Thailand definitely isn’t lacking in the shopping department. Throughout the country, you can find bright and bustling markets and street-side hawkers selling everything from underwear to exotic birds. In big cities like Bangkok and Phuket, you can find a fair share of malls and supercenters.
If you forget to pack something, you can likely find it either down a sidewalk aisle or in a more traditional supermarket. But there are more than a few things that you should try to pack with you, as they can be more difficult or more expensive to buy once you’re in the Land of Smiles.
What to Pack for Thailand:
If you’re a medium or large size at home, you’ll have a harder time finding clothes in Thailand. Thais tend to be very petite and slender, and the clothing markets cater to people who are a size small. It can be nearly impossible to find clothes that fit in the traditional (read: CHEAP) markets, and you’ll be forced to buy at overpriced department stores and imported foreign shops, where the prices will be high and the selection might be smaller. Be especially sure to bring a swimsuit, bras (if you’re above a B/C), and a sweater (it gets seriously cold on the BTS SkyTrain and on long distance buses). Keep in mind that you want lightweight, breathable, and sweat-wicking material whenever possible — avoid polyester and wool — as unless you’re spending all your time in the north you WILL sweat. A lot.
The same as clothing: if your shoe size is on the medium to large end of the spectrum back home, you’ll have a tough time finding suitable shoes in Thailand aside from flip-flops. Make sure to bring a pair of dress shoes and casual shoes with you, just so you don’t end up scrambling.
It rains a LOT in Thailand, especially during the rainy season. While it’s easy to buy a cheap umbrella (and salesman tend pop up every time it rains), if you’ll be on moto-taxis or the rain comes down sideways, you’ll want a jacket. It’s still hot and humid even when it rains, so choose something lightweight and breathable. The ubiquitous plastic raincoats that come folded up in a pouch get the job done but are incredibly stifling and sweaty.
While Thailand has a lot of GNC-style shops, you might not be able to find the exact vitamins you like. If you do happen to chance on your favorite supplement, it will likely be crazy overpriced. And if it’s not overpriced? You should worry about how legit it is and what is actually inside that little pill. Don’t ever buy pills from streetside vendors, and only buy from reputable shops or pharmacies.
EYE MASK AND EAR PLUGS
If you plan to travel by long distance train or bus and you need to get some shut eye, sleep accessories are necessary. The lights often come on at unusual times, and people tend to talk late into the night, or sometimes share a bottle of Sangsom and get rowdy. You’ll also need all the sleep help you can get if you plan to live in Bangkok or any of the other big cities with bright lights and 24/7 diversions. Some areas of the cities stay loud and busy almost all night long, with laughing, car horns beeping, and brakes screeching all hours.
COPY OF PASSPORT OR OTHER ID
It’s always smart to carry an alternate form of ID on you whenever you travel, especially if you don’t want to carry your actual passport around. You always need to have some form of identification on you. Sometimes you might be stopped and your ID checked, but usually the police will accept a copy of your passport, or an ID card is even better. If you have a work permit because you’re teaching English, that will work, too.
If you have a particular deodorant you like, it would be wise to bring a few with you. Especially deodorant with anti-perspirant (helpful in the heat) can be expensive and sometimes even hard to find. Many deodorants sold in Thailand contain whiteners, which you’ll want to avoid unless you want bleached armpits.
Most of the SPFs are sold with bleaching agents in Thailand. Unless you want blotchy bleached skin and don’t mind exposure to potentially damaging and carcinogenic chemicals, bring your own sunscreen. If you wait to buy it in Thailand, you’ll end up paying double for a teeny tiny amount.
While you’ll want to save money and buy souvenirs, most electronics (especially secondhand phones), and accessories in Thailand, remember to stock up on the above items to your list of what to pack for Thailand so you don’t get stuck in a tough spot without shoes or sunscreen!
Words by Stephanie Kempker Edri