How to Travel Kindly in Thailand: 5 Ways to Be a Sustainable Traveler

(Last Updated On: February 9, 2019)

How can you travel kindly and more sustainably in Thailand, reducing the footprint you leave behind?

We travel to enjoy and experience different cultures and environments, not with the intention of ruining them.  Many of the places we travel to, though, can’t cope with the number of tourists they receive or, sadly, exploit the environment, people and animals in order to make money from tourism.  So, how can we travel responsibly and sustainably in Thailand, without harming the environment, or the people and animals living here?

There are lots of things you can do when you visit Thailand to help reduce the impact tourism has on the country, and be kind to the environment here.

Check out our Infographic to see 5 ways you can travel kindly and sustainably in Thailand.


Infographic How to Travel Kindly in Thailand


1. Ways to Avoid Buying Plastic Bottles of Drinking Water

You can’t drink the tap water in Thailand, so what are the options you have for finding safe drinking water?  The most popular, and yes most convenient, choice is to buy plastic bottles of water.   It’s easy and inexpensive to buy plastic bottles of water in Thailand but the environment is paying a high price for this, and it’s really not sustainable.

Thailand is a hot country and you need a lot of drinking water here.  Imagine how many plastic bottles you’ll get through during your stay in Thailand.  Most of these will probably not be recycled and are very likely to end up lying at the side of the road, on a beautiful beach or, worse, in the sea.

Plastic bottles are estimated to take over 400 years to decompose.

How can you avoid buying plastic bottles of water then, when you’re traveling in Thailand?

There are various water purifying products to choose from, which you can buy before you travel to Thailand and use to safely drink the tap water here.

The LifeStraw Go 2 water bottle filters water as you drink through the straw.  It removes organisms down to 0.2 microns and reduces chlorine and chemicals, such as pesticides, making the tap water in Thailand safe to drink.


LifeStraw Go 2


For every LifeStraw product sold in North America, the company provides a year of free drinking water to a child in a developing country.


The GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier is really quick and easy to use – you just pour, push, and drink.  Like the LifeStraw Go, it purifies and filters water, and the filter lasts for up to 300 uses.

Take a look at this video to see how it works…



GRAYL is part of 1% for the Planet, a global network of businesses and individuals working together for a healthy planet.  They donate 1% of their sales towards environmental causes.


Grayl ultralight water purifier bottle


Another option is to buy a refillable water bottle and use a SteriPEN to clean tap water.

Tree Tribe sells some great stainless steel water bottles and they plant 10 trees on every sale.


Tree Tribe eco water bottle
Tree Tribe Refillable Water Bottles

SteriPEN is a handheld UV water purifier.  It destroys bacteria, viruses, and protozoa like Giardia and Cryptosporidium.  You need to charge it, so make sure to choose the one that charges by USB or solar, not disposable batteries.


You’ll probably also find lots of places in Thailand where  you can refill your reusable water bottle with drinking water for just a few Baht.  Some guesthouses and hotels have water refill stations, and many restaurants offer free drinking water.


Buy a Refillable Water Bottle in Thailand

You can buy stainless steel refillable water bottles in many parts of Thailand and refill them with FREE drinking water, thanks to Trash Hero.

Trash Hero has been running a refillable water bottle scheme in Thailand for a few years now.  The project runs in over 20 locations in Thailand.  Their water bottles only cost 220 Baht (around $7) and you can refill them with FREE drinking water at any of the participating businesses.

Find out more where you can buy the Trash Hero water bottles on Koh Lanta.



As you can see, there are loads of alternatives to plastic water bottles!


2. Say No to Plastic Straws & Bags

Plastic Straws

Plastic straws are the 11th most common type of trash found in the ocean.  It takes up to 200 years for a plastic straw to decompose and most places aren’t able to recycle them.  We don’t even need them in most drinks, so let’s start saying no to them!

Reusable straws are a great thing to add to your Thailand packing list, especially as they’re not easy to find in the shops here.

When you’re ordering a drink, tell the server you don’t want a straw.   The more people who start doing this, hopefully the less places will automatically give you a straw.

Here’s how to say it in Thai if you want to try….



TIP:  if you’re buying a drink in 7-11, watch out for them putting a straw in your plastic bag – they seem to do this pretty stealthily and you often don’t realize they’ve done it until you’ve left the shop.


