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What to pack for a trip to Thailand, South East Asia and still look stylish

Have you ever noticed that there seems to be an unspoken ‘dress code’ for each destination to travel too? Well Thailand – one of the most popular travel destinations in the world and one of my personal favourite countries – is no exception. On the East Coast islands expect to see sarong-clad millennials, modestly dressed tourists visiting sacred temples in Bangkok and hardily dressed adventurous types exploring the hill tribes of Chiang Mai.

It’s not always easy to plan what to wear for a trip especially in a country so hot, humid and diverse as Thailand and one of the things I tend to get asked quite a bit is what to wear in a particular country. So to answer this and to offer some real suggestions on how to look chic for whatever you have planned on your Thailand itinerary, here’s our guide for what to pack for South East Asia’s most loved travel destination…

What to wear sightseeing in the city or visiting temples

Thailand is a deeply spiritual place and it’s a country that takes huge pride in its eye watering collection of beautiful temples, many of which are encrusted with gold, flanked by gigantic buddhas and bejeweled with sparkling precious stones. If you take the long flight to this truly beautiful part of the world it would be foolish not to add a temple or two to your itinerary. The number one rule for visiting temples in Thailand is to dress modestly. This also applies to sightseeing in the cities too, there are many sacred sites in the cities and when it comes to dressing they are a fairly conservative bunch so it’s important to respect etiquette when you visit.

When you visit temples you will need to make sure both your shoulders and knees are covered. It’s still going to very hot though so floaty long sleeved blouses with capri pants and sandals are essentials for Thailand temple visiting. If you feel it’s too hot to wear trousers then long sleeved, over the knee dresses and long skirts with t-shirts are also suitable. Opt for white or light colours then at least you’ll reflect the sun and keep a little bit cooler.

Dressing modestly is also appreciated in the cities (the islands and beaches are generally much more relaxed). The locals will often be too polite to point out if you are offending them so the best tip I can give is to dress like you’re planning to meet your in-laws for the first time. Skirts and shorts are generally fine, but you’re likely to receive a few strange looks if you expose your shoulders or cleavage!

Suggestions of what to wear in Thailand when visiting temples or sightseeing in a city:

What to wear on Thailand’s islands or beach

Thailand’s hundreds of islands offer some of the most spectacularly beautiful scenery in the world and Thai islands are known for their palm tree lined white sandy beaches, clear turquoise waters and laid-back attitudes. On the East Coast, Koh Samui is more developed and geared towards holidaymakers and Koh Phangan with its cool cafes and world-famous full moon parties has more of a hedonistic, bohemian feel. The idyllic islands on the West Coast are seen by many as the ultimate island paradise. You can be much more relaxed and daring on the islands but it’s still possible to commit a few faux pas – don’t ride a motorbike in a beach town in just a bikini for example. A good tip when thinking about your Thailand packing list is to remember that beach wear stays on the beach then you won’t risk offending anyone! Shorts, mini skirts strappy tops and sun dresses are considered fine to hang about on the islands in, including the beach towns. Although you’ll get a nice cooling sea breeze, it’s still going to be very hot so it’s best to choose breathable and floaty fabrics. Going to a full moon party? Well anything goes really! 

Suggestions of what to wear in Thailand on the islands or a beach:

What to pack for trekking in Thailand

Chiang Mai is many a traveller’s favourite Thai city, including mine. Dotted with temples, craft shops, restaurants and more than a handful of Thai massage and cooking schools, the city has a beautifully relaxed and somehow tranquil atmosphere even for a city. It’s location – high in the north mountainous region of Northern Thailand – also makes it a adventure traveller’s Mecca and organised treks and stays with the local surrounding hill tribes can be arranged very easily here in Chiang Mai with almost every other shop offering them. Trekking is fantastic activity to include on your Thailand trip and a great way to experience the beautiful natural landscapes and fascinating local hill tribe culture that can be found in this part of the country, but you will have to go prepared and keep a packing list in mind. Thankfully malaria isn’t a problem in Thailand but it’s humid and sometimes rainy too and some of the treks last a few days with overnight stays in hill tribe villages. You’ll also want to protect yourself from biting insects (and reptiles too – yikes!) and pack a comfortable pair of hiking shoes. The rest? Well opt for long cargo pants, or trousers, T-shirts or long sleeved tops and change of shorts for when it’s really hot. Oh and make sure you pack some swimwear for when you stumble across random waterfalls, which you’re bound to at some point. 

Suggestions of what to wear in Thailand when trekking:

 

 

What to wear in Thailand in a nightclub or dinner out

Nightclubs in Bangkok are as varied as the nationalities of the guests who hang out in them, but most places are fairly relaxed and don’t impose a strict dress code. Although saying that, Thailand is a status minded country, the nicer you look the more respect you will gain and besides you don’t want to be viewed as a ‘farang’ (an unflattering term for a Western traveller who doesn’t make much of an effort!). As a general rule it’s better to overdress than underdress in Thai nightclubs, especially in the major cities and you’ll find that many clubbers in Bangkok especially get pretty dressed up in short dress/skirts and heels for a night out on the town. If you’re planning a dinners out on your Thailand itinerary then make sure you pack some chic clothes – if you dress well restaurant staff tend to treat you better and you’re much more likely to bag a table with a great view for example. Although again, it will still hot and humid even at night (the night time temperature in Bangkok for example is sometimes still a very muggy 28 °c) so try and choose breathable cotton or go floaty if you can’t avoid the viscose! 

Suggestions of what to wear in Thailand in a club or evening out:

Enjoy your trip!

 

Born in England, with a few family roots from Bavaria, and a heart in Scandinavia I've always been a bit of a restless soul. My first true adventure began as a six month voyage around South East Asia as a fresh faced backpacker and ever since I've lived a semi nomadic existence, clocking up over 40 countries on trips and living in Dublin, South East Asia and Australia. I'm a lover of US Road Trips, deserted beaches bathed in warm glow of a sunset, Cuban mojitos, easy-on-the-eye travel destinations far away from the tourist crowds and all things Scandinavian - from cloudberry liquors to Scandi Noirs. When not wandering the world, you'll find me walking my rescue dog in leafy South West London, strolling around the Brighton Laines on random day trips, hunting for photogenic landscapes or daydreaming about returning to my all time favourite places in the world; Havana, Copenhagen, Italy, Thailand and the frozen landscapes of a wintry Iceland. Follow Becky on Twitter and Google+.

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