Not Just Another Packing List for Thailand

The back of a truck that says Thailand.

 

As everyone who moves abroad knows, it can be very difficult deciding what stays and what goes. I have lived in Thailand for 3 months now. So I decided to look at all of the stuff I brought and analyze how good of a job I did packing.

Here is my list of  things I should’ve packed, things I should not have packed, things I am glad I packed, and things I am glad I did not pack.

Things I should’ve packed

  1. Laundry Bag
    • I don’t know why this didn’t cross my mind. Granted, I only have to walk a block, but it is so much easier to transport my clothes in a laundry bag instead of a bunch of plastic bags or my backpack. It would have taken up virtually no space in my suitcase. I ended up having my Aunt include one in the package she sent me and it has made my life so much easier!
  2. Pillow
    • This is more of a want than an actual need, but it would be nice to sleep on my pillow from home every night. Looking back I should’ve taken out 1-2 pieces of clothing and brought my pillow instead. If you don’t have any extra room, then I would suggest to at least bring your favorite pillow case.
  3. Zip block bags
    • My dad included some gallon sized bags in the package he sent me and I have used them a ton. I use it to throw shampoo and conditioner in when I travel. I actually use it to throw all of my bathroom stuff in. I also use the bags to store opened food because ants get into everything. Don’t underestimate their abilities!
  4. Books
    • I only packed one book in my suitcase. I decided against bringing more because they are pretty heavy. In hindsight, I should’ve sacrificed something else, because it is so nice to have books to read when traveling or just in general.
  5. Extra iPhone Charger
    • I only brought one. It hasn’t technically become a problem yet, but my iPhone cord’s life is coming to an end. Also, I know a couple of people who have left their chargers at a hotel. Worst case, you can definitely buy a charger here, but the quality will be lower, and even if you buy a more expensive one there is no guarantee that it isn’t just a knock off.
  6. Portable Cellphone Charger
    • This is good to have anytime you are traveling. It is nice to have an extra charge on long bus rides. Hostels don’t always have enough outlets and there are rarely outlets next to your bed. Also, the voltage here is 220, while in America it is 140. Most computer and cellphone chargers are made to handle a range between 120v-240v. However, my computer and iPhone battery lives have become noticeably shorter because of the extra voltage. Charging your cellphone using portable charger will protect your battery.

Honorable Mention: Jeans or black pants

  • If you end up teaching in the north, then it can actually get cool at night and in the mornings during the cool season. Having a pair of jeans might be beneficial. The real reason this made my list, is because if you plan on doing English camps (either during your off months for extra cash or because you are required to do 1-2 a semester as part of your teaching contract) then they tell you to wear jeans and a t-shirt. Also, it depends on your school, but I know of several people who are allowed to wear jeans or black pants to class at least 1 day a week.

Things I should NOT have packed

  1. Pencil skirt
    • I packed one pencil skirt. I have maybe worn it once and probably won’t wear it again. You move around a lot while teaching. You depend on charades to convey half of the shit you’re trying to communicate to your students. I am constantly moving around the classroom and I teach 14 and 17 year olds. You have to be even more active if you teach primary school. Don’t restrict yourself with a tight skirt. The more flowy the better! It will be cooler and easier to move around in.
  2. Colorful Teaching Skirt
    • I packed a multicolored skirt and while it is very cute, I failed to actually bring a teaching top that matches! Moral of the story, when you pack teaching clothes, pack with full outfits in mind, not just skirts and blouses that you like! Also, some schools only allow you to wear black or dark colored skirts.
  3. Gifts for my school
    • Every list, blog post, and Facebook post seemed to unanimously agree that I should bring over some type of gift for the teachers at my school. Because I didn’t know where I was teaching or how many teachers there would be I decided to just bring over some of my favorite candy. After all, Thais love to eat! After being here, I completely disagree with this suggestion. Nearly everyone from my TESOL course decided to just bring food or sweets that they bought from their local market. In my experience, bringing a gift is not as big of a deal as people make it out to be. It is a nice gesture and it definitely doesn’t hurt to bring some food to share your first day, but don’t waste your luggage space bringing gifts from home.
  4. Big Rain Coat
    • Granted I haven’t lived in Thailand during the peak of the rainy season, but I think I would still add this on my list. I brought a thick raincoat that is actually the outer shell of a winter coat set. In the States I use it as a raincoat all of the time. I put it on once here and it is way to humid. I was completely miserable. I would’ve been more comfortable being drenched instead of being ‘dry’ but extremely hot and sweaty! Be careful on what raincoat you chose to bring over.

