ABOUT THAT PACKING
I get a lot of emails on this subject asking what to pack, what clothes to wear and ‘are widgets cheaper in Thailand?’ The answer obviously depends on what kind of a holiday you are planning, when you are coming and importantly, where you are staying. The price of widgets depends on what widget you are looking for.
Suitcase or Backpack?
If you are travelling on a package tour or are staying in hotels then bring suitcases, they are just easier if someone else is doing the lifting and carrying for you.
If you are travelling independently and plan to move locations during our stay, bring backpacks, they are far easier to carry on, off and between public transport, and besides they have the street cred!
I recommend that you bring a small daypack with you to carry your valuables and the things you need on the beach or trek. I have a 25 litre pack that I take almost everywhere I go, it has become something of a mobile office, medicine cupboard, larder and wardrobe.
An additional small holdall bag is a great way of carrying all the things that families need for a day out or a day on the beach. The bags with several pockets are best as they can be used to separate food and drink from sand covered clothes and toys.
Pushchairs or Child-Backpack?
Depending on the age of your children you may want to consider taking either a pushchair or a child-backpack. I believe the best advice is to take a cheap fold-up pushchair, one that you would not mind discarding in Thailand. The reason I say this is, the heat and humidity make carrying a child in a backpack very uncomfortable, while a pushchair has the great benefit that it is always going to be a secure place to sit your child whenever you are out and about.
The difficulty with pushchairs is the state of the roads and paths, they can be in a shocking condition making using a pushchair almost impossible. The modern three wheel type are not a lot of help either as the maim problem is not so much uneven pathways as blocked paths, steps, staircases and tripping hazards.
How bad are the paths? Well I’ll tell you; A few years back the Bangkok city governor fell through an open sewer, saved only by his potbelly (I did not make that up… its true!).
A light folding pushchair will be easy to fold-up and carry when there really Is no other option and it its cheap so will not hurt too much if you decide it is too much trouble and give it away in Thailand.
Very small babies can of course be carried in a carrying harness and I recently received an email from a mother who had tried using a baby sling and found it to be both easy to use and, importantly, very light and easy to pack away.
I guess that depends on the age, size and weight of your baby.
The considerations here are quite straightforward, if you are on a package tour or travelling independently then your usual summer outfits will be perfect.
If you are staying at top end hotels then you will be expected to dress for dinner, so trousers, shirts with a collar, skirts/slacks and blouses all with a smart pair of shoes will be expected.
I get to wear a dinner suit once or twice a year, the rest of the time smart casual is quite acceptable.
If you plan to visit any of the temples then you are going to need to consider the Thai sensibilities, you will be expected to wear clothing that covers your legs and at least the tops of your arms, you will also be expected to wear ‘proper shoes’, that is shoes that enclose your toes and heal, not sandals and not backless shoes. (Training shoes would pass the test).
Odd this because you have to take your shoes off when you enter the temple proper.
Clothing for the Climate
I am not going to suggest that you go so far as to buy a pith helmet, but you do need to consider the climate when choosing your clothing.
Natural fibres, Cotton and Linen, are best and will greatly reduce the chances of you getting heat rashes or fungal infections. (More about these in the Health section).
The obvious choice is shorts, T-shirts and sandals and as with all obvious choices it has a lot to commend it, but there are times when you might have had just a little too much sun or when you need long sleeves and trousers as a guard against mosquitoes.
If you are planning to visit Thailand in the winter months you will probably need a light cardigan or pullover for the evenings, which can occasionally get a little cool, especially if you have had a bit too much sun during the day.
If you visit the far north of Thailand, Chaing Mai, Chaing Rai, Nan, Loei, during the winter months you will need a warm jacket, I was in Nan in December of this year and I was very glad of my fleece skiing jacket!
If you are visiting during the rainy season you might want to consider a light rain coat but I would caution that the temperature will still be in the thirties and you might find a rain coat a little too warm. I have a Gortex jacket that I wear when it is really raining, but to be honest it gets worn less than a dozen times a year.
