Asking Yourself, What To Pack For Thailand?

I know I know…there are thousand’s of “how to pack” articles floating around the internet about packing for a holiday or trip. To be honest, I didn’t read that many, but the ones I did read seem quite generic, bland and all the same…roll your cloths don’t fold them etc. So the most important thing to keep in mind on the question of what to pack for Thailand is to make sure you ROLL not fold your cloths! OK, just kidding! I’m really just going to cut to the chase and give you some ‘in country’ tips that I have done over the years on the general topic of bringing and buying cloths in Thailand.

The Question Isn’t What To Pack For Thailand – But What Not To Pack!

The very first thing before looking at what to pack for Thailand is to work out what you want to bring back from Thailand! Thailand = tee shirt heaven (and just about everything else), so if you are looking to update/expand your wardrobe, you’ve chosen the right country to visit. Rather than plan for a week+ of clothing supply, you can cut that down to a day or two until you see yourself out and about on a shopping spree. I have literally landed in Thailand with the shirt on my back and one spare tee shirt in my suitcase and purchased the rest of my shirts while in Thailand. I do however take my own socks and underwear to last me as I don’t really want to be hunting down buying that stuff during my holiday.

What To Pack For Thailand – Work Out What You’ll Be Doing

This will be your next biggest consideration in what to pack for Thailand. It may seem obvious, but unless you are attending a formal occasion such as a wedding reception in a hotel, business meeting or hitting the hi-so night clubs, you can really get by with the casual clothing you would normally wear at home. Other than the previous noted occasions, 99% of the time if I need to go somewhere and “dress smart” in Thailand, a pair of well presented (meaning not ripped) jeans, collard shirt and sneakers will be good enough.

Cargo Pants

I’m a big fan of cargo shorts/pants. The reason being is their ability to hold a lot of stuff securely. You can keep your wallet and credit cards on one side and your passport and other documents (including hotel room cards, BTS cards) on the other side of the lower pockets. I then keep small change (less than 1,000 baht) in one of my upper pockets and my phone in the other. I never use back pockets when overseas. The other thing is to get cargo pants with buttons to secure the pockets. You can get Velcro or clips, but make sure it takes a bit of effort to open them and always keep the pockets done up otherwise you are defeating the purpose. I’ve only had one (unsuccessful) attempt of being pick-pocketed and about 2 situations that put me on guard but nothing happened on those occasions.

Sizing

The larger you are and the further you get away from the main tourist area’s, the choice of clothing options significantly drops accordingly. I find pants a little more difficult to find a style and size that I liked. Because of this, I always take enough pants to see me through. Out in the sticks, you are going to be hard pressed to find pants with a waist line greater than 38 inches. In relation to women’s clothing, the same issues apply for larger sizes. The other thing to remember in Thailand, is sizing is more like “guidelines than a rule”, you really don’t know if that XL size is based on western definition of XL or Asian definition which will be somewhere between a M and L. The number 1 rule is try things on for size if there is any doubt.

Getting Your Cloths Cleaned

No matter where you go in Thailand, there will always be a laundry around somewhere. As you would expect, these are far easier to spot in the more tourist oriented parts of Thailand, but even out in the sticks, you can find a laundry shop if you ask around. Expect a 24 – 48 hour turnaround depending on weather. What I would do is plan enough cloths for 6 days with a laundry trip every 3 days.

Calculating Sets of Clothing You’ll Need

You should work on about 2 changes of cloths per day for your average weather (one set for the day and one for going out at night) and allow 3 sets during the peak heat weather if you see yourself outdoors a lot. If you aren’t sure what the weather is going to be like, you can check my post for a month to month weather guide. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to bring more cloths with you, but you may find yourself probably doing a laundry run every 2 days instead. In the main touristy areas of Bangkok, Samui, Phuket and Pattaya etc, this isn’t really going to be that inconvenient due to the sheer number of them around the place.

You may be asking why 2-3 sets of clothing per day? One reason is that you will sweat…a lot! The other thing is that Thai’s value personal appearance and hygiene being one of their most admirable qualities. Showing up with a days worth of sweat impregnated into your clothing isn’t going to do you any favours.

