After looking at some of the specifics you might need to bring with you on the Elephant Project I was thinking about a packing list that covers the basics needed for all of the projects.
You are not going to war, you don’t need ALL of those socks, pans, ration packs and you certainly don’t need that AK-47
So to start off with, you don’t need 75% of the things that you think you do. If you have already packed and are using this as a checklist then you should completely unpack and start again. I made the HUGE mistake of overpacking when I came to volunteer, I had a British Army burgen that was stuffed tight, a huge duffel bag as well as a smaller backpack as well. This is far too much!!! In your normal life do you think you honestly need 20KGs of clothes to survive for two weeks?
Yeah, I didn’t think so.
If your airline baggage allowance is the standard 20KGs then you shouldn’t need any more than 10KG in total. Everything you think you need, you probably don’t, chances are you can get it out here and much, much cheaper than you could do in your home country.
This is the best way to pack your bag once you have everything laid out that you need, for volunteering with us just ignore the sleeping bag part, just stick more t-shirts in there
So lets start off with the clothing items you will need for your trip. We have washing facilities here in Surin so you don’t need to worry about bring 14 pairs of pants if you are here for two weeks and the same goes for clothes as well.
You will need;
- T-shirts – You need to bring at least one or two t-shirts that cover your shoulders for when you visit temples, schools or other places of importance.
- Vest tops – In Surin it is perfectly ok to wear vest tops on a day to day basis, not so much in Bangkok or our other location in Sangklaburi as there, you have to dress conservatively and cover your shoulders.
- Long sleeved shirts – I would HIGHLY recommend you bring or aquire at least one long sleeved shirt, buses and trains can get cold from airconditioning as can the evenings during the rainy season. They are also great for keeping you cool whilst on project and protecting your skin if you are sensitive to the sun.
- Shorts – Girls, try not to bring anything super short, Thailand is a respectable and conservative place, you won’t be making any friends if your shorts are smaller than your granny pants. For guys, board shorts are perfect.
- Trousers – or some kind of harem or fisherman pants are a must have, the Grand Palace in Bangkok is super conservative about its dress regulations, as well as all temples and places of importance. You need to have something that will cover your knees, and no, leggings are not appropriate in this instance.
- Swim Wear – In Surin we have two hotels which both have swimming pools where it is acceptable to wear western bikinis but if you are planning on going swimming in rivers or lakes then you must be more covered up, shirt and shorts are the norm; it is also frowned upon to wear bikini tops as bras (sorry boys :D) For guys, wearing normal swimming trucks are fine but none of that Speedos malarky!
- A light waterproof – If you are volunteering in the rainy season (Mid May to Oct) then you are advised to bring one of these with you. I brought one that fits into one of those small bags so it doesn’t take up space and used it quite a few times during my own project.
- A hat or cap – full brimmed hats are the best thing, they prevent your neck from getting burnt and can make the difference between sunstroke and just being warm. They might not be the coolest looking thing but I promise you will regret not having one.
- Flip flops – Thai people live in flip flops
- Trainers or sneakers – great for using whilst doing everyday activities as they protect your feet more than flip flops do
- Walking/hiking boots – I think everyone should bring a pair of durable shoes, chances are you will be spending time in a jungle type environment, weather it be on project or a weekend trip to Khao Yai, and shoes like this are a god send.
- You DO NOT need to bring jewelry or accessories with you
On a side not, make sure that all of your clothes are natural fibres, they keep you cool in the heat and are much easier to clean whilst you are here, there is nothing worse than wearing synthetic fibers when it is as hot and humid as it is here.
Obviously you won’t just be bringing clothes with you when you travel so this is a pretty comprehensive list of ‘other stuff’ you might need.
- Passport – you are required to always have a form of ID with you in Thailand, plus you need it to get on the plane.
- Relevant Visa Information – If you aren’t staying over 4 weeks in Thailand then you don’t need to worry about visa, if you aren’t sure then check this blog post.
- Flight Details – have one copy in your hold luggage, one in your cabin luggage and one with somebody back at home as well.
- Insurance Details – again have three copies of this just in case, a lot of companies give you cards now a days so keep that safe with your passport.
- Itinerary – Some people don’t like having itineraries but I think they provide a peace of mind for friends and family back home; make a note of the importance phone numbers you might need whilst with us. Keep all of your documents in something waterproof and secure.
- Money – DO NOT bring travelers cheques to Surin, we don’t use them, nor do I think any of the shops will know what to do with them.
- Credit/debit cards – I would bring cards with you, even if it is just a back up, they are easily replaced and blocked unlike money. You will get charged 150 Baht when you withdraw from an ATM and that does not include the charge you receive from your own bank so withdrawing larger sums of money is a better idea.
- Universal adapter – or at the very least a US adapter
- Camera – You WILL need a camera
- Rechargeable battery pack for your camera or rechargeable batteries – Thai batteries suck.
- Phone and charger – I brought my iPhone out with me when I was a volunteer but if you don’t want to risk it getting damaged or lost then you can pick up a very cheap cricket phone here.
- Laptop/tablet/iPad – I brought mine out with me and used them quite a lot but there are several internet cafes within walking distance of your house if you don’t want to risk your own.
- Any medication that you are on – This must be in its original bottles/packets.
- Sunscreen – At LEAST factor 30
- Mosquito Spray – At LEAST 30% Deet
- Small First Aid Kit
- Contraception – Something that came as a shock to me recently is how high the numbers of people with HIV in Thailand is, you REALLY don’t want HIV, or a baby I imagine, so please make sure that you bring protection with you; you just never know what might happen.
- Sunglasses – The sunglare here is super strong so sunglasses are recommended.
- MP3/iPod – Great source of entertainment for the plane and any other journey or down time.
- Books – Great for the train journey to Surin, we also have a book swap at the volunteer houses so feel free to mix and match your reading material with volunteers who came before you.
- Phrase Book – I really do recommend volunteers to learn at least some Thai whilst they are with us, plus you may find yourself in a situation where there is no translator and having a phrase book with you can make a huge difference.
- Diary/Journal – In years to come you won’t remember all the in jokes and amusing things that happened to you whilst you volunteered in Thailand so write a journal everyday, even if it is just bullet points, I promise that you will appreciate it later down the line.
If you don’t have any of the things on the above two lists then I would advise, if you can’t get it for free, then wait until you get here. There are heaps of places to buy cheap clothes and miscellaneous items from if you need them, not only is it cheaper but it helps the local economy and the independent vendors that you purchase from.
If you think ‘Well I might use it‘ I can assure you that you won’t. The same goes for if you think you will only use something once, Thailand isn’t the back o’ beyond, it is a well developed country that has the same things your home country does and often the exact same brands as well; just with a lot more whitening products! Keep an eye out for these when you are picking up toiletries as often it is all written in Thai so can be difficult to ascertain if something is whitening or not.
My last piece of advice is, don’t stress out about what to bring. You are overthinking way to much if you are getting stressed out, if you want a blanket title for what you should wear, like on a party invitiation, then it would be conservative summer wear.
Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto
Not many pictures this post so here is a cat with its face in some bread.