The footwear you choose depends on the kind of holiday you are planning, sandals are great for beaches and general travelling around, they also have the great advantage they give plenty of ventilation to your feet, thus reducing the chances of fungal infections.
I think sandals are a must for children on the beach as there is always the chance of glass, sharp seashells and hot sand! We bought our children “Jellies”, soft clear plastic sandals that strap to the foot, they tend not to slip off the foot and can be worn on the beach and in towns. “Crocs” are ideal and are available at reasonable prices throughout Thailand’s tourist areas.
If you are planning to go trekking then you need to consider bringing some light walking boots or some trainers with a good grip. I’ve tried trekking in sandals but so much grit got inside and under my foot that I changed back into my boots.
I think a hat is essential, especially for young children and you need to consider one other point:
Don’t forget the journey home! I once went on a short assignment to Singapore, it was July when I left and I fully expected to return in August.
Because I got caught up in the work in Singapore I actually arrived back in London on a December morning wearing my summer clothes, the weather outside was a cool 3° C. Keep this in mind when packing you bags to leave Thailand.
On a similar note, don’t forget a warm cardigans or pullovers for the flight to and from Thailand the aircraft cabin can get very chilly sometimes.
Smart Dress is Sometimes Expected
Whenever I have any business with Thai officials I wear a crisp white shirt, a Tie, well pressed trousers and polished shoes. These things are extremely important to Thais and playing by their rules will solicit respect and a little more help than you might otherwise expect.
So do bring along at least one smart casual outfit, if for no other reason than you never know whom you might meet.
While visiting the Northern Town of Nan to see the dragon boat races my wife and I met Chuanleekpai, the then Thai Prime Minster.
Stuff to take with you
The following list comprises things that we have found useful and/or not available in Thailand.
Swimmer’s Arm Bands are not available in Thailand
Personal toiletries and medications, these may not be available in the brand you prefer
Copies of all travel documents See advice on storing copies in the Documents section.
A selection of baby food
Enough disposable nappies to last two days incase of delays at the airport or until you find the local supply See Essentials Tab on main page.
Adult swimsuits, you will not get your size in Thailand
Child car safety Seats (If you are planning to hire a car or driver)
Beach Toys, the selection in Thailand is poor.
Electrical Insulation Tape and two pin electrical socket child guards
If you take a pushchair, make it a cheap one that you don’t mind discarding
A pushchair should have a sunshade, preferably a parasol type that can be rotated or easily positioned to block the sun
Universal Electrical Plug adapter
A money belt
If you are staying in budget accommodation include one of the following for each
room you plan to use:
Smoke Detector and Blu-Tak to attach it with
A couple of door wedges
A small 1inch Padlock
A universal washbasin plug (with your name on it)
There are a number of important addresses you should take with you incase you have difficulty, as a minimum these should include the address, telephone, fax and email addresses of:
At least two people at home.
Your embassy in Thailand
Your doctor back home
Your bank + Account Numbers
Your credit card company + Card Numbers
Your insurance company + Policy Numbers
Your accommodation in Thailand
Your travel agent
Your travel agent’s rep in Thailand
Your nearest international hospital in Thailand
Somebody at home should also have copies of all these addresses, I have included advice on getting help from home in the chapter ‘If Things Go Wrong’.
Don’t rely on the memory of your mobile phone to keep these addresses; if you loose your phone or your batteries go flat, you will loose your addresses. See the chapter on Documentation for ideas on how you might store and get access to important documents.
Things not to bother taking with you
Film for cameras, it is cheaper in Thailand.
Batteries for toys walkmans etc, again they are cheaper in Thailand.
Sun creams are cheaper in Thailand.
Baby Travel Cot, if you are staying in budget accommodation there will not be room for a travel cot. If you are staying in up market hotels they can provide a cot. But why not simply do what all of Asia does and have your baby in bed with you.