Planning a vacation to Thailand can be an exciting experience, but with so many details to consider, it's easy to forget something important and panic at the last minute.
But don't worry! In this post, I will provide you with helpful tips and essential considerations to ensure that you can plan, pack and embark on your adventure to Thailand with confidence.
As a side note, I highly recommend traveling light, as it can be a long journey, especially if you plan on exploring multiple parts of the country.
Plus, with the hot climate, you won't need to pack too many clothes anyway. Leaving room in your luggage will free up much-needed space for souvenirs and gifts on your return trip.
So, without further ado, let's start ticking off your Thailand to-do list and make sure you're well-prepared for your travels.
The Ultimate Thailand Vacation Checklist
The first thing you should consider, well in advance of your trip, is whether or not you will need a visa.
If you're visiting Thailand for under 30 days then you won't, because you'll enter on a 30-day exemption stamp, which is stamped in your passport on arrival.
Please note that at the time of writing Thailand is providing tourists with a 45-day entry stamp as a way of boosting tourism post the pandemic period.
If you're planning to stay longer than 30 days you can get a Tourist Visa from your local Thai embassy.
A single entry Tourist Visa will give you a 60-day stay, and a multiple entry Tourist Visa is valid for 6 months, with permitted stays of 60 days at a time.
With the multiple entry visa you can leave after 60 days to a neighboring country, and then re-enter to activate a further 60-day stay on the visa.
Other visas are available for volunteering, education, retirement and more.
+ A guide to visas can be found here
2. Passport (plus copies)
Sounds obvious, but if I had a pound for every person who realized they'd forgotten their passport at the airport I'd be a millionaire.
You'll need at least 6 months left on your passport to travel to Thailand, so check it now in case you need to apply for a new one.
Make a couple of photocopies of your passport, too, as you may need these to provide the hotel, or bike or car rental places, etc. As a side note: never leave your real passport with any company; always provide a copy.
It's also a requirement in Thailand for foreign nationals to carry their passport at all times.
However, I don't advise carrying your passport around with you. The safest place for it is in your hotel room's safe. Instead, carry a color photocopy with you when out and about. This will suffice should a police officer ask to see it.
You can also carry your driver's license or ID card, as proof of identification.
Another good idea is photocopy the page of your passport with the entry stamp you receive upon entry. In addition to your passport showing your identification, this will show when you arrived in the country.
Depending on your medical history, or your stance on vaccination, you may want to get the recommended vaccines for traveling to Thailand.
Note that Yellow Fever vaccine is required for those traveling from a country with risk of transmission.
+ More on the vaccine schedule here
4. Return Flight Information
When entering as a tourist it is a legal requirement to have a return or onward flight booked.
Print out a copy of your flight information and keep it in your rucksack or travel wallet.
You may or may not be asked for this information, but you do need it. If you are staying in Thailand longer than 30 days and you will need a visa.
5. Hotel Reservation Information
When you're on the plane you will be given an arrival card to fill out. This can also be done on arrival (at immigration), but to save time they give out the cards on the plane.
You will need to fill in the name and address of the hotel you are going to stay in.
So that you have it handy, print out your hotel reservation information before you travel and keep it in your rucksack or travel wallet.
Of course, this kind of information is easily stored on your phone, but if your battery dies or you can't get reception to access your email, having a hard copy will save you a lot of hassle.
You'll also want to carry a copy of the hotel address around with you. If you are traveling as a family, each member should have this information, just in case you are separated at any point and lose contact, such as when out shopping. Having the address is useful for showing a taxi driver or member of the public to help you get home.
Pro Tip: Always carry a pen. You'll need one to fill out your arrival card, but a pen will also come in handy if you need to quickly jot something down.
6. Carry-On Cash
All foreigners traveling to Thailand must be able to provide proof of adequate finances for their duration of stay. This can be in the form of traveller’s cheques or cash equivalent to 10,000 Baht per person and 20,000 Baht per family.
People are rarely asked to prove that they have access to this money, but best practice is to carry this as a minimum amount of cash.
If you're not carrying Baht, take the exchange rate of your local currency into consideration to make sure it converts to cover the amount required.
7. Emergency Numbers
Hopefully you won't need these, but make a note of these emergency service numbers for your holiday in Thailand.
- Tourist Police – 1155
- Police and general emergency – 191
- Ambulance and Rescue: 1669
- Fire – 199
- Highway Patrol: 1193
- Immigration Bureau: 1178
Thailand has a tropical climate and it gets very hot. Even if you're a sun lover and can't wait to get your bronze on, don't neglect the use of sunscreen. Even when it's cloudy, you can still burn, believe me!
Be sensible and allow yourself to tan gradually. By all means get your fill of vitamin D, but be careful not to overexpose yourself. Sun stroke is very real and can see you hospitalized. The very hot weather can also dehydrate you very quickly, so keep topping up with water and ice lollys.
Hats are a must for baldies like me!
