If you’re coming to Thailand, chances are the number one thing you’re wondering about is what clothes to pack. Sure, you want to stay comfortable in Thailand’s hot and humid climate, but it’s also a country whose people (aside from its infamous bar girls and ladyboys) dress quite modestly. Is it possible to stay cool and comfortable while following the “rules”? Absolutely. Ladies and gentlemen, we bring to you the dos and don’ts of what to wear in Thailand.
1. Everyday Outfits: Remember to bring hot weather clothing
Thailand is hot, sunny, and humid! You’ll sweat no matter what you wear. But before you go tossing in any ol’ sleeveless or see-through shirt and those booty shorts in your suitcase, here are some tasteful suggestions.
Guys, the best thing to wear in Thailand are polo shirts, button-down collared shirts, and golf or Bermuda shorts. Even good quality t-shirts and cargo shorts will do. Packing a pair of semi-casual pants will come in handy for an evening out.
Ladies, definitely pack skirts, shorts, summer dresses, and tasteful tops. These can be either flowing or fitted but should be of good quality. Shirts should cover your shoulders (to the edges) and have a semi-high collar line. We don’t mean turtlenecks, but your cleavage shouldn’t be showing. Sheer or lacy fabric is a good way to stay cool, but be sure to wear a camisole or slip underneath.
2. Footwear: Wear comfortable, preferably water-resistant shoes
You may find yourself walking a lot before you get comfortable using the local transportation. The more comfortable and easier to wear shoes you have, the better.
Comfortable shoes are a must. Since it rains often in Thailand, anything made of rubber or a plastic composite is a great choice. Flip flops are totally acceptable but flat, slipper-like shoes are much more convenient. The latter protects your feet from street grime and there are no laces to wrestle with when taking off your shoes.
Always take your shoes off before entering someone’s house or a temple. If you will see piles of shoes outside of an entranceway, that’s a dead giveaway to remove yours, too.
3. At the Beach: wear bathing suits on the beach and cover-ups in town
Thailand is famous for its gorgeous beaches, but make sure to cover up appropriately as soon as you’re off the beach!
Although Thais are often fully clothed at the beach, it’s alright for foreign guys to wear only swim shorts and for ladies to wear two-piece bathing suits. Just makes sure this is at the beach and not while you’re walking down Main Street.
When you step off the sand and start to venture into town, grab a beach cover-up. Ladies, this means wearing a sarong or wrap that covers your chest and midriff and guys should grab a t-shirt (nothing sleeveless) to wear over your swim trunks.
There are tons of shops in Thailand’s beach towns selling airy cover-ups and wraps. They’ll also have lots of sunglasses and big floppy sun hats to protect you from the sun when you need them.
4. Temples: Cover up your shoulders and knees
If there is one place where both men and women must dress appropriately, this is it. Otherwise, you risk offending the locals in their place of worship.
Men are expected to wear conservative collared shirts and shorts that come to the knee, although pants are preferred. T-shirts are ok, but a dressier shirt, whether short-sleeved or long-sleeved, is preferred.
Women must cover their cleavage and shoulders and wear pants or skirts that are at least knee-length. One of the best pieces of clothing you can pack is a shawl because you can wrap it around your waist or drape it across your shoulders and chest if you are visiting a temple.
Chances are you’ll see a monk at a temple. Monks are highly respected, so keep your head below a monk as you pass by them (duck a little if you’re tall) and do not touch them (especially women).
5. Fabric Choices: Bring lightweight clothing made of quick-wicking material
Choosing an outfit based on fabric rather than cut is the best way to stay cool and comfortable.
Natural fabrics such as silk and linen are wonderful to wear in hot climates. Also, some synthetic or semi-synthetic polyester blends are known for being sweat-wicking and quick-drying. They usually stay wrinkle free after packing and washing, too. These are the best! Cotton blends are ok, too, as long as the material is thin.
Stick with clothing that has darker color shades or patterns. Light or bright-colored will easily show dirt. That’s hard to avoid between the constant sweating, stains from Thai food splatters, and the general grime on most surfaces.