If you're planning a trip to Thailand, then this post will help you plan, pack, and ensure you get on that plane with everything you need.
As a side note to the essential considerations and includes listed below, I really do recommend traveling as light as possible. It's a long trip (for those coming from many parts of the world) and super hot.
Most people who visit Thailand stay in a few different places during the course of their trip, which makes having lots to carry from place to place frustrating (someone please convince my wife of this).
Additionally, very few people visit Thailand without buying a suitcase full of gifts and souvenirs for themselves and others, so you'll need room in your bag for those too.
Anyway, without further ado, it's time to start ticking off your Thailand to-do list.
The Ultimate Thailand Checklist – Travel Essentials
The first thing you should consider well in advance is whether or not you will need a visa. If you're visiting for under 30 days then you won't, because you'll enter on a 30-day exemption stamp, which is stamped into your passport on arrival.
However, if you're planning to stay for longer you will need a tourist visa.
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 days.
Other visas are available for volunteering, education, retirement and more.
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, so check it now in case you need to apply for one.
Make a couple of photocopies of your passport too, as you may need these to provide the hotel, bike or car rental places, etc. Never leave your real passport with any company – always provide a copy. It's also a requirement to carry your passport on you at all times.
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.
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.
A COVID-19 vaccine may be required too. Please check before traveling.
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
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 the name and address of the hotel you are going to stay in to put on the form.
So that you have it handy, print out your hotel reservation information and keep it in your rucksack or travel wallet.
These days this kind of information is easily stored on a 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, for example traveller’s cheques or cash equivalent to 10,000 Baht per person and 20,000 Baht per family.
People are rarely asked to prove 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 in to 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:
- Tourist Police – 1155
- Police and general emergency – 191
- Medical emergency – 1669
- Fire – 199
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.
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). 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.
Bring a pair of good quality sandals or other type of breathable walking shoes that you can happily walk around in all day.
Pro tip: Break the shoes in before you travel, as you don't want to find out that the shoes cause blisters half way through a shopping trip.
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.
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.
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. A Credit Card with Zero Transaction Fees
Cash will be 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. Keep Your Money Safe
With the above fees in mind, if you do withdraw money, you will be inclined 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.
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.
You can exchange at the airport (use the exchange in the arrivals hall after you collect your bags, as it's a better rate than the one 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.
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. At the time of writing you need special COVID insurance, see here for that.
Outside of COVID, my recommendations are here.
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