What To Wear When Backpacking in Thailand

A woman sells snacks in Pai, Thailand | © Davidlohr Bueso/Flickr
A woman sells snacks in Pai, Thailand | © Davidlohr Bueso/Flickr
Photo of Iona Proebst
3 January 2018

Heading on a backpacking adventure to Thailand and unsure what to bring? Read our helpful guide to make your packing easier.

Thai people take a lot of pride in their appearance and in personal hygiene. Thailand can reach scorching temperatures and most Thai’s will shower several times a day and not wear clothes more than once before washing them. Thailand is defined by three “seasons” hot, rainy and cool. In reality, it is fairly hot most of the time however it is advised to pack something warm for the cooler nights and arctic airconditioned movie cinemas, cafes and transport. If you find yourself in northern Thailand during December and January you might want to consider taking a few more layers as temperatures get much colder than you might expect.

Comfy Thai pants in Pai | © Gavin Firkser/Flickr

It’s a common misconception that wearing as little as possible will keep you cooler on a hot day, actually wearing cotton, loose-fitting clothing will keep your personal temperature levels on an even keel. The famous Thai fisherman pants can be bought almost everywhere and are great for covering up and keeping cool. They also make great lounging pants back home.

What’s appropriate?

Thailand is a fairly conservative country and it is advised to keep an eye out and dress as the locals do. For example, it is not okay to go shirtless in the streets of Bangkok or wear a bikini in Chiang Mai, beach attire is reserved for the beach or a swimming pool. It is very important to dress respectfully particularly when visiting temples and other sacred sites. No one wants to look like a daggy, unclean backpacker so bringing items that are both comfortable and respectable is an ideal balance.

Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai | © whyyan/Flickr


Sandals, thongs, flip-flops, jandals — whatever you want to call them, are by far the best footwear to wear in Thailand. Not only are they suitable for the warm climate they are also very practical when it comes to needing to remove your shoes when entering a temple, cafe or guesthouse as is the custom in Thailand. Bringing a sturdy pair of trainers or trekking shoes is also advised for working out, walking or jungle adventures.

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Multi-purpose items

Traveling is all about making the most of your “capsule” wardrobe. Bringing a scarf or shawl that can be used to cover up when entering temples, keeping warm on air-conditioned buses, used as a beach sarong or as a towel is not only smart it will also save you plenty of valuable space.

Be sure to bring things like medication and other personal items. Our final tip is to pack light, anything else you might need in Thailand can be bought along the way and you will enjoy not schlepping the extra weight across the country.