From beautiful beaches and rich rainforests, to majestic mountains and chaotic cities, Thailand offers an unbeatable diversity of landscapes and scenery, and well deserves its position as one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world.
Often considered the gateway to Southeast Asia, the large number of convenient connections to Bangkok makes Thailand easily accessible from anywhere in the world. Travelling within the country is tried and tested, due to the millions of tourists that have flocked to the Kingdom for decades. As a result, Thailand is geared towards travellers and offers many home comforts and amenities. Add to that the friendly locals, picture-postcard environment and mouth-watering cuisine, it’s not hard to see why Thailand is THE ideal destination for first-time travellers to Asia, especially those seeking to venture out on their own.
Whilst solo travel in Thailand is predominantly associated with the backpacking culture, in reality, the country offers something for travellers of all tastes, budgets and interests – without having to stay in cheap hostels and carrying a 50-litre rucksack on your shoulders!
Want to get away from it all? Kick back for a few days on a tropical island, sipping a fresh coconut. Want to get out of your comfort zone? Strap on your hiking boots and head into Thailand’s verdant jungles on a quest of finding a spectacular waterfall. Want to experience absolute freedom? What better way than overlooking Bangkok’s awe-inspiring skyline, cocktail in hand, from a 64th-floor rooftop bar? Want to completely immerse in a foreign culture? Explore ancient Siam’s splendid temples or embrace a chance meeting with one of the Kingdom’s friendly citizens.
Thailand is a fantastic destination to explore on your own – far beyond the cliched trappings of Khao San Road! To help you take the leap and inspire your personal adventure in the Land of Smiles, we’ve put together this Thailand solo travel guide, covering all the essentials.
Revel in solitude – What to do on a Thailand solo adventure
Picture the scene. You’re on holiday with your best friend. All you want to do is spend a few days relaxing on the beach and making a start on the reading list you’ve been putting off during your busy routine. But, every time you turn the page, your friend complains of being bored. After five pages, you reluctantly stuff your book back in the bag, wave goodbye to the comfortable deck chair and sign up for an activity to keep you both busy...and at least one of you happy. We’ve all been there – whether you’re travelling with your partner, friends or family, interests differ. You have to compromise.
Whilst there are many reasons why people choose to head out on their own, one of the main advantages of travelling solo is that you decide what to do. When to do it. And at what pace. And, if you change your mind? Nobody cares but you!
Famous for its tropical beaches and dreamy islands, the Kingdom’s south offers endless opportunities to spend a few days basking in the sun and working on that tan. Beyond deckchairs and ocean views, there are also plenty of activities to pursue on your own and avoid getting bored on your solo travels in Thailand. On Phuket island, spend an afternoon wandering its quaint old town or head out on a day trip and explore the picturesque Phang Nga Bay by canoe. Go island hopping in the Gulf of Thailand, hike through Khao Sok National Park and admire its picturesque lake or visit the Elephant Refuge and Education Centre in Hua Hin to learn more about these gentle giants.
Swapping beaches for mountains, Thailand’s hilly north is a great destination for active travellers and outdoor lovers. Discover the spectacular seven-tiered Mae Kampong Waterfall on a hiking journey through verdant rainforest, scale Thailand’s highest summit on a rewarding trek in the Doi Inthanon National Park or bike enthusiasts can explore rural villages on a two-wheeled adventure through San Sai District.
Whilst trekking on your own is not recommended, we do suggest hiring a private guide. This way, you can experience all the benefits of solo travel in Thailand; hike at your own pace, stop when you need and enjoy the safety of a professional and knowledgeable guide.
If you’re tired of the sounds of dragging feet – as your less culturally inclined companions lag behind – solo travellers who wish to immerse themselves in Thai culture have ample opportunities to admire the Kingdom’s plethora of historic sites. From Bangkok’s impressive Grand Palace and Chiang Mai’s towering Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, to Ayutthaya’s ancient structures and everything in-between, culture lovers will certainly get their fair share of ‘wats’ on a Thailand solo trip.
Those interested in more recent history can learn about Thailand’s blighted past in charming Kanachanaburi. The world-famous ‘Bridge of the River Kwai ‘ and the notorious ‘Death Railway’ are enduring relics of the Second World War and essential sites for movie lovers and history buffs alike.
Besides ancient temples, Thailand’s capital is a veritable shopping paradise. Stroll through glitzy and gloriously air-conditioned Siam Paragon or the newly opened Icon Siam or indulge in a shopping spree at sprawling Chatuchak Weekend Market, Bangkok offers more than enough opportunities for solo travellers to shop their heart out. For a more unique shopping experience, take a trip to Damnoek Floating Market and explore the bustling stalls along the meandering waterways. It’s the perfect opportunity to pick-up some souvenirs and practice your newly-honed haggling skills, without your friends chuckling nearby!
Regardless of destination, a must-do activity in the Land of Smiles is to dive into its world-famous cuisine. The ubiquitous street food makes eating out not only affordable but also a welcoming option for solo travellers in Thailand who don’t want to dine alone. If you’re overwhelmed with the myriad options of unfamiliar dishes, join a foodie tour to get a taste of the country’s fiery cuisine. Sample the iconic Pad Thai on a tuk-tuk tour through Bangkok, get a bite of flash fried seafood on a Koh Samui street eats tour or dig into Northern Thailand’s famed delicacies. With such vast and varied options, even the pickiest eaters won’t go to bed on an empty stomach.