Local Laundries

Unless you like burning through some cash when its time to check out of your hotel, do yourself a favour a find your nearest mom and pop shop doing laundry. They will charge you either on a per weight or per item basis depending on the shop. I never really worried too much about pricing as it is dirt cheap, but I have swapped laundry’s in the past when I thought the price was creeping up each time for the same amount of washing I dropped off. Also be prepared to have the laundry attendant pull out your clothing in whatever bag you took it in so they can count the items and record what you’ve brought in. If you have any items that might lead to a curious look and a giggle by the attendant and everyone else in the immediate vicinity, probably best to do a bit of hotel in-room laundry yourself. Most of the hotels I’ve been to will have a retractable cloths line in the bathroom and if not, you can easily adapt something.

If You Are Thinking Of Visiting A Tailor…

What to pack for Thailand – What I mean to say, what not to pack to bring back from Thailand. I’m really not a big fan of tailors in Thailand. You would think a made to measure suit would be better than off the rack suits at home – so I thought. But after buying suits in Bangkok, Phuket and Chiang Mai, I’ve always been somewhat disappointed with the results in some way. I know people will have different experiences, but for any quality, I’m paying the same I would pay (or very close to it) for off the rack in Australia. Because of that, I no longer see any benefit taking the risk of sub-par clothing as well as the lost time going to the fittings or finding the tailor in the first place.

One horror story I can relate is the time (and being my last time for tailor clothing) was in Bangkok, I ordered 2 suites with spare pants. Took 3 fittings and while there, something didn’t feel quite right on the second and third fitting but I couldn’t identify it. Back home with dress shoes on, it dawned on me, one leg was longer than the other (not mine, the pants!). I was going back to Thailand within 2 months so took the suits back to the tailor shop where they all remembered me. I won’t bore you with a scripted discussion, the end result was the tailor claiming one of my legs was shorter than the other and basically not their problem. No logic on my part pointing out their absolute idiotic argument would persuade them otherwise.

During our ‘discussion’, I laid the pants on the table showing the length difference, they would rearrange the pants to show no difference and me rearranging again to the natural fall of the pants just got them readjusted by the tailors again. Me wearing the pants without shoes (and without limp I might add!) didn’t deter them. Their compromise was to cut the length of one leg shorter than the other – you’d think that would be an admission … but how foolishly wrong I was. After returning to collect the pants a few days later, it was a horrible “compromise” that just didn’t wear right and both suits hit the bin the next day. As you would expect, the tailor were carrying on how good the pants looked – but still kept to the position one of my legs was shorter than the other! That’s an extreme story I’ll grant you, but this stuff does goes on and the amount of hours on hours I spent searching for good tailors didn’t help me at all.

The real salt to my wounds was that the suits weren’t any cheaper than what I could have bought a decent brand in Australia – so money down the drain as they say. Thailand is great when things go right, but when they don’t, you have to realise (and accept) you are at a disadvantage from the start.

Bring Lightweight Clothing

My final bit of advice on what to pack for Thailand is to pack 95% light clothing that can dry quickly (you may want to check how see through your clothing may become if you get caught out in the rain) along with one set of jeans for more semi-formal occasions . If you are planning to visit a sky bar, some require a minimum dress code and you should check this before working out what cloths to take or plan to buy in Thailand. One example of a sky bar imposing a dress code is Lebua in Silom who require a “smart casual”. I would suspect this code has some flexibility or strictness depending on how busy they are at the time, but a tank top, shorts and flip-flops/sandals will guarantee you getting turned away. This would also apply to any of the more higher end night clubs around town.

The only exception to the general rule of packing light clothing may occur if you are heading north to Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai etc in December, January and even February when temperatures are cooler than normal. In this case, just take one light/medium jumper with you for those times you may find it cold (usually limited to early morning). I have literally been standing outside in shorts and a tee shirt thinking its a little cool this morning while the locals were, without exaggeration, walking around rugged up to the hilt – and I tell people I don’t like cold weather!

Well I hope the above gives you a good idea of what to pack for Thailand for your trip and if you have any questions or suggestion, feel free to add a comment.