What to bring with you?
Often guests ask us what kind of clothing and shoes to take when come to Thailand……
Clothing is a personal matter and it also depends very much which parts of Thailand you plan to visit, so we not give you a standard list what to bring or not (plenty on internet of these) but come with suggestions and more important why we suggest it. This way you can decide if it is applicable for yourself.
Before you start packing, first consider the bags you plan to use. Big suitcases, with or without wheels, should be avoided since they can become an issue in taxies (often large gastanks in the trunks), trains and other local means of transport. Stairs, steps, uneven sidewalks with potholes, small corridors, partly blocked ways and many more obstacles are everywhere. Even the short walk from the taxi to and in your hotel becomes a crime with big suitcases.You’re better off using medium or small size suitcase or travelog; just make sure it has wheels to pull it around as much as possible, but certainly has good handgrips on top and preferable side too, so you can carry it when required.
Most visitors of Thailand stay not just at one place but travel around, so make sure your bags are easy to manage. A small, light suitcase combined with small backpack is ideal; a backpack is very handy for excursions, day trips and to use for cabin luggage, not in last place since it keeps your hands free.
And trust me, you do not need a large or big suitcase…… Thailand has a tropical climate and you will dress accordingly, hence jackets, jeans (!), pull-overs and sweaters you should leave home.
It is however advisable to have one sweater, hoodie or similar with you in your cabin luggage (backpack); in planes there is often a draft and temperatures are cold, so something on hand to slip on over your (T)shirt comes in handy.
Once in Thailand you normally not need it anymore, but it is always possible you face a chilly evening (specially in Dec, Jan and Feb in North or NorthEastern parts when temperatures can reach 15 degrees C) and the various shopping-malls and skytrain (BTS) in Bangkok have strong blowing airco’s…….. actually every 7-11 convenience store feels freezing cold when you enter it.
Using a small, light suitcase means that you can not put much in it…….. I hear you thinking how to get 3 weeks of clothing in one small suitcase……..
Well, first of all, Thailand does have washing machines and nearly every hotel got some kind of laundry service. And if they don’t, there are laundry services around. 7-8 kg of laundry washing cost you typically not more than 200 THB, although this depends on the part of Thailand and certainly class of hotel you are in.
So in principle you only have to pack clothings for a week; and if you run out, just go to one of the many markets or shops and buy a shirt for few baht.
TIP: pack some “out of fashion” shirts etc, wear them few times and then leave them behind. You make somebody happy and same time you have place for that new shirt you couldn’t resist buying.
When packing consider the tropical climate…… cotton or linnen shirts, shorts, trousers, dresses are ideal. Leave jeans home; heavy and too hot to wear. Cotton socks are useful if you want to wear sneakers or other closed shoes. Avoid anything made of polyester or other artificial material.
And include minimal 1 shirt with long sleeves; nothing wrong to color your teint, but the skin on your arms is not used exposed to powerful sunshine for longer time. Same is of course applicable for your legs; they appreciate have protection from sun by use of cotton or linnen trousers so now and then.
A pet, cap or hat is useful for same reason, specially if your head has thin or limited hair. Inexpensive and for sale everywhere so not bother to take it with you.
Something you absolutely need once in Thailand is your swimming gear. With 30+ degrees Celcius all year round, a dive in pool, ocean or any water is welcome. Gents do best to use swimming shorts. Tight swim slips or Tangas are allowed but absolutely not appriciated. Thai people typicall dress conservative and specially when going for a swim. Men wear shorts, T-shirts and even jeans or similar; you hardly see Thai men without shirt in the water, however this is more to protect against the sun than be shy. Nobody feels abused or shocked when (foreign) men swim without T-shirt, although they will look at you as you're from another planet but that is due to your white body.
For ladies it is certainly possible to wear bikini but please be sensitive in selecting your outfit; keep it decent to avoid becoming the show off at the beach or in pool. TopLess is NOT-done in Thailand and you should never do that !! When you wear a too sexy bikini, you will get many more looks than you were hoping on when bought it. Thai ladies typically wear bathingsuits where the underpart is also covered by some type of skirt attached; or like the men they wear shorts, T-shirt (with bra under it).
