose Pants

I am a person of comfort when it comes to clothing. Loose pants are always an option for laid back, lazy days. In Thailand, it was actually very beneficial bringing loose pants. However, there are TONS of options to buy from vendors. So don’t stress on packing too many pairs of loose pants because you will end up buying them here.


T-Shirts that Cover your Shoulders

Yes, this is vital for going into and visiting temples but I would HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend bringing tank tops. It is very humid in Thailand, so you will sweat a lot. My wardrobe at home consists mostly of tank tops and I only brought two. You can buy some at the markets but the sizes in Thailand run really small, well cause, they are genetically smaller. So it would be best to bring your favorites from home.


Shorts that are Longer then your Fingertips

It is definitely respectful to have shorts that are longer then your fingertips in Thailand. But as long as your ass isn’t hanging out of your shorts like this, Thai people won’t laugh at you…

This was taken by one of my friends at the Maya Mall in Chiang Mai. Incredible.


No Jeans or Jean Shorts

Many people will tell you that Thailand is way too hot for jeans or they will never dry if you wash them because of the lack of drying machines. However, this is probably the number one item I regret not bringing. I brought one pair of jean shorts (and actually ended up buying a really comfortable pair of jean shorts to add to my collection) and no jeans. Jeans are really nice because you will end up going out to bars and if you want to be more “modest” but still stylish, jeans are perfect. Although it is hot and rains at least once a day, my friends who brought jeans haven’t had a problem with them yet. As for washing and drying, they air dry pretty fast as long as kept in an air conditioned room since it is so humid outside.


Closed Toe Shoes

This is one of the items on the list that I actually recommend. Since it rains quite a bit, the streets stay wet and you will come back to your bed with dirty, muddy feet after walking around the town. Closed toe shoes also seem to be more comfortable when walking long distances. I’ve walked about 5-8 miles a day since I’ve been in Thailand. Of course, if your feet do get painful and tired, you can always get a Thai massage but I do think it’d be in your best interest to bring a pair of closed toe shoes you’re comfortable in.


Toiletries

I was prepared to not have any stores that sold American brands of shampoo, conditioner, or body wash. What I was told was that Thai people put bleach in a great amount of products in order to make their skin whiter. WHICH IS TRUE. There are a lot of products that contain bleach, but there are many stores and 7/11’s where you can buy the same toiletries you use at home. If you are particular with what you like to use, bring your own. I did and I didn’t regret carrying the extra weight of shampoo in my luggage. On the other hand, if you are backpacking and don’t have room in your bag, don’t worry theres plenty of options to purchase.


Tampons

I separated this section from toiletries because I feel like it’s very important for women to know that tampons aren’t a popular commodity here. I have seen very few stores that sell tampons and if they are sold, they are usually located in more touristy areas like Pai. I knew this before I came to Thailand, so I was prepared, but a lot of people coming to Thailand don’t know this. Make sure you grab a pack and throw it in your bag before you hop on a plane to Thailand.


Medications

If you are going to be in Thailand for a while, definitely bring refills of your prescribed medication with you. There are many pharmacies located in Thailand however, they may not carry your prescribed medication since some medications that are legal in your country, might not be legal in Thailand. As for over-the-counter medications, I bought them before I came to Thailand. I would say that it’s your choice of whether or not you want to bring medications like Advil with you or buy them here but if you decide to buy them here, it might be more difficult to read what it is because most items are labeled in Thai.


Hair Products

“It’s too humid, your hair will be frizzy and you won’t want to do it anyway.” That is what I was told before I came here. I brought my curling iron anyway. I naturally have really wavy hair and don’t typically straighten my hair. I will say that if you have wavy hair, like me, it definitely won’t stay straight. The minute you walk outside it will be curly again. I have worn my hair up the majority of the time that I have been here, however, I do like to curl my hair every once and a while so it has been nice having my curling iron.


