To solo travel Thailand had been an ambition of mine for many years. But you know…life happens you work a day job to pay the bills, stay in your European comfort zone…whatever! It actually took for me to get quite sick and have a major operation ( I survived Stage 4 Endometriosis excision) before I took the plunge and decided to go traveling to Thailand alone. I guess it was one of those ‘life flashing before you’ moments. I came out of surgery thinking — OMG I have to go to Thailand before I die! Solo seemed to me to be the best option as my fiance (now husband) didn’t want to see 5–10 Buddha’s daily! 😄
Today I’m going to blog all about traveling alone in Thailand including my favourite destinations, how to get around and the benefits to solo travel in Thailand. If you’ve not booked this as a solo trip yet — just go for it!
Thailand is one of the best places for Solo Travel in Asia.
How Long should you Spend in Thailand?
You can see a lot in 10 days of course — easily covering Bangkok, Ayuttaya and Pattaya. But I’d totally recommend that you spend a month or more, particularly if you want to explore Chiang Rai. Chiang Mai and some of the islands. You will want time to go with the flow in Thailand — there is just so much to see and do. If you want to know my exact plan for my month in Thailand, here’s my Thailand 30 day itinerary.
Benefits of Solo Travel Thailand
Thailand is one of those countries that you need to explore at your own pace and plan according to your interests. It’s got something for everyone. If you’re looking for hustle and bustle you will love Bangkok and Pattaya. Head South to the islands for fantastic beaches. Head North to Chiang Mai for the best digital nomad hotspot and Elephant Parks. Chiang Rai, Sukhothai and Ayutthaya will satisfy your thirst for Thai temples — both ancient and modern. Thailand is diverse, cheap and EXCELLENT for solo travel.
In short, the benefits of solo travel in Thailand are…
Planning your OWN ITINERARY
Without anyone tagging along you can plan your itinerary according to your interests whether that be beaches, temples, wildlife or partying. It’s a BIG country and so time is of the essence.
Save your MONEY
Save your Money — Thailand is so CHEAP. It’s the first place in the world that I have ever travelled to and come back with money! Solo travel in Thailand
Thailand is a very spiritual country and it’s horrible to be rushed to stick to an itinerary that you have agreed with someone else. Many of the destinations include temples as their main sites. Some people like to spend more time in temples than others (I’m one of them). It’s nice not to be rushed when exploring Thai temples.
Thailand as I have mentioned is MASSIVE. When you are there, you might well find that you love a place so much that you want to stay longer (this happened to me in Chiang Rai!) Or you might hear great stories about locations that you hadn’t planned to visit — many people in Thailand rave about Pai — I’d never really heard of it until I got there but it’s a magical place through winding roads into the hillside. Keep your itinerary open and flexible and without input from anyone else if possible.
Thailand really surprised me on cleanliess and high quality of public transport. Internal flights are cheap and reliable. You can use Air Asia to get between the main cities such as Bangkok and Chiang Mai. It’s also really easy to get long distance buses and train. There is a sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. I include a whole section on transport in Thailand below, but first let’s talk about the main destinations to travel to.
Solo Travel Thailand — Transport
There are so many ways to get around — I tried all of them — buses, trains, tuk-tuks, taxis and internal flights.
Buses are extremely easy to use and much more comfortable that I anticipated. You can pre book buses between cities and they are extremely cheap. Often they are bookable online or via a mobile app (all the more reason to get a Thai SIM card!) You can read my Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai Green Bus Review here.
Buses are a great way of travelling around Thailand. I also took a bus from Sukhothai to Bangkok which was also extremely easy and comfortable. We were given bottled water on the journey and a meal voucher for the stop included in the ticket price! I simply traded in my voucher for some pork and rice! There were toilets on the bus that were clean and flushable.
There are two boat options along the Chao Praya river in Bangkok to get to the main sites — the orange flag is the regular boat (around 15 baht) and the blue flag is the tourist boat (about 4 X more expensive but still really cheap and less crowded). The locals boat takes exactly the same route, but will be packed scarily full!
Trains are extremely easy to use in Thailand, but the main thing that you should remember is to ask for first or second class. They will automatically give you third class if you don’t state this, which could mean that you are in with the chickens in some parts! 😂
I’d suggest one main rule — avoid Tuk-Tuk drivers in Bangkok. It’s polluted, busy and they will rip you off! Tuk Tuks in the smaller areas such as Chiang Rai and or Sukhothai on the other hand are pleasant and cheap. In the smaller towns and villages Tuk Tuks are a great way to see the scenery. In Phuket, they are notorious for overcharging tourists, so bargain hard!
The best thing about Taxis in Thailand is that you can use the GRAB app to pre book and know exactly what you should be paying. This avoids the tip off taxi culture altogether. If you are in a situation where you need to flag one, just walk to the side of the road and make a ‘patting down’ motion with your hand (pat an imaginary dog on the head at the side of the road!) Make sure that the meter goes on immediately. Avoid getting taxis at ‘taxi stands’ at tourist destinations such as ‘Asiatique’ — they will charge you for simply writing your name on a piece of paper!
Internal flights are good and easy to use in Thailand. They are an excellent option particularly if you have less time to spend there. Flights are not too expensive either — it’s possible to book a flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai or Phuket for less than $50. I recommend Air Asia — you can download the app and receive a barcode as your ticket/boarding pass. Other decent airline companies that operate in Thailand include Lion Air and Thai Smile.
