Traveling to Thailand
So you’re traveling to Thailand and you have no clue what to pack or bring? I can totally relate to this! When I went to Thailand for the first time I made so many packing mistakes that I regretted. Luckily for you, I have written this post to try to save you from making the same errors.
There is nothing worse than being two days into a three week trip and realizing that you have an entire suitcase full of clothes that you can’t wear and have to lug around from city to city. So instead of doing that (which is exactly what I did) read this post, invest in a few pieces of clothing and enjoy having luggage full of culturally and climate appropriate clothing.
Disclaimer- if you decide to purchase anything from the affiliate links in this post, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you.
Thailand is a conservative country
First and foremost you need to understand that Thailand is much more conservative than a lot of western countries. Please keep this in mind when you are packing for your trip. Showing too much skin or wearing clothes that are too tight is distasteful and can be offensive. As a guest of their country I believe you should do everything in your power to be respectful of their customs. As a visitor it is your job to have a basic understanding of what is acceptable attire and do your best to respect this. Although no one would think twice if you wore a tight-fitting crop top and booty shorts in northern California- you would make a lot of Thai people feel very uncomfortable in Chiang Mai.
I am going to tell you right now- you will see other travelers who do not dress respectfully. They wear whatever they would in summertime in their home country and honestly end up looking super trashy in Thailand. They stick out like a sore thumb and give off an ignorant vibe. I’m not saying these people don’t care, I think some of them simply don’t understand how disrespectful they are being to the Thais. So please, don’t be that girl that is making all the other travelers cringe!
If you are unsure if your clothing is OK just remember that there are Buddhist monks walking around all of the cities in Thailand in their golden-orange robes. At any given moment you may walk right by one. Would you feel comfortable walking by such a spiritual and respected person? If yes- then pack it! If no-then leave it home!
Thailand is HOT
I’m sure by now you have realized this, but Thailand is very warm. Depending on where you are going it is also very muggy. You need to keep this in mind when you are deciding what to pack. Don’t pack anything polyester or spandex because when you get warm in the sun you will just sweat through these materials and be super uncomfortable.
I highly recommend only bringing garments that are made from linen or light and breathable cottons. You want flow-y and light pieces to wear so that you aren’t walking around with your clothes stuck to your back because you sweated through them.
What shoes should you wear in Thailand?
If you have any type of wedge or high-heeled shoe in your bag- TAKE IT OUT. Do not bring any fashionable footwear like that. It’s a waste of packing space. You will A.) Never wear them or B.) Wear them one day, totally regret it and have blisters all over your feet. On average we walked about six miles per day. The buildings and infrastructure are all very old and the sidewalks are uneven and change elevation constantly. You don’t want to be tripping all over Thailand in high wedge sandals. It ain’t gonna happen. So take any high-heeled shoe out of your luggage, just do not pack them.
If you are staying in Airbnbs or hostels or other less traditional lodging accommodations I would throw a cheap pair of flip-flops in your luggage. One of our Airbnb’s had the shower in a separate building outside so the flip-flops were good to throw on to walk back and forth in. And another Airbnb had a kind of “open-air” bathroom and I just wore flip-flops in there and in the shower because I was nervous a little critter would find their way in there. Just your run-of-the-mill flip flop like these here is totally fine.
I would not pack flip-flops to plan on wearing as your everyday walking shoe. As I stated earlier, we walked about six miles per day and I think if I decided to wear flip-flops on these outings I would need a foot amputation by the end.
Ok, now that I have told you not to pack high heels or flip-flops for your Thailand trip, you are probably wondering what shoes you should actually bring for walking around in. I ended up bringing a couple varieties of shoes and I think that was a good idea. I would rotate between a few pairs so that the different pressure points on my feet would get a break. Being that we were walking and hiking I think this was the way to go.
I brought recommend a comfy and breathable flat for walking around the cities. There is a lot of dirt and grime when you walk around so a pair of closed toed shoes is nice. I purchased a pair of Tom’s and these were actually a really great shoe for the trip. I think having a pair of Tom’s or a similar style shoe is a very good item to pack.
Another kind of shoe you should bring is a comfortable, open toed sandal that you can walk all day in and doesn’t hurt your feet. For this shoe I brought my Sanuks. If you don’t own a pair of these you might want to look into them. The sole of the shoe is made out of a yoga mat so they are very comfortable to walk in. The straps are a thick but stretchy spandex so your feet feel very secure but you don’t get blisters because they are made of fabric instead of plastic or leather.