9. Beach Shoes
Flip flops are great for the beach, but even then I prefer waterproof shoes (like the ones surfers wear). With beach shoes you can go in and out of the sea and up and down the beach without constantly having to slip flip flops on and off.
The beach shoes tend to be better for walking, with less chance of tripping over as the flop bends and gets caught under your foot.
10. Breathable Walking Shoes
Traipsing round town in socks and shoes/trainers can be uncomfortable because it's so darn hot. Socks just get sweaty and make you feel hotter, and the trainers/ shoes you wear back home may not feel comfortable without socks on.
Instead, bring a pair of good quality sandals, comfy loafers or other type of breathable walking shoes that you can happily walk around in all day.
Pro tip: Break in the shoes before you travel, as you don't want to find out that the shoes cause blisters half way through a shopping trip.
+ More on clothes for Thailand here
11. Good Quality Backpack
If you're backpacking around Thailand, or even just planning on a bit of island hopping, investing in a comfortable, lightweight backpack will be a God send.
Suitcases can be awkward to lift on and off boats and trains and taxis, though do make a good seat at an airport.
+ See my backpack recommendations here
If you find yourself stuck with your baggage and you want to go off shopping for the day perhaps in between a hotel change or on the day you leave, you can always use a baggage storage company.
+ See the best baggage storage companies here
12. Plug Adapter
Some hotels have plugs to suit US and European devices, and if not they generally have adapters at reception that you can borrow.
However, if you're staying on an island in a bungalow, or even in Bangkok in cheaper accommodation, you may find yourself short of an adapter. Bring a couple with you, just in case.
An adapter will also come in handy at the airport if you want to charge your phone, tablet, or computer.
13. Credit Card with Zero Transaction Fees
Cash is generally needed for food stalls and markets, but every chain restaurant and mall shop takes cards. So get yourself a credit or debit card that doesn't charge for foreign transactions or ATM withdrawals.
Note that ATMs in Thailand charge per withdrawal, anywhere from 3-7 USD per withdrawal. This is unavoidable, as it's a local charge.
14. Keeping Your Money Safe
With horrible bank fees in mind, if you do withdraw money, it is better to withdraw a substantial amount in one go so that you don't wrack up too many fees during your stay.
Most ATMs have a 20,000 Baht withdrawal limit, but that's still a lot to carry around, and carrying a large amount of cash is never wise.
So leave some in the safe of the hotel room and only take out what you think you will need. If you're a couple, split the money you carry between you. That way, if one person is parted with their cash for some reason, the impact is only half as bad.
Use a money wallet or some form of holdall that sits at the front of your body. Never store your wallet in a bag or backpack that can be accessed from behind or the side.
15. Exchanging Cash
Always exchange your money inside Thailand. It's almost always favorable to do so.
You can exchange at the airport when you arrive. Use the exchange kiosks in the arrivals hall after you collect your bags, as they have a better rate than the ones near immigration or at an exchange in town.
The Super Rich exchange usually has good rates; see Floor B at Suvarnabhumi Airport.
16. Sim Card
By all means travel with your current sim card, but make sure you check international rates with your provider before you leave.
Depending on the cost of calls and SMS while you are abroad, you may want to get a local Thai sim card when you arrive and pop that into your phone.
You can get a sim card for a couple of Dollars and top it up as and when you need credit. It may work out much cheaper for you.
If you have a dual Sim phone, or a phone that takes an eSim, bring that along to make life easier.
17. Travel Insurance
I don't want to be pessimistic, but no one wants to get stuck in Thailand with a huge medical bill they can't pay. It's not worth tempting fate.
The way to avoid this is to get travel insurance. I recommend Safetywing and have been using them for the past 3 years.
+ Here's an overview of the policy they offer
18. Book Hotels & Trips in Advance
Booking hotels and travel tickets in advance is a very good idea.
As a popular tourist destination, during peak seasons, hotels and transportation options can fill up quickly. By booking in advance, you can secure your desired travel plans without stressing at the last moment because your preferred hotel or flight route is fully booked.
By booking in advance, you may secure better deals. Early bird discounts and package deals are often available in advance of peak season.
And then there's the convenience. You don't have to worry about last-minute planning or making changes to your itinerary. Instead, you can focus on enjoying your trip knowing that all your travel arrangements have been taken care of.
See the links in the box below for recommended providers.
Taking the time to plan and pack for your trip to Thailand is crucial to ensure a stress-free and enjoyable vacation.
By following the tips and suggestions in this article, you can make sure you have everything you need for your journey and avoid any last-minute mishaps.
It's a good idea to bookmark this page in your browser for future reference, or copy the link down in a document. That way you can refer back to this list and tick of things as you go.
More Tips to Plan Your Trip:
Get Great Travel Insurance Cover
I use Safetywing, and so do many of my readers. Get a quote here
Book Your Accommodation
Best hotel rates are found at Agoda and Hotels.com.
Buy Bus, Train, Ferry Tickets In Advance
For all available routes in Thailand, check out 12Go here.