The Thailand Arrival & Survival Guide Get prepared

12 things to buy BEFORE your trip to Thailand

Thailand packing essentials
8 min read

Traveling in Thailand is incredibly easy, and there’s almost nothing you can’t find here. You could arrive with little more than your passport and some money and easily get everything you need for the trip of a lifetime.

Still, there are some key items that we love for travel here but that aren’t always easy to find or are expensive in Thailand.

These are our 12 Thailand travel essentials to buy before coming to Thailand. We’ll link to our favorites on Amazon or elsewhere but if you live in a country where they aren’t available, try to find your own alternative.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

1. A power bank

Once you’ve traveled with a good power bank (a portable battery pack), you’ll never be able to go without one again. Traveling in Thailand almost always means long days out from your hotel where you’re using your phone to take photos, communicate with friends, and figure out where the hell you are with the GPS. All of that can drain the battery quickly. A power bank takes up little space and totally saves you the headache. It is very easy to find power banks in Thailand, and they work fine initially. After a few full charging cycles though, they tend to lose around half of their storage capacity.

I’ve used a lot of power banks and have found that Anker makes the best ones at the best price. They also seem to charge much faster than other ones I’ve used. I prefer the flat, slim ones that have a profile similar to a phone since that’s what you’ll usually be charging and you can just keep them together back to back. A 6,000mAh isn’t enough to charge most smartphones fully so I always go for a 10,000mAh power bank. You also want to make sure it gets decent charging speed.

I’m currently using this Anker 10,000mAh fast-charging one which works great. You can buy it here on Amazon. If your devices are all USB-C you might prefer this one with a built-in charging cable.

2. thin-walled dry bags

A dry bag is my favorite non-electronic Thailand travel accessory. By dry bag, I mean the thin-walled ones that weigh almost nothing and pack up tiny. Thicker ones are easy to find in Thailand. The beauty of the thin ones is that they don’t take up any space when you’re not using them. Despite their small size and weight they are really durable and last for years even with heavy use.

They keep your stuff organized, compress items down to their smallest size in your bag, and keep dry stuff dry and wet stuff from soaking everything else.

I travel with 4 of these bags and get so many uses out of them:

  • I pack socks in a 2-liter and boxers in a 4-liter bag (women could probably use a 2-liter for both). Squeeze the air out before rolling them to compress them down to the smallest possible size. Unlike packing cubes, they only take up the space of the items inside.
  • I carry a 13-liter as my bag for dirty clothes. If you’re smaller or do laundry often you could get by with an 8-liter. This keeps any smell on your dirty clothes off of your clean ones and compresses them down to their smallest possible size.
  • I keep an 8-liter bag with me to use as a dry bag on jungle hikes, kayak trips etc. I also use this to pack wet clothes if I swim on the day I check out.
  • They make good beach bags keeping out not only water but also sand.
  • The bags also hold water in so you can wash clothes in them if you ever need to just wash a a few small items.
  • Put some cans of beer and a bag of ice into a larger dry bag and you can keep beer cold for a few hours (but they’re not insulated so keep it in the shade).

3. A decent toiletry kit

This one probably comes as no surprise to a lot of people, but to plenty of others (I’m looking at the guys on this one), it might be something you’ve never even thought about. I’m almost embarrassed to admit it now, but I spent years traveling around Thailand with my toiletries thrown into whatever 7-Eleven plastic bag I had lying around my hotel room when I was packing.

If that sounds like you, a simple, hanging toiletry kit will change your life, and make packing much faster and easier. Your stuff stays organized, it’s less likely to open and spill, and if it does it won’t cover the rest of your things in shampoo.

I used this cheap one for years before it fell apart and it was pretty good. I now have this one from Sea to Summit and I love it. I prefer the large size because I always seem to fill it and it compresses down when it’s not all the way full.

Whatever you get, the hanging hook is key!

4. A few odor-resistant T-shirts

Thailand is usually really hot, and wearing a cotton T-shirt out all day will get most people smelling pretty bad. There are way too many smelly backpackers and foreign tourists in Thailand already, so please don’t add to that. Wearing T-shirts in an athletic, jersey fabric (not cotton!) helps out a lot with resisting odor. This type of fabric also wrinkles less and dries much faster than cotton, and hides sweat stains better, especially in dark colors. While they are very casual, you can still get by at a lot of fancy Bangkok bars in a clean, solid black T-shirt. The black/grey/navy 3-pack in this T-shirt on Amazon is a pretty good bet, but there are a lot of choices.

If you have it in your budget (they’re not cheap), Merino wool T-shirts are amazing. As odd as it sounds, merino wool (plus 13% nylon) keeps you incredibly cool in hot weather. These things last forever. Some truly committed minimalists wear them every day for a year or more. Wool also dries quickly and resists odor incredibly well. Some people say you can even wear them for days without washing them (please seek an honest opinion on whether or not you smell if you plan on trying this). They’re also great in cold weather as base layers. They’re especially popular with rock climbers, which shows you just how durable they are.

5. Good flip flops

A decent pair of flip-flops is essential for traveling in Thailand. Some people prefer a full sandal, but you just can’t beat the minimalism of a flip flop/thong/slipper (the type with a simple strap that runs between your two biggest toes). You’d be surprised at just how versatile they are. Experienced Thailand travelers (and especially locals!) even do fairly grueling hiking in them. Flip flops are cheap and easy to find in Thailand, but we find it’s worth spending a few extra bucks on a better pair.

