Thailand is one of the best countries in the world for solo female travel. It’s the perfect introduction to Southeast Asia. It has beaches and temples, mountains and cities — everything you could want as a backpacker. Plus, solo travel in Thailand couldn’t be easier or safer.
I spent a month experiencing Thailand solo travel on a tight budget. I learned all the secrets of finding isolated beaches, remote ruins, stunning temples, mouth-watering street food, and cute family-run guesthouses. In this post, I’ll share all my tips for solo female travelers in Thailand. If you (or your parents) are a bit nervous about booking your solo trip, read on — I promise that by the end of this post, you won’t be!
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Why solo travel in Thailand?
This question has two parts — why visit Thailand in the first place? And if you’re going, why go alone?
In answer to the first question, well…Thailand’s amazing. As I mentioned, it has virtually everything you could want for any type of holiday. Looking for an all-inclusive beach holiday on Phuket? No problem. Prefer to set out on your own with a motorbike and some camping gear? You can do that too. (And there’s plenty in between.)
Thailand is the ideal destination for someone visiting Asia for the first time. It feels like a very different culture from what you may be used to, but you’re unlikely to experience culture shock. It’s friendly and very, very easy to travel here.
Better yet, visiting Thailand won’t break the bank. While the era of living on $5 a day is over, you can still travel very comfortably on under $1,000 a week. If you don’t mind roughing it a bit, you could get by on $500 a week or less.
Now, for why to go solo — if you’ve ever been curious about solo female travel, Thailand ranks among the easiest countries on the planet to make it happen. You’ll meet tons of other people traveling here on their own. There’s a well-worn tourist route, so you can plan a Thailand solo travel itinerary in which you’ll run into the same people over and over again.
Additionally, Thai people pride themselves on being exceptionally friendly and helpful. And pretty much everyone speaks English. So if you find yourself lost or in a bad situation (which is unlikely), it’s not hard to get help. What’s more, if you’re traveling to Thailand alone, you’re more likely to interact with locals who will be curious about the woman sitting by herself at the restaurant/bar/on a train.
Thailand solo travel: How to meet people
For many women traveling alone for the first time, their biggest worry is, will I have to spend my entire holiday by myself?
In Thailand, the answer is a definitive “no.” In fact, you may find yourself with so many new friends that you’ll crave some alone time!
Thailand is one of the most-visited countries on the planet. So nearly everywhere you go, you’ll find a steady stream of other tourists around. You have to look really hard to find places where you’re the only falung (foreigner).
But how do you turn those other travelers into friends who you can explore with?
The answer is simple — just start a conversation with them! If you see another traveler on the train, sit next to them and ask where they’re going. At night markets where everyone sits at communal tables, join a group of backpackers. At a tourist attraction and trying to get a tuk-tuk back to your hotel? Ask someone nearby if they want to share.
If you’re more introverted, it might be intimidating to approach a big group of friends and try to join. But this is why solo travel in Thailand is so easy — there will almost always be another solo traveler, and usually another solo female traveler, wherever you are. It’s a lot easier to approach an individual who you have something in common with.
If you’re really shy, there are a couple other options you could try. One is joining group tours for a day here and there. I met some of my best travel buddies ever on a dive trip on Ko Tao. Alternatively, stay in budget guesthouses or hostels. Anywhere that has common space will work. I find that if you hang out in the common area in the evenings, people will approach you and invite you to hang out.
What about meeting locals when traveling in Thailand alone?
Many, many solo female travelers spend their entire trip to Thailand hanging out with only other foreigners. But you didn’t fly halfway around the world to spend your entire trip surrounded by people like you, did you?
The good news is, Thai locals are friendly and happy to chat with foreigners. The bad news is, there are so many foreigners that you have to work a little harder to find authentic local connections.
If your primary interest in visiting Thailand solo is to get a feel for the local culture, you’ll have to plan your itinerary carefully. Leave a few days to visit places like the Isan region (near the Lao border), Lopburi, Phitsanulok, or the less-visited mountain towns of the north (no, I’m not talking about Pai). You can also find islands where you’re more likely to make local connections. Koh Kood is a good option.
If you don’t have time or are nervous about going off the beaten path, you can still meet locals. Just hang out in places where they hang out. Look for bars and restaurants that have no English/Latin signage. Have a picnic in the park. Eat at the night markets. Chat with the lady you’re buying souvenirs from. You’ll eventually get an invite to dinner or drinks if you put yourself out there.
