The Ultimate Packing List for Thailand
A trip to Thailand is practically a rite of passage for any seasoned traveler. Its enormous popularity is well-earned: postcard-perfect slices of white sand backed by mossy emerald karst mountains; ancient ruins and ornate temples; mind-bogglingly delicious food at unbelievably cheap prices; all-night parties that fade into lazy mornings filled with spa treatments; and enough scuba diving, rock climbing, kayaking, and trekking opportunities to satiate even the biggest thrill-seeker. Did I mention you can bathe with baby elephants? If it sounds like paradise, that’s because it is.
There are plenty of ways to do Thailand, from backpacking and roughing it on a budget to luxuriating on a romantic getaway. Any way you plan to travel, the packing lists are surprisingly similar, as you’ll have to prepare for sweltering sun, sand, humidity, and bugs — lots and lots of bugs.
So that you can focus on planning the itinerary of a lifetime rather than worry about what to bring, we’ve assembled the ultimate packing list for any type of trip to Thailand, no matter if you’re bunking up in a 10-person dorm or planning to lounge in a private infinity pool in the honeymoon suite. Use this list as a packing guide and you’ll have everything you need for hopping between the incredible cities, islands, and mountains of the Land of Smiles.
Cutter Backwoods Dry Insect Repellent
Mosquitos in Thailand are everywhere and they will get you. Understandably, many people have an aversion to DEET products, but in trial after trial, it is the only ingredient that consistently works in preventing mosquito and other insect bites. And given the prevalence of mosquito-borne diseases, such as dengue fever, Zika, malaria, and now super malaria, bug repellent will become your best friend in Southeast Asia. This one goes on dry and doesn’t have the greasy feel of most other DEET products.
To buy: amazon.com, $8
Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Natural Insect Repellent
Stash this smaller spritz bottle in your day bag to bring with you on al fresco lunches and dinners. The lemon-eucalyptus scent is more pleasant than the chemical scent of DEET, and it’s all natural, so your tablemates may not object if you need to apply some during the meal.
To buy: amazon.com, $4
Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Picaridin Towelettes
To apply repellent to more sensitive areas such as your face and neck, these towelettes will do the trick.
To buy: amazon.com, $8
It may seem like overkill to pack your own mosquito net, but we'd highly recommend it if you plan to stay somewhere that may not have one. Not only is it actually the most effective way to avoiding mosquito bites (and the diseases they carry), it will give you peace of mind when tucking into bed, as well as the ability to get a decent night’s sleep without any bugs buzzing in your ear — or biting your face (speaking from first-hand experience).
To buy: amazon.com, $41
Zimmerman Corsair Floral-print Triangle Bikini
This stylish two-piece has celebrity devotees (seen on the likes of Emily Ratajkowski, Kendall Jenner, and Karlie Kloss), but we like it for the pretty, brick-red floral print that reminds us of the warm spices of Thai cooking and Chiang Mai's cherry blossoms abloom in winter. With adjustable straps, you can also wear this top comfortably all day without having to fidget with retying and readjusting.
Mara Hoffman One-piece Swimsuit
You’ll be spending a lot of time — likely the majority of your time — in a swimsuit, especially if you plan to go island hopping. This terracotta one-piece is perfect for when you want a little more coverage. Throw on some shorts and go from the beach to the bar looking effortlessly put-together.
To buy: net-a-porter.com, $275
Wide-brim Packable Straw Hat
The sun gets extremely strong near the equator, and all that time spent roasting on the beach isn’t going to do your skin any favors. Protect the delicate skin on your face and neck with this hat from J.Crew, which features a slightly wider brim than most Panama hats or fedoras for better coverage. Plus, it’s packable so it won’t lose shape in your bag.
To buy: jcrew.com, $55
Aila Blue Sarong
Not only can a sarong be used as an easy swim cover-up, but on days when you don't want to carry around a beach towel, it can substitute as a lightweight, fast-drying towel that easily stuffs into your day bag. Besides, you never know when your hiking or boating adventure will take you to a nice stretch of sand to sunbathe on.
To buy: revolve.com, $68
Beach Rio Carter Pant
Pull on these comfy pants at the end of a long day of activity — practicing yoga, snorkeling, taking cooking classes, or playing with monkeys — and settle into a lounger as you sip fresh coconut water (out of a whole green coconut, of course) to watch the sun melt into the horizon.
