1) Light clothes, easy to wash
Pack minimally, because it’s easy to find affordable clothing here in Thailand.
Take note of the weather before you pack. It can be hot-hot, humid-hot, or actually very chilly in Thailand, so you might need to pack a raincoat or a couple of jumpers.
Make sure you also pack modest clothes that will cover knees, chest and shoulders for visiting temples.
2) Travel Adapter
Don’t forget your travel adaptor. They’re easy to find at the airport but trickier to locate once you’re here. Adaptors for USB are readily available in any 7-Eleven, but for a classic plug adaptor you’ll have to hunt high and low. And you wouldn’t want to be without a fully charged camera, would you?
3) Sun block
As with many cosmetics here, sun block tends to contain whitening ingredients. It’s also very expensive, and hard to find anything less than a factor 50.
4) Reusable water bottle
Don’t add to Thailand’s problem with single use plastic. Most hostels, hotels and street food restaurants will allow you to top up your water bottle for free.
If you don’t have one yet and are coming to Chai Lai first, we sell Trash Hero bottles for 150THB. These allow you to top up for free all over Thailand!
5) Shoes with decent grip
Unless you’re a Karen guide who’s been trekking jungle paths since you were tiny, sometimes flip flops just don’t cut it. If you plan to do any serious hiking, bring some shoes with decent grip - especially if you’re visiting in rainy season.
Flip flops aren’t always the best in smart city venues either. Bring some sandals or light shoes if you’re planning to live the high life in Bangkok.
6) Pre-paid cash card
It’s safer than carrying around wads of cash all the time, and you’re less likely to overspend. Although Thailand is a cash-based economy, withdrawing at an ATM can feel risky. Knowing that you’ve only got a limited amount of funds on your prepaid card (which you can top up any time online) is very reassuring. Currency cards and travel cards are an even better option.
You’ve gone off-the-beaten-track and you’re on the way to a homestay in a Karen Hilltribe village. It’s getting dark. You’ve got a torch on your phone but the battery’s super low and you know you won’t be able charge your phone at the homestay.
Lots of rural Thais have really fantastic rechargeable head torches that allow you to light your way totally hands-free. Do yourself a favour and throw a flashlight in your suitcase, just in case.
8) Important medications
It’s easy to get most medications in Thailand cheaply at a pharmacy. But it’s a bit hit and miss. If there’s a medication that is very important for you, make sure you pack enough to last for your whole holiday. Also, vitamins and probiotics are available here but they’re really expensive, so it’s worth bringing your own supply. Keep any medication (or vitamins) that you’re bringing in their original packets, just in case your bags are searched at the airport.
9) Thai SIM card
SIM cards are easy and cheap to pick up in the airport. Get a tourist package with unlimited data - it will honestly make everything so much easier, from navigating in the Thai countryside, to finding the best nearby eatery.
Having a Thai number is especially useful if you’re planning to stay in Airbnbs, when it’s more important to be able to easily contact your host.
10) Thai phrase book
Last year over 38 million tourists passed through Thailand. Be one of the ones who can say more than ‘Sawadee kha’ and ‘Khob khun kha’. Vendors, tour guides, and hotel staff will be surprised and appreciative to see you trying to get to grips with their language. It’s one way to show your gratitude for the amazing journey you’re on.
Things that can be hard to find
1) Good underwear
Decent underwear is really tricky to find in Thailand. It’s mostly synthetic and cheaply made. Anything better is very pricey and only to be found in nice department stores.
2) Shoes and clothes in bigger sizes
If you’re anything bigger than a US size 8 it’s going to be challenging to find clothes in Thailand. A US 10 is an XXL (slightly demoralising) and shoes don’t really come in sizes bigger than an EU41. If you have a bigger frame, don’t rely on being able to find clothes here.
3) Feminine hygiene products
Tampons aren’t popular in South East Asia so they’re only stocked in 7-Elevens in extremely touristy areas, or Boots in big malls. Bring your own, or better yet, invest in a menstrual cup.
4) Decaf coffee
If you’re a coffee lover, you’ll love Thailand - the coffee culture here is fantastic, with loads of locally grown beans, fancy cafes, and everything from drip to cold brew to signature drinks like Thai Tea Coffee blend. But if you’re a coffee lover who doesn’t get on with caffeine, you’re out of luck. Decaf isn’t really offered anywhere. Sorry!
Unless you like bleaching your armpits, bring enough deoderant to last your whole trip.
Easy to find in Thailand
1) Cheap and cute cosmetics
Thais place a lot of value on looking good so decent cosmetics are everywhere. There’s a huge market for Japanese and Korean products too, which are much cheaper to buy here than back home in the US or Europe. Stock up if you love makeup! Just watch out for skin-bleaching ingredients.
2) Mosquito repellent
Every 7-Eleven stocks Soffell mosquito repellent - the spray is 12% DEET. There will also always be a natural, citronella based repellent. For anything with a higher percentage of DEET, go to a pharmacy.
3) Over the counter medicines
Paracetamol, first aid, Immodium (here’s hoping you don’t need it), most antibiotics - nearly everything is easy to buy over the counter in Thai pharmacies, so there’s no need to pack a huge medicine bag.