Plastic Bags

Plastic bags are, on average, used for only 25 minutes.  They can take between 10-1,000 years to break down, depending on the type of plastic.

In most shops in Thailand, you’ll automatically be given a plastic bag.  They are really hard to avoid in Thailand and used for so many things, including take away food and drinks (yes, even drinks)!

You’ll probably have a tough time avoiding them completely, but you can at least reduce the amount of plastic bags you use by taking a reusable shopping bag with you.  These are easy to find in Thailand if you didn’t bring one with you.

On Koh Lanta, you can buy locally made shopping bags made from old rice sacks at Aunty Bee’s handicraft shop.


rice bags recycled into shopping bags

Or take a tour of Lanta Animal Welfare and support the cats and dogs on Koh Lanta by buying one of their tote shopping bags.


lanta animal welfare bag


3. Pick Up Trash From the Beaches

The paradise beaches in Thailand, just like beaches around the world, are seeing an increasing amount of trash washing up onto them.

Trash Hero Thailand organizes weekly beach clean ups in many parts of Thailand, so if you want to help keep Thailand beautiful and protect marine life too,  you can join one of their clean ups.

You could also just pick up trash from the beach whenever you see it.  If it’s too much to carry, just take as much as you can – any amount is better than nothing.

Find out more about Trash Hero and their beach clean ups.


4. Protect the coral reefs

Coral reefs are under threat from many things – global warming, overfishing, overtourism, development along coastal areas, and plastic pollution.

There are though steps you can take to protect the coral reefs when you go snorkeling or scuba diving.  Don’t touch the coral or feed the fish, and use reef safe products on your skin and hair.  A lot of people don’t realize that the chemicals in most sunscreens and hair conditioner are killing coral reefs.

Find out more about how you can protect coral reefs when you go snorkeling or scuba diving.



5. Don’t Support Animal Abuse

If you visit any kind of animal attraction while you’re in Thailand, research it first and be mindful of what you’re supporting.  A lot of tourists are unaware of what the animals have been subjected to before they go and see them.

To travel sustainably and responsibly in Thailand, you should avoid riding elephants or watching them perform tricks.  Visit an elephant sanctuary instead, such as Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai or the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary.



Avoid any kind of animal shows – monkey shows, snake shows, taking a selfie with a tiger etc.

It’s much better to visit a national park instead and see animals living naturally, as they should be, not forced to put on shows or have tourists sitting on their backs.

You could also visit an animal charity such as Lanta Animal Welfare or Soi Dog.


Travel Kindly in Thailand

With just a bit of extra thought and effort, you can enjoy the beauty of Thailand without causing harm to the land or its animals.

Reducing single use plastic, helping to clean the beaches, and not supporting animal abuse are great ways you can travel kindly and sustainably in Thailand.

Of course there are more things you can do but these are a good start and will have a big impact on reducing some of the negative impacts of tourism in Thailand.

Thailand is a beautiful country but its popularity with tourists has led many people to put making money from tourism before protecting the environment or human and animal welfare.

YOU can be a responsible tourist and help Thailand’s tourist industry become more sustainable. The more people who say no to these things, the more likely they are to stop in the future.

Let’s be the change!


You might also like:

Koh Lanta’s Eco-Friendly Businesses



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How to travel kindly in Thailand - 5 ways you can travel sustainably


12 Replies to “How to Travel Kindly in Thailand: 5 Ways to Be a Sustainable Traveler”

  1. This is quite a list! It seems that you love Thailand a lot 🙂
    There are many ways to save and protect the environment – I really like the water purifier and the refillable water bottles as well as the straws – I might buy some of these – even if I’m not traveling to Thailand soon 🙂

    I’d like to ask for the Lifestraw Go and the Steripen, whether I need to buy replacement filters or refills or whether I can clean the filters myself.

