10 Things You Need for Your First Trip to Thailand
We started off this #MyFirstTimeinThailand series with Visiting Thailand? Complete Itinerary for One Month Trip and our Prices in Thailand: Can Your First Time Be Cheap? breakdown of ALL of our expenses in Thailand.
But it’s about time we talk a little bit about the equipment that is essential when going to Thailand for your first backpacking trip. You might think it’s easy to pack all the things you need – and you’re probably right. But experienced travelers have hacks and tips that just might help you save some space in your luggage or even save some money in the future.
You don’t want to carry with you a 60L or 80L backpack during a trip to Thailand, believe me. And you don’t need to. Since my first time, I never had a backpack bigger than 35L. It’s no fun to carry 20kg on your back in a 40-degree heat. The bigger your backpack is, the more tempted you are to fill it with things you won’t necessarily need.
Have a look at this list of 10 things you need to have on your trip to Thailand:
1. Beware of the insects in Thailand:
mosquito repellent and antihistamine cream
Do your research and invest in a good repellent – or buy one the moment you get to Thailand. Thai local products against mosquitoes are usually effective and don’t have a very strong smell unlike repellents you get back home.
Don’t get overly dramatic with the DEET, though – the 100% DEET repellents are VERY HARSH on your skin and may give you a rash or burns. Also, you WON’T NEED IT so strong in Thailand.
Spraying it close to your mouth can be poisonous as well (honestly, we heard some stories…), so, yeah, I realize nobody likes mosquito bites, but let’s be reasonable, ok?
50% DEET is definitely good enough and as we have quite a sensitive skin, we tend to stick to local products in Thailand (they usually don’t even contain DEET) or we just use a 30% DEET repellent from Mugga.
2. Be ready for the unexpected:
First Aid Kit, Basic Painkillers, and Stomach Relief Medicines
A First Aid Kit. Yes! It’s small and light, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. You can get it even on eBay or on Amazon. Why would you need it? Even if you don’t do any extreme sports – you still might need it! Let’s say you want to go on a trek to one of Thailand’s gorgeous national parks and you get a scratch on your hand or your leg on the way to a viewpoint. Use an antiseptic wipe straightaway to clean it up and put a band-aid on it. You don’t want to get an infection!
Don’t count on hotels or a 7 Eleven – there are no 7 Elevens inside of National Parks or if you go spelunking to a gorgeous Thai cave. Stay safe and have a first aid kit with you. You always need one the second you least expect it.
Read also: 15 Best Hotels in Bangkok with Swimming Pools under $50 USD and 15 Luxury Bangkok Condos on Airbnb under $50 USD
3. What Plug Adapter do I need for Thailand?
And a multiple USB port fast charger for all your devices
Our hack for this is actually getting one travel plug adapter for both of us, but then a light (cordless), multi-socket adaptor for all of our chargers. This time, I also want to get a multi-extension USB charger for our phones and other devices.
When looking for this kind of stuff, make sure you think about its portability and ability to plug it into any socket. Some sockets in Thai hotels can be in very awkward places, like behind the bed frame or behind a wardrobe, or just above a tabletop what will prevent you from plugging a big multi-socket adaptor into it.
4. Recommended sunscreen for Thailand?
What SPF do I need?
Go for it. It won’t hurt you, but might actually help you. If you’re going just for a couple of weeks and it’s currently winter in your home country, you’re probably craving the sun. So protect yourself! Yes, you will get a tan on and when you come back home, all your friends are gonna be jealous. Unless you come back with peeling skin and white patches all over your shoulders.
Be smart and get a good 50 SPF, especially if you have fair or light complexion. And remember about your ears, they burn, too! Expect high prices of sunscreens in Thailand, especially in touristy places.
Beware of Thai face products (or just generally Thai skin products). Some of them may contain bleach or other skin whitening ingredients that aren’t necessarily good for you.
5. Thailand on your own? Dorms can be as cheap as $5 USD!
But bring a padlock with you to keep your belongings safe
Wanna save some money and sleep in hostels for $5 USD per night? Get yourself a padlock before you embark on your journey of a lifetime. You never know what weirdoes you’re gonna meet at the next party hostel.
