Thailand has so much diversity and beauty but too many tourists so it’s a mixed bag for self discovery.
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- Find yourself rating
- Female solo traveler rating
- Touristy or authentic rating
- Getting around / Transportation
- How to save money
- Negotiating tips
- WiFi access
- SIM cards / Cell Phone Service
- Insects, rodents and reptiles
- Passport and visa
- Health, water, etc.
- What to pack
- How to make friends
- What to do and see
- Where to stay
Where I’ve Been
Currency = Thai Baht
Medium. Because Thailand has soooo many tourists where you go has everything to do with how your experience using it as self-discovery will be. If you’re trying to work on meeting more people this might be a good place for you because there are so many tourists you’re bound to meet other English speakers and bond with them. For my taste, I found it hard to feel truly immersed in Thai culture because some places seemed to cater to tourism so much that I didn’t understand what was real and what was made for me to see. This also means less peace, fewer excursions where you feel like you’re the only person discovering some amazing secret. It’s certainly an excellent place for cooking classes and food, though! So if you want to discover yourself through flavors and spices, this is a great place to do it!
Excellent. Like the rest of Southeast Asia I felt very safe! Even on the overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, though alone and above and across from 3 men from Portugal, there was a train car full of people. The only time I felt annoyed, not in danger, was dealing with taxis in Bangkok that appeared, from the outside, to be metered taxis, but once inside, turned out to be illegitimate. Tuk Tuks also loved to rip off tourists so you do need to be careful and make sure you bargain prices.
Touristy. Though Thailand is amazingly beautiful, it was still much more touristy feeling than the rest of my adventures in Southeast Asia. It’s not just that there were soooo many people trying to do the same things at the same time, it was the lack of authenticity. Chiang Mai, for me, has lost whatever uniqueness it may once have had. To be fair, the “center” of town and the night market feel completely made for tourists. If you are there a few days and get to explore the outer areas, the zoo, and see one of the palaces on the mountain, there is something more authentic there. I did not go to Phuket since it sounded like more over-tourism. That’s why I was delighted to find Prachuap Khiri Khan, a quaint fisherman village where a bottle of water cost 8 cents (!) and there were very few Westerners.
Buses and trains. The least expensive way to get around is by bus and train. If you’re long term traveling, you’ll get to see some interesting sites over the sometimes 12+ hour journeys! Check out the overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai (if you use 12g0.asia you will have to pick up your tickets across from the station and it takes a little effort to find their office, but they are very reliable!). This train books up fast so you’ll want to reserve early. If you can get to the train station to pick up your tickets, even better. Also use the Grab App within cities for taxis. Note that in Chiang Mai Grab is illegal because it takes away business frrom tuk tuks, so you may have to walk a little to meet your driver depending on where you’re picked up. The South Bus station in Bangkok offers regular buses to many destinations. Note that the leaving time is often not the time listed on the website. The larger buses tend to wait till they are filled up or semi full, before departing. I arrived there about 30 minutes after the departure time of my desired bus, and it worked out they left about 30 minutes after I arrived, so sometimes it’s in your favor! Another minibus station used to exist at the Victory Monument BTS (subway) station but you should research that before you go since there are differing reports about whether or not those minibuses still depart frrom there. When it came to the subway in Bangkok, I invested in a Rabbit Card which helped me save a lot of time since I didn’t have to buy a new ticket every time I rode the subway. But, note, there are TWO subway lines in Bangkok. The rabbit card only works on the BTS. The other line is the MRT which you get separate tickets for and a single ride is paid with a coin, it can get confusing!
Stay cheap and eat cheap! Thailand tends to be more expensive than other Southeast Asian countries because they have so may tourists. There are many food vendors that aren’t street meat which offer one way to save. There are hostels and many affordable hotel options, especially if you don’t try to stay right in the center of a city. As I mentioned before, using buses and trains instead of flying can save you money. However some airlines, like Air Asia, may have super cheap fares that make it more worthwhile to cut travel time.