    Thanks again! I find what you are doing wonderful. Keep up the good work! 🙂

    1. The water purifiers are great aren’t they?  No need to ever buy bottled water again!  The LifeStraw and GRAYL filters should last around three years.  The SteriPEN uses UV to purify the water, not a filter, so should last longer than that.  They say it can last for up to 8,000 one-liter treatments.  Hopefully more travelers will start using these in future.  They seem pricey but actually they can save you money in the long run if you take in to consideration how many bottles of water you won’t buy when you have one.  Hope you get to visit Thailand one day – it’s a beautiful country.  🙂

  2. Great website, i love Thailand, i have been there now 10 times generally to Phuket each year. One negative i have noticed and it seems to be getting worse is the plastic litter along the beachfront, i know the local authorities do a little bit however the locals could do a lot more. As a tourist i make my decisions about plastic wisely. your site is spot on we need to travel kindly, and we need more education like this information here, Well done.

    1. Really glad you try to minimize your plastic use, Shane.  It’s not easy to do this in Thailand!  There is definitely more plastic being washed up on to the beaches each year and will surely keep getting worse unless consumers and businesses change their habits.  Wow, you really must love Thailand if you’ve visited 10 times.  Come see Koh Lanta on your eleventh visit!  🙂

  3. What a great post!

    I’m an old backpacker so I already own a SteriPen for use in the backcountry in cattle grazing regions. I do augment it with a physical filter because the pen does not remove fine particles. My pump filter is so old, though, that I can no longer buy replacement filters, so I will look at yours.

    And I live in a beach community so I know all about trash at the beach! I always grab what I can carry and throw it in the trash. Annoys me that our community provides trash cans everywhere and people STILL just drop their trash on the sand. I always carry an extra bag into the backcountry just so I can bring trail trash out, so I think I have the mindset you’re looking for in a tourist!

    My wife is always using straws, but I am trying to convert her. Have you tried both the stainless steel and the bamboo ones that you picture? Can you recommend one over the other?

    Great post. I’m with you and wish that all tourists, and backpackers for that matter, think as you do. Maybe I’ll even make it to Thailand someday!

    1. The things you are doing are fantastic, Mike.  If only more people were like you!  Sadly, it’s a mixture of tourists using too much single use plastic, businesses providing too much of it, and also poor waste management systems.  The latter two are hard for us to change but we all have the power to change our own behaviour and be more mindful of the trash we generate.  We have tried both of the straws we mention and they’re both great but we would probably opt for the stainless steel over bamboo, as they seem easier to keep clean and last longer.  Bamboo is the more eco-friendly option but both at least prevent plastic straws ending up in the ocean.  Thanks so much for your comment and we hope you visit Thailand and Koh Lanta one day.

    1. That’s so true. We do tend to be more lazy about being green when we’re on holiday. Often though, it’s when we need to be even more eco-friendly and aware of how much plastic we’re using, because a lot of the places we visit can’t deal with the amount of plastic thrown away each day by tourists. A lot of it doesn’t get recycled or disposed of properly, so tourists do need to start making more effort to reduce how much plastic they use.

  4. Nice list with great tips! These are advice we should all follow both in our everyday life and when travelling. It seems that people often get lazy about these things while travelling, so this was an excellent reminder to keep our planet and animals in mind even when abroad!

    1. Hi Hanna, you’re right, people are often lazier when they’re on holiday and it’s totally understandable. Thailand also isn’t the easiest country in the world to avoid single use plastic and it really needs to change in that respect. Until it does, we need to encourage travelers to make more effort and be more conscious about the plastic waste they generate while they’re traveling in Thailand. During the monsoon season, the beaches on Koh Lanta have a lot of plastic waste washing up on to them and the problem is a really big one really needs to be tackled from all angles – by individuals, by businesses and by the government. Thanks so much for your comment. 🙂

  5. I love this article so much! I am very much into sustainability and environmental preservation, and found this article to be so informative and honestly fun to read. I have started to specifically request “no straw” at restaurants, and hope that the no plastic straw and bag movement really begins to take off, with the help of this website! I will be following this site!

    1. Hi Janani, thanks so much for your comment and we’re really glad you liked the post!  That’s fantastic you’re saying no to plastic straws.  It’s hard to always remember to do this and also, if you use your own reusable straw, it’s easy to forget to take it with you!  Lol.  Hopefully more businesses will stop using plastic straws, especially when more people keep on saying they don’t want them.  Changing habits takes time but plastic pollution is getting hard to ignore now, so we’re really optimistic that being eco-friendly will become mainstream very soon.  Let’s hope so anyway!  🙂

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