What to Wear in Thailand Without Looking Like a Backpacker

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  1. Great tips on how to dress in Thailand Alana! I totally agree with you that is is nice being well-dressed also on travels and vacations, and not look like a backpacker all the time. Especially in Thailand and Asia in general it is important not to show too much skin. The worst thing is western tourists wearing Chang or Singha tank tops, hehe. That black dress from Zalora is beautiful. Even though I love shopping at markets in Thailand, especially Chatuchak weekend market, I rarely find my size and the quality of the fabrics in the clothes and shoes are not the best. So I do most of my shopping for clothes and shoes back home in Europe. Ah, I really miss Thailand!

  2. Erica says:

    Love the tips – I think the general gist of them apply to a lot of Asian countries. I found the same thing with high necklines and high hemlines in Japan!

  3. Justine says:

    Great tips! I’m currently doing some shopping in the states in preparation for my move to Cambodia in a couple weeks. And I always find it tough to find clothes that are cute, multipurpose and that will keep me cool. So this post was perfect timing 🙂

  4. Bethany says:

    I’m moving to Bangkok in three weeks, and this makes me nervous! I’m not one to show a lot of skin, but there is no way I’m tossing all of my cute sundresses! I’ve always been a long skirt or pants on bottom, tank top on top girl, and I don’t see this changing any time soon- it works better with my body shape. Walking around in yoga pants and a tank is a Southern California uniform. While I don’t want to offend people, I don’t really care if I look like a tourist as long as I’m happy and comfortable in what I’m wearing. I’ll be attending college with a bunch of “kids” in their teens/early twenties- do you think I can get away with more, since I’ve heard they dress pretty provocatively/flamboyantly at school?

    • Alana Morgan says:

      Don’t worry – you’ll be just fine! And at school you’ll be required to wear a uniform anyway.

      • Bethany says:

        Thank you! Phew…

      • Bethany says:

        So my worries were unfounded. I attend an American university, so I could probably get away with the logo tees and cutoffs that some of the people wear. It’s a more business casual setting, so I’ve bought some more conservative skirts/tops/dresses at the market and I’m good to go. I see A LOT of skin being shown in Bangkok- everywhere, in broad daylight- not just by ladyboys and bar girls. So I’m not worried about offending anyone with a bra strap or a strappy sundress. But I DO feel uncomfortable if I look sloppy or too casual- the Thais seem to put effort into getting dressed, for the most part- the ladies look cute and put together!

        • Alana Morgan says:

          Yes, I feel like you can get away with showing some skin as long as you don’t look sloppy and simply be aware of the type of situation/location/people you’ll be around. I’m fully covered if I go to a temple or meet with clients, but running errands around town I feel find wearing shorts, etc. Hope you’re enjoying it!

  5. Ruth says:

    Great post! I live in central Thailand and work as a teacher so I know it to be a conservative culture. The paradoxes can definitely be confusing but I can’t be seen to wear things that are too short or show of my shoulders and looking smart is very important.

    So many people seem to think that ‘anything goes’ in Thailand and it makes me cringe to see what some people where. Obviously it’s up to them but they shouldn’t then be surprised when they don’t get the respect of the locals.

    • Alana Morgan says:

      In a way it is ‘anything goes’ – I’ve seen people out to dinner or the movies in a short dress, heels and fake eyelashes as well pajamas, but when it comes to baring it all, it’s just not okay! I cringe when I see guys driving or walking around Chiang Mai without their shirts on – there’s no beach around and no one else is doing it…don’t they realize that!?

  6. Charlotte says:

    Living is Laos, I guess I’ve been lucky to not have to worry about what I’ll wear on the bottom part of my body. The sinh is just so comfortable and beautiful and easy to match any top with. I also buy tops when I’m abroad, as the fit is much better for my shape.
    Great advice on what to wear other than my sinh!

  7. Kristen says:

    Great post! I’ve found that buying accessories at the markets is the way to go. Scarves, bracelets and necklaces are a great way to update your limited wardrobe when abroad and avoid wearing the Farang uniform i.e. elephant pants and a Chang tank *cringe*. My go to piece is a light weight chambray button up that I can throw on over a tank so I don’t feel naked when walking/driving around. P.s I brought a push up bra with me from the states and haven’t worn it once in the last 9 months.

  8. Nikki says:

    I had no idea! I adhere to most of those rules but I would have never known about the bare shoulders thing and now I do. Great post!

