When I visited the islands of Thailand in January, I was surprised by how I was treated by the Thai people. I went with my boyfriend Dallas, and we are in our late 20’s/early 30’s. I want to provide some tips on traveling as a female (alone or with others) in the Thai islands.
Don’t forget to do these things before your next international trip!
Overall, Thailand is a very safe country for women to travel in. I never felt like I was in danger, but the overall vibe is that the Thai people and culture is more old-school and that feminism there is just beginning. This probably has something to do with the fact that the country is mostly Buddhist and male/female roles are very traditional in this religion, especially in Asia.
Men = Providers
My whole feeling about women in Thai culture is based around their idea that men are still the main providers of the family. Women in Thailand vote, drive, work and do most of the same things as Western women. Having said this, the expectation is still that the man will provide shelter and food for his family. This often means that Thai women will be more submissive.
On this same note, I noticed right away that when I would pay for anything in Thailand with cash, they would hand the change back to my boyfriend as if it was his money. Don’t be offended when this happens to you because it’s just part of the Thai culture.
Sex Trafficking is a Problem
Wanted to note that sex trafficking is a big problem for both women and children in Thailand. Prostitution is illegal but flourishes in some places where officials look the other way. If you stay in safe areas and use common sense you’ll probably be okay.
Weird Rules/Laws for Women in Thailand
On my trip, I discovered there are a few interesting rules/laws for women in Thailand. Find out other interesting laws here.
- Women can’t sit next to a Buddhist monk or their belongings.
- Women can’t directly hand anything to a monk or touch them at all. If you are passing a monk on the street, let him pass by you first.
- Women are not welcome in some temples.
Tips to Stay Safe
Here are a few ways to stay safe while traveling as a woman in Thailand. Most of these are common sense tips that you would use while traveling anywhere!
Choose Safer Hotels
While you may want to stay in that $5/night hostel, it’s probably better to stay in either an all-female room or choose a place with your own room and a locking door. Not to say that women wouldn’t threaten your safety too, but the chances are lower with female roommates. Some hostels offer options for a private room with a shared bathroom.
Lock Your Bag
You already know to keep a close eye on your bag in case of pickpockets and opportunistic thieves, but consider buying a bag that’s cut-proof or that has lockable zippers like my favorite from Ebags.
Avoid Sketchy Alleys & Bars
This one is a given, but you might not know all the sketchy places when visiting a new destination. Use caution and don’t ignore your intuition when you wander past a bar that might be kinda seedy inside.
Despite the scantily-clad bar girls peppering Thailand, it’s still a pretty conservative culture. Don’t make yourself a target by dressing in a slutty way. Don’t go topless at the beach, bring a beach cover-up so you’re not walking around in a bikini. Of course, anyone should be able to wear what they want but use common sense here. Would you want your grandma or dad to see you in this outfit? If not, it’s probably a bad choice.
When in Thailand I did not see any woman get catcalled or harrased on the street! It’s not part of the Thai culture to be disrespectful.
Note that when entering temples and royal buildings you will need to make sure your shoulders or knees are covered. Buy a sarong for a lightweight accessory to solve this problem.
Eat as the Thai Do
When choosing where to eat, avoid the tourist destinations that may be rife with pickpockets. Follow these tips to avoid getting sick, and find your local street food market. These are frequented by locals so they are pretty safe and crowded.
Make sure you are ready in case you get hurt and get travel insurance before you go. Pack the right stuff and make sure you have a plan to get internet/data for your phone before you go. Doing these things will make you a more confident traveler and therefore make you less of a target.
How Safe is Thailand?
Overall, Thailand is the 91st safest country in the world. Many of the country’s crimes happen near the Malaysian border and in urban areas like Bangkok.
Some of the safest areas include Chiang Rai, Chaing Mai, Krabi, Koh Samui, and Kanchaburi.