Irene Garcia was born in the same city as me, Sabadell, 20 km from Barcelona. She studied Humanities, and when she finished she went to travel Asia on a long journey. During that adventure she passed through Thailand, and in this article she tells us about her experience. If you want to know more, visit her blog Cronicas de una Argonauta (in Spanish).
In June 2013 I bought a flight to Southeast Asia with no return date. After a month and a half traveling through Indonesia and Malaysia, suffering some emotional ups and downs as a result of culture shock and the adaptation process to a lifestyle that I was just beginning to discover, I arrived in southern Thailand. I had finally arrived in a country that was easy to travel in, well connected with buses and trains, and with easily accessible jungles and beaches. So I decided to take the opportunity to stay in Thailand to rest for a month and a half.
Don’t get me wrong. I really liked Indonesia and Malaysia. Very much. I will always be grateful to all the Indonesians who shared their home with me without knowing me at all. Also, I think no Southeast Asian country eats as much and as well as Malaysia (except Thailand).
But sometimes it was a bit tiring trying to guess if Indonesian drivers were ripping me off a few hundred rupees, and in Malaysia they stole half my luggage. The constant haggling and that little mishap in northern Malaysia left me a bit psychologically exhausted, so six weeks in Thailand would help me regain my spirits and strength to face the next twelve months of travel.
Also, I discovered that Thailand is an easy country to travel alone. My first impression was that Thailand was a friendly, hospitable country and very well adapted to female tourism.
In fact, I would recommend any of the counties I traveled to in Southeast Asia to those women who want to travel alone for the first time. This whole area of Asia is very used to tourism and offers incredible possibilities, but if I have to recommend only one country, I choose Thailand.
Solo Female Travel in Thailand: My Advice
You may have come this far because you’ve been dreaming of a great trip to Thailand for weeks, months or years, but you haven’t just made up your mind. Perhaps you are considering all those difficult situations that you may live alone so far from home, and fear does not allow you to dare to fulfill your dream.
I’m going to tell you something that you may have heard a thousand times, but which is totally true: the most difficult step to make a great trip is the first.
To help you overcome all the doubts that prevent you from taking that first step, I bring you four arguments that will make you change your idea of traveling alone. The goal is that you get to see traveling not only as a difficult challenge, but also as an advantage that will make you enjoy Thailand in a different way.
Advantages of Female Solo Travel in Thailand
There are very good reasons to go on a solo trip, and fear should not be an obstacle to living this experience. Although traveling alone may seem dangerous, the truth is that it also has its advantages.
🤗 You will find many people willing to help you
A woman traveling solo around the world may seem fragile and an easy target for bad people, but the truth is that it can also work in your favor. Some people will care about you and make it a personal mission that nothing bad happens to you during your trip.
For example, during my bus trip to Mae Salong I was adopted by a lady who took care of me at all times to make sure that I was comfortable, that I was not hungry and that I got off at the correct stop. And in Chiang Rai a group of American expats even looked for a job for me.
🛋️ It is easier to Couchsurf or be invited by locals to their homes
Another issue that works in our favor is that we are perceived as less aggressive and troublesome than men. Although I think that this is not necessarily true, it is not my intention now to initiate a debate on the real differences between men and women.
What I want to emphasize is that this widespread notion makes things easier for us. Thanks to this, it is faster to get affirmative answers on Couchsurfing and it is also more frequent to receive spontaneous offers of accommodation in the homes of locals.
🙋♀️ You will inspire confidence in Thai women
In a country so culturally different and where the male and female roles are so differentiated, it is easier for a woman to enter the world of Thai women.
I do not know if it is because of sorority, companionship or complicity, but in Thailand I received a lot of help from other women; and many of them also tried to have conversations with me about men, marriage, and even sex. I doubt that these women would have been just as willing to have those kinds of conversations with men they had just met.
In that sense, traveling alone in Thailand opened the doors to a world that is often hidden from travelers.