One word of warning: If anyone seems too friendly or eager to get to know you, be cautious. Some people approach travelers and invite them to hang out, only to scam them. Your instincts are your friend here — but an easy way to check this is to counter-propose plans (as in “oh I don’t know that bar, can we go to X cafe instead?”). If they push back aggressively, that’s probably a warning sign that there’s a nefarious reason they want you to go to the place they proposed.
But don’t be paranoid — the vast majority of friendly people are just friendly people.
The best activities to do on a solo trip to Thailand
It can be overwhelming to narrow down the activity options for backpacking Thailand on a short trip. But a few of the highlights are especially enjoyable as a solo female traveler.
Go to the beach. If your idea of a perfect trip is relaxing on the sand, swimming in crystal-clear blue water, riding a longtail boat, and drinking out of a coconut, Thailand is the country for you! As a solo traveler, the Krabi area and the Gulf archipelago (Phi Phi, Phangan, and Tao) are perfect for meeting like-minded folks. Get dive certified on Ko Tao or do some rock climbing in Railay Beach if you can tear yourself away from the sand.
Explore Bangkok. It’s one of the most-visited cities in the world for a reason. Yes it’s touristy, but all you have to do is spend five minutes wandering around Wat Pho, the enormous weekend market, or Chinatown to understand why. Plus, hostels and guesthouses offer group nightlife activities, so you can see the seedier side of Bangkok after dark without venturing out solo.
Check out the history. Thailand is primary known for its beaches and temples, but did you know it was once home to some of the most ancient civilizations in Southeast Asia? The easiest place to see this history is Ayutthaya, which can be visited as a day-trip from Bangkok or a quick overnight. But Sukothai is more impressive. Or, get off the beaten path in Lopburi or Phimai. You can book day tours to all of these ruins if you want to join a group, but I had better luck making friends by renting a bicycle and joining others at the bike shops to ride around with.
Take a cooking class. Thai food is some of the world’s best, and it’s also shockingly easy to make. Most cooking courses include a market visit and hands-on instruction where you’ll prepare 5-7 dishes. You get to eat your creations, of course. I did a class with Siam Rice Cooking School in Chiang Mai and I appreciated their pretty garden location and affordable prices. Plus, nothing says “new travel friends” more than bonding over setting your drunken noodles on fire!
Get a Thai massage. Feel like pampering yourself during a solo trip to Thailand? It’s easy and affordable! Just about every decent-sized town has a handful of Thai massage places. An hour-long massage costs around $10 and you’ll feel great afterwards. I got one in Kanchanaburi and the masseuse was really friendly and provided me with tons of local travel tips.
Visit the temples. One of the best ways to learn about Thai culture is by witnessing Buddhism in practice. Most temples are open to tourists, provided you behave and dress with respect. This is an especially good activity when traveling alone in Thailand because the monks are always incredibly friendly (as a woman, make sure you don’t touch them — not even to shake hands). My favorite active temple is in Phitsanulok.
Eat all the things. Don’t let any nervousness about going to a restaurant alone stop you from exploring the best food Thailand has to offer. Roadside curry shacks, street stalls, and night markets are friendly places for a solo diner to try authentic food. You don’t even need to know how to order. Just walk up to a stall looking mildly clueless and the wok master will explain the different dishes. Sit at communal tables and you’ll have instant new friends.
Some activities to skip as a solo female traveler
A few of the most popular activities in Thailand are disappointing or even dangerous for women going to Thailand alone. Here are a few.
The Full Moon Party. Honestly, just because it isn’t that interesting. It’s a giant party on the beach where people get disgustingly sloppy. If you’re careful about alcohol intake and don’t do drugs, it can be done safely — it’s just expensive, the music sucks, and there are better parties in the world. And I don’t need to tell you that over-indulging in booze, or going anywhere near drugs abroad, is a really dumb and unsafe thing to do on holiday.
Riding elephants. This may seem appealing from afar, but any sort of elephant tourism should be treated with extreme caution. Most of the elephants in Thailand are treated horribly and endure great suffering just to fuel the tourism industry. There are a handful of ethical elephant sanctuaries that don’t let you ride or interact with the elephants. Put your dollars toward them instead.
