Thailand with a Baby or Toddler – The Ultimate Guide

Over the past ten years, I’ve spent about six cumulative months in Thailand. From the beaches of the south to the mountains of the north, it’s a wonderful country to travel through, and recently, I brought my 18 month old along to experience it firsthand.

Thanks to the affordability, friendliness, and ease of traveling there, we had a wonderful time in Thailand with my baby. That said, there are some important thing to know to help you prep should you decide to go. Here’s everything to know about Thailand with a baby or toddler:

Thailand Baby Friendliness

Unsurprisingly, the land of smiles is a super friendly place for babies as well. Locals were never too busy to smile and interact with my son, whether they were uniformed officers at the airport or local ladies at the white temple who wanted him in their pictures.

Don’t be surprised if locals want to pick up or hold your kiddo. We experienced this in Bali with our baby as well. I’m the type to hand him right over, but if you’re not comfortable with this, they were never aggressive about it, and you’re certainly not obliged.

Many resorts also offer affordable nanny services. Use your best judgment when booking these, but for well-established places where the baby stays onsite, it could be a good way to get some parents only time.

Unfortunately, I didn’t see family lines anywhere outside of Bangkok airport (there is no family line at Phuket airport’s passport control, and it’s a long one). Changing tables are also rare to find, though most higher end resorts have high chairs, cribs, and even play rooms for kids.

Thailand with a Baby or Toddler Safety

The next natural question is whether it’s safe in Thailand or not for small kids. I have always felt safe in Thailand, but there are a few things to be aware of:

  • The water from the tap is not drinkable (bottled water is provided by most hotels and is easy to find at 7-11).
  • Mosquitoes can be a problem, especially in the rainy season. We bring baby bug spray and a crib mosquito net.
  • Don’t expect wide car seat availability, and be prepared for some riding in Songthaews (open air trucks with bench seating).
  • Avoid any monkeys you see, they are aggressive and will bite!
  • Avoid burning season in the north, which peaks in March, and results in bad air quality.
  • The building codes can be more lax, so keep an eye out for open stairwells or flimsy balcony rails.
  • “Jellyfish season” runs from January to April.

All of that said, there are ways around many of these issues. Use bottled water, aim for the dry season (Nov – March) if you’re worried about mosquitoes, bring your own car seat for taxis (we use Grab taxi, which is similar to Uber), and consider bringing a baby carrier to keep your baby or toddler on you for boat, songthaew, or tuktuk rides.

The per capita overall crime rate in Thailand is only one-fifth of that in the United States, and kidnappings in Thailand are below the global average. While the country unfortunately does face challenges with trafficking, it primarily affects children from rural areas and neighboring countries rather than foreign visitors.

As is prudent anywhere, including in one’s own country, it’s advisable to take normal precautions. However, there’s nothing inherently unsafe about bringing a baby to Thailand.

Finding Baby Items in Thailand

Getting diapers and wipes in Thailand will be much easier in the big cities than it will on the more rural islands, though our concierge did say he could help us find some if needed on Koh Yao Noi.

The best place to find such things is Big C markets, which are all over Bangkok and Chiang Mai. You’ll have a harder time outside of these areas, particularly with formula. Since Thailand discourages formula use, it’s even harder to find. That said, even though Thailand encourages breastfeeding, it’s mostly a conservative society where you’ll want to cover up or seek privacy when feeding.

I’ve learned over the past year and a half of traveling with our baby that I almost always prefer our diapers from home, which contain leaks MUCH better than anything I’ve found the world over. Since our son has allergies, we always had to travel with specialized formula, and now, we bring our own baby food along too to supplement what we find abroad. We’ve had to pack more traveling with a baby, but for everyone’s safety and comfort, we accept that’s part of the deal.

We also try to avoid bringing a crib (though we love the Guava when we need it) if we can, and found that most hotels had them on offer for us. If you’re doing Thailand on a super budget, which I have many times, don’t expect these amenities, but in mid-range to higher end places, you’ll likely find hotel cribs and high chairs. Ask ahead of time to plan accordingly.

Where to go in Thailand with a Baby or Toddler

After spending so much time in Thailand, I hold an uncommon opinion that the north is the most wonderful part. Of course, the islands are gorgeous, but I love the peace and tranquility of Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle. Here are the best spots for families:

  • Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai: These two islands are quiet, peaceful islands with hardly any cars or traffic, and gorgeous views of Krabi and Phuket’s bay without the hustle and bustle. I’ve visited each twice and loved the calm sea and lovely views for a family trip. There are also many nice resorts to suit any budget. We particularly loved the Six Senses Koh Yao Noi. This area is easy to access via flight into Phuket.
best places to travel with a baby
The Six Senses main pool
  • Koh Chang: Another quieter island with lots to see and do, Koh Chang is often called the ‘last cheap island’ in Thailand. Fly to Trat to get an onward boat.
  • Koh Kood: A quiet, more remote island with some lovely resorts, white sand beaches, and calm waters. Fly to Trat to get an onward boat.
  • Sukothai: The ruins of Sukhothai are reminiscent of a small Angkor Wat, and it’s fun to bike around and explore them. This is a midway point between Bangkok and Chiang Mai if you’re crossing overland.
  • Chiang Rai: Chiang Mai’s north is quiet, peaceful, and can be a lot cooler in the ‘winter’ months. I’d avoid in March as it’s peak burning season, but it’s lovely from November to January. The White Temple is a must-see, as are some of the national parks up north. Buses are plentiful, but I’ve also rented a car to get around and found the driving to be pretty easy to get the hang of. We loved staying at the Anatara Golden Triangle and Elephant Camp.
  • Chiang Mai: Chiang Mai is the former capital of the north and a wonderful place to eat all the delicious food, have ethical elephant encounters (please avoid places that offer rides), and get pampered with massages and facials. It’s also a great jumping off point for northern explorations and for enjoying Thailand’s holidays and festivals. We enjoyed Melia Chiang Mai, which had an awesome kids play area.