🚙 You won’t have to wait long when hitchhiking
For the same reason it is easier to get a car to stop while hitchhiking.
Obviously, hitchhiking alone carries a number of risks, and therefore people usually advise doing it with a man. In fact, it is believed that a man and a woman are the best combination for hitchhiking anywhere in the world, as the woman offers the image of confidence, while the man offers security.
Regardless of whether this belief is true or not, the fact is that cars tend to stop more frequently if a woman is hitchhiking.
Tips for traveling alone to Thailand
If these advantages I have just listed brought you closer to take the step, I think then it is a good idea that you take note of some tips so that your solo trip to Thailand is much more comfortable and easy.
Many times I walked alone at night in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, and I never felt unsafe. But although Thailand is not a dangerous country for female travelers, it is advisable to follow some common sense tips:
- Avoid dark alleys and lonely areas of big cities and beaches at night.
- Do not accept drinks from strangers. I feel like a mother giving this advice, but in Khao San Road, even though most people are backpackers, there are also some weird characters who may not be trustworthy. It is not dangerous but it is not Disneyland either.
- Listen to your instincts. If there is something or someone that does not inspire confidence, surely you are right, so do not risk it.
As you can see, it is only a matter of following some guidelines that I’m sure you already know and possibly even apply in the city where you live.
🎒 What should you bring in your luggage?
Preparing the backpack to travel alone to Thailand is quite simple. Thai women do not dress much differently from us in Western countries: it is not frowned upon to wear shorts, a sundress or a skirt. That is why any clothes that you feel comfortable in in your country will not turn heads in Thailand.
There is only one object that I recommend that you do not forget in your luggage: a scarf.
Although it is not necessary to cover your head or shoulders to travel in Thailand, in some Buddhist temples it is considered disrespectful to show bare shoulders or legs. That is why a scarf can help you cover those parts that they do not want you to show in the temples.
When it comes to sanitary pads, you don’t need to fill your backpack with multiple packs. In Thailand it is not difficult to find them in any supermarket. However, outside of Bangkok and Chiang Mai it is a bit more difficult to find tampons, so I recommend that you try the menstrual cup. It helps to travel more comfortably and is much cheaper.
🚫 What can’t we women do in Thailand?
Thailand, being one of the most touristic countries in Asia, is quite tolerant of other cultures and lifestyles. That is why women do not have to control too much our way of dressing. Although there are two unwritten rules that should be known to avoid any awkward situation.
- Avoid touching monks: Buddhist monks’ chastity vows include avoiding any kind of physical contact with women; So in order no to give a hard time to monks and novices, do not touch their clothes, nor greet them with a handshake or a pat on the back.
- Dress conservatively in temples: Although it may not seem like it, Thailand is a very conservative society. When entering a temple you should cover your shoulders and avoid tank tops. In some temples such as Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok, it is mandatory to cover up. Not in the others, but Thais will still appreciate if you do.
- Don’t go topless: Although Thais don’t mind if you wear tank tops and shorts on the street, they can be shocked and even offended by seeing women topless on their beaches.
If sunbathing with bare chest can be considered offensive, imagine if you do nude! I guess I don’t have to tell you that this is completely prohibited on the beaches of Thailand.
You will also see that while in Thailand foreign women bathe and sunbathe in bikini, Thai women prefer to do it with shorts and a T-shirt. It is fine if you bathe in a bikini, but in more isolated areas, where tourists are scarce, the swimsuit may even be too extreme. In those cases, I suggest you imitate Thai women.
As you can see, traveling alone in Thailand is neither complicated nor dangerous. As with any trip, it’s just about using your common sense and keeping an eye on cultural differences. Thailand is a hospitable country that welcomes female travelers with open arms, which is why many recommend this country as the best option for a first trip to Asia. So go ahead and fulfill your dream of becoming a female solo traveler in Thailand. You will see that facing fear and taking the first step is totally worth it!