Bug Spray | Malaria Pills

Mosquitos LOVE me. I didn’t get bit the first week I was here, but once I got my first bite, I got 100. By week 3 my legs were covered in itchy, red bites. I looked like I had a disease. There are tons of bugs sprays to buy here. “Off” works well as long as it has a good amount of deet in it. Most brands from out of the country DO NOT work on the bugs in Thailand. I would suggest bringing one from home and buying one here. If you get itchy, there are amazing products here for that. I bought a mosquito balm (90 cents) that worked magic on my legs. As for Malaria Pills, malaria is not common in Thailand. I know plenty of people who bought the pills and didn’t use them. If you plan on traveling around to places where malaria is prominent, like Malaysia, maybe bring them with you as a safety net.


Laundry Detergent

YOU ARE NOT GOING INTO A COUNTRY THAT DOESN’T SELL LAUNDRY DETERGENT. There are “laundry mats” everywhere and most hostels you stay at will offer laundry services. The laundry mats, for only $3-$4 USD will wash, iron, and fold any clothing items you drop off. Very convenient. If you choose to do your own laundry, 7/11 sells packets of laundry detergent from .10 to .30 cents.


No Phone Plan

I will start off by saying I have never felt unsafe in Thailand. I went without a phone plan for about 3/6 weeks I was here. It was really nice disconnecting from the internet and actually enjoying the present moment. It’s sad to say that most of our generation is unable to disconnect like that. Around week 3, I wanted to start doing things on my own. Just like Uber, Thailand has a company called Grab but the only way you can call a Grab is if you have cellular data. I had to depend on other people and what they were doing if I wanted to go places. Sometimes when I would go with a group, the markets would get overcrowded and I would end up separated from them. It was difficult to contact anyone and in this moment I was unable to call a Grab to get home. Of course, Tuk Tuks and Red Trucks are always available as “taxis” to take you home, but it will be more expensive traveling by yourself.


Re-Usable Water Bottle

I brought my Hydroflask and haven’t used it once. Thailand’s tap water is NOT drinkable so you have to buy bottled water everywhere. Yes, even at restaurants. Water is not free. I would save the hassle of lugging around your re-usable water bottle.


What’re you’re not told to pack but should bring…

  • Cash
  • A Pillow
  • A rain jacket
  • Water shoes
  • Hiking boots
  • Don’t bring your hydroflask.

Cash

The majority of places in Thailand are CASH ONLY. So make sure you bring plenty of cash with you to exchange. There will be many ATMs located around you but will result in a $7 charge every time you take money out. Make sure you use an ATM located inside of a building or a mall, just to keep your credit card information safe.


A Pillow

Nobody tells you that in Thailand, all of the beds are rock hard. Actually.  Thai people like to keep their beds firm in order to prevent overheating in the middle of the night. If you have a sensitive neck or just prefer a certain pillow over others, I would definitely bring your own pillow.


A Rain Jacket

If you’re coming in between May and October, it is monsoon season in Thailand. It usually only rains once a day around 5 or 6pm. But when it rains, it thunderstorms. Straight downpour. So invest in a rain jacket, disposable poncho, or umbrella. It’ll really help you stay dry throughout your trip!


Hiking Boots/Water Shoes/Sandals

The rain creates a wonderful muddy slip and slide for you and your friends when trekking through the jungle. These types of shoes will be really helpful when hiking up waterfalls. Some of the areas are very rocky and slippery. Invest in a pair of hiking boots, water shoes or water sandals before coming to Thailand. Avoid the pain.


Leggings

I ended up wearing my only pair of LuluLemons on a 25 mile trek through the jungle and they were amazing. Breathable, durable, and they dried really quickly after it rained. Even if you don’t own a pair of LuluLemons, I would suggest bringing your favorite pair of leggings for lounging, hiking and yoga.


Of course everyone’s style differs. Bring what you think will make your trip the most comfortable!

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