What To Wear in Thailand for Tourists

A suitcase full of what to wear in Thailand. The weather, culture, and activity dictate what to wear in Thailand. As a tourist, prepare to dress for function over style.

If you’re planning a trip to Thailand, you’ve probably got an itinerary chock-full of amazing things to do. You know what tourist attractions you want to see, what tours you want to go on, and what food you want to try. You know what hotels you’re staying in, you’ve scoped out the surrounding area, and you did your budgeting.

All that’s left for you to do is to get on the plane.

That…and to pack your bags. But what are you packing? Sure, you’ve got the basics that you know you’re going to need like sunscreen, mosquito repellant, and your underwear.

But here comes the exciting part—your clothes. What are you going to wear day-to-day while you’re out and about visiting historical sites, temples, and beaches? Do you know what to wear in Thailand?

Prepare for the Weather and Culture

The first thing you need to understand about how to dress for Thailand (and Southeast Asia in general) is that it’s hot. And it’s not hot in the same way that a desert is, which has a dry heat.

Thailand is humid so the heat is moist. On some days, it’ll feel like you’re in some kind of sauna.

The next thing that you need to know is that Thais dress pretty modestly. You won’t find too many people walking the streets of Bangkok in tube tops and booty shorts. Most people in Thailand like to keep themselves covered up, but they’re also used to tourists who don’t dress the way they do.

The wats (Buddhist temples) that feature on so many tourism-related lists centered on Thailand also have their own dress code. That being that you can’t show your shoulders or your knees. So no shorts or tank tops.

So, what sort of tourist attire would be appropriate for you to don?

What To Avoid

Before that, you’ll need to know what to avoid. If you come from a country with four seasons, you may have a big closet and possibly, the items below. But if you’re packing for Thailand, make sure that they stay in your closet.

An open suitcase next to a hat and flip-flops. The weather, culture, and activity dictate what to wear in Thailand. As a tourist, prepare to dress for function over style.
  • Wool - Wool is a fabric that’s generally known for keeping you warm. Great for winter, terrible for a humid country that’s right on the equator. Skip anything that’s made of wool unless you want to bake under the sun, because wool is an excellent insulator so not only will you get hot, you’ll stay hot.

  • Cashmere - Do you own a cashmere sweater? If you do, you probably get complimented on it all the time. And you might think that you’ll get compliments on it if you wear it to Thailand. But you’re now getting complimented. The only thing you’re going to get if you put on a cashmere sweater, or cashmere anything, is a case of heatstroke.

  • Fleece - This fabric is a lot like wool and for good reason. It’s made of synthetic polyester and is designed to imitate wool, so it’s going to be pretty warm as well.

  • Denim - You may love your jeans, but when it gets hot, your jeans are not going to love you back. Denim is a durable, heavy fabric. It’s not breathable and it’s generally not stretchy. They’re going to get hot and you’re going to sweat in them and you’ll just have to sit there and take it if you wear jeans to Thailand.

What To Embrace

So, you know what not to wear. Now it’s time to move to what to wear. The two things that you want in a fabric are lightness and breathability. Those two things will help keep you comfortable while you’re in Bangkok.

  • Silk - Do you know what material is light, luxurious, breathable, and feels really good on the skin? Silk. Do you know what fabric is a major industry in Thailand? Also silk. So if you want to know what to wear in Bangkok, then you can’t go wrong with something silk.

There’s a reason by tourists are buying clothes in Thailand—everything’s available. So it shouldn’t be too hard if you’re looking for something silken.

  • Linen - While silk is light and breathable, it’s also glossy and tends to draw attention. If you want something that’s also light and breathable but subtler, then linen is your best bet. Linen is also wicking, so even if you sweat, it won’t be super obvious.
A man packing a suitcase. Linen pants are an absolute godsend in hot weather, since they can help keep sensitive areas from getting sweaty or overheating.

Linen pants are an absolute godsend in hot weather, since they can help keep sensitive areas from getting sweaty or overheating.

  • Cotton - This is one of the most common fabrics in the world. Your T-shirts, your underwear, your socks. Chances are that they’re made of cotton or from a cotton-blend. There’s a reason for that. Cotton is great at letting air circulate through it. A lightweight cotton can also absorb moisture, so you cool down quickly if you get hot.

If you’re going through your closet looking for clothes to wear in Thailand, don’t skip on the things made from cotton.

  • Lightweight wool - Now, wool may not generally be a good idea for Thailand as mentioned above. But here’s the thing; you might get cold on the plane and you may end traveling to Thailand between July and October, the rainy season. So if you are desperate to know what to wear to Thailand, then material made from lightweight wool should be on your list.

There are two good reasons why; on the plane to the country, you’ll get cold. In the country itself; you might get rained on. It’s also significantly cooler and breezier in Thailand during the rainy season, so you get a bit chilly.

A lightweight wool can keep you warm on the plane, and it should be lightweight otherwise you’re going to burn up. And the lightweight wool will dry quickly if you get rained on. Oh, and it won’t get smelly if you sweat on it.

On Your Feet

Now, what about your shoes? If you’re going to the beaches, you may be able to get away with some sandals or clogs. But here’s the thing— shoes like that may not fly in a big city. Sure, they’ll be comfortable and easy to get in and out of, but they’ll be seen as kind of tacky.

In Thai culture, the feet are considered the dirtiest and lowly of body parts. If you want to avoid overexposing them, stick to something close-toed when in Thailand. If you want comfort without the risk of being turned away, running shoes or orthopedic shoes should work just fine in most situations.

Travelers, especially first-time travelers, often wonder what to wear in Thailand. The clothes should cover up, but more importantly, they should be comfortable. If you’re traveling, make sure that you pack clothes that are going to help you deal with the Southeast Asian heat.

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