You may have noticed a sudden increase in popularity in female solo travel, and perhaps wondered what the fuss is all about. Why is it such a big deal if a female travels alone when men travel alone all the time, right?
Well, conditions are a bit different for women. They always have been, which is what led to the stigma that a woman traveling without a companion is dangerous and frowned upon. Women are treated differently than men when traveling alone, and feel differently, and have different concerns and experiences. (Note: This is all what ignited me to write, 'Yes, I'm Pretty and I'm Traveling Alone')
Dudes don't have to worry about getting kidnapped and raped as much as women do, and probably don't mind getting looked up and down by the opposite sex.
But, at the same time, male solo travelers still experience some degree of safety concerns, difficulties, and judgement. So to compare the experiences of male vs female solo travel, I've asked Tom, the solo male traveler behind the blog, Travel Tom Tom, to describe his experience traveling solo in a place that I also traveled solo, Ao Nang, Thailand, to see if there's really a difference in male vs. female solo travel.
Alyssa: Thailand was the second country I traveled to on my own after volunteering in South Africa for a week, and I remember mostly being concerned with not knowing where to go, or being able to get around not knowing the language (AT ALL). I was also worried about getting lonely or sad because I wouldn't have anyone to experience the tropical paradise with, but then again, that was before I experienced the awesomeness of solo travel.
Tom: Never really thought about any issues I would come across. My biggest concern was trying not to spend too much money on partying. Island hopping in the South of Thailand is extremely popular with youngsters so there was not a single second that I was afraid to end up alone. But, blowing your money on booze is fairly easy as on every island, there are parties on the beach.
Alyssa: For the most part, my biggest concern while I was in Thailand was getting overcharged for things and getting stared at or approached by men in an aggressive way. I was slightly concerned about going on an island tour on my own, or venturing to one of the islands for the day, and as always, concerned about walking alone at night.
Tom: My expectations became reality. There are so many excuses to go out for a drink. Every day you meet cool people and you don't want to be the boring guy. Telling myself to only go out 3 times a week, didn't really work out the way I wanted and I found myself drinking almost every day. I tried to go to the gym now and then, but the longer I travelled the less motivated I was to go for a workout.
Alyssa: The locals in Thailand were all very nice and respectful for the most part. I got asked a couple times "Where my boyfriend was", and got flirted with by all of my tour guides since I was seemingly single, but nothing that really offended or concerned me.
Tom: Ao Nang has a way more laid-back vibe than Phi Phi or Phuket and locals are genuinely friendly. The wont harass you too much selling you their souvenirs. Eating street food with locals is a great experience and the ones that speak a little English are more than happy to start a chat with you.
Alyssa: Ao Nang is a popular tourist destination but it's not as crazy or grungy as Phuket, so I felt like there was an older crowd there that was mostly couples or families. That means being a young woman traveling alone there kind of stood out and drew quite a few questionable stares and comments, especially when I was in a bathing suit. I felt extremely uncomfortable on the island tour because of the older foreign men who kept staring, and even sneakily took photos of me in my bikini with their phones.
Tom: Ao Nang is full of adventurous travellers as it is the hub for the secluded beaches Railay and Tonsai, which are not accessible over land, but only by boat. Visiting these popular beach destinations is fairly easy, staying there is a bit more adventurous. It is not really the standard party destination like Phi Phi and for that reason it attracts an older crowd. The atmosphere is very chilled which draws a lot of hippies. You will find a lot of long-term travellers here rather than the holiday types that are rushing through Thailand.
Alyssa: My biggest safety concerns were getting pick-pocketed or robbed. There's always that slight concern about getting "Taken" but for the most part I think I do pretty well at avoiding those types of situations. I also flew Malaysia Airlines right after the second one went down when I left Thailand so that was a slight safety concern as well.
Tom: For a guy there are hardly any safety concerns I would say. Just play by the rules and always remember you are in Thailand. Respect the local community and be aware of the fact that you are a guest in their country. Haggling about prices is normal but try to avoid issues with locals, especially when they are under the influence of alcohol. Don't feel too brave to say sorry, and don't try to be macho!
Alyssa: Well. I kind of left my debit card in the ATM at the airport in Bangkok as soon as I landed in Thailand, so not being able to get cash or borrow it from a friend was fairly difficult for me. It was also difficult trying to bargain prices down since one little girl isn't exactly intimidating. It was also difficult for me to go out at night because I either didn't feel safe, or didn't feel like getting stared at for being solo.
