Are you thinking about taking a trip to Thailand with a baby? Or maybe visiting Thailand with toddlers? You are in for an awesome time! Thailand is a wonderful country to visit with little ones, and in fact it was our very first trip as a family (when we visited Thailand with a 4 month old!)
There are a few things that you need to know to prepare for the best trip ever. Read on to learn all about traveling to Thailand with a baby.
Is it safe to travel to Thailand with a baby?
I will start with this question, because people ask it a lot.
Yes! Thailand is safe for babies. As safe as anywhere else, if you take the proper precautions.
Thailand has some of the same risks that you will find in any country, especially in the big cities, but there is nothing especially dangerous about Thailand for toddlers or babies.
Some things you might want to think about ahead of time and watch out for: lax building codes (meaning open stairwells and other dangers), beach and pool safety, food and water safety, and transportation. I cover all of these in later sections.
The overall crime rate per capita is 1/5 of that in the US, although the rate of violent crimes in slightly higher than in the US, according to the stats website NationMaster. Kidnappings are below the global average, and while Thailand does have a trafficking problem, it is sadly children from rural areas and neighboring countries who are impacted, not foreign visitors.
As with anywhere, including at home, take normal precautions. But there is nothing inherently unsafe about taking a baby to Thailand.
Plan ahead for transportation.
This is always a challenge when you travel with a baby or toddler, and especially in areas of Southeast Asia where transportation can be dangerous.
It is standard practice for locals in Thailand, and most of Asia, to carry your baby on your lap in the car. Or on your scooter. I even once saw a woman breastfeeding while driving her scooter in Indonesia, with a toddler hanging on her back! Impressive, terrifying… but normal in that culture.
However, we were not comfortable with just sitting in taxis with our baby on our lap. And over the years, we have learned a lot about how to safely get around while traveling.
You may have heard that you can’t use car seats in taxis in Thailand. This is sometimes true. More specifically, you will often find that the taxis do not have rear seatbelts, they certainly won’t have a LATCH system, and sometimes, even with seatbelts, they won’t allow you to install your car seat.
So how do you get around all that?
You will need to plan ahead to mitigate and eliminate the risk of driving without a car seat.
You can stay in areas that will minimize your taxi time. When we stayed in Bangkok, we chose a hotel a short walk from the Skytrain. We used the train to get almost everywhere we wanted to see.
On the islands, we chose places to stay that were close to the beach, and took tuk tuks in low-traffic areas. (I’m not saying tuk tuks are safe, so we tried to use them only in slow-moving pedestrian areas).
If you do have your car seat with you, you’ll have better luck installing it in a Grab (the Uber of Southeast Asia) than in a taxi. You can also book your airport transfer ahead of time, and ensure that they will allow you to install the car seat.
Some shuttle services will have a car seat available to borrow if you ask ahead of time. While this is obviously preferable to no car seat, but there is no guarantee that you will get a safe, accident-free, clean, or even appropriately-sized car seat. If you have brought your own car seat (perhaps for use on the flight), that is your safest bet.
You can rent a car with a driver for a day or days at a time for pretty cheap in Thailand. This is a great option if you bring your car seat or if you hire from a company that provides car seats. Hire a car for day trips, or any days that you are planning to jump around to several sites within one day, and use the car seat instead of hopping from taxi to taxi.
Hiring a driver is a great way to get to some of the best off-the-beaten track things to do with kids in Thailand!
If you do need to ride in a taxi without a car seat, there are still ways to mitigate the risk a little. I talk about this, along with other car seat alternatives, at length in this post about safe transportation on vacation.
Baby supplies are available, but not always easy to find.
I am a big proponent of traveling light. In fact, we always travel carry on only with a baby and a toddler. One of the ways I do that is by planning to buy supplies if needed.
That’s easier in some places than in others, and we found it especially challenging in Thailand. When we stayed in a touristy area of Phuket, we went to every market in walking distance in search of diapers and formula, with no luck.
Usually any mid-sized corner market (anywhere in the world) will have diapers and wipes, because there are diaper-wearing babies everywhere. We just had the misfortune of only finding teeny-tiny candy bar markets and one big farmers market that day.
However, formula can sometimes be trickier.
Formula use is discouraged by the government of Thailand, so it is harder to find. You’ll need to go to a large supermarket for that, like a Big C (think Walmart meets shopping mall meets grocery store).
