I’m probably the wrong person to write about what to pack for a holiday to Thailand, or Koh Chang in particular, as my wardrobe consists of pretty much just shorts & t-shirts. But here are some ideas if you haven’t visited a tropical country before or are trying to figure out how much (or how little) you actually need.
Some people prefer to pack a 30Kg suitcase for all eventualities, others just bring the bare essentials in a carry on bag and figure on buying anything else they need whilst here. There’s no right or wrong way to decide what to bring. It’s more about your personal style of travelling. For example, dressing smartly for dinner is nice, but unless you’re dining in very fancy restaurants, it isn’t necessary – especially in beach areas. Some nightclubs in cities will have a dress code but you can wear shorts, sandals and a sleeveless t-shirt at just about any bar on any island.
There are laundries in Thailand. Bear that in mind when deciding whether you really to pack a dozen pairs of shorts. Good, inexpensive laundries can be found pretty much everywhere you go. They’ll charge from around 30- 50 Baht / kilo. The majority will have tumble driers, so you don’t have to worry about getting your clothes dried on a rainy day. Avoid hotel laundry services, they’re a crazy price.
So as far as clothes go. Bring enough summer clothes to last you a week. If you’re staying longer than that just take them to a laundry or buy a cheap t-shirt or two when you are here. A lightweight raincoat plus a warm sweater (for use in extreme air-conditioning) will be handy for occasional use.
Some Practical Items to Pack
Insect repellent and sunscreen
You’re going to burn. You’ll need sunscreen. And you can buy it in any pharmacy here. But it is much cheaper to buy it in Europe / US etc and bring it with you. You’ll also get a far bigger choice. Ideally you want a very high factor. Eg SPF 50. And for it to be waterproof. As even if you aren’t going swimming you will probably be sweating profusely if you are outdoors.
It’s the same situation for mosquito repellent, you’ll get more choice and (usually) cheaper prices at home than you will in shops here. If there’s a brand you know works well, bring it with you.
A Water Bottle
Saving the planet and foregoing single use plastics is a big thing now. Thailand is slowly catching up and trying to reduce the use of single-use plastic bottles and bags. Therefore, you’ll find that it is easy to refill water bottles for free as there are an increasing number of environmentally conscious businesses offering this for customers and guests.
Plus you’ll need to get into the habit of drinking far more water here than you do back home. If you think that drinking a couple of bottles of water a day is enough, it isn’t. You should at least double that. Dehydration is very common. The symptoms are similar to food poisoning.
Also, if parents have water bottles then it’s easier to get young kids to drink plenty of water too. They’ll want a bottle to carry too and will copy their parents.
Slip on Shoes
Not necessarily sandals. Although you should also bring a pair of those too. But comfortable lightweight shoes that you can easily slip on and off. For example Sketchers Go Walk. Why should you have these? Because, depending on where you are visiting , you’ll probably be taking your shoes on and off several times a day. Not only for visiting a temple or person’s home, but also when entering many shops, restaurants or cafes. Especially those with wooden floors. So it can become a hassle to spend time unlacing and lacing boots or shoes.
Sweatshirt or equivalent
Yes it will be a minimum of 30C outdoors pretty much everywhere you go . It’ll only be cooler if you’re going to the to mountain tops, in which case you’ve probably already thought of bringing suitable clothing for a hike. The sweatshirt isn’t for wearing outdoors, it;s for indoors where AC can be icily cold. Some shopping malls, offices, movie theaters can be too cold for comfort. Likewise the air-con on buses or minibuses tends to have two settings, lukewarm and sub-zero.
It doesn’t have to be any particular type of hat but ideally it should have a wide brim. It will certainly help keep you cool if you plan on being out in the sun for hours. Not necessarily just for on the beach or when you’re kayaking or trekking. A hat is indispensable if you’re visiting temples in places such as Sukhothai or Siem Reap where’s there’s no shade.
Nothing big and heavy , just something you can keep in case you encounter a grey day. In the high season on Koh Chang, rainy days are rare. But for example, if you were planning on visiting Koh Chang and the south of Thailand in December, you probably wouldn’t need it here, but down south would almost certainly get some rain. Samui and Phuket have very different weather patterns to Koh Chang. But if you forget your raincoat then you can easily find shops selling thin plastic ponchos and jackets for 50 – 100 Baht. These will keep the rain out and all your perspiration in, so aren’t ideal for hot humid, rainy conditions.
Log on to Amazon or Aliexpress and spend a few Euros on an inexpensive dry bag. A 5 Litre bag is plenty large enough to keep a phone, sunglasses, wallet & camera in. Useful not only if it rains, but if you’re going anywhere near a swimming pool, the sea or the beach.