MTS/Sky Train (BTS)
Another really easy way to get around the city is by BTS Skytrain. Cheap and easy to use despite the need to climb a few stairs to get there. If you are struggling with the machines most people at the help desks speak English. The MTS is another rail system operating mainly underground but soon will be going overground too. It’s a separate ticketing system for MTS and BTS so you cannot use one ticket on both — purchase separate. I found the BTS Skytrain adequate enough to get to all of the main destinations that I needed in Bangkok.
Places ideal for Solo Travel Thailand
The city of Bangkok is a bustling Asian metropolis — an eclectic mix of shopping centres, bars, restaurants and temples. Most of the key sites including Wat Arun, Wat Pho and the Grand Palace are positioned along the Chao Praya river. While you are in Bangkok, you also might want to explore China Town, Lumbini Park, Khaosan Road and the floating market. Head to Siam for the massive shopping centres — I picked up at least 3 pairs of shoes. 👠
Bangkok is likely to be where you fly into. I found it quite busy and not great for travelling with asthma due to the pollution. It may be that you want to just spend 3–5 days in Bangkok and then get to somewhere more relaxed. Travel North for the temples and South for the beaches.
Looking for a cheap Bangkok layover? Go for the Phoenix Hotel.
I absolutely fell in love with Chiang Rai. This quaint little Northern town will charm you with it’s temples, night market and beautiful clock tower. Every street sign is so beautifully decorated. Don’t miss the Blue temple, the white temple and the Black House (Baandam Museum).
Looking for somewhere cheap and clean to stay in Chiang Rai? I recommend Connect Hostel.
Chiang Mai is Thailand’s top digital nomad hotspot. It’s also home to some amazing temples including Wat Doi Suthep and Wat Chedi Luang. The main area of the old town is surrounded by an ancient wall and moat which makes the centre easy to navigate. Full of bars, restaurants and a temple on almost every corner Chiang Mai is an expats haven.
Just around an hour and a half from Bangkok is Ayutthaya, the second Siamese capital. I arrived by train and crossed the river by boat taxi for 5 baht! It is possible to do an Ayutthaya Day Trip from Bangkok, although it’s nice to spend two days there if you would like to see more of the temples and experience the night market. The main temples that you shouldn’t miss in Ayutthaya are:
- Wat Chai Wattanaram
- Phra Buddha Sai Yat (Reclining Buddha)
- Wat Mongkhon Bophit
- Wat Sri Sanphet — famous for three bell-shaped Chedi’s
- Wat Mahatat — famous for the Buddha head in the Bodhi tree
- Wat Rachaburana
- Wat Chai Mongkhon — 14th Century temple with massive Buddha statues and a towering Chedi.
If you hire a tuk-tuk you will cover more ground (no need to pay more than around $30 per half day for your driver).
If you are looking for ancient Buddha’s and willing to travel further than just over an ho0ur outside Bangkok, you cannot miss Sukhothai Historical Park. This stunning historical park is home to ancient stupas and Buddha statues set in the lush green surroundings of Sukhothai. The best temples of Sukhothai are:
- Wat Mahatat
- Wat Si Sawai
- Wat Tra Phang Ngoen
- Wat Sa Si
- Wat Phra Phai Luang
- Wat Si Chum
- Wat Sorasak (Elephant stupa)
For a small day trip from Bangkok head to the city where monkeys dominate the town and live in the ancient ruins of the monkey temple Lop Buri is so famous for!
If you want a short trip to the beach from Bangkok, then head to Pattaya. Full of temples, nightlife and an expat community, Pattaya is a great place to party!
For pronunciation, make sure that you emphasise the ‘a’ sound at the end. So, it’s Pattayaaaaaaaaaaa rather than a short ‘a’ (it’s the same with Ayutthaya!)
The popular tourist destination of Phuket is a great place to base yourself if you want to explore some of the best beaches of Thailand. It’s an island but so close to the mainland that it’s attached by bridge. You are probably best flying in from Bangkok.
In Phuket don’t miss the Big Buddha, Patong Beach and the night markets and the night life of Bangla Road. From Phuket, you can take a day trip North to Phang Nga bay including James Bond Island. Also spend a day or two explore some surrounding destinations accessible by ferry — Phi Phi Island, Krabi and several beautiful Andaman islands.
Koh Samui is one of Thailands more relaxing Islands and has beach bungalows for budget backpackers and luxury travellers alike. You can travel by Ferry from mainland Thailand and also take an internal flight from Bangkok or Phuket. It’s known for it’s beautiful beaches, dense rainforest and luxury spas.
Top Tips for Solo Travel Thailand
In summary, here are my top Solo Travel Thailand tips…
- Get a Thai SIM card for your phone for booking tickets, maps, general WIFI usage.
- Use the Skytrain in Bangkok — it’s the best way to get around and very cheap.
- Avoid rip off taxis — if you really need to use a cab you can download the GRAB app and book
- Book hostels and hotels on booking.com and hostelworld.com — download the apps.
- If you want to eat cheaply head to the night markets
- To save travel time take internal flights from Bangkok to Chiang Mai/Chiang Rai or Bangkok to the islands.
What to wear when Visiting the Blue Temple in Thailand
What should you wear when visiting temples in Thailand? Dress conservatively when visiting temples in Thailand. Wear trousers or a long skirt and cover shoulders.
A scarf is a good thing to have handy in Thailand as you can use it to cover yourself if you are wearing a vest top or maxi dress. Men should avoid shorts and wear t-shirts or a smart-casual shirt.
You will need to remove your shoes before going up the temple steps so wear some comfortable sandals or shoes that you can slip on and off. Birkenstocks are a good option.
Originally published at https://www.templeseeker.com on September 24, 2019.