When you go for a dive in waterfalls or other natural pools besides hotel swimmingpool, be advised that your expensive swimming gear from your home country easily gets damaged by the raw surface of rocks. I speak out of experience and went home with swimshorts where the butt part was completely worn out..... sure lots of fun for others but bit embarrassing and costly (buy a new one) for yourself. Best is to wear cut-off jeans or just a cheap short and if you like, slip in a T-shirt.
Females should take a dress or similar, they can easily slip over shorts and shirt. Even if you avoid the temples, there are many places where females need to ensure legs are covered till under the knee, shoulders are not visible and breast fully covered. A simple dress with elastic works just fine and if you do not have it, choices enough once in Thailand. Whatever you chose it should be light and compact foldable so you can have it as standard in your backpack or handbag and on hand when needed; you notice you need it more than you expected before.
TIP: a shawl works on shoulders and breasts, but not to cover your legs since it will have a split. If you use a shawl ensure it is not a thin one; you should not be able to see through.
Oh and before I forget: even if you visit Thailand in rain season, leave rain protection home. For 25 THB you buy a (re-usable) raincoat at 7-11 and umbrellas are easy to get too.
And now very important: what to use on your feet……..
You notice that nearly all Thai people wear slippers and of course for a reason. In Asia it is not done to wear shoes inside (why you think all these shoes are at entrance), so when you enter temple, house and even shops you should leave your footwear outside. It is annoying if you need to undo your shoestrings and take your shoes off every single time, specially when you see others easily leave their slippers behind in split second. Something many forget, once your shoes are off you wear your socks and due to climate they most likely not smell fresh and leave traces behind due to sweaty feet.
Sidenote: Business wise Thai people do wear shoes and socks but always step-in-models and only because they have to as part of their (company / school) dress code.
I certainly would recommend everyone to get a good, solid set of slippers or outdoor footwear like Teva or Scholl footwear. These are available in Thailand in mainly shopping malls, cost approximately same as your homecountry but might not be available in your size…… best is to buy these at home in advance so you can get used to them before starting your trip.Many visitors take sneakers or boat shoes with them; besides the earlier mentioned inconvience (sweating and undo shoestrings) they might cause, often the grip of these type of shoes is poorly. Trust me, many sightseeing spots have paths of wood, stone or other natural material and I noticed that sneakers just do not find grip, risking a nasty slip.
For myself I wear always Scholl slippers. OK fair enough to mention I am used to it being in Thailand for over 6 years, so I can drive car, scooters, motor, climb stairs and rocks and basically just everything using these. The footbed is solid and supporting (important to avoid tired legs at end of day) and my feet can “breath” all day avoiding smelly feet. Yes, my feet become more dirty being exposed to dust, sun, dirt, water and of course walking bare feet where required, but that is easily washed off during a shower or just under a watertap along the road.
In any case, do not take footwear like high heels, heavy outdoor shoes or shoes with lots of shoestring…….. you will not use these and become dead weight.
Just have a pair of easy slip on shoes with you when you feel to dress up…….. on the other side, you do not need to dress up and in case you do, a pair of shoes can be as cheap as few hundred baht so quickly bought. Ladies, the condition of Thai footpaths make you regret wearing heels…….
So basically you only need one pair of good slippers/sandals as described above and maybe a pair of easy slip on shoes.
Once in Thailand I advise everybody to buy a set of plastic slippers (flip-flops) to use in your hotel, around pools etc etc. You find these everywhere in prices from 20 thb to way over 1000 thb; if it has a brand-name, you pay for it !!! Go for the cheapest ones so you not regret if you forget them. With respect to brand names: Thai love to show off but typically not on shoewear so your 1200 THB brand name slippers will go unnoticed.
Well above is our advise and I can ensure you when you search the internet you find many lists what to take and not. As mentioned in the beginning, clothing and shoes are personal matter and every person is different. Also it strongly depends if you go for a beach holiday at one spot or plan to travel through various regions of Thailand doing sightseeing. Our experience is mainly based on our region but from personal experience I know it is valid in other parts of Thailand too.
That is why we didn’t just published a list but explain a bit more in detail what to expect and what we suggest; hope it helps you a bit.