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24 September 2014
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Lindsay Blampied
Lindsay Blampied

The Single Girl's Guide to Solo Travel.

By Lindsay Blampied
After a nine month jaunt around South-East Asia, Lindsay Blampied has a thing or two to say to anyone considering packing up their backpack and heading off alone...



I’ve always been a rather “impulsive” person, so I couldn’t understand why people were surprised that I’d quit my tedious finance-related job and booked a jaunt to Asia, leaving two weeks later.

Koh Phi Phi
Koh Phi Phi (Where the beach is filmed)

The general reaction when I shared my exciting news was either an alarmed shriek, or alternatively a somewhat TOO enthusiastic description of the variety of ways in which I would suffer. Bites, stings, tropical diseases, muggings… the list goes on. It would all plague me before I would inevitably jump aboard the first flight back to Blighty after one week.

People just couldn’t understand what compels a single twenty-something female to travel four thousand miles east, towards a lifestyle which is seemingly composed of sunbathing, a bit of swimming if you’re feeling energetic, and drinking obscene amounts of rum.

I think I’ve answered the question there already, but having said that I must admit I was a little nervous in the days preceding my trip, if only because I couldn’t fit my entire collection of CD’s and all my shoes into my seemingly tiny rucksack.

I contented myself with a small selection of 50 albums and 2 pair of shoes, but by the time I was packed and ready to go my rucksack was stuffed to the brim and back-breakingly heavy. I decided to take out a couple of nail varnishes.

Lanterns
Colourful traditional lanterns

From a western perspective, there still seems to be some degree of stigma attached to women travelling alone, despite worldwide advances in communication such as email and mobile phones. Once my family found out that they had email in Asia it eased some of their fears, until I broke it to my mum that I wouldn’t be mailing her every day.

An inherent stubbornness made me determined to prove to everyone at home, and in fact myself, that I could go it alone and have an utterly fabulous time. I must admit, however, that I took the easier option and flew straight to the idyllic Koh Samui in Thailand, instead of flying to Bangkok and making the 8 hour journey by overnight train.

Koh Chang at Sunset
Koh Chang at Sunset

When I arrived on the Island I got a local taxi (like an open topped minibus) to a bungalow complex I had pre-booked for a week. What can I say, it does pay to be organised occasionally and when you’ve been travelling for over 24 hours by plane it really is heaven to be whisked off to a comfortable bed and your own shower (albeit a cold one).

It took me at least a week to get used to the extreme heat, and I spent the first few days either soaking in the sea or under the cold shower, which by now was my best friend.

My other friends, I had discovered, were the small green lizards which ran in and out of the bungalows and ate most of the biting, scuttling, flying critters which generally plagued the existence of all sweet-blooded westerners like myself.

At one point I was sad enough to count the mosquito bites on my legs – with no exaggeration there were over 200, despite the skin scalding 50% DEET that I was practically bathing in every night. Attractive.

I didn’t feel self conscious about travelling alone as there were always people around to chat to.

Bangkok Grand Palace
The Grand Palace in Bangkok

I met three Irish lads from Dublin in my first week and a fellow Brit called Gareth, and we spent the next three weeks exploring the Island by scooter, obtaining several excellent examples of the famed ‘Koh Samui kiss’ which is effectively a nasty burn on the inside of your right calve caused by accidentally leaning against the exhaust.

When I first got to the Island I thought it was some kind of bizarre travellers fashion to have a large bandage wrapped around your leg, only discovering when it was too late that it was a trend I didn’t want to follow.

All the Thai people that I’d met so far were extremely friendly and accommodating, and immediately made me feel at ease, despite making fun of my horrendous sunburn and mosquito bites (yes I did wear sunblock, but the sun just didn’t care).

Locally, tourists are known as ‘farang,’ which is affectionately derogatory, and from chatting to a young waitress at a nearby restaurant I learnt a couple of other words of Thai.

These proved to be useful whilst undertaking the daunting task of bartering with stallholders for the obligatory Thai fishermen pants. These are effectively enormous cotton trousers that you wrap around yourself and fold over – it’s like pant origami! The good news is that one size fits all, they’re comfortable and cool, and look equally awful on everyone!