To buy: revolve.com, $110
Made of ultralight, sheer cotton, this white tunic will keep you cool in the midday heat and look chic for when you’re ready to hit the pool for happy hour drinks.
When visiting Buddhist temples, it's best to respect proper dress codes, even if many of the more "touristy" temples have become more lenient. Shoulders should be covered and pants or a long skirt should cover your knees. Pair this cover-up with the pants above and you’ll be all set.
To buy: jcrew.com, $85
Izara Striped Cotton-blend Sun Dress
Easy, breezy one-piece clothing that allows for maximum airflow will be your lifesaver in the sweltering humidity.
To buy: barneys.com, $295
The Special Occasion Dress
Generally speaking, you can leave the fancy clothes at home when packing for Thailand. But if you're headed there for a special reason — be it honeymoon, anniversary trip, or just a couples' retreat — you’ll need that one “wow” dress for when you splurge on a fancy dinner or romantic sunset cruise. Lightweight and flowy (spotting a trend here?), this Camilla dress has a flirty front tie and a feminine floral print — perfect for pulling out the stops on that special occasion night.
To buy: shopbop.com, $550
Athleta Organic Daily Racerback Tank
Cotton is an excellent fabric for humid climes, as it allows for sufficient airflow and while absorbing sweat and moisture from your skin (hello, pit stains). Made from ultra-thin organic cotton, this breathable tank will be a go-to for day-to-day wear in Thailand.
To buy: athleta.com, $29
Lululemon Flo Y Bra
A comfortable, moisture-wicking sports bra will be all you'll want to wear under your shirts (that is, when you're not wearing a bathing suit). With medium to light support, this one is great for everyday wear, but also for yoga, hiking, and rock climbing. You will sweat through it, but it'll be easy to wash and hang dry.
To buy: lululemon.com, $48
Zella Switchback Active Shorts
For hiking and other active pursuits, avoid running shorts with built-in briefs, which just adds another layer of fabric to sweat through. Instead, go for this Zella pair: the zippered pockets are a huge plus for travel and the modest length is more appropriate for Southeast Asia's conservative dressing customs.
To buy: nordstrom.com, $55
Bring one warm piece of clothing. You may need it at night if you go trekking in the mountains north of Chiang Mai, and you'll be grateful for layers when you're blasted with the frigid air conditioning in trains, buses, ferries, and airports.
To buy: athleta.com, $79
Chaco ZCloud Sport Sandals
A cult-favorite among almost anyone who has ever worn them, these sandals have a sturdy, supportive sole that is tough enough to weather rocky trails and cushioned enough to feel, well, like you’re walking on clouds. With adjustable straps, they’ll stay snug on your feet for comfortable all-day wear, and with minimal material on top, they’ll dry quickly after tubing down rivers and wading through waterfalls.
To buy: amazon.com, from $70
There is no better footwear to take you from juice bar to beach to outdoor shower to spa to night market than a staple pair of flip-flops. Truth be told: if you’re not much of an active adventurer and plan to be doing more beach bumming than anything else, this could be the only pair of shoes you’ll need for the entire trip.
To buy: zappos.com, $18
Vince 'Georgie' Slide Sandal
These chic slides with comfortable rubber soles make the perfect sandal to slip on and off at the pool, for bar hopping in Bangkok, or wearing to and from your afternoon Thai massage. They can even be dressed up for that special occasion night.
To buy: nordstrom.com, $195
Marmot PreCip Lightweight Rainjacket
Depending on if you go during rainy season, a lightweight, breathable rain jacket will be a must, which is exactly what the Marmot PreCip delivers. With armpit vents and a breathable NanoPro coating, it’ll help keep you dry without making you sweat (too much).
Raen Arlo Sunglasses
With as much time as you’ll be spending outdoors, you’ll need a solid pair of sunglasses. These classic frames look great on just about any face shape, as well as with any outfit — and, most importantly, provide 100% UV protection.
To buy: anthropologie.com, $170
Billie Striped Tote Bag
Made by Mercado Global, a company conceived on a trip to Latin America, this funky tote was designed with the spirit of travel. Its handy interior side pockets are great for easy boarding pass and passport retrieval, the canvas will stand up to the sand at the beach, and its cool boho design makes for an Instagram-worthy vacation companion.
