Here at Go! Girl Guides, we know all about being a solo female traveler in Thailand. Our first guidebook was on Thailand, and it’s a country we visit every chance we get. Here, we have more great tips for solo women heading out to travel Thailand:
Last year I traveled to Thailand for three weeks by myself. While I had studied abroad in Italy during college and had traveled to a few European destinations without a traveling companion I had never really set out to travel solo.
In addition to safety issues, I was filled with questions of how and what to pack, where to go, what to see, how much time should I spend in each place. My main prerogative was to check out islands remote and small, where I could lounge on white sandy beaches, snorkel and scuba dive, hike, shop and go to the Full Moon Party.
This mini-guide will help you travel solo through Thailand safely and resourcefully!
Safety and Travel Tips
Cover Up: It is disrespectful to show cleavage or midriff in Thailand. If you’re perceptive, you’ll notice this immediately: there are monks on almost every bus ride for one, and it’s just not cool to be running around in your bikini anywhere other than the beach.
Avoid the Beaches at Night: Always. Without exception. No matter where you are in the world. They’re not patrolled, so it’s not a good idea.
Budget for Your Safety: You can find ridiculously cheap hostel rooms off of Khao San Road, but you’ll be getting little more than a mattress on the floor and a fan. These hostels are not safe! Look for rooms that have locks on the doors, hotel security, 24 hr reception, etc. The difference between spending $5 a night and spending $20 a night is astronomical here, and it’s a better bet to stay in a safe hotel and skimp on spending in other areas. Check out our guidebook for a list of the safest and most affordable hotels in the country.
Places to Pack/Hide Money: Your bra! H&M has inexpensive bras and bikini tops that often have an inside pocket built in for additional and removable padding. I kept extra money inside the pocket. If you go swimming you can wrap your bills up in a plastic bag and store them in there as well.
Cigarette packs: Without taking the foil fully off the top of the box, leave some cigarettes inside then put some cash behind. To the naked eye, only the cigarette filters covered up by foil will be apparent. Did you know vaping your cannabis instead of smoking it also has its share of health benefits as well? There’s a lot of evidence that supports smoking just about anything, even a beneficial substance, can be harmful to the integrity of your lungs. Perhaps this is why so many cigarette and weed smokers are opting for the dab pen on top of smelling fresher and littering less.
Note: When going to travel agencies to book hostels and transportation, they often prefer to deal with cash. Always have cash on you and stowed in separate places.
Credit Cards: I brought two credit cards, one American Express and one Visa. Both cards had fraud protection, accrued sky miles with different airline companies, and had spending limits.
-ATM card. It can only be used at ATMS or places that have ATM features i.e. the currency exchange station at the airport. It cannot be used as a credit card so if stolen, it is worthless.
Note: Nomadic Matt has great tips on his website on how to save money, avoid bank fees, and the best credit cards that can help you in your travel planning.
What do I do if I lose my passport?
How Safe Is It?
Generally, very safe, so long as you are aware and respectful of the culture. But, if you feel unsafe, you can always consider protecting yourself somehow.
-My weapon-of-choice was and is a wine opener. When walking alone at night I kept the cork screw unfolded and had it situated between my first and middle fingers. If someone were to come up behind me, the idea is that I could jab the attacker backwards then twist the corkscrew giving myself some time to run away.
-Bring a rubber doorstop to use in your room. Kelly Lewis (founder of Go! Girl Guides) and Christine Maxfield (travel writer & previous editor at Budget Travel magazine) advised doing this during their presentation at the New York Travel Festival this past April. By lodging it under the door inside your room it’s a great way to prevent people from breaking in.
What sort of day pack should I carry if I don’t want to leave valuables in my room or hostel?
Some go for a shoulder bag or small lightweight backpack. I like to use a tiny clutch purse. Mine had enough space for some cash, passport, cigarette box or tin cigarette holder (doubles as a wallet), phone and a small camera. I could walk with it in hand or draped over my shoulder. This was useful on planes and long bus rides. I always had it close by or slept with it in hand. If someone attempted to steal it, I could prevent it immediately.
Note: If you are not traveling for an extended period of time, don’t bring valuables.
Items to bring beforehand or buy while you are there
Sunscreen/Bug Spray: Bring sunscreen with a high SPF number. If you do not apply it liberally and frequently you will get a major burn. I applied it at the beach, on hikes, and walking around in Bangkok and still managed to get a little pink. Those who did not looked uncomfortably magenta. In Koh Phi Phi the price for both items was marked up for very small bottles. Budget travelers: I would pack these in advance.
Bathing suits: If you are a curvy girl like me you will most likely not find a bathing suit that covers or flatters your body. Make sure to bring a couple. If you are not so curvy and more on the slim side you will have dozens of inexpensive options on every island.
Scarves and sarongs: The heat and humidity get very intense. While I did not have problems wearing loose tank tops and dresses, at temples and historical sites it was essential to have my shoulders and chest covered. A scarf is the way to go to cover up your skin. It also comes in handy to warm up in chilly airports and on flights. A sarong (that I bought for very cheap at a store in Koh Phi Phi) cut out the need for a towel on the beach. The heat would dry us both off quickly.
First-aid and toiletries: Most items you find in Western countries you can find there: shampoo, tooth paste, combs, razors etc. But bring a few band-aids (your feet will thank you), tampons, baby powder and other essentials to start. Tampons can be difficult to come across!
Shoes: I found slip-on shoes to be helpful. I went with a pair of Tom’s and while they are very comfortable, they ended up getting holes in the bottom, not to mention they don’t hold up walking on slippery surfaces. My shoe preference today is Vans Classic Slip-Ons. They are lightweight, have rubber soles, mold to your feet and you can wear them for long periods of time. If you have wide-feet I advise you to buy them one size up.
Get Lost: After exploring some Temples in Bangkok I decided to just walk. I had no destination, no plan and ended finding streets and neighborhoods where I was the only westerner. You will always make your way back to your home base. Get off your electronics, break out a map and expand to your mind to the new world that vastly differentiates itself from your everyday norm.
Plan Without A Plan: I booked my hotel in Bangkok in advance. Every place I stayed was booked on the fly. Sometimes I’d walk around popping in and out of lodging offices asking for prices, other times I went to a travel agency and they set everything up including transportation. Our Thailand guidebook will help you choose your accommodation so that you can focus on having fun without stressing!
Were there times I was frustrated? Absolutely! Arriving in Haad Rin a few days before the Full Moon Party was difficult due to the high demand for accommodations and I did not realize that travel agencies were there to make things convenient for travelers. In the end, it all worked out and I had a blast.
Thailand is a magical place that has activities for any individual and can fit any kind of budget. Always be mindful of your surroundings, pay attention to where you are, and don’t forget to dive into the endless possibilities of your new surroundings head first.
Sleep: Dream Hotel
Shop: Terminal 21 (down the street from Dream Hotel)
Koh Phi Phi
Sleep: Phi Phi Hill Resort (you arrive via taxi boat from the town’s entry port)
Activities: Scuba diving, camp out on the remote Maya Bay where the movie The Beach was filmed, hike to the top of the island for breathtaking panoramic views
Blue Marine Resort (Haad Rin beach where Full Moon Party takes place)
Shop: Haad Rin boutiques for excellent FMP and other beach apparel
Activities: Ride up the coast on a motor scooter, hike and swim at the Phaeng Waterfall