“What clothes should I wear in Thailand?” When packing, don’t just take into account the warm, tropical climate, but also cultural etiquette. Thai people are fairly conservative and modest and tend to dress accordingly. So, if you want to find out more about what’s appropriate to wear in a temple, on the beach or in the jungle, read on!
Thailand is warm, sunny and humid, so it’s more than likely you will be sweating! Still, at times, it seems as the Thai are immune to the heat. They tend to wear a lot of clothing, sometimes even covering themselves from head to toe.
It’s because of the modest, and even somewhat prudish, nature of the Thai population. Walking down the street holding hands? Kissing out in the open? Showing cleavage?
Fortunately, the average Thai has gotten used to tourists showing some more skin – up to a certain limit.
Contents of this article:
- Rooftop bar
- Rainy season
- Clothing checklist
- Additional tip for women
Don’t stuff your suitcase with crop tops, jean shorts and miniskirts. Though there’s no law that says you can’t wear these items (and the Thai themselves won’t say anything), it is considered to be bad form and disrespectful.
What you should wear instead?
Clothes that are comfortable and can easily be worn together. And no, I don’t mean multi-length pants and a pair of hiking sandals; I’m talking about some nice leggings, a light, and airy short-sleeved blouse or a shirtdress, convenient for covering your bikini.
Don’t wear anything that shows sweat stains.
Dressing in swimwear while not on the beach, walking around bare-chested and wearing shorts revealing any part of the buttock area are absolute no-nos.
When visiting temples, religious buildings or government buildings in Thailand, covering your knees and shoulders is compulsory. This goes especially for women, but men are advised to do the same. Wear a shirt or blouse that completely covers your shoulders and a skirt, or a pair of pants, that at the very least covers the knees.
Wearing sleeveless shirts, shorts or short skirts, swimwear or showing cleavage is seen as deeply insulting and therefore out of the question.
Instead wear some long, loose pants, leggings or sweatpants, long (maxi) skirts and dresses. To cover your shoulders and knees, you can also wear a sarong or a large scarf. At many temples, sarongs are available for loan or rent.
Wearing loose footwear, such as flip-flops, boat shoes or loafers, can be quite handy since you’re not allowed to enter temples wearing shoes. Shoes with laces, on the other hand, are not very practical.
With so many skyscrapers, the huge number of rooftop bars can hardly come as a surprise. Most of them are very exclusive (5 stars) and adhere to a strict a dress code. If you’re not dressed appropriately, you will be barred from entering.
- Sportswear or sneakers.
- Flip-flops, sandals or slippers.
- Sleeveless clothes, shorts and open toe shoes for men.
- Backpacks, shopping bags, suitcases or other types of luggage.
- Clothing that’s damaged or ripped.
- Hats and caps
Just make sure you look your best and dress nicely. It is a night out, after all!
Wearing bikinis, bathing suits or swimming trunks on the beach is completely normal. Topless sunbathing, however, is a big no-no. String bikinis are also considered highly inappropriate and shocking in Thailand. You won’t get arrested for wearing one, but it’s not a great way to gain the average Thai’s respect.
Aside from that, wearing your swimming gear outside of the context of the beach or a swimming pool is frowned upon. Make sure you wear something that covers your swimwear when going back to your hotel.
Finally, you might like to know that Thai people don’t use swimwear and swim fully clothed. If you want to go for a swim somewhere that’s not too touristy, like at a waterfall or a local’s beach, we would advise you to do the same.
You will require special clothing for the jungle, especially if you’re going on a multiple-day hike, but you won’t need any special waterproof clothing that’s been treated with mosquito repellent or any such thing.
What you will need is a pair of good quality shoes with tread patterns that have optimal grip. Regular walking shoes or hiking shoes will do just fine for that. You won’t really need hiking shoes unless you’re planning to spend the majority of your trip in the jungle.
Sneakers like Vans, Chuck Taylor or Air Max are not very practical; the lack of grip increases the risk of slipping and they dry very slowly.
Open hiking sandals are also very impractical, as you’ll run a higher risk of being bitten by mosquitoes. Leeches (in the rainy season) could also become a big problem and there’s more chance of branches and shrubs causing scratches. This is why we advise wearing long socks and pulling them over the pant legs.
In terms of clothing, multi-length pants would be ideal. Alternatively, you can wear long sports leggings or loose sweatpants.
During the rainy season (June until October) it rains pretty much every day, but thankfully not for the entire day. Most of it falls during late afternoon showers.
So expect at least one big downpour a day. Make sure your backpack and day pack are waterproof or that you have a rain cover. Ponchos and raincoats are sold at 7-Eleven all over Thailand, but you can also bring one from home.
When it comes to footwear, make sure you’re wearing shoes with good grip, such as hiking shoes. Again, sneakers aren’t ideal because they dry slowly.
And as the rainy season is also mosquito season, you would do well covering up during the hours of dawn and dusk.
Finally, unless you’re planning on entering a wet t-shirt contest, don’t wear anything white.
You should choose shoes that are comfortable and practical. We usually take three pairs of shoes to Thailand:
Flip-flops, hiking shoes, and a pair of fancy (but still comfortable) shoes.
Besides that, you could consider taking water shoes, hiking sandals and hiking shoes. High heels are best avoided.
While traveling, you won’t need many clothes. Keep that in mind and only pack essentials! Moreover, in Thailand it’s possible to have your washing done for 40-60 baht (1-2 euro) per kilogram; at your hotel or a local launderette, for example. Here’s a complete clothing checklist for Thailand:
- 2 Sport shirts
- 5 Shirts
- 2 Long sleeved shirts
- 1 Hooded vest
- 3 Pairs of shorts
- 1 Pair of multi-length pants/long sweatpants
- 1 Dress/skirt
- 2 Pairs of long socks
- 6 Bras
- 7 Pairs of underpants
- 2 Pieces of swimwear
- 1 Pair of hiking shoes/sports shoes
- 1 Pair of flip-flops
- 1 Sarong or large scarf
- 1 Raincoat/poncho
- 1 Bandana/cap
- 1 Belt
Additional tip for women
Finally, I have one last tip for women.
Many women suffer from chafing inner legs – especially in warm and tropical climes such as Thailand’s. Wearing dresses or skirts (no matter how nice they look) is uncomfortable and painful. Especially when on the move for large parts of the day, as is common during travels abroad.
Wear shorts or, even better, buy a pair of bandelettes: stretchy leg bands that, when worn around the upper legs, stay in place by means of a wide strip of non-slip silicone. Often made of lace, fashionable and not dissimilar to the tops of hold-up stockings, they’re light as a feather, and a lot less warm than any pair of shorts!