Ultimate Girl’s Guide to Thailand Travel

Thailand was the first country I ever traveled to by myself.  I spent the first ten days alone, then met up with friends for the rest of the trip.  Twenty years later, I wrote about that month of travel in a piece published by the Huffington Post, called “How I Fell in Love with Solo Travel.”  Thailand sparked something within me that remains to this day: a love of solo travel, & of places that feel truly “foreign.”  I think Thailand is a great place for adventurous women (or men!) to get their feet wet in the solo travel sphere, & huge bonus: it’s super cheap!!  Your money goes a long way here.  In this “Ultimate Girl’s Guide to Thailand Travel,” I’ll take you through my month of travels in this fascinating & beautiful country. 

How I Fell in Love with Solo Travel, Girl Who Travels the World

Thailand is a very easy place to fall in love with…

Ultimate Girl’s Guide to Thailand Travel

In this guide, I’ll take you on a photographic journey from the white sand beaches of Phuket to the magical (but sadly, overly-loved) island of Ko Phi Phi, to crazy, full-moon parties on Ko Samui, then up to the country’s former capital, magical Ayutthaya.  To find elephants, jungles, & ex-pats, plus a slightly more introspective vibe: we’ll fly north to Chiang Mai.

Bangkok

Chiang Mai

Phuket

Ayutthaya

Ko Samui (Where Full Moon Parties are Held)

Krabi

Ko Phi Phi Islands (Where "The Beach" was Filmed"

Thailand Travel Overview!

  • Safety = Moderately safe statistically speaking; some political unrest 75% 75%
  • Cost = One of the great, cheap destinations in terms of world travel 30% 30%
  • Adventures = Everywhere!!! From elephant-riding to jungle treks, to temple-gazing & beach-combing.. 100% 100%
  • How Safe I Felt as a Female Traveler = Very Safe, but be cautious in cities & with aggressive guides 90% 90%
  • Transportation = Tuk-tuks, trains, & planes! 100% 100%

Thailand Travel Quick Facts!

  • Thailand in One Word = Temples.
  • Thailand in Two More Words = Warm people. 
  • Wi-Fi = Wi-Fi is readily available in large cities, but less so off-the-beaten path & on beaches.
  • Global Peace Ranking = #120 out of 163 countries (U.S. is #103) = Statistically not as safe as the U.S.; recent political unrest, so check with the State Department before traveling to Thailand. 
  • Best Things about Thailand: The ability to get $5-10 Thai massages (which are like someone doing yoga to you) everywhere.  The genuine kindness & generosity of the Thai people.  Gorgeous train rides with visions of temples rising out of the jungle.  THAI FOOD!!  I can smell the delicious meats & vegetables cooking now.  Street food in Thailand is incredible (& costs about $1).  The natural beauty & diversity of the country.
  • Hotels = Much cheaper than the U.S.  Consider staying in luxury hotels in Bangkok, such as the legendary Oriental & the Shangri-La ~ they’re half the price in Thailand than elsewhere in the world.
  • Must-Do’s = Go to one of Thailand’s famous beaches, like Phuket.  Get wild at the full moon party in Ko Samui.  Get $5 Thai massages, every day.  Wander thru temples.  Visit ex-pat haven Chang Mai.  Go on a river cruise thru the jungle.  Have a wild night in Bangkok.  Tour temples in the country’s former capital, Ayutthaya.
  • Is Thailand Good for Solo Travelers = Yes. It’s an extremely popular backpacker’s destination, & I personally loved my time traveling there solo.  If you’re worried about safety or the language barrier, then try safer European destinations like Iceland, Austria, or Ireland.
  • What to Expect as a Female Traveler = Expect friendly locals who will go out of their way to help you ~ though some may ask if you’re traveling alone: feel free to LIE about it.  Tell them your friend or husband is back in the hotel room.  Be wary of tour guides who take you to “jewel factories” or other tourist traps; listen to your gut.  Do group tours instead of private tours.  Find people you trust to buddy up with ~ & use your hotel concierge or hostel owner as a resource, & ask which areas or parts of town to avoid.
  • Worst Things about Thailand: In some places, the country has been loved to death: like in the Phi Phi Islands ~ some of which are now closed indefinitely due to pollution & destruction to the beaches from too many tourists.  But the most disturbing thing, by far, that we witnessed in Thailand was the hideous child sex trade.  We saw many older, white men going into “shops” with young girls…& young boys.  In Phuket, on certain streets, it was rampant & disturbingly blatant.  It is highly disturbing to see 60+ year old men with children.  This was easily my least favorite memory of visiting Thailand.
  • Would I Go Back = Despite the above-mentioned detractors….YES.  I would absolutely return to Thailand.   
  • Could I Retire in Thailand?  YES.

Photos of Bangkok, Thailand

The first word that comes to mind when I think of Bangkok is: CHAOS!!  The next is: tuk-tuks.  And the third is: pussy shows.  (I know, I know….).  These words capture the inimitable place that is Bangkok, & make it unlike anywhere else in the world.  Don’t come here if you’re looking for peace & quiet ~ that’s what Chiang Mai is for!  Stay at least two days in Bangkok to soak up the craziness, & to take in the many gorgeous temples that reside here: such as Wat Pho & the Grand Palace. 

And when you get off that long, longgg flight….of course the first thing you must do is grab a $5 massage to stretch out your aching limbs!  Massages are the lifeblood of Thailand & can be found everywhere in Bangkok ~ but make sure it’s just a massage place, & not one that serves up happy endings too….