The last type of shoe I would suggest would be a hiking sandal. I would pack something like these if you plan on doing an excursions. We went to a temple that required some hiking in the mountains in Chiang Mai and also went on a tour of a tea farm. Having a good pair of hiking sandals definitely came in handy. This pair of Keen sandals are a great option. Look for something that has a solid sole that you can navigate some rugged terrain.
What kind of tops should I wear in Thailand?
As we have already established, the Thai are conservative. This being said try to avoid any low cut shirts that might expose too much cleavage. Sleeveless shirts are totally fine and tank tops are ok if they are conservatively cut. If you are going to wear spaghetti strap top, I would highly recommend that you put a shawl or kimono over it.
That’s what I ended up doing and that was totally fine. You can get light weight and cute kimonos in every color, I wish I would have brought a couple more because I ended up wearing the blue one in the picture almost everyday! This was also nice to have to going into the temples because you can not have your arms or shoulders exposed.
Aside from having a good shawl or kimono you should obviously pack several shirts. You really don’t want to pack spandex or tight shirts. The pink tank I am wearing in the pic above was actually awful. I had to wear a tank top underneath it so the double layer had me sweating my booty off. I did have some linen shirts that i kept wearing and those were so much more comfortable. I actually got a couple at Forever 21!
Between the linen tanks and kimonos, you should be good for tops to wear.
If you are going to be in northern Thailand you should pack a long sleev shirt or two, as it is a littler cooler in the morning and evening. But I wouldn’t waste precious luggage space packing bulky sweatshirts and hoodies.
What kind of bottoms should I wear in Thailand?
So as we already defined the Thai people to be conservative, it is probably common sense to you to be careful what kind of shorts you pack.
If your butt cheeks are visible- leave them at home. As it is so hot there, I don’t think you can really avoid wearing shorts altogether. When paired with a conservative top or a shawl/ kimono you can absolutely wear shorts.
I have read some blogs that try to say that shorts are unacceptable- I would have to say it depends on where you are going. We were in Chiang Mai, Bangkok and Koh Samui and I wore shorts in all three areas. And it was completely fine. If you are traveling to smaller cities or more remote areas then you should do a little more research on this topic.
I wore skirts a lot and as long as the length is appropriate they are a really great way to stay covered but fight the heat. The same idea of linen or light weight cotton garments applies.
Can I wear dresses in Thailand?
Absolutely! I had a simple black maxi dress that I wore several times. It was actually spaghetti strap so I would wear a little shawl over it to cover my shoulders a bit, however I’m not sure if this was necessary as I was completely covered to my toes. I think you can get away with a balance of conservative and a little more fashionable if done tastefully.
You also do not have to wear maxi dresses. Just use your best judgement with the knowledge you have. Again, you want to imagine you would be wearing these clothes in a sauna (especially if you are going to Bangkok) so remember not to bring tight, clingy garments.
Are rompers OK to wear in Thailand?
Yes! I wore several tasteful rompers when we were in Thailand. These actually offer a way to stay covered but still offer a little more style to your wardrobe. The only thing I would keep in mind is that if you are hanging out in less updated buildings- the bathrooms can be a little odd. So make sure you are OK with basically getting naked to pee when you wear a romper!
What kind of accessories do I need for Thailand?
I am going to keep this simple for you. Bring a good hat and a backpack.
You need a hat so that you don’t bake your brains out while walking around Bangkok or the beach cities. The good news is that you don’t have to try to strategically pack a straw hat if you don’t want to. You can buy a good hat for under $10 when you get to Thailand. That’s what I ended up doing! If you do decide to pack one, just make sure it’s breathable and comfy.
As far as a backpack. You need this mini backpack. This is the exact one that I wore all over Thailand. I used it as my carry-on for all of our flights and our day bag for all of our explorations. The reason why I love this bag so much is because you have to physically take it off your back to get into the main compartment. The zipper to open up the bag is against your back so you know that a pickpocket cant get into it to snag your wallet or passport. It’s super lightweight so you don’t feel like you have to go to the chiropractor after wearing it all day. You can fit a TON of stuff in here despite the fact that it is a mini. This is one of the strongest exact recommendations that I will make on this blog. Get this exact backpack!
Do you know where you are going to stay, or what you are going to do in Thailand? I have written several posts answering these questions that you should check out. Including Where to stay in Chiang Mai, Where to stay in Koh Samui, Bangkok vs. Chiang Mai and What to do in Chiang Mai.
Are you going to Thailand in the future? What kind of questions do you have?