As a woman who has lived in Thailand for almost 19 years, I am often asked both online and off “Is Thailand safe for women travelers? Can women travel alone?”
So I thought it would be good to give any woman who might be considering traveling to Thailand — whether with friends or alone — my opinion on Thailand safety when it comes to women traveling here.
Much of it based on my experience, or that of female friends.
I will also give you some tips (at the bottom of the article) to help make sure you stay safe. Although, honestly, it is rare that you would ever not be.
Is Thailand safe for women travelers?
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, oh and did I mention, yes?
Let’s just put it this way — I have traveled all over the world to more than 100 countries.
I have lived in the UK, the US (in seven American cities in four states), Malaysia and Europe, as well as 18 years in Thailand, and I can say without one ounce of reservation, Thailand is the safest place I have ever lived.
Particularly for women.
Is Bangkok safe for women?
Along with the question “Is Thailand safe for women travelers?”, a logical follow-up is “Is Bangkok safe for women?”
After all, with over 13 million people, Bangkok is one of the world’s largest cities so, for many westerners, along with size comes crime, right?
Not in Bangkok.
At least not when it comes to issues of safety for female travelers in Bangkok. Or for women living in Bangkok.
Like I said, I have lived in Bangkok for 16 years. I have always lived alone.
I also travel the city alone, as well as with friends or with a Thai boyfriend or former boyfriend.
Much of that travel is by myself in taxis during the day or late at night, on motorbike taxis by myself, and while walking through dark sois (lanes) late at night or in the early hours of morning. (Visa runs from Bangkok leave Sukhumvit at 5:30am, so you have to leave your home very early to take one).
I also take taxis or motorcycle taxis every day. Sometimes several times a day.
In all that time, I have never once had a problem with a Thai taxi driver. Never once had a problem with a Thai man threatening my safety. Never once had a problem with basically anyone in Thailand threatening my safety.
And, sure, you can say I am just one person. But, I also have many female friends — western, Japanese, Malaysian, Singaporean and Thai — and not one of them has ever been in a situation where they have ever felt threatened, or unsure about their safety.
Can women travel alone in Thailand?
Hell, yes. I do it all the time.
In fact, in my 16 years living here, I have traveled to Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Koh Samet, Koh Samui, Khao Yai, Ayuttayah and various other places around Thailand completely alone. I have also traveled to these and other places with female (and male) friends.
Again, not once have I ever had a problem with anyone. Thai or otherwise. And, believe me, I am not a cautious traveler.
I take taxis, tuk-tuks, trains, buses and motorbikes. And I definitely take boats.
I go to early morning and late evening events. I eat at street food stalls by myself, early morning and late evening and, of course, throughout the day.
And on my travels around Thailand, I see and meet other western women traveling by themselves. If we strike up a conversation, all of them say how incredibly safe of a country Thailand is.
For everyone. But especially for women.
How to make sure you are safe in Thailand
Clothing — Clothing is a big issue in Thailand, as it is still a quite conservative culture.
And by clothing, I do not mean “she wore something skimpy so ‘asked for it'”. I simply mean, you should wear appropriate clothing in respect of the Buddhist culture.
That is why I generally wear clothes that cover my shoulders (spaghetti-string strap tops are worn nowadays, even by Thai women, but they are still the exception rather than the norm).
I also do not wear skimpy shorts (really, only Thai prostitutes wear very short shorts). Nor do I wear very short skirts.
That is because, in Thailand, the appropriate length for a skirt or shorts is not much shorter than an inch or so above the knee.
You will often see Thai girls wearing shorter skirts but, if you look closely, you will see many of them also wear skintight shorts underneath them, so there is never any chance of anything not meant to be on show showing.
I also always wear a bra, and that is pretty much expected in Thailand. Everywhere.
Swimwear — You can wear whatever swimwear you like on the beach. But please do not go topless (it is against Thai law, and you can be arrested and charged) and, please, do not wear swimwear away from the beach or the pool.
You know Thais take this seriously when a western man was arrested for going topless during Thailand’s Songkran festival a couple of years ago.
Yes, I have seen western women wearing bikini tops in Bangkok. It is incredibly inappropriate (really, would you walk around New York City, Paris or London wearing a bikini top?), and gained them nothing but disgusted or incredulous stares by most Thais that saw them.
Money — Don’t flash it around.
No, you are never likely to be held up at gunpoint or knifepoint for your money. But, like anywhere in the world, you may be pick-pocketed if you are not cautious.
That is why you should take out small amounts of money at one time, especially if you are outside on the street. And always pull money from an ATM via an indoor ATM in the bank’s lobby, or in a shopping mall.
Drugs — Just don’t do them.
Taking any kind of drugs is illegal in Thailand, and there are too many westerners languishing in Thai jails for many years for taking illegal drugs ever to be considered “safe”.
Thai men — If you are not interested in romance, do not flirt with Thai men. A Thai man can get his feelings hurt much faster than a western guy if he thinks you were flirting, and you thought you were just being friendly. That can cause problems for you down the road.
While I have had never had problems with any Thai men, and have dated several of them, I know enough about Thai culture to make sure I am always ‘platonic’ in my responses to Thai men. Unless I mean otherwise.
Of course, the vast majority of Thai men are very polite and respectful, and are not remotely aggressive. Especially with western women. So you are unlikely to ever have a problem.
To be on the safe side, though, just don’t flirt if you don’t intend to take it any further. And definitely don’t drink and flirt.
Have fun in Thailand
So now that you know Thailand is very safe for women travelers (honestly, I wouldn’t live anywhere else), book your flight, get here and have FUN!
Thailand is an amazing place. The food is superb (and cheap!). The shopping is the best in the world. The Thais are the nicest, friendliest, happiest, most polite and most helpful people I have ever met. And the Kingdom itself is one of the most incredible places on the planet.
For women traveling in Thailand, you will never find a place that is safer or suits you better.