We had a much easier time getting baby supplies in Bangkok, where Big Cs were easy to find right off the Skytrain. When we stayed on the small, rural (and very untouristed) island of Koh Yao Yai, we didn’t see any markets and I imagine it would be very hard to find formula, or even possibly disposable diapers.
Plan ahead. Stop by the market before heading out to any remote areas. Get extra formula if you use it, because your baby will go through more than you are used to if Thailand is way hotter than your home climate.
Bring your first aid kit from home.
A baby-friendly first aid kit is one of the 21 things that I recommend as absolute essentials for traveling with a baby. Why? It’s not just that you want to have baby Tylenol right away when you need it, it’s that you might not be able to find baby-safe medications at all.
Even if you find what you believe to be baby medications, they probably are not in English. They are being sold to you by someone who is probably not a pharmacist, just a drug store clerk. Who also might not speak English.
This happened to us when my husband was convinced he was dying of food poisoning in Thailand. I could not communicate what I needed (oral rehydration salts!!) to the clerk at the only drug store around in Ao Nong.
Had that been medication for my baby, even if they had the right thing, I would not be comfortable giving it to my baby without complete confidence in the dosing.
Bring your first aid kit from home, and make sure you have baby-appropriate dosing of any medications you might need.
Don’t expect the restaurants to have high chairs.
There are a lot of things that I take for granted until they are not there when we travel. High chairs are one of those things. Most restaurants in Southeast Asia don’t have high chairs. Or kids’ menus.
You can get around this by leaving your little on in their stroller (if you happen to have it with you), or by getting a travel high chair. I personally love this one, because it folds up to about the size of a men’s wallet and fits on most (but not all) chairs. My child does not love it, but it will usually buy us at least half a meal without her in our arms.
However, Thailand was unlike anywhere else we have traveled with babies. It turns out we did not really need a high chair most of the time, because…
Thai people love babies.
Like, really love them. I’ve never experienced anything quite like walking down a crowded Thai street with a 4-month-old baby. Almost every person we passed stopped to admire, touch, or talk to her! Women, men… it didn’t matter. And it quickly became apparent that everyone would want to hold our baby, too.
The first time a stranger walked up and attempted to pull my baby from my arms, I kind of freaked out. But by the tenth time it happened? We realized it is culturally acceptable here to hold a stranger’s baby – even without asking. This is a culture that loves and values children.
One big perk of this was in the restaurants. As long as the restaurant was not too overly busy, there was always a string of waitresses and waiters lining up to hold our baby.
Of course, we always made sure she was close by and nobody ever tried to separate her from us. They would bounce her and walk her around to show all the other waiters, but she was never far. Once we got used to it, it was quite nice to experience that side of Thai culture! Our baby loved seeing so many smiling faces, and we loved having our hands free to eat.
Find great places to see, stay, and eat in this detailed Thailand itinerary.
Be smart about food and water safety.
Street food in Thailand is delicious. But would I feed it to my children? Probably not. Safety standards for street food are pretty sub-par, so you risk food poisoning.
There are some things that you can look for to help you choose safer street vendors. Is the stall clean? Did you watch him cook the food just now, versus grabbing it from a bin that’s been sitting out all day? Are there lots of locals eating there? You can generally trust the locals to know the best places.
Is the vendor selling chicken out of the back of a boat that has been cruising around the beach all day without proper refrigeration? Don’t be like my husband and eat that. He said it was delicious, but definitely not worth the two days of vomiting that followed.
The water in Thailand is not potable. That means it is unsafe to drink.
So yes, you need to buy bottled water, but you need to think beyond that as well. How are you going to wash out bottles or sippy cups? What about when the pacifier drops on the ground? How can you mix formula?
You want to avoid using tap water for any of those things. Anywhere you stay in Thailand will have a water kettle for boiling water (usually electric), but boiling the tap water will not make it 100% safe to drink. Ideally, anything that you or the baby directly consumes should be bottled water.
You can use bottled water to wash sippy cups and pacifiers, but that can sometimes be a challenge. For those, I prefer to just wash with tap water and soap and then sanitize.
Many families, including my own, prefer to stay in Airbnbs when traveling with kids. One major advantage is that they will often have dishwashers (which will help sanitize bottles) or microwaves that you can use to steam sanitize bottles or pacifiers.