The bartering itself if quite simple as long as you have a bit of nerve. In come guidebooks they suggest that you offer half of the initial price, but you can often get it down to a third or even a quarter if you are in commercial areas such as Bangkok, or Koh Samui’s Chaweng beach where they hike the prices up to obscene levels. 

Sairee Beach
Sairee Beach, Koh Tao

The locals I met tended to be impressed if ‘farang’ could speak a little Thai, as most Westerners expect to speak English all the time.

There’s a large ex-pat community in Samui, and this tends to be refected in the type of entertainment and services available, for example there is an enormous Tesco, and hundreds of tacky karaoke bars.

My first three weeks in Thailand were unforgettable, but by that point I’d become fed up with the slightly seedy nature of much of Koh Samui, and it was then that myself and my fellow travellers decided to move on together.

It really is testament to how easy it is to travel alone in Asia, and how quickly you become accustomed to living in a more basic way.

It was perfectly normal, for example, that during my last couple of months (I was in Thailand and Malaysia for 9 months) I stayed in a wonderful 100 Baht a night bungalow (about £1.30 at the time).

Thai fishing boats at sunset.
Thai fishing boats at sunset.

It had no fan, certainly no aircon, shared squat toilets, one cold outside shower and typically ‘relaxed’ staff who would or wouldn’t make you breakfast, depending on whether they felt like it or not. It might sound like hell to you, but to me it was perfect – they restaurant and surrounding bungalows were set on the top of an enormous cliff, right on the edge which probably wasn’t very safe, but gave the most amazing views at sunrise.

There, I met four fantastic girls and a guy who were all travelling alone, from Japan, Australia and America. Mellissa the Aussie, who was fiercely independent, had been travelling for nine months in to Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, and Hazuki from Chicago had been teaching English in Korea for a year.

Will, from somewhere in deepest darkest Wales, had been in Thailand for a couple of months. Now, one year later he's trotting around Indonesia, according to his regular but uninformative emails.

Talking to all the group and sharing experiences, we all felt really positive about travelling alone. It gives you more freedom to do what you want to do when you want to do it, plus you meet people in a similar situation wherever you go, and often end up travelling on with them if you’re going in the same direction.

Doi Suthep Temple
Doi Suthep Temple

Mellissa and I ended up travelling to the other side of the country together and doing a live-aboard SCUBA diving trip around the gorgeous Similian Islands where we saw Whale Sharks, Manta Rays and Tiger Sharks amongst other colourful equatic life.

Anyone who is considering travelling but is nervous about going alone, should bear in mind that there are thousands of people in a similar situation, plus everyone tends to be more relaxed and accommodating.

In my experience, a bit of common sense and general awareness is all you will need to ensure your safety in Asia.

From a strictly female perspective, I can also assure you that CHIVALRY IS NOT DEAD and I found there were always friendly, trustworthy lads to help you with your rucksack if you’re struggling!

Oh, and I didn’t miss the nail varnish.

last updated: 07/10/04
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jordan
Im travelling to Thailand in a few week never done it but hey what a rush going overseas by myself.I think you have just got to have your wits about yourself and everything around you.Im exited to travel by my self but hey to be honest with you im nervous as hell but hey bit the bullet and take the world on with both horns good luck to all.

girl traveller
It is a wonderful thing travelling and Japan and Thailand is so different to our culture and the Thais are so nice when travelling anywhere unfamiliar you have to be careful especially if travelling alone and especially if u r female and it is wise to read and get a good insight to where u r going and where not to go etc and what to be aware of but as a single female traveller myself just having got bitten by the travelling flying bug for travel and adventure it can sometimes be lonely as a girl travelling alone sometimes and pretty daunting too but as long as u r street wise and aware etc u shud be okay. i want to visit vietnam and japan and indonesia and tibet amongst other places and peru and iceland and so forth and u should not fear flying/travelling to far off places life is for living and adventures and u only get 1 life so live it that is my motto

JOHN GLANCY
IM TRAVELING TO THAILAND IN THE NEW YEAR PROB ALONE AS MY MATES ARE USELESS BASICALLY ALSO PARTLY FOR THE FREEDOM AND EXPERIENCE UR ARTICLE MADE ME REALISE THIS AND HAS GAVE ME A MUCH NEEDED MORALE BOOST FOR WHEN I LEAVE

Cindy
I am wanting to travel to Thailand (alone) at the end of the year for about 10 days. I am absolutely terrified, but realised that life is about the rollercoaster feeling - face your fears, live your dreams! Thanks for a great article. Made the butterflies settle abit.