Getting Around Thailand

thailand with a baby

You have several options for getting around Thailand, and they just keep getting easier, from my experience traveling there over the past 11 years.

By Car

In most major cities, you can easily use Grab Taxi, which is useful all over Southeast Asia, to book rides much like Uber works. You can select the size of car you need, including SUVs if you have baggage or a full family to transport. Prices are affordable and there’s no money exchanged as it’s all done through your credit card.

They don’t have car seats, but we just brought our travel car seat along and installed it quickly for longer rides. You can also have your baby on your lap if you’re comfortable.

Many hotels also provide or will offer transport, and sometimes they have car seats. The Six Senses and Anatara both did.

Tuktuks and Songthaews are also around and are often cheaper, but we mostly avoided those with a toddler unless it was just shorter rides.

You can also rent a car. I once did a northern road trip renting in Chiang Mai and driving around, and it was affordable and gave me access to remote areas without any other tourists. It might seem intimidating, but I got the hang of the driving style there quickly. I wouldn’t drive in Bangkok, but the north wasn’t bad at all. Personally, I would not drive with a baby on a motorbike, but I saw plenty of people doing it. It all comes down to your personal comfort levels.

By Boat

Ferries to the islands are another adventure, and I’ve been on plenty that were overpacked with backpackers. While you can certainly take these types of ferries, I’d always opt for the fastest ones, or consider booking directly with your hotel if they offer one. The Six Senses offered a shared boat to the island four times per day, which was much more comfortable. Was it pricier than the ferry with tons of people? Yes, but it’s still Thailand, so we’re only talking $30 vs. $10.

If you’d still like to enjoy the beaches without dealing with boats or ferries, you can visit Krabi, Phuket, Ao Nang, Khao Lak, or many other coastal cities.

Finally, flights within Thailand are often easy and affordable, but not all airlines are created equal.

Bangkok Airways is the best local airline, which offers checked baggage allowance even for lap infants. Air Asia is also reliable and can often have good deals, though you’ll have to pay for every extra thing.

AVOID Nok Air, which has frequent cancellations and as I painfully learned, charges for baggage for each leg of the journey (so for our flight from Phuket to Chiang Rai, which had a layover in Bangkok, they charged me twice for baggage. I’ve never seen this before), and they charge car seats. In total, I paid $150 just for one bag and one car seat and dealt with two cancellations and major delays. Never again!

Food and Water Safety in Thailand

Over the course of the past decade of traveling in Thailand, I’ve had a few stomach issues and wanted to avoid those for my son. While any place can give you the runs, if you’re eating street food, pick places that are crowded with locals. If they are eating there (and bringing their kids there) I go for it, too. Street food isn’t inherently dangerous, and is often cooked right in front of you with fresh ingredients. I almost exclusively ate it during my first years in Thailand.

However now we have a peanut allergy to contend with, so we made sure to never feed our son local food, unfortunately. Thai food often has peanut in it, and cross contamination is easy when everything is made in the same wok or pans. We’d often order my son food at the resort, which I always briefed ahead of time about his allergy, and would eat local food ourselves. If we were out at a restaurant, I’d show them the Thai translation of his allergy.

We also fed him local fruit, lots of sea bass, and grilled veggies, and always had snacks from home along in case nothing was available. I’m happy to report we didn’t have any issues.

As for bottle washing, I would use hot water from the tap to wash bottles with our unscented dish soap from home and portable washing station, and then rinsed everything thoroughly with bottled water. Though I use tap water to brush my own teeth, we only used bottled for my son. If we needed to mix up powdered milk for him, we used bottled water as well.

Strollers, Changing Tables, and Beach and Pool safety in Thailand

Even though I never expect to be able to use a stroller much in Southeast Asia, we bring it along for the airport since corralling a toddler is a challenge and it’s much easier to get around quickly without killing our backs. We brought a small stroller that can easily fit in the overhead bin of an airplane, for this trip, which was the Joolz Aer.

I was actually surprised with how much we ended up using it in Thailand. At some of the resorts we stayed at, there were paved pathways, or even throughout the lobby it made sense to get around. We also had some long layovers and were very happy to have it.

Changing tables outside of the airports were almost nonexistent. I changed our son on a bus across my partner’s lap in a moment of need and just tossed the diaper in the bus bathroom trash after. It’s not ideal, but doable.

We also brought along a baby carrier (the Artipoppe sky pictured above), which I was very happy to have in areas where a stroller wouldn’t work, like most sidewalks in Chiang Mai and when visiting the elephants up north.

For beach and pool safety, don’t expect to see baby gates along pools. Since we had pools attached to our room a couple of times, we just made sure to keep the doors closed and locked and were always with my son during our trip. As for beaches, while the waters are usually calm, I recommend bringing goggles and checking for jellyfish before bringing your baby or toddler in, and always use reef-safe sunscreen. We also use a full body bathing suit, hat, and sunglasses. Although many baby bathing suits are adorable, we saw another baby with a sunburn and I was glad that we opted for full body coverage.

Overall, I loved Thailand with a baby and would go back in a heartbeat. Generally, we’ve loved traveling all throughout Asia with my son, including Singapore and Japan. It’s one of my favorite parts of the world for a reason.

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