Underage ladyboy shows, “pussy ping pong,” and other elements of Bangkok’s seedy sex tourism industry. Y’all, just don’t. I don’t even understand why you’d want to. But if you’re even remotely considering it, be aware that drink-spiking and pickpocketing are common at Bangkok’s underground bars and clubs. There are totally ethical ladyboy cabarets put on by consenting adults, but many of the ones advertised toward tourists are more akin to questionably-voluntary sex work involving underage performers. Research in advance rather than taking up a tout on the street on an offer to go to a show.
How to get around Thailand alone
Thailand has one of the best transit infrastructures in Asia. You’ll never have a problem finding a bus, train, plane or tuk tuk to your destination. In fact, 90% of the time, it’s as easy as telling your guesthouse where you want to go, waiting for them to make a 5-minute phone call, and you’ll have your tickets booked.
On my solo trip to Thailand, I preferred trains as a means to get around. The trains are slow, but they’re incredibly cheap and comfortable for traveling overnight. For short journeys, you can buy tickets right when you want to leave. For longer journeys, book a day in advance. One of the best ways to make new friends in Thailand is by bringing along some train snacks and sharing them with your seatmates.
Buses are the other common mode of transport in Thailand. They’re more expensive than trains, but much faster. You can almost always buy a ticket right before you want to go. Tourist shuttles are increasingly common — these minibuses are good options for solo travelers, since they take you directly to your destination (no bus stations to deal with) and you’ll meet other backpackers.
If you’re heading to the islands, you’ll usually take a ferry. These range from sleeping-on-the-upper-deck-of-a-fishing-boat to luxury vessels, and are priced accordingly. While the former is less comfortable, you will definitely bond with any other falung on your boat.
Cheap flights with airlines like AirAsia now connect most major cities in Thailand. They’re convenient if you want to see a lot on a short trip, but they also increase your carbon footprint. Take land transport if you have the time.
Local transport in Thailand consists of tuk tuks and sorngthaew. The latter is a pickup truck with wooden benches in the back. These function like city buses. They’re great for solo travel to Thailand — you only have to pay for your seat. Figuring out the routes takes a little practice, but most drivers speak English and will help you out.
Tuk tuks are the option of last resort for Thailand solo travel. This is because you have to pay for the whole tuk tuk — which gets pricey fast if you’re on your own. If you must use them, try to find buddies to share with. And never take a tuk tuk driver up on their offer of a free ride. You’ll pay in time wasted on a shopping trip you didn’t want to go on.
Is Thailand safe for single female travelers?
The short answer is, Thailand is one of the safest countries in the world for solo female travel.
Thai men are extremely respectful of women. That means you won’t be cat-called as you walk down the street. No one will try to grope you when you go to a bar alone. If you sit next to a guy on a bus, he’ll smile and say hi, but not see it as anything more. It’s incredibly refreshing, especially since you probably deal with worse in your home country every day.
Additionally, Thailand’s crime rate is very low. You are unlikely to be robbed or attacked, even if you’re walking alone at 2 in the morning (which I did more than once). People are out on the street at all hours, so you’ll never be by yourself. Steer clear of beaches and dark side roads at night and you’ll be fine.
Thailand occasionally makes the news due to bombing or terrorism. This is most common in the far south, near the border with Malaysia. Very, very rarely, a terrorist group will target a tourist hotspot. But realistically this could happen anywhere in the world, and it’s not something to be overly worried about.
However, there are a few risks worth watching out for:
Other travelers. Honestly, I’ve never encountered as many gross White men as I did when travelling alone in Thailand. And I’m not even talking about the 80-year-old who managed to find himself a sex worker who he’s making out with on the shuttle next to you (true story)! No, I’m talking about the plethora of teenage and 20-something backpackers who seem to come to Thailand to get drunk and find themselves a girlfriend. Forget Thai guys, these mostly Aussie’s and Brits are the ones to be worried about. The best way to avoid them is to steer clear of touristy beach bars.
Drugs. Thailand has extremely strict drug laws. While the rules around weed are loosening up a bit, you could still get in serious trouble trying to buy it as a foreigner. And don’t even think about experimenting with mushrooms, cocaine, opium, or any of the other really sketchy stuff that people will offer you on the street. Chances are it’s a sting anyway and you’ll just set yourself up to pay a big bribe to stay out of jail.