The problem with the cheap knockoffs you find in Thailand is that they break easily, and they usually squeak loudly when they’re wet. Flip-flops come down to personal preference, but for me, a pair of real Havaianas is unbeatable. They’re lighter and take up less space than almost any other flip flop, they’re comfortable, they dry fast, and if you buy real ones they don’t squeak. Oh, and they’re very cheap. You can find men’s Havaianas and women’s Havaianas at these Amazon links.

6. A shoe bag

Just like with toiletries, I used to carry any shoes I wasn’t wearing in whatever plastic bag I could find at checkout time. Once I bought a cheap shoe bag, I couldn’t believe I’d lived my life that way before.

There are a ton of options out there, just make sure you get an XL if you have bigger feet, and try to get something smaller if you wear a small shoe size. Many shoe bags on Amazon are sold in packs of two or three which is convenient if you’ll have more than one pair of shoes in your bag while you travel.

Culture tip: One cultural faux pas I see a lot of backpackers commit is tying their extra shoes to the outside of their backpacks when they don’t fit inside. Having your shoes passing by people near their head level is very rude in Thai culture. A shoe bag makes it easier to organize shoes and fit them in your bag, and at the least, they’re easier to strap outside the bag without giving away what’s inside of them.

7. Deodorant

If you use roll-on or spray deodorant, you’ll be fine in Thailand. If you use a stick deodorant though, you should definitely bring one from home. They’re hard to find in Thailand.

8. A packable microfiber towel

packable towel

A travel towel is a great item for traveling in Thailand. They don’t take up much room and always come in handy. I use a Pack Towel which you can buy from Amazon, and I love it. It soaks up loads of water and can easily dry a full body and head of hair. It dries quickly, and resists odor even after a lot of uses and being crammed wet into a bag all day.

I recommend size ‘body’ if you’re limited on space, but ‘beach’ is great since it obviously doubles as a beach towel.

Pro tip: When you have a bunch of dirty clothes to take to the laundry shop, you can easily tie them up in this towel for an easy way to carry it. The towel is machine washable but it’s best not to put it in the dryer.

packing cubes

9. Packing cubes

A set of packing cubes makes it really easy to keep your bag or suitcase organized. I use the set of three packing cubes from Eagle Creek. and they completely changed how I pack my suitcase. The sizes are perfect, especially in a carry-on size suitcase which they seem to be tailormade for. What’s really nice is when I’m packing and can plan ahead a day or two, I can fill the largest cube with only the clothes I’ll need immediately so I don’t have to unpack my whole bag. I just grab that cube off the top and I’m good to go.

2024 update: I now only use the largest size pictured above. For smaller items, I prefer the dry bags mentioned in item #2 in this post. You can buy the set of 3 all in this size here if you select all Mediums as the size.

10. Sunglasses

Whether you’re a person who likes to buy one good pair to keep forever, or you like cheaper but decent ones because you always lose them, getting your sunnies before your trip to Thailand is a good idea. Cheap knockoffs are everywhere in Thailand, but wearing sunglasses that don’t have UV protection is really bad for your eyes. In larger cities, there are lots of eyewear shops but they usually don’t carry many shades for under $100 USD. The sunglasses sweet spot for me is the $10-$40 pairs that are comfortable, look good, offer UV400 protection, and that I won’t miss too much when I lose or scratch them.

If you want to splurge and you’re not someone who loses your shades easily, Ray-Ban Wayfarers are pretty much the best all-around sunglasses that look good on almost anyone who wears them, and the quality is excellent. You can pick them up here on Amazon.

There’s a really nice pair of cheap sunnies you can get on Amazon for crazy cheap Sometimes you even find a 3-pack for less than a cocktail in a fancy bar. They’re really comfortable and pretty good-looking. I always keep a couple of pairs around.

eye mask, earplugs and neck pillow

11. Neck pillow, eye mask, and earplugs

No matter what, you’re going to spend some time during your trip on planes, trains, buses, ferries, and in noisy and bright hotel rooms. I used to travel without them thinking they were just for high-maintenance people until I started using them. Now if I ever forget them I notice right away. Having these three items totally changes the game. Earplugs are easy to find in most pharmacies in Thailand, but these slim-fitting ones are the absolute most comfortable I’ve ever used.

With pillows and masks, most of them are absolute rubbish. You need an eye mask that is cupped so it doesn’t touch your eyelids while you sleep but still keeps all light out. This sleep mask is the best I’ve found and comes in a three-pack for a solid price.

Neck pillows are even harder to find the right ones. When the back is as thick as the sides, it pushes your neck forward from the seat making it extremely uncomfortable. This memory foam neck pillow is simply the best one there is. The memory foam is comfortable and packs up into its bag at 1/4 its full size. It’s shaped perfectly to sit on your shoulders and support your neck. It’s pricier than a cheap one, but worth every penny. You can’t put a price on good sleep.

coleman insulated water bottle

12. An insulated water bottle

Being out all day and still having cold water on hand is a nice luxury. It’s especially nice stashing one somewhere and returning from a hike to have ice-cold water waiting for you. Besides keeping your drink cold, the bottle also stays dry. In the humidity of Thailand, putting an uninsulated bottle of cold water in your bag will get all your stuff pretty wet from the condensation.

I like at least a liter (32 oz is a bit less but still okay). I have this 40 oz (1.2L) and it’s great and available in other sizes as well.

These aren’t hard to find in Thailand, but they’re nice to have on your flight over so it’s best to bring one from home.

What did we miss?

As we said, it’s so easy to travel in Thailand and none of this is essential. These are all nice-to-have items that can make your travel experience slightly easier and more comfortable, but you’d still have an amazing time without them. Let us know in a comment below what we missed. What are your travel essentials, or do you have a better product recommendation than what we’ve listed here?

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