Of course, it’s not like everyone is a thief. But as I said before, better safe than sorry. It’s much harder to enjoy a holiday or even go back home when you’ve lost a wallet with your ID and all your credit cards in it.
6. Contextual and cultural help for Thailand
The guidebooks, maps, and apps.
And I realize that a lot of people might not like actual guidebooks, but there are so many resources online at the moment, you really have plenty to choose from. Not only guidebooks, travel blogs, government travel information websites, etc. but also interactive maps, travel social media platforms, guide maps, ebooks, YouTube channels.
Try to make the most of your experience. And saying that, I mean, know what’s happening around you. Read about Thai culture before you go. So that you can actually immerse yourself in Thailand without any faux pas.
Research the areas you’re gonna travel to so that you know what attractions are nearby. You don’t wanna go back home and read online that you were staying in a hostel ten minutes away from a hidden waterfall. Thailand is full of little gems and surprises like that, so do your homework!
7. I lost my debit card in Thailand. I actually did.
Have a second ID and a spare credit card – just in case
I feel silly to even admit to that, but I did leave my debit card at an ATM after taking money out. On the contrary to the UK, Thai ATMs first give you money, then your card back. Not being used to that, I took my money and didn’t wait for the card to pop back out.
Sooo… especially if you’re traveling solo and don’t have a buddy who has another credit card on them, take two cards with you and leave one in a safe place. Maybe put it in your phone case or in an inside pocket of your backpack. Have a backup just in case you lose your primary card one way or another.
The same actually applies to IDs. I know you can only leave Thailand with a passport, but if you DO lose your passport (and I came close to this as well a couple of times, unfortunately), it will be easier and probably quicker to prove your identity if you have a driver’s license or any other form of ID.
8. Dry season in Thailand? Doesn’t matter!
Wet weather gear: waterproof coat and a backpack cover
If you’re going to Thailand in the middle of dry season, you might think, ‘Oh, I won’t need wet weather gear’. But there’s one thing about Thai weather you might not realize before your first trip there. Weather in Thailand can be extremely unpredictable.
What I mean by this is that even though it might be sunny and scorching hot for most of the day, a heavy shower of rain might surprise you at any moment. The showers I’m talking about here are the ones that last about 10 minutes and leave you soaking wet. Not the best situation to be in if you’re sightseeing or trekking, is it? You can get a raincoat at any 7 Eleven, so keep it in your backpack because you never know when you might need it. It’s the most basic solution to unexpected Thai showers.
One more thing you might need to think about is a waterproof cover for your backpack. It only costs a couple of dollars, but it will save your equipment and clothes, you’ll see. Buy it, have it, and use it!
9. Thai dress code!
Take clothes you can wear in Thai temples
Do your research before you go and bring universal clothes that you’ll be able to wear everywhere in Thailand. You don’t want to spontaneously stumble upon a beautiful Buddhist temple in a Bangkok back alley you won’t be able to get into just because your shoulders or knees aren’t covered.
Also, don’t take too many clothes, because you’ll buy loads of clothing on Thai markets and you’ll only wear them from then on!
10. Microfibre towel for cheap Thai hostels or pristine Thai beaches
If you’re traveling on a budget and staying in dorms at hostels, you might want to have a microfibre towel with you as some hostels rent towels for an extra fee. It’s a way of saving money and even if you won’t need it at hostels, you might use it at the beach.
It’s cheap, light, and doesn’t take up a lot of space in your backpack, so there’s no excuse not to have it with you.
In the light of recent events in Thailand, I would like to also mention knowledge. Read about the customs of the country you’re visiting. Ready about the things you should and shouldn’t do in Thailand. Lack of knowledge is not an excuse for stupidity. Ignorance can ruin your life in a matter of seconds.
Don’t do anything stupid like these two guys who decided to show off their butts in one of the most sacred places in Thailand, because they’re Instagram-famous. These American bloggers are facing jail time as Thai government wants to make an example out of them. Because they’ve had enough of foreigners and their disregard for Thai culture.
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Check out our Visiting Thailand? Complete Itinerary for One Month Trip and our Prices in Thailand: Can Your First Time Be Cheap?
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