To buy: anthropologie.com, $118
Lo & Sons Pearl Cross-body Bag
A cross-body bag with a top zipper is a must in crowded markets and busy tourist areas where pickpockets and bag snatchers might be on the prowl. The Lo & Sons Pearl has a minimalist exterior design, so it'll go with pretty much any outfit, but the interior is packed with slots and zippered pockets to keep all your valuables and money secure. The adjustable strap even comes off to convert into a clutch for a fancier night out.
To buy: loandsons.com, $149 (originally $248)
Get an e-reader loaded up with plenty of beach reads, because you’re about to have some long flights and many hours of idling on the sand. The Kindle Paperwhite is pretty much the gold standard in this department, with no glare even in bright sunlight, and this white version won’t get quite as hot to hold in the sun.
To buy: amazon.com, $120
Osprey Daylite Plus Daypack
While a tote works just fine for bringing your sunscreen and towel to and from the beach, a lightweight daypack is crucial for hiking, biking, boating, and rock climbing adventures around Thailand. With a back panel made of slotted foam and mesh, this pack will help keep your back as cool as possible in the heat.
To buy: amazon.com, $65
Mpow Bluetooth Selfie Stick
You didn’t spend 25 hours in a cramped airplane seat only to leave Southeast Asia sans photographic evidence. (And we all know how disastrous the results can be when you ask a random passerby to take a photo.) This Bluetooth selfie stick allows you to snap photos with a remote button on the handle, and at only 5.6 ounces and 7.1 inches compressed, you’ll easily be able to stuff this somewhere in your day bag where it won’t be an annoyance.
To buy: amazon.com, $11
GoPro Hero5 Black
Now innately waterproof (no more having to mess with housing) and capable of capturing crisp 4K HD video, a GoPro is the essential adventure camera to toss in your bag as you set off for a snorkeling, diving, rock climbing, or elephant-bathing excursion. Just be aware that if you’re planning to dive deeper than 33 feet (10 meters), you will actually have to use an additional waterproof case.
To buy: amazon.com, starts at $200 for camera only
A lot of Southeast Asia is well-connected via short flights, and it’s often a great time saver to hop a quick flight from island to island rather than travel by ground transportation to ferry. But a lot of those flights are operated by carriers that will charge you a handsome fee for carrying on luggage that’s overweight, even by just by half a kilo. Bring this scale along to make sure you’re not caught off-guard at the airport and hit with unexpected fees.
To buy: amazon.com, $10
La Roche-Posay Face Sunscreen
Plenty of sunscreen is skincare rule number one while traipsing from beach to trail to boat. And, as you’ll likely be sweating or splashing around in the waves, you’ll want to pick a sunscreen with sweat- and water-resistant properties. To protect the skin on your face (and keep those fine lines and wrinkles at bay) opt for La Roche-Posay Anthelios, which is highly rated by Consumer Reports and beauty bloggers alike. It goes on smooth and silky, without a heavy, greasy residue.
To buy: amazon.com, $36
Banana Boat Sport Sunscreen
Although it’s tempting to go with a spray sunscreen for easy application, we still recommend a lotion so that you’re less likely to miss spots. This one will stay put and won’t run, even when the hot tropical sun makes you sweat.
To buy: amazon.com, $8
Wet wipes are a surprisingly amazing travel accessory. Not only can you use them for freshening up when you’re feeling a bit soggy from the heat, but they’re also great for quickly cleaning messes or having handy when there's seemingly as much street food on your hands as there is in your stomach.
To buy: amazon.com, $27 (pack of 12)
Many public bathrooms in Southeast Asia don’t supply toilet paper, which means if you’re not particularly keen on drip drying, you’ll have to always carry your own. Bring as many of these little tissue packs as you can fit into your luggage. Break up the box and stick single packs here and there (in shoes, in external pockets) to maximize space.
To buy: amazon.com, $8 (pack of 16)
Purell Hand Sanitizer
Like toilet paper, many public bathrooms don't carry soap. After your first squat toilet experience, you'll be grateful to have some hand sanitizer handy.
To buy: amazon.com, $12 (pack of 4)
Tampons with applicators are hard to find in Southeast Asia. Bring your own if you expect to need them during your trip, especially if you have a preference for a certain brand.
To buy: amazon.com, $21
Sea to Summit DryLite Microfiber Towel
If you’re backpacking or staying in hostels for any part of your trip, you’ll need to bring your own towel. This one is super light and packable and dries ridiculously fast, even in humid conditions.
To buy: amazon.com, from $8