The ultimate self-care ritual on a solo journey in Thailand is to indulge in a traditional Thai massage. Steeped in history, the practice is rather different to the oil massages more commonly found in the west. A usual session begins with changing into loose fitting clothes and transcends into a heavenly cocktail of kneading, stretching, pulling and bending. No trip to the Land of Smiles is complete without this invigorating experience! Prices depend on where you go; typically, a one-hour Thai massage at a basic parlour starts at THB 300 (around USD 9). If this type of massage is too unconventional, most places also offer oil massages. Whilst the centre of Thai massage is at Bangkok’s Wat Pho, parlours can be widely found in most cities. Just stay away from red-light districts and seedy places to avoid any “unwelcome” extras!
Meet other travellers
Whilst there are different reasons why travellers opt for a solo trip to Thailand, many still enjoy the company of other people – at least from time to time. Some might even travel on their own to get out of their usual bubble. If you are starved for conversation or miss the energy of a group, a good idea to get acquainted with like-minded wanderers is to participate in a join-in tour. Whether you want to head out on a thrilling rafting adventure along the fast-flowing Mae Taeng River in Northern Thailand, climb up Krabi’s spectacular limestone karts, create your favourite Thai dishes in a cooking class or discover the rich underwater world on a snorkelling trip, it’s an easy way to spend a day with people with the same interests. And, whilst everybody can go their separate ways, some encounters might even turn into lifetime friendships.
If you want to get past the small talk and get to know people better, why not sign up for a course? Thailand offers a large array of options; obtain your diving certificate in a week-long course on Koh Tao; balance body and mind at a yoga retreat in the jungle; or improve your strength through Muay Thai training in Bangkok. You’ll not only learn a new skill but form unique bonds with other travellers.
Lastly, solo travellers in Thailand who want to make a positive change and meet other people along the way can sign up for a volunteering program with an NGO. Check out Trash Hero and Precious Plastic to help clean up the country’s beaches and transform plastic into everyday objects.
Connect with locals
Getting to know some of the local people when travelling solo in Thailand can not only be a rewarding and pleasant experience but offers travellers a more insightful perspective into the local culture. As mentioned before, Thai people have a reputation for being friendly and welcoming – there’s a reason it’s dubbed the Land of Smiles – which makes taking the first step much easier.
If you need help to break the ice, why not swap your hotel for a homestay? It’s a great opportunity to really connect with your hosts and learn about their daily lives. In addition, Buffalo Tours’ ethical local life tours are geared towards travellers that want to connect with locals and get insight into the culture. Discover a different side to Koh Samui and chat to coconut farmers on the tropical island or visit the Akha and Yao hilltribe villages in Northern Thailand and learn about their fascinating traditional lifestyles.
Even though it’s possible to get by with English, learning some basic phrases in Thai will certainly be appreciated. Greet others with ‘Sawadee kha/krap’ (kha is the particle for female speakers; krap for men), express thanks with ‘Kop khun kha/krap’ and apologise by saying ‘Khaw thoht kha/krap’. Infuse it with a ‘wai’ (Thai greeting of placing your palms in front of your heart and bowing) for an extra local touch. Language is often considered a window into cultural values; in Thai, the common phrase ‘jai yen yen’ (meaning ‘keep calm’) is symbolic of the importance of staying calm, whilst ‘mai pen rai’ (roughly translated as ‘don’t worry’, ‘it’s okay’ and ‘never mind’) mirrors Thai people’s laid-back attitude.
Transport & Safety
Travelling within Thailand is easy. An extensive network of flights, trains, buses and minivans, connects most major cities and usually travellers have a choice of different travel means, ranging in price and duration. Whilst most of these options are pretty safe, being crammed into one of the racing minivans can be a scary experience. Buffalo Tours provides its own vehicles with functioning seatbelts, making for comfortable and safe short-distance trips.
In Bangkok, the easiest way to travel around is by BTS skytrain or MRT underground which cover most of the inner city. When taking taxis, insist on the meter beforehand to avoid pricey surprises.
In general, the Southeast Asian country is a very safe destination for solo travellers, for both men and women alike. Crime rates against foreigners are low, and whilst there are of course exceptions to this rule, in general most incidents can be avoided by applying common sense. Look after your belongings, keep an eye on your drinks and stay away from red light districts to avoid scams, and the odds are that you’ll be perfectly fine on your Thailand solo travels.
Don’t forget these essentials on your solo trip through Thailand
- Cover up shoulders and knees when visiting temples and other religious monuments; a scarf is always a versatile companion.
- On the same note, bring cheap sandals that can be quickly slipped on and off when entering temples.
- Pack a jumper or long-sleeve shirt; nights in the north can cool down considerably during winter months, and air-conditioning on buses, trains or malls run at full blast all year round.
- Ear plugs are valuable on long-distance bus or train journeys.
- Travellers from 55 countries are allowed to enter Thailand via international flight for a period of 30 days visa-free. However, airport and immigration authorities might request a confirmed exit flight.
- Though the tap water is not drinkable, bring a reusable water bottle to reduce plastic waste. Many hotels and restaurant have refill stations.
- Download the Grab app on to your phone; it’s the Thai version of Uber and makes navigating through Bangkok even easier.
- For women, tampons are not available everywhere and are usually more expensive than in the west.
We hope this guide has encouraged you to go out and explore the Land of Smiles on your own. If you need any help, reach out to Buffalo Tours and let our experts help craft your tailor-made Thailand solo travel adventure.