There’s definitely a whole lot of bravery required in traveling the world solo and that’s especially true if you’re a female. If you would have asked me a year ago if traveling to Bangkok as a solo female is safe, I would probably have said no. Bangkok, with all its madness and chaos, you’d be forgiven to think that the city is not for the fainthearted. But I just came back from a week long trip to this vibrant city in Asia and I must say that I enjoyed my trip so much. There was never a moment that I felt threatened or feared for my safety during the entire time that I was there.
By now, I can confidently say that Bangkok is a great place to start your Asian journey as a solo female traveler. But of course, just like with visiting any other cities in the world, it’s always important to exercise precaution especially when roaming the streets on your own. If you’re wondering what to do in Bangkok as a female solo traveler, here are some tips.
Get a prepaid sim card at the airport
It’s important to stay connected to your friends and family back home when traveling solo. Thus, the first thing that you need to do upon arriving at Bangkok’s airport is to get yourself a prepaid sim card. I got mine from TrueMove, although I’ve also heard a lot of great things about AIS. Nevertheless, I’m happy with TrueMove and it only cost me 299 baht. It’s already good to use for 8 days with 2.5 GB data in it.
After you exit out of immigration and just before you get out of the airport at the arrival area, you’ll easily see the kiosks where you can get the sim cards. If you can’t find them, approach any airport personnel and ask where you can get the card. Simply present your passport, make a payment and give them your phone. They will install the sim and activate your number for you so you can immediately start using the Internet after they hand back your phone.
Never display your cash in public
Although not as common as other major cities in Asia, there are still a few pickpocketers in Bangkok. Thus, wherever you go, always hide your valuables, especially your cash. Never display it in public and place it somewhere that will make it difficult for anyone to snatch it away from you. Avoid placing your wallet in your pocket, even in the front pockets. These are easily accessible for seasoned pickpocketers. Tuck your money inside your pouch or bag. Place your cash in the mini pockets in your bag and zip it for safety. In my case, I bought a Travel Secret Waist Money Belt, which looks like a regular belt but comes with a hidden zipped pocket where I stash my cash.
As much as possible, avoid bringing expensive bags when walking the streets of Bangkok. There are instances where motorcycle-riding pickpocketers would snatch purses from wealthy looking tourists walking along the busy streets. If possible, carry as little items with you when roaming the streets. Carrying fewer things also makes it easier and more comfortable for you to walk freely around the city.
Skip the taxis and tuk-tuks, take the train instead
One of the most annoying things in Bangkok is being bombarded with a group of tuk-tuk or taxi drivers just after you exit out of a famous tourist attraction, such as the Grand Palace. Although it’s fun to ride a tuk-tuk and it’s a great idea to experience it when in Bangkok, it’s not really the best way to get around the city. Also, there are lots of reported incidents were unsuspecting tourists are being scammed by these notorious drivers. If you want to stay up to date on travel scams checkout travelscams.org blog.
The best and the safest way to get around Bangkok is to take the BTS Skytrain. These trains are safe and comfortable, and they travel fast above ground, covering the entire area of Bangkok downtown. You can purchase single tickets at the station using coins or from a ticket booth, although it’s more convenient to use the BTS Rabbit cards especially if you plan to stay in Bangkok for a week like me. These are stored value cards that cost 100 baht plus a 50 baht deposit, which was given back to me when I returned the card on my last day in the city.
Wear appropriate clothing especially when visiting temples
You are free to wear anything that makes you feel comfortable when roaming around Bangkok. However, avoid wearing very revealing clothes that will attract unwanted attention. You don’t really need to wear layers or jackets. The weather in this part of the world is extremely hot and humid so choose your clothing wisely. Wear something light and comfortable. And since you’ll be walking a lot, make sure you wear a comfortable pair of walking shoes or sandals such as the Toms Zoe Sandals. It’s so stylish, yet very comfortable for walking.
If you plan on visiting temples and other religious sites, make sure you are covered up. All females are required to cover their legs and shoulders when visiting any of these religious sites. Therefore, you can’t wear skimpy shorts and spaghetti straps. They may allow you to get inside but you have to rent a sarong from them, which you will use to cover yourself.
Choose a hotel with good location
Choosing the right accommodation is extremely important for solo female travelers. It’s important that the location is easily accessible and that you will not have to walk through small alleys and dark streets when going back to your place at night. A good idea is to choose a hotel that’s close to one of the BTS stations. There are plenty of affordable and decent accommodations in the downtown area of Bangkok and most of them are within easy reach from the train station.
It’s also important that you take time to read reviews of the hotel you plan to book. From these reviews, you’ll be able to tell if such hotel is safe for solo female travelers like you. You may also check out some of the local homestays at Airbnb and consider staying at a local home. This is a great way to learn more about the Thai culture and to meet local friends as well.
Be extra cautious when going out late at night
Bangkok has a vibrant and exciting nightlife, especially at the Khao San Road, dubbed as the center of the backpacking universe. This is a great place to meet and exchange travel tales with fellow travelers, mostly backpackers, who are preparing for their next destination on the backpacker trail. The street is lined with lots of hippie bars, and when night time comes, everyone seems to be in the party mood.
If you plan on going out at night to experience the party scene at the Khao San Road, you need to be extra careful. Although Bangkok is relatively safe, given the abundance of cheap alcohol in this area, the road will be filled with lots of drunken people just before midnight comes. Also, be careful with who you will share a drink with. There are lots of stories about unsuspecting female travelers being drugged through their drinks and later robbed in this area. It might be best to carry a Personal Alarm that comes with a night vision if you really want to go out and party at night in Bangkok.
Know where to go for a relaxing Thai massage
You can never leave Bangkok without getting a relaxing Thai massage. In fact, foot and body massages are very popular in Bangkok that you will find massage parlors in almost every corner of the city. But before you go to any of these places, it is best to do a bit of research and know what to expect.
Most of the massage places will require you to wear a set of loose clothing before they can start with their massage. Others may ask you to take all your clothes off, but if you’re not comfortable with the idea, politely inform the attendant that you would prefer to have your underwear on. Also, Thai massages will require close body contact and the therapist will massage your body using her own hands. Sometimes, they might need to press-kick against your back. The experience may not be gentle and sometimes painful especially if it’s your first time. So be prepared for this if you really want to experience an authentic Thai massage on your trip to Bangkok.
The list above should be enough to prepare you for your solo travel to Bangkok. Remember that these tips may not only apply in Bangkok but also on other cities you plan on visiting alone. The most important thing to remember is to use your common sense and always exercise precaution just like you would back home.