Strategic bargaining. If you’re trying to buy from local merchants, they all sell pretty much the same things. I found that what worked best was simply deciding what I wanted to pay for an item, and then if one merchant turned down my offer, finding another one that would accept it.
Very Good. All the bathrooms I encountered were clean – even when holes in the ground, they were actually pristine, complete with toilet paper, not smelly!
Insects, Rodents and Reptiles
Minimum. I got close up with monkeys and elephants but apart frrom eating a cricket and a pack of silk worms, didn’t even get too bothered by mosquitos!
Passport, Visa and Entry/Exit Rules
Straightforward, but can be expensive. It’s always a good idea to check the US government website (or your country’s local government if not the US) for in-depth information as well as the embassy website of each country. You can get your visa in advance, but if you cross the border by bus, they’ll take you through immigration and help you with the process. However, be mindful where you cross and what company you use. I crossed from Cambodia. I read that crossing in the South of Cambodia was more risky, however departing from Siem Reap was an easy 8-hour bus ride and the bus representative helped us avoid apparent scammers that try to convince tourists they have to pay for their assistance to get to immigration which is not true. Note that when you arrive into Bangkok taxi drivers will descend and try to get you to pay much higher prices than necessary. If you have the Grab App, use it!
Health, Water, etc.
Moderate. I didn’t drink the tap water as bottled water was supplied in all my hotels. Depending on your tolerance the thing that could get you in Thailand is the spicy food! So if you have a sensitive stomach, be mindful. Also if you eat street food, it’s always good to have a guide but a lot of it was safe and delicious. Check the CDC website for recommended vaccinations. I received the Hep A, Hep B, Typhoid and Japanese Encephalitis vaccinations. (The latter because I was planning to be in rural areas in Vietnam for several weeks.)
Hot. Thailand is warm and humid year around, even winter is around 80 degrees. Climate can vary by region, but the rainy season is generally May – October. However, some of the Southern islands may have periods of rain even in the non rainy season.
Essentials to Pack
The sun is hot and direct, so make sure your head and body are covered and you have good sunblock. You’ll also need to have clothing that covers your shoulders and your legs to enter any temples. If you’re planning to go to any beaches, make sure you pack your bathing suit.
How to Make Friends
Tours were the number one way I found to meet people. Also, the nice thing about Chiang Mai, even though too touristy, is that it’s easy to meet people in their large rickshaws. You share them with other people and it’s just natural to all start chatting because you sit across from total strangers at a close distance. They are also amazingly cheap, and a great way to get around.
What to Do and See
Bangkok is worth seeing. I heard that one day is enough, but I was surprised that I actually liked it enough to stay there for several days. While there see the Grand Palace and explore Chinatown. Take the BTS around town and get to the market at Chatuchak Park which is an experience. In Chiang Mai of course see elephants, but use a company that doesn’t allow them to be used for riding and is known to treat them well. As mentioned if you want a place that’s less touristy try something like Prachuap Khiri Khan instead of Phuket. If you do, don’t miss out on the dusky langur monkeys. (That’s one of them in the photos at the top left of this page.) They are as gentle as they are cute! Of course see the floating market and the train market outside Bangkok. If you want some downtime and quiet, you can walk into any temple and sit quietly and meditate. Chiang Mai also has some quieter cafes where you can write or just enjoy nice surroundings.
Where to Stay
Here are a few of the places I liked:
Travelodge Sukhumvit 11 Bangkok – This was actually a great hotel! I stayed in the tower without the pool. Somehow I ranked an upgraded room. Though the walls were unfortunately thin, the room itself was huge and the bed very comfortable.
Citrus Suhumvit 11 – Bangkok – a boutique hotel with decent rooms, though the beds were not as comfortable as some other places. Many breakfast options, and I ended up meeting a couple of lovely couples staying at the hotel during my breakfasts there.
De Chai The Colonial – Chiang Mai. I treated myself to a night here for my birthday and am so glad I did! The room was amazing, just beautiful, and so quiet! The staff is lovely and the breakfast one of the most delicious I had in Thailand.