Dogs. Thailand has a lot of stray and “community” dogs roaming about — and they all seem able to recognize a falung a mile away. You’ll inevitably be greeted by a snarling, mangy-looking Fido a few times during your stay in Thailand. Do your best to steer clear. Thailand has high rates of rabies, so I don’t care if the puppy you were playing with was adorable, if it licked or bit you, you need to get rabies shots immediately.
Probably not the top things you’d think to worry about, right? I’m not telling you about these to scare you — just to show you that Thailand is so safe that your biggest risk is an unpleasantly drunk and handsy travel companion.
What to wear when traveling to Thailand alone as a female
As I mentioned, Thai men are very respectful of women. So what you wear is less about protecting yourself from harassment, and more about respecting local customs.
In big cities like Bangkok and Chiang Mai, and on the beaches, you can wear pretty much anything you want. T-shirts, shorts, tank tops, bikinis (on the beach) — it’s all fine. I recommend light, wool or synthetic fabrics that won’t get too gross in the heat and humidity.
But if you head out into less touristic areas, it’s best to cover up. That basically means shirts that cover your shoulders and skirts/pants that go below the knee. Elephant pants are extremely popular in Thailand (buy them once you arrive for about $2 a pair) and are great for covering up and staying cool.
If you visit temples, you will be required to cover your shoulders and knees — wherever you are. For this reason, it’s helpful to carry a sarong in your daypack. You can quickly wrap it around your waist as a skirt if you’re walking around in shorts, or use it as a scarf to cover up your arms.
Thai people tend to dress fairly nicely. So you’ll blend in better if you save the beach garb for beaches, and wear more stylish skirts and tops when you’re exploring cities and towns.
A few other random tips for women planning solo travel in Thailand:
- You can find pads and tampons everywhere, but they’re not great quality and are often treated with questionable chemicals for scent or color. You’re better off bringing a menstrual cup.
- Be careful with leaving valuables on beaches. I usually bring a dry bag and carry my wallet, phone and camera into the water when I want to swim.
- You will need tons of sunscreen, but you’ll pay an arm and a leg for it if you buy it locally. Bring some high-SPF sunscreen from home.
- Thailand has a huge plastic waste problem and the tap water isn’t safe to drink. You’ll also need to drink tons of fluids in the heat and humidity. Rather than buying two plastic bottles a day, bring a Steri Pen and treat your own water.
- Take your shoes off when entering temples and many restaurants and shops. Never point your feet at someone or step over someone sitting on the ground.
- Don’t say anything negative about the King or the Royal Family — they’re revered in Thai culture.
- Always ask permission before taking photos in religious places or photos of people.
- Buckets of whiskey are meant to be shared with a friend. If you drink they whole thing yourself, you’ll end up pretty sloppy (not the safest idea in the world).
- In a similar light, remember that drinking and diving do not mix. Stay away from the beach parties on Ko Tao until your class is over.
- Also in a similar light, drinking and driving motorcycles or ATV’s do not mix. And while we’re at it, drinking and swimming in the ocean don’t mix either. Basically don’t do anything stupid while drinking. I promise you your sober friend sitting in the ER with you is not happy about being there and will not stick around as your travel buddy much longer (speaking from experience as the sober friend).
- If something does happen, Thailand has some of the best medical facilities in Asia. It’s easy to find doctors who speak English and hospitals nicer than those you’ll find back home. Just make sure you have travel insurance, as the best clinics are private (read: pricey).
- Bangkok is an amazing city, but it’s best saved for the end of your trip. By then you’ll be clued in to all the scams and hassles, which are 10x as prevalent in Bangkok.
- If you enter Thailand by land, remember you only get a 14-day visa. You can book a visa run through a travel agency for about $25 to renew, or just hop over to Cambodia to see Angkor Wat. Both of these options are cheaper and faster than visa extensions.
- Thai people only use chopsticks for eating noodles. If you order a rice dish or curry, you’ll get a spoon and fork. The fork is meant to be used like a knife (to push food onto your spoon).
- Guesthouse owners always show you their nicest room first. You can almost always get a cheaper room simply by asking if they have one.
Most importantly, have fun! Thailand is the perfect holiday destination for both first-time solo female travelers and experienced backpackers. You really can’t go wrong in this amazing country.
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