Things I am really glad I packed

  1. Hotel Shampoo, Conditioner, and Soap bottles
    • Everyone has these little bottles lying around the house. I threw a handful of them in my luggage and it has been very beneficial. I often travel with a smallish backpack for long weekend trips. A normal bottle of shampoo, conditioner, and body wash takes up a shocking amount of room. If you are staying in a hostel, they obviously don’t provide any of those things. You can even refill the small bottles with your big bottle from home, so it is a gift that keeps on giving.
  2. Teaching Clothes
    • Half of the people here will agree with me, and the other half will disagree. I brought over 5 skirts and 6 teaching blouses. The only thing I regret bringing are 2 of my skirts (the pencil and colorful skirt). I would suggest packing 1 weeks worth of clothes. Best-case scenario, you will be allowed to wear whatever clothes you brought. If you don’t want to spend money or can’t find teaching clothes that fit correctly, then you can just re-wear the same 5 tops and 3 skirts each week, no problem. If you find a bunch of cute things in Thailand that you want to buy, then you can buy 3-5 more outfits without feeling guilty because having 8-10 teaching outfits is not absurd by any standards. Worst-case scenario, you will not be able to wear the clothes you brought. Assuming they are professional looking, you should still be able to wear them for the first week or two until you find clothes that do meet your school’s dress code. So the clothes you brought won’t be a complete waste and you wouldn’t have wasted too much space in your suitcase. It really does depend on your school, but generally speaking, black skirts that are below your knee will most likely be within your school’s dress code, along with any professional top that covers your shoulders and armpits (bonus points if it has a collar).
  3. Underwear, Bras and Socks
    • Obviously these are a given, but they made my list because of the amount I brought rather than the actual items. I strongly encourage packing with a minimalistic mindset, but these items are the exception. I packed 2 weeks worth of underwear and 10 days worth of socks. Sometimes laundry takes longer than expected. Sometimes the person who does your laundry accidentally loses a pair or 2. Anything can happen and underwear is kind of hard to buy here unless you are pretty small. Same goes for bras. If you are bigger than a B, then bring enough to last you the amount of time you plan on living in Thailand.
  4. Tampons
    • This item is on most lists similar to mine, and for a good reason. I packed enough tampons to last me a full year. It is very difficult to find tampons. It is even harder to find tampons with an applicator. Even if you do find them, they are very expensive. I saw a pack of 5 Playtex tampons for 130 baht! That is $3.4 USD. To put that into perspective, 9 times out of 10 I spend 35 baht ($1 USD) on a full meal.
  5. Shoes
    • I brought 4 pairs of flats for work, 2 pairs of tennis shoes, 2 pairs of flip flops, a pair of dressier sandals, and my soccer cleats. I am happy with every single pair of shoes I brought. I have lived here for 3 months and have worn every pair at least once. I wear a size 12 in women’s. I haven’t seen anything above a 9, maybe 10, even at the malls. Thais have small feet. So if your foot is bigger than a size 9, I would suggest bringing over all of the shoes you think you will want or need.
  6. Hand Sanitizer
    • This is another common item that people bring up. Soap is not readily available in Thailand. Also, as a teacher you are constantly interacting with children. I rarely used hand sanitizer back in America. Here, I carry around pocket sized hand sanitizer in my purse and bag to use before I eat and after I use the restroom.

Things I am glad I did not pack

  1. Toiletries
    • I made a rule for myself that if I wasn’t going to bring a year’s worth of the item, then I didn’t bring it at all. What is the point of bringing enough of your particular shampoo, soap, conditioner, makeup, etc. if you’re only going to have it for 1-2 months? I figured if I was eventually going to transition to the Thai brand of my toiletry it might as well be sooner rather than later. I saved quite a bit of luggage space by not packing anything other than 1 toothbrush, 1 tube of toothpaste, tampons, and deodorant.
  2. Towel
    • I debated bringing a towel, but I decided to just buy one in Thailand. I bought 2 here (1 bath towel and 1 beach towel). I spent 450 baht ($13 USD) total.Their quality is much lower than ones I could have brought from home, but overall they get the job done. Yes, it would be nice to have a better towel from home, but I don’t think it is worth the space and weight it would’ve taken in my suitcase. If you really love your good quality towels from home, then it might be worth it to you.
  3. School Supplies
    • Other than stickers with English words on them, I didn’t pack any school supplies. I debated bringing over construction paper, markers, scissors, etc., but in the end I decided against it. You don’t know what age you will be teaching, how many students you will have, or the resources your school will give you. I knew people who brought over a ton of stuff they could use in an elementary classroom only to find out they were going to be teaching 17-18 year olds. Not only will you be wasting space in your suitcase, you will also be wasting money buying stuff you might not even be able to use. Plus, you can always buy stuff in Thailand!
  4. Clothes I don’t wear
    • This sounds a little stupid, but there were at least 5-6 pieces of clothing that I ended up taking out of my suitcase because I realized I never wore them! Everyone has those pieces of clothing that they never get rid of because they don’t necessarily dislike them, but for whatever reason they never wear them. I tried to convince myself that in Thailand it would be different. I could finally wear that blouse or dress. Deep down I realized that if I chose not to wear it in America I would never wear it in Thailand either. So off to Goodwill they went!

Regardless of the items you decide to pack, try your best to pack light! I think if I polled every expat that lives in Thailand they would agree to bring only 1 big suitcase, 1 carry on and a small backpack (for computer)…maximum! A lot would probably think even that is too much, and I would probably agree. I highly suggest that once you finish packing, go back through everything 2-3 more times. Each time remove 1-3 pieces of clothing.

Did I forget something? Comment below with your tips and advice for packing!

2 thoughts on "Not Just Another Packing List for Thailand"

  1. Laura says:

    I work in Sakon Nakhon province in a rural area. I’ve been here for three semesters.
    Regarding the scarcity of tampons, I suggest a Diva Cup. It’s re-usable, economic and better for the environment.
    As to teaching clothes, please feel free to check out the descriptions and pictures on my blog!
    You can read about the dress code, tips for teaching, curriculum and more, here:
    http://lolotravelgogo.blogspot.com/2017/12/what-not-to-wear-in-thailand.html

    1. Chase Chisholm says:

      Thank you for sharing your insight!

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