Koh Tao Packing Checklist
You’ve booked your dream trip to Koh Tao, your departure date is coming around fast, and now it’s time to begin prepping and packing. This can be easier said than done, especially if it’s your first time visiting Southeast Asia and you don’t really know what you need to bring versus what you can buy on the island, what clothes to bring for the weather on Koh Tao, and what is essential and what’s not. So we’ve put together the ultimate packing checklist to help you.
Before You Travel
Even before you get to the packing stage, there’s a few essential tasks and some admin that you should take care of to ensure a hassle-free trip:
- Check your passport – you’ll need at least 6 months’ validity remaining and a minimum of two unstamped pages to be admitted into the country.
- Ensure your vaccines are up to date – check with your doctor to see what updates you need and any new jabs that are recommended. Koh Tao is not an area where malaria and rabies are a consideration, but depending on the rest of your Thailand itinerary, they may still be required.
- Buy travel insurance – we recommend against ever travelling uninsured. Proper travel insurance will protect you from all kinds of accidents and injuries, plus any lost or stolen luggage. If you are basing your trip to Koh Tao around specific activities like scuba diving, then be sure to get a policy that covers you for that too.
- Get your Thailand Tourist Visa – depending on where you are from and how long you intend to stay you may not need to apply in advance, but it is important to have all of the details and be prepared with any supporting documentation you’ll need to enter Thailand.
- Share your itinerary with a few friends or family members at home so that someone knows where you are. That way if you are held up or in an accident between locations, the right people can be alerted sooner rather than later.
- Have copies of all of your important documents like your passport, visa, flight tickets, and booking confirmations. You can make actual copies, and/or have scans saved to your phone or tablet.
- Make sure none of your credit and debit cards will expire while you are away, and remember to inform your bank of your travel plans so that your cards don’t get blocked when you try to use them on arrival.
- Have your emergency contact details listed and saved on your home screen or screen saver of your smart devices, and/or carry a hard copy in your wallet.
- Make sure you know the contact details for local emergency services in all of the destinations you are visiting and have them saved on your phone.
What to Pack
Some people are pros at travelling light, whereas others always seem to be right up to their luggage weight limit only to return having used only a small percentage of what they took! So, what to pack for a trip to Koh Tao? Swimwear, shorts, t-shirts, flip flops, and a decent selection of underwear is a given. Plus your smartphone and other electrical devices, wallet, etc. But what else do you need? Regardless of how many additional creature comforts you want to bring with you, the travel essentials for a trip to Koh Tao are:
- Small padlocks/luggage locks – Any stowed luggage should be securely locked at all times. Many hostels, dive centres, and even some travel agencies provide lockers for customers, but you need to have your own padlocks.
- Travel Wallet – whether it’s a bum bag, neck wallet, or just a dedicated pouch of some kind that stays in your hand luggage, having one place where you can keep all of your valuable documents on your person is a good idea.
- Pen and paper – whether it’s entertaining yourself with drawing or journal entries, jotting down names of places and businesses when you get recommendations, or taking down contact details of new friends, you should always have a pen and paper at hand.
- Eco products – having your own reusable cup, cutlery, and straw is always a good idea. As an island heavily invested in conservation, you can buy all of these on Koh Tao, but the same cannot be said of other destinations in Thailand.
- A basic first aid kit – you don’t need to be prepared for Armageddon, but a small selection of basics is recommended. This includes pain killers, antihistamine tablets, diarrhea medication, plasters, bandages, tape, a small pair of scissors, and some rehydration sachets.
- Earplugs or noise cancelling headphones – these can be a godsend in busy hostels, or on long journeys on loud trains or busses.
- A universal adapter – preferable one with a surge protector, as power supplies can fluctuate on Koh Tao.
- Sunscreen – you can buy sunscreen here on Koh Tao but it is expensive. So as a general rule it’s best to bring what you think you’ll need with you.
- Any specific toiletries you can’t live without – there are several pharmacies and a range of supermarkets on Koh Tao that sell a wide range. But if there’s a particular product or brand that you insist on, then bring it with you.
- Any medication you need – you can buy many things over the counter here, or get a consultation at one of the Koh Tao hospitals or clinics should you need a doctor’s note. But it is safer and easier to just bring an adequate supply of whatever you need with you.
- A quick-dry towel – perfect for any beach day, a dip in the pool, or just to dry off after an unexpected rain shower.
- A sarong – a wonderfully multipurpose addition to any backpack, a sarong can be used as a dress, skirt or head covering when you need to cover up at a holy site, a beach towel, or even a sheet. You can buy sarongs on the island, but having one from the start is definitely a good idea.
- Power bank – for charging smartphones or other devices on the move.
- One warm jumper, a pair of socks and a raincoat – for long journeys in AC, or the occasional rainstorm.
- One pair of trainers – most of the time you’ll only need your flip flops, but proper footwear is required to explore the hiking trails of Koh Tao that you’ll need to use to reach some of the best viewpoints and the island’s more remote beaches and bays.
When You Arrive
Once you arrive on Koh Tao, you’ll need to pick up these popular island must-haves:
- A Thai Sim card – the most reliable phone service provider for Koh Tao is the AIS network. AIS has a store in central Sairee and offers a range of deals on daily, weekly, and monthly packages.
- A map of the island – There are many island maps available free of charge at travel agencies, tourist information points, and on the stands outside 7-Eleven stores.
- A dry dock/waterproof pouch for your phone so you can capture some pictures of the marine life you see when you are swimming and snorkeling around the colourful tropical reefs of Koh Tao.
- Underwater camera – if you plan on going diving then you’ll need a basic underwater camera, even if it’s just a disposable one, to capture images more than a few metres deep.
What NOT to bring
It’s also worth noting a few things you won’t need to bring on your trip to Koh Tao. After all, less luggage on the outbound trip means more space for clothes and souvenirs to take home!
Sleeping bag – Unless you plan on camping, a sleeping bag is just unnecessary weight. Plus, you’ll find it’s too hot for one on Koh Tao anyway. Most accommodation providers include bedding, but if not then a sarong or lightweight towel will be perfectly adequate as a sheet.
Lots of cash – there are plenty of banks and ATMs on Koh Tao.
More than one pair of proper shoes or one pair of jeans – you just won’t get the use out of them.
High heeled shoes – however much you love them, there’s just no need for them on Koh Tao!
Expensive jewellery – it’s just an extra risk that you don’t need to take, especially given the casual dress code for virtually every Koh Tao event.
A vape – vaping is currently illegal in Thailand, and the penalties include hefty fines and possible jail time.
Too many clothes – The main roads and side streets in all of Koh Tao’s main villages are littered with clothing shops, so you can stock up on any t-shirts, bags, flip flops, bikinis, or board shorts you need when you get here.