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What to Pack for Chiang Mai

Article by Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah

Posted: April 7, 2023

Chiang Mai is a beautiful and culturally rich destination in northern Thailand. From exploring ancient temples and bustling night markets to trekking in the nearby mountains and volunteering with local organisations, there is plenty to see and do in Chiang Mai. But before you embark on your adventure, it’s important to pack the right items to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable trip.

Clothing

Chiang Mai has a tropical climate with hot and humid weather year-round, so packing appropriate clothing is essential. Lightweight and breathable clothing made of natural fibres like cotton or linen are best for staying cool and comfortable. If you’re travelling during the rainy season (May to October), be sure to pack a lightweight rain jacket or poncho.

It’s also important to dress appropriately when visiting cultural sites like temples and palaces. Be sure to pack clothing that covers your shoulders and knees, such as a long-sleeved shirt and pants or a long skirt. Wearing shoes that are easy to slip on and off, such as sandals or flats, is also recommended as you’ll need to remove your shoes when entering religious sites.

Footwear

Comfortable and sturdy shoes are a must when exploring Chiang Mai, especially if you plan to do any trekking or hiking in the nearby mountains. Hiking boots or sturdy sneakers with good traction are recommended for outdoor activities, while sandals or flats are suitable for walking around the city.

Accessories

Sun protection is essential when travelling to Chiang Mai, where the sun can be intense. Be sure to pack a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen with at least SPF 30. Insect repellent is also important as mosquitos and other bugs can be a nuisance, particularly during the rainy season.

A small backpack or daypack is useful for carrying essentials like water, snacks, and sunscreen during day trips. Look for a backpack with comfortable straps and multiple compartments to keep your belongings organised.

Technology and Gadgets

If you plan on staying connected while travelling, be sure to pack a smartphone or tablet with a local SIM card for easy access to the internet. A power bank is also useful for keeping your devices charged while on the go.

If you’re a photography enthusiast, consider bringing a camera to capture the stunning landscapes and cultural sites of Chiang Mai. A waterproof camera or phone case can be useful during the rainy season.

Medication and Toiletries

It’s important to pack any necessary medication and first aid kit items for your trip to Chiang Mai. Be sure to include items like pain relief medication, diarrhoea medication, and any prescription medication you may need.

Toiletries like toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo, and soap can be easily purchased in Chiang Mai, but if you have specific preferences, be sure to pack them in travel-sized containers. A small microfiber towel is also useful for drying off quickly and taking up minimal space in your luggage.

Volunteering Essentials

If you plan on volunteering during your trip to Chiang Mai, there are a few additional items you should consider packing. Work gloves and sturdy work shoes are necessary for outdoor projects, and clothing that can get dirty, like long pants and t-shirts, is recommended. A water bottle to stay hydrated during volunteer work is also essential.

Other Considerations 

When travelling to Chiang Mai, it’s important to be aware of cultural norms and customs to ensure a respectful and positive experience. Dressing modestly when visiting religious sites is important, as is showing respect for the local culture. It’s also important to remove your shoes when entering religious sites, as this is considered a sign of respect.

When interacting with locals, it’s a good idea to learn a few basic phrases in Thai, such as “hello” (sawadee kah/krup), “thank you” (kob kun kah/krup), and “excuse me” (kor tot kah/krup). This can go a long way in showing that you appreciate and respect the local culture.

Finally, it’s important to pack a sense of adventure and an open mind when travelling to Chiang Mai. This beautiful and culturally rich destination is full of surprises and unexpected experiences, so be ready to embrace the unknown and enjoy everything this amazing destination has to offer. Make the most of every opportunity, whether that’s volunteering in elephant conservation with GVI, or immersing yourself in the local culture. 

In conclusion, Chiang Mai is an incredible destination that offers a unique blend of cultural immersion and outdoor adventure. When packing for your trip, it’s important to consider the tropical climate and pack appropriate clothing, footwear, and accessories for sun protection and insect prevention. If you plan on volunteering, be sure to pack the necessary work gear and PPE. And above all, remember to pack an open mind and a sense of adventure to fully embrace everything this amazing destination has to offer.

By Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah is a freelance writer from New Zealand with a passion for outdoor adventure and sustainable travel. She has been writing about travel for more than five years and her work has appeared in print and digital publications including National Geographic Travel, Conde Nast Travel, Business Insider, Atlas Obscura and more. You can see more of her work at petrinadarrah.com.
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