The better hotels will have those fancy plug sockets that can take a plug from pretty much any country. Cheaper places won’t. Therefore it’s worth bringing an adapter suitable for Thai plug sockets with you. Or, you can buy an adapter at any local electronics store or builders merchant on your travels. it will be about 20 – 30 Baht. Thailand runs on 220 Volts. But even if you’re coming from the US, where appliances are 120 Volts you almost certainly won’t need a converter. The chargers for modern laptops, Ipads, phones etc can all handle voltages from 110 – 240V.
Lonely Planet Guide
A Lonely Planet guide is essential for travel anywhere in the world. On second thoughts, no it isn’t. This isn’t the 1990’s. Leave it at home.
They were good but have now largely fallen by the wayside. If you’re travelling in South East Asia a combination of using a regularly updated site such as Travelfish plus locally made travel websites, like the one you are reading now, plus location specific Facebook groups will give you more than enough information. But a paper map is always useful to carry. And in almost all tourist areas you will visit have these available for free. Either produced by a local tourism authority or privately printed and funded by advertisers.
If you head out for the day exploring you’re going to want to take a camera, phone, water bottle, towel, guidebook, raincoat, snacks etc with you. A small day pack is ideal for this. It will leave your hands free and can easily be worn when riding a scooter, going on a trek, visiting a temple, in a shopping mall etc. No real need for a pack larger than 15 – 20 litres.
The same one you use to go to the supermarket at home ,now that they don’t give plastic bags. Single use plastic bags in shops are becoming rarer in Thailand. In fact, on Koh Chang, the 7-elevens, Tesco-Lotus mini-marts and all supermarkets no longer give them out to customers. ( It’s the first island in Thailand where this has happened. Mainly thanks to the efforts of the local Trash Hero group. ) You’ll need to pretend you’re at home at take your own bag with you when you go shopping.
If you’re more adventurous and look forward to doing some trekking in the jungle or in National Parks then you’ll need suitable footwear. There’s no need for clunky boots. And on the face of it walking sandals would be suitable, as it’s always hot here and you want your feet to breathe. And if you’re just walking around on the flat normally, then good sandals are ideal to have. But, if you’re planning on anything more strenuous, it’s far better to have footwear with closed toes.
Some reasons. Firstly, leaches. They can leave your feet a bloody mess if your walking near rivers or in damp, humid conditions.
Secondly, unlike a pleasant hike up an alpine hill. In Thailand you’ll be walking through undergrowth full of spiny plants and inhabited by bugs that sting and bite.
Thirdly, if you’re going up a hill, the chances are it will be dry and dusty. Coming down your feet will slip far less in something like lightweight hiking shoes or trail running shoes compared to hiking sandals. They allow dirt inside which then mixes with sweat and the result is your feet sliding around inside your sandals.
And Some Apps to Download
Grab — This is the southeast Asian equivalent of Uber. They took over Uber’s Thailand business a couple of years ago. One difference is that you can also use it to book a regular taxi as well as a private driver with their own vehicle. They only operate in the cities though.
Maps.me – Free offline maps. So even if you don’t have a phone signal or don’t want to use data, you can still see where you are.
Line – If you are planning on staying here for several weeks or months then most Thais you befriend will want to know if you have Line. This is a Japanese messaging service people here use instead of WhatsApp – which no one uses.
Eatigo – Ideal for use in the cities if you have big appetite. Discounts of up to 50% at well known restaurants if you eat outside of their peak hours.
Wongnai – This is basically the Thai equivalent of Yelp. Full of restaurant reviews. Handy, for example, if you want to compare whether the locals rate a Thai restaurant the same as Tripadvisor readers do. Or if you want to find an inexpensive eatery near your hotel but don’t know where to look. You can set it to English, but most content is in Thai. However if you can read a map then it’s easy enough to discover places that many foreign visitors won’t know.
Google Translate – Always handy and can translate speech. The Thai translations of speech aren’t always accurate but they’re good enough that you can have a simple conversation with someone who doesn’t speak a word of your language. ( One of our staff uses this, she finds it invaluable for communicating with Chinese and Russian guests )
Lazada – There’s no Amazon in Thailand but there is Lazada. Say you’re on Koh Chang and you lose your Macbook charger, which you can’t buy in a shop here. Or you need a specific item, say a huge inflatable unicorn for using in the hotel pool. That can be bought here but you’ll be paying a relatively high price for it. So, use Lazada. Order online and you’ll get it delivered, usually within 48 hours, from Bangkok. Pay cash on delivery. Leave the money at hotel reception. Easy.