Tom: Avoid getting scammed! Scams are mostly linked to transportation, so I am always vigilant when I am booking a taxi, boat or bus ticket. First ask a trustworthy local what the price should be approximately. Tuk-tuks are fun, but most of them ask ridiculous prices. My tip is to use Uber to get around and especially in Thailand where you can even order an Uber moto.
Also, I never trusted the people selling island-hopping tours on the beach or on the street. I compared the prices of the many tour operators and then booked it with the company that gave me a comfortable feeling.
Alyssa: Traveling solo in Thailand made me step out of my comfort zone, and not only go see and do things I've never done on my own before, but branch out and meet people from all over the world. I learned a lot of travel techniques, like what to do if your debit card gets lost, and built up a lot of confidence about traveling on my own.
Tom: Travelling solo is all about meeting people. I met so many cool people on the road and all of them have a cool story to tell. Sharing big bottles of beer at night or going on an adventure with complete strangers can be big fun. There is always someone with a cool idea who will drag you along on his adventure. This is how I ended up doing the Tab Kak-Hang Nak hike, my favorite activity in Ao Nang.
Alyssa: I mostly just didn't like the way I was stared at and judged for being on my own. As I also mentioned before, I was concerned about not having anyone to experience the exotic area with, and sure, it may have been nice to experience it as a romantic experience, but I ended up having one hell of a time exploring Thailand on my own and now actually recommend it to those looking to jump into solo travel!
Tom: The least favorite part about travelling solo in Thailand is that most of the girls are extremely annoyed by the way guys approach them. Most of the guys are after something and it is hilarious to see how much pressure they put on themselves. A lot of guys always ask the question, "Did you score last week?" I reply, "Yes for totally: 3 watermelon shakes, a banana shake and 2 mango smoothies, delicious mate!"
The party scene is big on the Thai beaches and so is the flirting game. Yes I might be a big flirt, but I don't expect anything from having a great night out with a group of girls. I rather make friends as travelling is about happiness; don't mix it up with short-term pleasure guys!
9. What's Your Best Tips for Solo Travel in Thailand?
Alyssa: Bring multiple forms of money and email yourself their information in case you lose one. Bring sunscreen because most skin products in Thailand have bleach in them, and make sure you wear it or you'll end up with an extreme burn like I did. Take a stroll around Ao Nang and check out the area before booking a hotel, and use free wifi to see if there's any better deals for the hotel online. Lastly, learn basic phrases, be polite, be aware, and eat the local food!
Tom: My best travel tip for traveling solo in Thailand is to eat on the streets. Don't worry about it, look around where you can find these plastic chairs and share tables with strangers. It is an easy way to meet people. Find a free seat at a table full of travellers and join them. Loads of people travel alone and they would be more than happy to tell you're their plans and experiences. If you don't know what to say just guess where they are from by listening to their language/accent. Cheesy but it breaks the ice! Oh and for those who think that Thai food is healthy, you are wrong! They add a lot of MSG to their food! Want to order without? Say 'Mai sai phong shoo rot!'.
Conclusion on Male vs. Female Solo Travel:
Well, it seems like as a female, my top concerns with solo travel in Thailand were getting robbed, getting judged for being alone, and getting lonely, and Tom's top concerns were spending too much money on drinking and going out, and overpriced transportation. So we had "losing money" in common, which sounds about right, and I had more concern over personal safety, and the way I was viewed, which also sounds about right for women.
So it sucks that getting judged and feeling like an easy target is what a woman has to worry about when traveling on her own, but I still continue to travel solo anyway, because I know that these days, a woman doesn't have to be accompanied by someone else, even if many people in the world disagree with that. Yes, it is more dangerous for a woman to travel alone, because we tend to appear as an easy target, but what many of us are learning and demonstrating, is that if you're aware, prepared, and confident, you'll be able to keep yourself safe. Plus I'm pretty much a ninja so disclaimer, don't f*ck with me.
Anyway, it's commendable and awesome for anyone to travel solo, but my main goal in this little experiment was to show why it's harder for a woman to do it, and how the changing of time has led to the empowerment of women, who are now choosing to travel the world on their own, when they were previously led to believe their place was solely in the home.