  9. Travel-Ling says:

    Great tips! I remember Thailand being so hot too, so the lace sleeves to be modest and still cool are a good idea!

  10. Bethany says:

    What kind of dry shampoo do you like? 🙂

    • Alana Morgan says:

      I switch back and forth between using baby powder and, ideally, the Batiste brand of dry shampoo. I have some from Pantene Pro-V right now that smells great, but doesn’t seem to work as well for me as Batiste.

  11. Emily La Porte says:

    Hello Alana & fellow travelers,
    Thanks for the great article. I also think it’s an art to be able to have a mixable and matchable wardrobe that is culturally appropriate, sensible for the climate and looks cute without carrying around 3 suitcases. I accept your challenge! I go for neutral pieces that can be dressed up or down with accessories. I also try to carry a cute bag in place of a day backpack and wear comfy flats in place of tennis shoes. I do a lot of hiking and trekking on my adventures, so I have backpacks and tennis shoes but i try to limit my use when not in the hills.

  12. Nadja says:

    Great blog. I will be going to Thailand in 10 days so I have a question. I have to wear special shoes because I get pain walking very quickly if I don’t. As they were custom made for my feet, they were really expensive, but look just like nice leather shoes for women with small feet. Now do I have to be worried if I leave them somewhere, outside a temple e.g. ? Don’t get me wrong, people here often just take umbrellas outside the stores, so I wouldn’t recommend leaving a $1000 worth one. Should I bring some bag where I can put them in and take with me, or what do you think? Thanks for your help. Greets from Switzerland!

    • Alana Morgan says:

      Absolutely everyone leaves their shoes outside a temple and I’ve never heard of any problems. I’ve left my keys in my motorbike parked in the street overnight and it was still there…I can’t imagine anyone stealing shoes, especially while they’re at a temple – that would be horrible, horrible karma!

  13. Sarah says:

    Hi! I am planning a trip to Thailand and one of my major reasons for going is to get my very first Sak Yantra tattoo at Wat Bang Phra… 🙂 I know that it is important to keep the shoulders covered at the temple and to remove your shoes before going inside. But my question is such: Are women required to wear PANTS specifically to the temple? I just need to know what will be considered the most respectful and acknowledging to their spirituality.

  14. Jenny says:

    Love everything on this blog! I’ll be studying in Khon Kaen this summer, but am planning on traveling around to other places in Thailand. Is there any specifics you would recommend for the summer months rainy season (may, june, july)? I’m from the midwest, so I am not used to hot, humid, and rain!

  15. Kevin ucan says:

    Thanks for the tips, which I happened to stumble from nowhere. I’ll let my wife read this and she’s good to go to Thailand, next month.

  16. sarah c says:

    I am coming to Bangkok to teach, starting at the end of August, I would be interested to know what type of thing you wore whilst you were teaching. Great blog btw!

    • Alana Morgan says:

      For one of my teaching jobs I had set things I needed to wear every day and bought everything in Thailand. For the gigs that were a little more relaxed I wore loose trousers or long skirts and a loose blouse – it’s hot! I was really concerned about clothes before I came, but you’ll be able to get stuff once you get here and see what others are wearing.

  17. an says:

    Thank you great help off to Bangkok this week for only 5days, Staying at double tree Any tips at where to eat Vegan clean and healthy

  18. Very useful and practical list. It’s hard to come up with stuff that doesn’t make you look like a backpacker and still travel light but you have some good recommendations.

  19. Bridgette Jordaan says:

    Thank you so much for this information. We maybe moving to Thailand sometime early spring 2018. My husband would need to be close to an airport but I would like to live near the beach. I don’t to well in large cities ; Dallas ,Houston but I’m not one to live in a place like New York . Do you have any suggestions on where to live that’s not too expensive ,safe and a good school for a 4 yr.old?
    Thank you so much
    B

    • Alana Morgan says:

      There are several areas near the beach that are also close to an airport, like Phuket, Krabi or Hua Hin. Hua in would probably be the most family-friendly and cheapest. Really the only large city in Thailand in Bangkok.

  20. Brendah says:

    Really enjoyed this article, thank you! Great tips 🙂

  21. Thaisnook says:

    Thanks for the tips! Will definitely keep these things in my head. My go to outfit is shorts and a white tee but since I already moved here in Thailand for a couple of months ago, I should totally wear pjs or pants more.

  22. This is a very informative post. I will always remember your suggestions during my Thailand trip and try to wear according to your suggestions.

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