Asia

Best 2019 Thailand Sunscreen Guide: How Much to Pack, Costs, & More

Expensive sunscreen!

So you’re going to Thailand and you want to pack everything you need. You packed your clothes and camera, and you think that you’ll just buy sunscreen once you land in Asia. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

Our expertise comes from our trip to the Thai islands during the high season (January). Read on for all the info you’ll need on how to keep your skin safe while traveling in Southeast Asia.

Sunscreen in Thailand Costs

This is the biggest reason you will want to bring your own sunscreen! The average 8-ounce bottle of spray sunscreen will cost you at least $20 US (AU$28/€18/£15) per bottle if you buy it in Thailand. We noticed that all sunscreen brands (including international brands like Banana Boat) were around the same price.

In the next section, you’ll see that we used about 208 ounces/6151 ML of sunscreen on our 2-week trip to the Thai islands. If we had purchased this sunscreen in Thailand it would’ve cost $520 US (AU$729/€458/£403).

Sunscreen in Thailand – Chemicals

Not only is the Thai sunscreen very expensive, but some of the sunscreens also include skin-whitening chemicals. Thai people take pride in having lighter skin so getting a tan is not always as celebrated as it is in other countries. These whitening sunscreens are clearly marked, but please be aware of this if you end up buying sunscreen in Southeast Asia.

Exactly How Much Sunscreen to Pack

Before visiting Southeast Asia I searched forums to find the perfect sunscreen formula. Of course, the suggestions were all over the place.  For reference, Aimee has pale, Irish skin peppered with freckles and light features. Dallas is of German descent and is known to sport a farmer’s tan in the summer. Aimee burns easily so she tends to be better about applying sunscreen while Dallas is not as concerned and typically won’t re-apply it often.

On our trip we brought (2) 8-ounce (237 ML) bottles of sunscreen for every day we stayed in Thailand, excluding travel days. We brought both liquid and spray sunscreens in our checked bags, packed in large zip-top plastic bags in case of any explosions.

We had about 13 days where we actually were out in the sun at the beach, playing with elephants, taking day trips on longtail boats, and enjoying the Thai sunshine.

The magic formula: 1 (8-ounce/237 ML) bottle of sunscreen per person, per day.

13 days x 8-ounces/237 ML per day x 2 people = 208 ounces/6151 ML of sunscreen for 2 people for 2 weeks

Of course, this will vary based on what you’re doing, how sensitive your skin is, how often you re-apply, and how often you shower. This should help give you an idea of what you need.

What SPF Sunscreen to Bring to Thailand?

In America, sunscreen goes up to SPF 100 but even in Southeast Asia you don’t need to go that high. We brought SPF 30 and 50 sunscreen to Thailand and we got away with only a slight sunburn. We concluded that any higher than SPF 50 may not be worth the extra cost.

Tips for Flying with Sunscreen

Airplane baggage rules are getting stricter each year and Asian airlines are no exception. If you’re planning to only bring a carryon bag this will be an issue. Unfortunately, both liquid sunscreen and spray/aerosols because of flying restrictions on both size and spray cans.

So how can you avoid ruining your trip with a terrible sunburn? If you’re not checking a bag to avoid the fees, consider how much extra money Thai sunscreen will cost. If it’s more than paying the baggage fees you may want to reconsider. Also, remember that you will be using most of the sunscreen you bring. You may want to leave any leftovers at your hotel before you head home to avoid the return baggage fees.

Still not bringing liquid or spray sunscreen? Consider powder sunscreen which is small, easy to carry, and can typically be brought in a carryon suitcase. Check out my favorite powder sunscreens below.

Ocean-Safe Sunscreen

I didn’t want to write this without including a note about ocean-safe sunscreen. The chemicals in some sunscreens can harm the ocean’s reefs, so be cautious about what you buy. There are many “ocean-safe” sunscreens that are natural and biodegradable; making them easier on the ocean. Unfortunately, these natural sunscreens sometimes just aren’t enough for those with fair skin so choose your Thailand sunscreen wisely.

Best Sunscreen for Thailand

My favorite sunscreen options are reasonably priced, easy-to-apply, not oily, and have an SPF of 50. Here are some of my top choices:

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