Raphaella
i travelled to Laos alone and was robbed a few hours right after i got off the flight. I would say, no matter what others said, just don't be naive about your safety, especially single female traveling in SEA. i stupidly trusted them, "nobody will even touch your unguarded luagage", so i ended up to fly back home just within the same week! And having people said this to me, "You should at least travel with your boyfriend!"

Bethan
I always dreamed of travelling through Thailand, cant rely on people so thinking about going it alone,have always been independant. Can you recommend places to stay, love meeting new people which is why l think that this would be a fantastic experience. Reading your article has really made me want to go for it.

Tammy
Thank you sooo much, I am scheduling a solo trip from Feb 1st through March 15, 2006. The fear factor is definately in place, your article has helped shed the anxiety of going alone. Hats off to you girlfriend, you're an inspiration for all women.

Anna
Thanks for writing this. Like Natalie, I had already decided to go, but am having those moments of extreme worry about safety. Reading your article made me doubly excited about my trip.

Roberta
Great travel account. I'm off to Thailand alone in 10 days. It will be my first time in Asia, but I've been travelling alone in Europe, the Americas and Africa for the past years. You are perfectly right, there's nothing to fear if one employs some common sense. Besides, the amazing experiences and friends you make along the way are only matched by the incredible feeling of independence. Happy travels to all the solo travelers out-there. See you somewhere along the road some day:)

Jill
Thats a great article well done, I jsut found our today that I will be travelling alone to OZ, NZealand and Thailand and I was temporaily gutted but researching on the web i've seen that solo back packers do have a great time and do make friends and recommend it so thanks to you and others I'm gonna give a go! Cheers

john
only an idiot would travell alone to this place.it is dangerous

ben
alrite so you go travellin, why tel every1 about it. What gives u the right you daft bean.

Natalie
I am considering travelling alone and couldnt decide whether it would "suit" me but after reading your fantastic account of your experience, i feel i have made up my mind.Thankyou for the inspiration..hope i meet someone like you on my travels!

Tanya
I am booked to travel to Samui in two weeks time. Initially my friend was coming with me but backed out but as my brother lives there i didnt think it was too bad but now I find out hes probably not going to be there. I was very upset and thought about cancelling because I'm pretty nervous about going on my own and didnt think I'd want to. Any further advice?

Ashley
My friend just recently moved to thailand. Him and his friends are backpacking through bangkok and the islands for a month. Then hes settling. Im gonna be goin there and Im so nervous to leave my family and home but you have made it sound soo easy and comfortable !

Sallie
I've been trying to decide whether it is safe for me, a 20 year old American gal, to travel alone in Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and China. The fears of, well, especially my mom have made me think tice about it, but you have helped to stike up my passion again!

Kiara
I'm off to Thailand in about 2 weeks, travelling solo through to Laos, Cambodia & Vietnam. What i'm worried about most is being homesick, as a couple of my friends have also travelled solo but failed to break through the 3/4 month barrier and came home? Was there a point Lindsay where you were tempted to pack your bags and head back to familiar faces and surroundings?

Lucy
Frankly, whether you're travelling alone or with company, reliance on the chivalry of others is foolish. It's simple - if you can't carry it don't pack it.

Wendy
I am absolutely terrified of travelling alone, but also determined to do it at the end of this year, and your account has given me the nerve to go for it. I have spent ages looking for a travel partner, but you've made me realise I'm probably better off alone!

Xena
Is it true, that most of the Thai population is infected w/ AIDS? or a large percentage of the pop?

claire
what a fabulous take on travelling in Thailand, really enjoyed your account and it makes me want to go even more!Im also teaching in korea right now and hopefully heading straight to thailand when i finish in november!

Dianne
LOL! Thanks for the female perspective on travelling alone, and I enjoyed your hilarious sense of humor!

Ansy
WOW!!!!

jim
truly amazing

chris maynard
i married a thai girl in 2003 but later found out that she married me for money and visa and is now living with her sister in another part of england, but i still love thailand and intend to sell up next year and spend a long time in thailand exploring and chilling out , i am 38 years old and have decided to make this move before i get old and grey and regret not doing it , i will travel to koh samui where i will spend most of my time, any advice appreciated

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