As a first time solo backpacker, I’ve learned countless lessons while traveling through southeast Asia. I’ve spent the majority of my time in Thailand, and I could write a book about all the things I’ve learned about traveling. (And maybe I will!) In the meantime, here are the top ten most important things to know when backpacking solo in Thailand.
1. Do your research, but don’t over do it. Read blogs, talk to friends who have backpacked, and flip through books on travel, sure, but don’t go crazy. You’ll end up getting in your head about every little detail and you’ll get to Thailand and realize you didn’t need to plan much at all. Housing and accommodation are incredibly easy to find, people are friendly, most people speak English, and the country is primarily in the tourism business, so no worries!
2. Pack light. You have to carry your bags more than you think. I brought a 60L Osprey backpack and a small day pack. They were both filled to the brim upon my arrival, and I ended up spending $100 on mailing all the random stuff back home. All the clothes you’ll want to wear you can purchase here in Thailand. You don’t need a mosquito net or a hammock if you intend on staying in hostels, Airbnb, or on strangers’ couches. You don’t need tons of toiletries, either; all of this can be purchased when you get here. The lighter you pack, the easier it is to travel. Less is more.
3. Wi-Fi is EVERYWHERE! You can either buy a SIM card out upon arrival, or just use public Wi-Fi. I chose to upgrade my plan so I could text for free and hop on Wi-Fi if I needed to use Internet.
4. Food poisoning can happen. …And most likely will happen, at some point. (If not, you’re one of the lucky ones.) I got it and recovered in two days. It could’ve been from the water they washed the vegetables with, or under-cooked meat, or bacteria—who knows!?! That said, the street food is amazing, and you should try it. I got food poisoning from a local restaurant, so there’s no telling what exactly caused it. Trust what your intuition tells you, and try all the local food you can. If you get food poisoning, just know it will be over soon.
5. Hostelworld.com is your new BFF. It’s incredibly reliable; you can read reviews and book accommodation through the app. Know that you get what you pay for though, so don’t be too cheap!
6. Solo travel is pretty wonderful. There’s something about traveling alone that frees the soul. You do what you want when you want, and there’s nothing more fun than that. It is scary at first, but you’ll soon realize that there’s nothing to worry about and you’re going to be just fine.
7. Pack the essentials. The most important things I brought with me were: A good book, hand sanitizer, snacks for the long plane ride over, an extra phone charger, an outlet adapter, a journal, a small backpack for day travels, Eagle Creek Pack-It Clean Dirty Cube, micro-fiber towels (large and small), and a good ol’ fanny pack.
8. Trust yourself. Be adventurous but careful, too; your intuition always knows best. Traveling alone teaches you to listen to your gut instinct to make decisions.
9. Plan less, and do more. Try not to map out your entire trip beforehand. Thailand is full of things to do, places to go, and people to meet. I booked my first two nights in a hostel and then made plans as I went, free as a bird! Everything fell into place and I had the freedom to make decisions day-by-day rather than sticking to a strict agenda. A little planning is helpful, but just go with the flow.
10. Go forth with no expectations. Expectations often lead to disappointment. Travel with no expectations, and you’ll find yourself always pleasantly surprised. Know that you’re going to have the time of your life, and be happy with whatever comes your way. Good luck!!
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