Ultimate Girl's Guide to Thailand Travel, Girl Who Travels the World

Taking a river cruise on the Chao Phraya is a MUST in Bangkok, as numerous temples & palaces line the waterways.

Ultimate Girl's Guide to Thailand Travel, Girl Who Travels the World

Bangkok.

Ultimate Girl's Guide to Thailand Travel, Girl Who Travels the World

Wat Pho is one of the most famous temples in Bangkok, & it lies on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. Bonus: you can get AMAZING, authentic Thai massages here!!

Ultimate Girl's Guide to Thailand Travel, Girl Who Travels the World, Floating Market, Bangkok

Wake up early one morning & head to Bangkok’s floating markets. You can buy fruit, food, jewelry, & artwork ~ I got an amazing, hand-painted Thai landscape at a floating market.

Photos of Phuket & Krabi

No “Ultimate Girl’s Guide to Thailand Travel” would be complete without a mention of the country’s heavenly beaches: places like Krabi, Ao Nang, Phuket, & the popular Phi Phi Islands.  You can’t travel to Thailand & only visit its cities ~ you MUST get to the beach.  This is where you’ll truly feel like you’re on vacation.  It’s a long haul from Bangkok down to Phuket: I’d suggest flying (unless you enjoy 20-hour bus rides)!  In all places mentioned above, you can find five-star resorts as well as hostels…so don’t let your budget keep you from exploring. 

The full moon party held on Ko Samui & Ko Pha Ngan is absolutely LEGENDARY ~ but unfortunately, we didn’t make it there.  Award-winning travel blogger The Blonde Abroad did though, & her account of it can be found here.

Ultimate Girl's Guide to Thailand Travel, Girl Who Travels the World, Krabi

Krabi is known for its towering monoliths that rise out of the Andaman Sea.

Ultimate Girl's Guide to Thailand Travel, Girl Who Travels the World, Phuket

Sea views in Phuket.

Ultimate Girl's Guide to Thailand Travel, Girl Who Travels the World, Ao Nang, Krabi

Ao Nang is in the Krabi region of Thailand, & offers breathtaking sunsets & alluring, ocean-view hotels.

Ultimate Girl's Guide to Thailand Travel, Girl Who Travels the World, Maya Bay, Ko Phi Phi

One of the major issues I have with Thai tourism is that beautiful, pristine places such as the Phi Phi Islands (featured in the film, “The Beach”) have become polluted & over-saturated with tourists. The problem on Maya Beach (pictured here) got SO bad, that Thai officials have actually closed the bay to all visitors until 2021.

Photos of Khao Sok National Park

Also in southern Thailand is the nature reserve: Khao Sok National Park.  Come here to find otherworldly landscapes, dense jungle, & towering limestone formations that make for incredible photos.  Here you can hike, raft, canoe, & kayak through this water & nature-loving paradise ~ & you can also stay in jungle tree houses

Ultimate Girl's Guide to Thailand Travel, Girl Who Travels the World, Khao Sok National Park, Khlong Sok

Khao Sok National Park.

Ultimate Girl's Guide to Thailand Travel, Girl Who Travels the World, Khao Sok National Park, Khlong Sok

Stay in a lodge at the edge of the jungle in Khao Sok National Park..

Photos of Ayutthaya & Chiang Mai

If you take the train north out of Bangkok, one of the first important stops you’ll make is at a place called Ayutthaya.  I traveled solo here, & hired a tuk-tuk driver to show me several of the city’s most important temples.  I LOVED Ayutthaya.  Its temples are breathtaking, & there’s an air of peace & tranquility here that’s enhanced by the presence of Buddhist monks.  You only need a day or two here, but it’s well worth the stop. 

Further north & easily accessible by train, is the gorgeous city of Chiang Mai.  It definitely has a more mellow feel than Bangkok (because pretty much everywhere does!) ~ but the city is big enough to be diverse & engaging, while maintaining a small-town vibe.  Many bloggers & digital nomads have made Chiang Mai their home, due to its natural beauty & ridiculously cheap cost of living (one blogger I know lives on about $1,500/month there for a family of four), so don’t be surprised to run into people from all over the world.  Spend at least two to three days here.

Ultimate Girl's Guide to Thailand Travel, Girl Who Travels the World, Ayutthaya

It is commonplace to see monks on the grounds of various temples in Ayutthaya, the former capital.

Ultimate Girl's Guide to Thailand Travel, Girl Who Travels the World, Chiang Mai

The view points in Chiang Mai, like this one at Doi Inthanon, are AStoundingly gorgeous.

Ultimate Girl's Guide to Thailand Travel, Girl Who Travels the World, Chiang Mai

Elephant parks are common up in the Chiang Mai area, but take care in visiting places where you can ride on them: in many cases, the elephants are not treated well. Opt instead to visit an elephant sanctuary.

Ultimate Girl's Guide to Thailand Travel, Girl Who Travels the World, Chiang Mai

Take a bath in the jungle at the Four Seasons Chiang Mai.

Ultimate Girl’s Guide to Thailand Travel

I could go on & on about Thailand!  This “Ultimate Girl’s Guide to Thailand Travel” is literally just the beginning of your explorations into this beguiling country.  If I was a young, twenty-something with a limited budget: Thailand would be my first stop.  Ask me any questions about solo travel in Thailand in the comments below!

xoxo Noelia

Read Next: How I Fell in Love with Solo Travel