If you don’t, usually boiling the item for at least 5 minutes will do the trick.
One other thing to keep in mind: not all bottled water in Thailand is equal! Many cheap, local brands are actually just tap water put in a bottle. Look for known brands, like Dasani. Don’t just grab the cheapest one.
Also never buy water from a street-side vendor, and always ensure that the bottle you buy is sealed.
For food, you generally want to avoid produce that can’t be peeled. For myself, I’m usually not that careful about this (and have had food poisoning twice while traveling to show for it). But for the babies, I am very careful to ensure that they are eating food that has been cooked, or commercially-packaged foods. This is one reason that I usually bring a good stock-pile of protein baby food pouches when we travel to places with less rigorous cooking guidelines.
I’ve read that most vendors use safe ice in Thailand, because it is easier and cheaper to use commercially-produced ice (which will be purified), so I don’t worry as much about the drinks in Thailand as I do in, say, Mexico. But the further you get into remote areas, the more risk you will find.
How is Thailand for breastfeeding in public?
To cover or not to cover? There’s not an easy yes or no answer for Thailand. I am not one to use a shawl when I breastfeed in public at home, but I very much believe in respecting the cultural standards of any place that I visit.
That being said, there does not seem to be a universal rule in Thailand.
Different areas of the country have different standards. In some areas, you’ll see mothers openly feeding their children. In others, it is considered somewhat taboo. It is legal to breastfeed in public, and the government is working to encourage more breastfeeding of newborns. That being said, it is generally a good idea to be discreet.
For me, that did not mean I breastfed under a big, hot shawl. But I would choose a quiet corner, turn away from people, or cover with a very lightweight muslin blanket. I also chose clothes that allowed for easy breastfeeding without much exposure.
I never got any negative comments or looks while breastfeeding in Thailand. Use your best judgment, but know that it is a culture that loves families but is also modest.
Check out your hotel or Airbnb for hazards.
I mentioned this above, but keep in mind that building standards in Southeast Asia are not always the same as what we are used to. I have stayed in an apartment with a 4-story stairwell without any guardrails (outside of the apartment door thankfully, so we were super on top of deadbolting that door!)
Do not expect your hotel or Airbnb to be babyproof. You can check the listing ahead of time to look for any major hazards, but be sure to do a walk-around when you get there to look for things like unsafe stairs, accessible pools, unsecured windows, etc.
See here for tips on how to babyproof your Airbnb or hotel room.
Bring your favorite baby-wearing device.
Depending on where you are staying in Thailand, you may want to consider leaving your stroller at home. Even in touristy areas, we found that many of the streets would have been absolutely impossible to navigate with a stroller, no matter how rugged it is. Half the time you’re walking over piles of jagged rocks pretending to be a sidewalk.
But taking the Skytrain to the mall in Bangkok? Or sauntering around the resort in Koh Yao Yai? Getting around the airport? These are the times that we wanted to have a lightweight travel stroller. You will need to decide if the amount of time that you can actually use your stroller will be worth it. If you are spending very little time in the big cities, it might not be.
I love babywearing while traveling. Even when we do bring our stroller, we always bring a baby carrier as well, because there are inevitably times that a stroller just will not work. This was true most of the time in Thailand, at least outside of Bangkok. Here are my favorite styles of baby carriers for travel.
Don’t expect sidewalks. Don’t expect stroller (or wheelchair) accessible ramps. The locals wear or carry their babies, because in most places, it’s really impossible to do otherwise.
Heading to the beach?
I sure hope so! That’s one of the greatest things about Thailand, after all.
Keep in mind that many beaches in Thailand do not have lifeguards, so be sure to practice really careful beach safety and keep your little one within reach at all times.
You will also want to keep an eye on your valuables while on the beaches. My favorite way to hide our valuables at the beach or the pool? Wrap them up in a (clean!) diaper to look like a used diaper, and set it next to your pile of clothes/towels. Nobody is going to steal that.
We absolutely loved visiting Thailand with a baby, and we would be thrilled to get back one day to visit Thailand with a toddler. It truly is a wonderful country to bring your little one.
Plan ahead for some of the challenges that come with traveling to Southeast Asia, adopt a relaxed attitude, build in some down-time days, get yourself a good baby carrier if you don’t have one, and have a blast!
Are you planning a trip to Thailand with toddler or baby? Have any questions? Let me know in the comments!
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