The following is a guest submission from Nichole Baldino.
Before I left home to teach English for a year in Thailand, I did my research. I consulted many travel blogs, packing websites, expat forums, guide books, maps, and google searches. I felt so prepared as I made my initial packing list, edited it many times, and checked off what was going in my bags.
I filled my small red suitcase and my 45L Gregory Sage backpack as much as I could, determined to let go of my possessions and bring only the necessities. As I left for the airport, I thought I had accomplished just that. Yet, here I am two months into my semester missing some things I left in the states, and wishing that I brought some additional things with me.
Sunscreen – While it’s not so hard to find, it is very expensive! You’ll pay upwards to $20 for it. My advice is to bring as much as your suitcase can hold, or plan to have someone ship it to you. Plus, even some of the sunscreen contains whitener, so it’s best to bring a brand you know.
Bug spray – I’ve learned the hard way that I can’t even leave my room without being bit! I brought a bottle of Deet-Free Bug spray with me from home, but its emptying fast. Although you’ll find OFF here, it’s also very expensive! I also haven’t seen any natural remedies, yet.
Tampons – Tampons are elusive in Thailand! They are hard to find, cost a fair amount of money, and not what you’d expect. I’ve only found tampons here sans-applicator, in quantities of about 10. I often find the shelves at the supermarket empty, and they won’t be re-stocked for days. Come as prepared as possible!
>> The ladies of Her Packing List recommend going with a Diva Cup.
Maxi skirts – The one maxi skirt I brought with me to Thailand has been a miracle. For example, when the Supreme Patriarch of the Monks died and our school was in mourning for a month, not allowed to wear colors, my black and white maxi saved me. It’s cute, casual and comfortable, yet professional enough to wear to school and any temple. I wish I brought all of mine with me! They’re around, but hard to find… I’m surprised at how much I wear mine, but have never seen a Thai in one.
My Laptop – I am currently typing this on my tablet (which I do love). I wanted to bring the tablet in place of a laptop for its size, honestly. I have a keyboard for it, and can use a USB and a wireless mouse, which I thought was all I’d need. Sure, I’m surviving without it, but a laptop would’ve been much more useful! I can’t download any web plug-ins to watch American television, I can’t watch DVDs, I can’t download music or software, and it can be a pain to use in school.
Daypack – For shorter trips and walking/hiking adventures. I didn’t really think of this when packing, but it would be so helpful when I start doing more treks. I plan to invest in one here, but I have two at home waiting for me, and knowing that can be frustrating at times.
Shoes – Luckily for me I am a 7.5 and have no problem finding shoes that fit me, but some friends aren’t so lucky. So if you have larger feet, you might want to be sure you have enough footwear to last you the length of your stay.
Stickers, candy, photographs, postcards, notes, etc. from home – I didn’t bring too many “souvenirs” from home with me, as I didn’t expect I’d be homesick or miss anything at all, but I wish I did. Not only do I love coming home to pictures of my family on my walls, and some small gifts from friends, but I would have loved to share some of these things with my classes; I am always asked about my family and where I’m from. It would have been so great to have tangible things to show.
Teaching and living in Thailand is a constant adventure and a daily challenge, and I’m enjoying every minute of it. I’m getting by just fine on what I brought from home and purchased here, but there are always those time’s where I find myself wishing I had just added those extra flip-flops.
About the Author: Nichole is a 22 year old American expat living in Thailand. After graduating in May from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA with a journalism degree, and desperately seeking a change of pace, Nichole decided the best decision would be to pack her bags and move across the world. She is currently teaching English at Kasetsart University Laboratory School in Chon Buri, loving every minute of it (even when she wants to scream and pull her hair out), and traveling throughout the country whenever she can. She writes about her experiences on her blog.
** Post updated on Jan 31, 2014 to correct spelling of “Thais” and to remove an extra remark about skin whitening.