A Guide to Travelling Solo in Thailand
By Dawn Jorgensen
Thailand is an ideal destination for solo travellers.
A popular choice of independent travellers for decades, especially for first-time visitors to South East Asia, it is safe and easy to navigate. Well geared for tourism, and combined with an established infrastructure and diverse range of places to visit, Thailand has long been established on the ‘backpacker trail’. Internal flights, trains, buses and ferries are all easy to book when you get there, making it excellent for anybody who likes to have flexible travel plans rather than be tied to a specific itinerary.
Endlessly appealling, when going solo you have the opportunity to meet people from around the world and make new friends as you expand your horizons. Widely underrated and perhaps not something you’ve previously considered as a possibility for yourself, it can be intimidating to travel alone, especially if you’re going outside of your country and will be immersed in a culture that is different from what you’re used to.
Beyond the joys of destination discovery and adventure though, solo travel will help you to better know yourself and what you do and don’t like. It will build your confidence and create Thai memories that are truly preciously yours. Not only are all the decisions up to you, but you’re more likely to truly immerse yourself in the culture and traditions of the places you find yourself in.
Travelling in itself makes you more present, more observant and able to take in all the details that will create forever memories. It is also a huge confidence and character builder; figuring out how to navigate a foreign city, managing your travel arrangements and budget, and making the reservations, brings a great sense of accomplishment. There are few better places to try it, than Thailand.
Whether headed to a small mountain village in the north, one of the many islands in the Andaman Sea or to spend time in the vibrant capital city of Bangkok, beyond Thailand’s long history and unique culture, are the luxury hotels and resorts, as well as spectacular health spas and retreats to discover. That and the photogenic limestone mountains, tropical rainforests, white sandy beaches and crystal clear waterfalls where you can gather to soak up this slice of paradise. Go snorkelling through coral reefs, lounge next to the pool, get plenty of massages and learn to cook with Thai locals.
Consider a hostel, homestay or hotel with communal areas that will allow you to engage with fellow travellers, even joining forces on day trips and tours. Hiring a registered tour guide or partaking in a cultural experience such as those arranged by Local Alike can be a wonderful introduction to Thailand and Thai culture, and ideal if on your own. Try your hand at Muay Thai classes, rent a bike or bicycle and even consider volunteering at the likes of Elephant Nature Park for a few days. The options are endless – and you get to decide.
A smile and the traditional Thai greeting of a wai will go a long way. Kindness is key and the natural friendliness of the Thai people and renowned Thai hospitality makes it one of the most welcoming destinations in Asia. Learning a few words of the language will help, especially when coupled with a smile. A simple ‘hello’ is sawasdee ka, and ‘thank you’ is khop khun ka – although it may be comforting to know that most Thai people understand and even speak English, especially in the cities.
There should be nothing stopping you from visiting Thailand as a solo traveller, ideally for an extended period to allow unhurried more in-depth exploration of this remarkable South East Asian gem. Simply embark on your travels safely and confidently, knowing that you’re in for a most incredible soul-enriching time and there is nowhere better for it.
Practical Tips for the Solo Traveller
- Safety is a primary concern when travelling solo in an unfamiliar place, no matter how safe the destination – which Thailand is. Try not to call too much attention to the fact that you’re alone. Of course, have fun and maximise your freedom, but avoid broadcasting that you’re travelling solo, it will only make you vulnerable.
- Have a basic plan in place for the duration of your trip, and let someone back home have this with relevant contact details. It’s important to stay in touch with family and friends regularly so that they know you’re safe and happy – even if it’s in the form of regular social media updates as you share your incredible experiences.
- It’s advisable to research the places you will visit, as well as the various activities you’re interested in. Look up reviews or speak with others who have travelled there, taking note of any areas to avoid.
- It’s smart to keep a copy of your passport and one credit card with some cash separate from the rest so that you have a backup if needed. Also keep a copy of your passport, essential contact numbers and credit cards in a cloud or google drive, just in case.
- We don’t recommend travelling with too much cash on you. There are ATM’s throughout if you need to draw more, but mostly you’re only going to need cash for street food, drinks and irresistible market purchases.
- Always have travel insurance, and make sure it isn’t limited.
- Planning your packing list to Thailand is simple as the weather is consistently warm all year round. The glorious lack of winter means your luggage will be light, but do be conscious of the local dress throughout the country and shy away cropped tops and exposed shoulders. It is advised to have a scarf or sarong to cover up, especially when visiting a temple.