Best Prep Tips from a Solo Traveler in Thailand
In my 16 years of solotravel in Southeast Asia, in particular Thailand, I have learnt often through hard times what should be done before heading for your journey. I understand that an essential part of solo travel is uncertainty and exploring the unknown. But for me as a low budget solo traveler with family obligations, I try to reduce the anxiety my loved ones have to go through (and they already think I'm crazy to go to places with little to no tourists). So here are my best tips to prepare for a solo travel, especially if you wanna do that in Thailand.
1 - GOOGLE MAPS OFFLINE - Buying a SIM card at the airport with 100GB data does not guarantee you'll always have connectivity. And let's face it, even the most seasoned of us solo travelers often refer to Google Maps to find directions, landmarks, hostels and food places. Outside of touristy places like Bangkok & Phuket, the maps & brochures are not very helpful (they look more like advertising brochures than maps!). So use the offline maps option to download maps of places where you plan to go, and you can delete these as soon as you're done with that destination. 2 - COMPARE BUS/TRAIN WITH FLIGHT PRICES - If you're a local to Southeast Asia, I don't need to tell you that budget airlines have boomed like crazy in this part of the world. It helps that a lot of the favourite destinations in Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, etc are islands that are only accessible by air. Solo travelers often assume that taking a bus or train would be cheaper. But is it value for money? Is it objectively cheaper? A quick search "cheap flights from Ho Chi Minh City to Bangkok" should do the trick. If you're ok with a slightly uncomfortable ride to save money, you may as well save some time too.
3 - ADD 15% TO EVERYTHING - I find it sad (and frankly a little bit funny LOL) to watch group tours rushing from one attraction to another, taking selfies and checking a box off their itinerary. Did they understand the history & motivation of the place? Do they understand what it means to the locals? As a solo traveler, you are clearly different. You're there to be a part of something you cannot back home, enriching your experience as an explorer. So when you plan your day, your budget, or your even your patience, add a 15% "tax" to that plan. You'll feel like you're in better control of your trip.
4 - CHECKOUT THE LOCAL CALENDAR - If I could count the number of times solo travelers, including me, have booked their exit from a destination just before a big local festival, I'd run out of breath. Places like Thailand are so rich in their local cultures that you may not hear about their small festivals ever. Unlike festivals like Songkran, there are hundreds of other regional festivals that you must join if you're there. Don't be passive and expect the internet to remind you about these. Keep an eye on the local calendar of events by asking your guesthouse, hosts or fellow travelers. Solopacker.com is one service where you can choose to connect with others whose top travel interests include Local Festivals, then you're just a message away from getting the latest info.