South East Asia is one of the most varied and beautiful areas of the world. Therefore, it’s no surprise that it’s become the place to go for backpackers.
Throughout the region, you’ll find breath-taking beaches, lush jungles, historical temples, delicious food and an accessible tourist trail. Being able to get around easily is one of the many reasons for travellers choosing to explore South East Asia, especially those going it alone. For solo female travellers, you don’t need to have the same concerns here as you might if you were heading to India or the Middle East. Making it the perfect place for your first solo adventure.
After several extended trips in South East Asia on my own, I share some of my top tips for other women considering heading to the region alone.
1. Do your research
Research is key to staying safe and being aware of your surroundings. As a solo female traveller, it can give you great peace of mind. Research doesn’t have to take the spontaneity out of a trip, it just means you are better prepared if something doesn’t go to plan.
Reading blogs, guidebooks and talking to the staff and other travellers in hostels can be a great way to find out knowledge about other destinations in the area and figure out whether or not it’s the right place for you to head next.
2. Adapt your dress sense
While you can generally be much more relaxed about your clothing choices in South East Asia, compared to Southern Asia or the Middle East. It’s still good to know the differences between regions and carry the right clothing to feel comfortable in each destination you plan to visit. In Thailand and Vietnam, especially on the beaches, wearing a crop top and shorts is the norm. But in places like Myanmar, Laos and even more conservative areas of Northern Thailand, you should bring some longer trousers and dresses.
It’s also likely that you’ll be heading to at least a few temples on your trip, as they’re a real highlight. It’s almost always required for women to cover their shoulders and knees in temples, so you should carry a sarong and/or a shawl if you plan on going into one.
The best way to get a sense of what you should be wearing in different destinations is to look at the local women. In Myanmar, you will notice most women wear long wrap skirts known as longyis. While it is not necessary to dress so conservatively (and in the bigger cities you will see a lot of young women wearing Western fashion), it will help you blend in and feel more comfortable.
And don’t worry – if you ever find you don’t have the right clothing, you can pick up elephant pants, loose shirts, tie-dye skirts and other backpacker essentials all over the region.
3. Go to parties in groups
Partying is often a big part of travelling in South East Asia, but they can be daunting and sometimes unsafe places for solo females to go to alone. If you are keen to visit any of South East Asia’s famous nightlife spots, it’s a good idea to find a group of other travellers you can trust to head out with. Stay with your group and travel back to the hostel together in a taxi. Looking out for one another will make the experience much safer and having a group of people to hang out with all night will make it much more fun.
4. Get a local SIM card
As smartphones become more and more of a necessity for travellers, getting a local SIM card can be a great tool – both for convenience and safety. I find having a local SIM card very helpful for getting from place to place, as you can use Google Maps and taxi apps like Uber. It can also be useful for booking hostels and excursions from the road. And in case of an emergency or difficult situation, you can call someone at your hostel or the local police to ask for help.
Additionally, it means you can be in touch with your family and friends back home whenever you need. This eases their minds about your safety and also helps if you are ever feeling lonely. SIM cards are generally easy to acquire in South East Asia, although the procedure does vary between countries. Check when you exit the airport if there is a phone company stand, they can often install the SIM card for you then and there, taking away any stress of finding a shop in a big city like Bangkok.
5. Learn a few words of the local language
While English is generally spoken very well throughout South East Asia, learning the local language can help you connect with the locals, travel to more off the beaten track spots and get you out of difficult situations. Even simply learning the words for ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ in each country you visit will be much appreciated by the locals.
6. Consider group travel
If you’re a first-time solo traveller to South East Asia, or even if you’ve been to the region multiple times before but want to do it a little differently, group travel can be a great option. The stress of planning your own trip is completely taken away, you have a ready-made group of friends to explore with and having a local guide can often take you closer to the culture, food and people. Mixing solo travel with group travel during a longer trip across the region can also be a great way to break things up a bit.
Ready to start planning your solo trip? Around 60% of Intrepid travellers are going it alone, click here to find out more.