Thailand is one of my all time favourite places to solo Travel in Asia. I love everything about the place – the food, the scenery, the people and of course – the temples. If you head to Thailand in peak season which is November to February, you will be able to pack light, because the weather is so good. Here’s my guide on what to wear in Thailand for both men and women.
I’m going to outline what to wear in three main settings – everyday wear in towns and cities, beach wear and what to wear to Thai temples.
The Essential ‘Elephant Trousers!’
You can shop very cheaply in Thailand and so it is a good idea to strip back your packing and buy what you need when you are there. Most Westerners grab a comfy pair of Elephant trousers which I pretty much wore for the entire months trip! If you want to buy them in advance so you seamlessly fit in, you can grab a pair on Amazon for around $12!
What to Avoid Wearing in Thailand
Thai people are very open and welcoming to foreigners and unless you are dressing provocatively, you will be accepted for who you are and how you dress in most areas. Girls should avoid spaghetti strap tops and short skirts in towns and cities.
Avoid wearing t-shirts with pictures of Buddha and Thailand is a Buddhist country – no Thai will tell you this to your face, but they are likely to be offended – it just isn’t appropriate. Avoid getting or showing tattoos of Buddha – this is particularly offensive as the Buddha is to be respected and is not for decoration.
Men should consider avoiding yellow shirts – this was the colour worn by the protesting group Pantamit – the group who illegally took over Suvarnabhumi airport in 2008. Red is a colour not usually worn by Thai’s as it’s worn by the anti-government group Sua Daeng.
Both white and black are acceptable colours fo funerals, but don’t wear black to a wedding as it’s considered unlucky for the bride and groom.
For more on this see: https://tastythailand.com/what-color-clothing-is-appropriate-to-wear-in-thailand/
Everyday outfits to wear in Thailand
You probably don’t need jeans, but if you insist limit yourself to one comfortable pair. In all honesty, denim is a little heavy for the Thai weather.
Everyday outfits for Men
The best things to wear in Thailand are polo shirts, button-down collared shirts, and golf or Bermuda shorts. Even cargo shorts and good quality t-shirts will do. Also packing a pair of semi-casual pants will come in handy for a night out.
Everyday outfits for Females
Definitely pack skirts, shorts, summer dresses, and tasteful tops. These can be either flowing or fitted but should be of good quality and worn with a bra. Shirts should cover your shoulders and have a high collar line. Lacy or sheer fabric is a good way to stay cool but also be sure to have a slip underneath or wear a camisole.
Avoid short skirts in favour of the long flowy types -short skirts in many areas of Thailand make Thai people think you’re a hooker!
What to Wear in Thailand – Beach Wear
Although Thais are often fully clothed at the beach, it’s alright for foreign men to wear only swim shorts and for ladies to wear two-piece bathing suits. However, make sure this is at the beach and not while walking down the main street!
After you step off the sand and start to venture through town, put on a beach cover-up. For women, this means wearing a wrap or sarong which covers the chest and mid-section and men should put on a sleeved t-shirt to wear over the swimming trunks.
A glance around and you will notice you don’t see Thai people riding a motorbike or walking down the street in a bathing suit. Nor will they ride around barefoot. Sporting a bathing suit into town without a cover-up is not allowed and makes Thais uncomfortable. This particularly holds true in non-beach towns such as Chiang Mai and Bangkok.
There are multiple shops in Thailand’s beach towns selling wraps and airy beach cover-ups. They’ll also have plenty of sunglasses and big sun hats to protect you from the sun when needed.
What to wear in Thailand – Temple Wear
Thai Temple – What to wear for Men
Men usually have to wear conservative collared shirts and shorts that come down to the knee, though pants are preferred. T-shirts are alright, but a dressier shirt (short-sleeved or long-sleeved) is favoured. Men must also not go to a temple in a sleeveless shirt or a shirt that’s been left unbuttoned and revealing their chest or belly. Don’t walk in with really short shorts, either.
Thai Temple – What to wear for Women
Women must cover their shoulders and wear skirts or pants that are at least knee-length. One of the ideal pieces of clothing you can pack is a shawl as you can wrap it around your waist or drape it across your chest and shoulders if you are going to a temple.
Women are not allowed to go into a temple if their thighs, cleavage or shoulders are showing. 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 and do not touch them. Most of the popular temples provided visitors with free wraps just in case you’ve not covered up enough.
Footwear for Thailand
Comfortable shoes are a must. Since it rains a lot in Thailand, anything made of plastic or rubber is a great choice. Flip flops are totally acceptable and great for the beach.
However, flat, slipper-like shoes or light trainers are much more convenient for everyday wear. Flip flops are great for the beach but other than that they don’t support your feet at all. I went over on my ankle on temple steps in Chiang Mai during Songkran – sprained my leg and nearly wrote off a week’s worth of travel as a result! I’d pack light shoes or trainers (such as Sketchers) as well and use the flip flops mainly for the beach.
Slipper like shoes or light trainers protect your feet from street grime and there are no laces to wrestle with when taking off your shoes. Laceless is always good so that you can easily slip them on and off for temples and entering other buildings such as museums.
Always take shoes off before entering a temple or someone’s house. If you will see piles of shoes outside of an entranceway, that’s a dead giveaway to remove yours, too. Ladies must not wear high heels because of Thailand’s generally poor sidewalks. If you must wear heels, go with espadrilles or low wedges to give you a more surface area to balance on.
It’s best not to use combat or hiking boots and socks for everyday shoes. Your feet will cook to death and could possibly develop a mad case of athlete’s foot. I found my Converse to be a lighter and more comfortable alternative. They are also suitable for short treks approx 2-3 hours if they fit your feet well.
So that’s three pairs of shoes for women – flip flops, ballet pumps and converse or light trainers. Men might want to swap out the ballet pumps for dress shoes depending on what you have planned.
Lastly, do not walk around barefoot. Some free-spirited individuals like to connect with Mother Earth and in some countries it’s ok, but not in Thailand. Bringing grime that’s been collecting on the soles of your feet into a business or home is offensive.
What to Wear in Thailand – Fabric Choices
Natural fabrics such as linen and silk are ideal to wear in warm climates. Also, some semi-synthetic polyester or synthetic blends are known for being quick-drying and sweat-wicking. They normally stay wrinkle free after washing and packing too.
Cotton blends are alright as long as the material is quite thin. Stick with clothing that has darker colour shades or patterns. Light or bright-coloured will easily show dirt. That’s sometimes hard to avoid between the constant sweating, stains from food splatters and the general dirt on most surfaces.
Thais wear jeans, but it’s safe to say that most Westerners aren’t acclimated to the heat and will be way too hot. Jeans also take a long amount of time to dry on a clothesline and are very heavy to carry around in your suitcase.
100% cotton shirts take a longer amount of time to dry in comparison to shirts with cotton blends. They also don’t always keep you cool and wrinkle easily. Leather will give you rashes in places too.
If you lean towards the classier more modest outfits and clothing made of quick-wicking and airy materials, you can dress comfortably and appropriately.
What to wear for Thailand is probably the most important information you’ll need to know as you’re packing your suitcase for an upcoming trip. Also, remember you can find laundry facilities in Thailand in either the guesthouse or hotel, or there will be coin-operated facilities down the street. If you don’t have these options, you can wash your clothes in your sink with a bag of powdered detergent. They dry so quickly with the climate!
Further Reading on Thailand
- Sukhothai Historical Park
- Ayutthaya day trip from Bangkok – The Second Siamese Capital
- Chiang Rai Tours
- Chiang Mai Tours
- Wat Chai Wattanaram
- Bangkok Temples you Cannot Miss