Before going to Thailand, I thought, “Why do I bother about what to wear in Thailand? I can wear anything, and everything I want to.” just like you may be wondering now. Seeing the sexy pictures of Thai beaches on Instagram, we all tend to pack vests and shorts along with flip-flops. You can’t be wandering in your swimsuits all day, so you may even pack a couple of Coverups for the bathing suit. But, if your packing list is this – You got it wrong. Amidst beaches and walking streets, somehow, many travellers tend not to notice local Thai culture and end up dressing inappropriately.
I know it is our vacation to do whatever we want to do. But as responsible travellers, we must aim to be in line with the local customs and be respectful.
Plus, Our physical appearance will send out the message,” Hello, I am a foreign tourist here” It is always good to blend in with the locals to avoid unwanted attention.
Thai temples have a strict dress code to be followed – Above picture, the White Temple at Chiang Rai.
Here is your complete guide to “What to pack & wear while travelling to Thailand.”
What do Thai People wear?
Sarang Krapo Dancers artists in their traditional outfits. Thai people do not wear this outfit every day with jewels and things on the street. But they are usually this covered.
Women wear knee-length skirts or full-length pants with short sleeves top on the streets. It is common to see tourists roaming in shorts and tops in the cities like Phuket and Bangkok, but not in villages like Ayutthaya and Sukhothai. Men wear 3/4th length pants with T-Shirts or collared casual shirts.
In general Thai people are conscious about their skin tone. They avoid the sun as much as possible in the daylight to maintain their fair skin. With minimum makeup, Thai women keep it natural. You see girls with heavy makeup only in walking streets and Cabaret shows.
Indians are one of the top five visitors to Thailand list. Pakistanis visit Thailand for their vacation. It is common to see women in Sarees or Salwar Kameez in Bangkok and Phuket.
Heads up: Indian women sarees need to cover the waist with your Pallu while visiting a holy place!
In India, women in Sarees are considered to be the epitome of Indian tradition and sacred values. Therefore, many Indian temples enforce a dress code for women as Sarees. Whereas in Thailand, my Mom’s saree was not “Sanskaari” enough to visit the white temple at Chiang Rai because a part of the waist is seen. Indian sarees are worn usually so that a part of the waist is visible always. So she was asked to pull the pallu ( part of her drape on the upper body) around her waist, and the temple women caretakers tied it with a rubber band to cover that visible part of her waist!
What should you wear in Thailand?
Buddhistet temples and Monuments
At Bangkok Great Palace – Before and after following the dress code
Before entering the Grand Palace – I had carried a cotton dupatta to cover my shoulders. Yet they denied the entry unless I bought a wrap-around because I was wearing skinny leggings and a T-Shirt.
This is inside the Grand Palace. That poor quality T-Shirt & a lovely wrap-around skirt cost me 480 Baht (960 INR). Though I was prepared to cover the shoulders with the scarf, they compelled me to buy instead.
Temples and any monuments which are under Thailand’s monarch’s control are super strict about dress code. Full-length pants, sleeved tops are allowed. Otherwise, you will not be permitted inside or made to buy poor quality clothes from the shops on their premises for a high price. The famous bigger temples and monuments may have an in-house shop selling clothes for tourists. Still, places like Ayuttaya and Sukothai or a community temple in the residential neighbourhood don’t have shops. They neither rent wrap around dresses nor shawls.
What is allowed – Loose non-transparent ankle-length skirts/pants with sleeved T-Shirts. What isn’t allowed – Full-length skinny leggings, sleeveless tops, any bottom wear above the knees.
Cities and streets
The Bohemian streets of Phuket – Shorts that aren’t too short are suitable for this part of the city.
In cities – You may love the tan on your body while sunbathing on the beach. But Bangkok’s heat and polluted air may cause an irritating sensation on your skin like how it happened to me. So I prefer full sleeve tops in Bangkok and short-sleeved ones for the countryside.
3/4th pants, below-knee skirts, shorts that aren’t too shorts are best for Thailand. Sleeveless tops are great for cities, but not in smaller towns.
Irrespective of the season, don’t bring too short shorts that reveal your butt cheeks. Likewise, the spaghetti tank tops showing cleavage aren’t good for Thailand. Keep it stylish but modest.
THAT LOOSE COTTON GOWN AND MOM’S COTTON SALWAR KAMEEZ WAS PERFECT FOR STREET STROLLING – AT AYUTTHAYA. THANK GOD IT DIDN’T RAIN.
Except for Northern Thailand, it is always hot in the country. So bring Linen or breathable cotton clothing. Floor-length gowns are the first thing you must pack while travelling to Thailand in Summer. A light jacket is needed in Northern Thailand. But other parts of the country remain hot even in the rainy season.
As the humidity is always high, chafing was one problem we faced throughout, even in June. To avoid thigh chafing, carry anti-chafing shorts.
I CARRIED A THIN FABRIC TOP ALONG WITH MY FLARED SWIM DRESS – SAILING DAY TRIP AT PHUKET
It is illegal to be naked on Thailand public beaches. There have been incidents where tourists wore shear Bikinis, and locals were upset about it. Thailand police had to intervene and arrest the tourist for resolving the issues. So Swimsuits / Bikinis are acceptable on the beaches but don’t wander on the streets in that. It may be a beach shack or a cafe on the beach sand; cover your body with at least a T-Shirt dress.
Shorts and sleeveless tops Good for the beaches
When you go sailing, carry two pairs of clothes along with your swimwear.
The expensive restaurants and Boutique hotels
It is a standard policy we all travellers must follow worldwide. Make sure you pack smart casuals if you are staying in High-end luxury resorts. The dining and breakfast areas usually have a signboard saying” Dress modestly or smart casuals only” The rooftop cafes and bars don’t allow it if you aren’t wearing shoes.
I recommend either slip-on shoes or flip-flops/sandals that are easily removable and worn again. Because, to enter a Buddhist temple, you must remove your footwear. So anything with tileable laces may get irritating. Plus, you can’t imagine a beach vacation without flip-flops.
Hiking boots aren’t a necessary thing in Thailand. However, comfortable walking shoes with a soft and thick sole are more than suitable for hiking in Northern Thailand.
Slice of heaven at Samet Nangshe – The rugged road is a moderately difficult hike. Comfortable walking shoes were more than enough for it.
Packing essentials for Thailand
- Kneelngth capris and skirts.
- Leggings for hiking and street strolling.
- Loose full length pants for visiting temples.
- Sleeveless tops for beaches.
- Sleeved non transparent tops for temples.
- Swim wears(Don’t carry string and sheer bikini)
- T-Shirt dresses or any lose dresses to wear it quickly on it while you are off the beach.
- Scarf and Sarongs – To use it in temples and palaces.
- Anti-chafing shorts.
- Rainwear ( If you are travelling from May to September)
- Flip flops for beach and Loafers with thick and soft soles for hiking, walking
- 40-50 SPF Sunscreen – I use Acne UV
- Face Moisturiser and Body Moisturiser
- Lip balms
- Toilet kits with usuals.
- Anti-fungal powder like Abzorb to avoid local fungal infections caused by excessive moisture and rubbing between body parts
- Caps or Hats for sun
- Money belt and a day pack. Avoid carrying sling bags in crowded areas.
Karen Village – Long neck women traditional outfit.
Did we help you pack better for your Thailand vacation? Let us know in the comment section below.