They say you never forget your first love, and for me that rings true of Thailand. I can’t help my soft spot for the country—it was where I began my life as a solo female traveler.
I’ve now spent a cumulative five months in the country and every visit is just as magical as the first time. Thailand offers so many experiences that every type of traveler can appreciate, even when you inevitably return and want something different from your trip. Here’s my guide to making the most of your trip to Thailand as a solo female traveler:
Solo Travel Safety
Thailand is the most visited country in Southeast Asia, bringing in over 60 billion USD annually from tourism. Thai people welcome tourists as an integral part of the economy. I found that even during rural excursions, people were friendly to me. The country strives to uphold its reputation as a traveler-friendly place, even during a coup D’etat!
That being said, scams are prevalent, especially with the country’s different transportation systems. Before you get in a tuk-tuk or a taxi, don’t be afraid to establish the price—and walk away when you’re being taken advantage of.
But besides the occasional scam, Thailand has a laid-back and fun environment. This oftentimes brings a crazy party scene, so it’s easy to get caught up in the moment. Follow standard drinking safeguards and don’t get too intoxicated (or just don’t drink at all. Trust me, it’ll still be amazing). Play it safe and you’ll thank yourself the next day, when you can spend the day on a hike instead of curing a hangover.
Purchase travel insurance in case anything happens. As always, bring copies of your passport with you for peace of mind.
With all of the normal precautions, I had an amazing time in Thailand.
Solo Traveler Friendliness
Most brochures promote Thailand’s nickname, the “Land of Smiles”, which was acquired in part due to clever marketing on Thailand’s part, but I also found it true in the country’s friendliness.
In hostels you’re bound to meet other free spirits who are down for a beach trip or a good party. Some places, like Pai, are havens for travelers who just can’t seem to leave. Famous events like Koh Phangan’s Full Moon Party ensure that Thailand’s sociable reputation is alive and well!
But if you’re over the Banana Pancake Trail crowd, private hostel rooms are still affordable and a quality room costs only about $10. Even more so, there are plenty of things to do as a solo traveler, whether you want to hit the hot spots or venture off the well-worn path. Read on for both options.
Things to Do
Contrary to popular stereotypes, Thailand isn’t just for partiers and beach bums (though you can easily find plenty of them). There are also off-the-beaten-path experiences if that’s more of your speed too. You can do everything—from dancing with fire at a circus resort in Pai to taking a cooking class—to make the most of your solo trip.
Unfortunately, you can’t do everything. Having a rough idea of what experiences you’ll find in the northern and southern regions will help you scrap together an itinerary with the right touristy to non-touristy ratio.
In the North: The deep forests of the northern region remind you that oh yeah, Thailand isn’t just beaches and Bangkok. There are plenty of hiking opportunities in the mountains surrounding Chiang Mai. A lot of attractions can be made into day trips from the city, like Doi Inthanon National Park.
It’s easy to get off the tourist trail during your time with nature to find hidden gems like Emerald Lake relatively untouched by visitors. One of my favorite ways to get in touch with the wildlife in Thailand was having an ethical elephant experience with rehabilitated elephants.
During your time there, don’t forget to explore the city of Chiang Mai too. There are temples of every kind imaginable here—white ones, silver ones, even ones with slightly creepy artwork—but all worth the visit. In November, you can participate in the Yi Peng lantern festival if you keep your schedule flexible. The Sunday night market in the Old City offers food (I recommend the khao soi curry with crunchy noodles), clothes, and art to browse through.
I highly encourage renting a car while you travel around the north. I know—driving through the region’s winding roads on a 4-seater sounds like a disaster waiting to happen, but once you make it out of the city the journey actually becomes enjoyable. The best part is that driving gives you access to remote places like Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat.
In the South: Making your way south, you can stop by Thailand’s ancient capital of Sukhothai for an Angkor Wat-esque sunrise and sunset. Bangkok is an eight-and-a-half-hour drive from Chiang Mai and is the popular gateway to the southern region and vice versa.
Thailand’s south is a thin strip of land compared to the north, with natural sights more familiar with the tourist circuit. A lot of national parks like Khao Sok and Khlong Phanom cluster in the middle of the south. One of the best SCUBA diving trips I had was in Khao Lak-Lam Ru National Park, where I saw a manta ray for the first time. Another favorite mainland experience was spending New Year’s at a silent meditation retreat in the Suan Mokkh Forest Monastery.
Off the mainland, island hopping is a popular way to explore the region. Each island I visited came with its own personality and appeal. Some islands, like Phuket, were overrun by tourists and not worth my time. But I have come across quite a few favorites.
My favorite island by far is Koh Chang, which has a reputation of being “the last cheap island” in Thailand. Koh Chang is ideal for solo travelers because it attracts the lone backpacker type—many of whom stay for over a month—without losing touch with the locals. Tonsai is another island I enjoyed, and is popular for slack-liners, rock climbers, and cliff divers.
If you’re looking for something more secluded and romantic without a party vibe, check out Koh Yao Noi.
When to Go and What to Bring
Thailand comes in three seasons: hot, wet, and dry. March through June bring the hot months, during which maximum temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit are quite common. Months of straight rainfall follow from July to October during the wet season. The most comfortable time to visit is from November to March, during Thailand’s dry season. But these months are also high season for tourists. To beat the tourists and still catch some good weather, go near the beginning or end of the dry season (like during April and October).
The time you go to Thailand will significantly impact your budget; high season will mean higher prices, and vice versa. Where you go is another big factor. My rule of thumb for budgeting a trip to Thailand is that going further south requires more money. For an honest breakdown of Thailand’s costs, check out my budget post.
Planning your packing list to Thailand is much simpler than planning the costs, as the weather is consistently hot despite the differences in Thailand’s seasons. The glorious lack of winter means your suitcase will be lighter, though I’d be conscious of the local dress throughout the country. Most locals dress on the more conservative side and shy away from spaghetti straps and crop tops.
I navigated the country by wearing airy materials in the form of dresses and shoulder-covering shirts. I also avoided long jeans like the plague seeing that they’re useless when they inevitably get wet and never seem to dry. I’ve written a post covering this topic if you want more detailed advice.
A trip to Thailand turned my pipe dream of travel into a reality, and I’ll never forget how welcoming the country was to me when I began my journey as a solo female traveler. If you’re thinking of traveling somewhere new, Thailand has more than enough beaches, forests, and temples for a fresh start. It’ll be life-changing.
Are you considering a trip to Thailand? Let me know in the comments!