Thailand

The ups and downs of black female solo travel…

If there’s something unnerving about going out on a limb, it is the fact that you are doing so alone.

Perhaps in many cultures, the African one included, a woman just doesn’t venture out. She is endeared to and defined by communal relationship; ‘mother-to’, ‘daughter-of’, ‘sister-to’, ‘wife-to’ and so forth. When you do travel alone, to far-flung continents, without necessarily being sent there for work, nor an invitation to visit from a resident in the location, you are regarded with perplexity.

Black solo woman traveller

Black solo woman traveller

As a black woman solo traveller to Phuket and Phi Phi island, I recieved as expected, very crazy reactions. The most weird was on a boat and shared bus to Phi Phi island from Phuket and back.

While at the boarding area at Don Mueang International Airport – Bangkok, I was accosted by a smartly suited Thai lady.  I thought she was an airport offical as she asked me in the sweetest voice, where I was going and how long I intended to stay. (You gotta hand it to the Thais, they have mastery of customer service relations).

“Three days only?” she asked somehow surprised.

“Yes, I will spend only three days in Phuket,” I confirmed.

“Well then,.. we have a package for you that will make your stay pleasant,” she responded, while gently leading me by the elbow to the tourism desk, which was located in close proximity to where she stood.

In retrospect, I’m glad she approached me, as I had no plan whatsoever.  I was actually banking on an ex-school mate living in Phuket, whom I hoped would be available to jump into my programme, or better still, create one for me. Thanks to the tour official, I had a full-day plan on the Phi Phi islands..a plan that included a boat ride, snorkeling, feeding monkeys and a nice buffet lunch.  Well, we did all that, but sadly we didn’t feed any monkeys. Once I arrived on the island, the reactions were crazy.  One notably, being made the object of attention; something that turned grown-ass men into giggling whispering twerps.

I got invites to go out, to join guys on beach towns like Pattaya…which was really strange since I was already at Phi Phi island and at the end of the day I would be back in Phuket, another island.  I declined all these rushed requests, for the simple reason that I felt these guys viewed me as an exotic ebony femme-fatale in search of some wild kinky adventure.

To an extent, solo trips are great. The downside is that you keep on asking people to help you take pictures of you. Another downside, you never know where danger is lurking, so you avoid any places that would place you in a position of vulnerability.

The upside is that going solo gives you the space to make new friends (as long as they are not giggling whispering twerps), they give you the freedom to follow your own timetable, and observe and interact with people more as you step out of your comfort zone. Some of the most valuable information of a region was gotten just by talking to people who are based there.

Air Asia desk at the Don Mueang International Airport.

Phi Phi islands.

Curious Phi Phi-ans..

Curious Phi Phi-ans..

Hotel hawking on Phi Phi island..

Hotel hawking on Phi Phi island..

Walking around Phi Phi island

Walking around Phi Phi island

Food stand on Phi Phi island

Food stand on Phi Phi island

Phi Phi hotel

Phi Phi hotel

Lunch

Lunch

Phi phi island, Thailand

Phi phi island, Thailand

Boats at the beach, Phi Phi islands

Boats at the beach, Phi Phi islands

Have you ever gone on a solo trip to a far-flung location, and what were your experiences?

55 replies »

  1. You are so right. Last trip I went as “mother to” and dragged my kids along for that communal aspect. One day I should try solo. Your write-ups are very interesting.

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    • You get tired of waiting for friends to be available..some cancel at the last minute because they don’t want to part with their euros..when on a solo trip, you just get up and go. Time alone and space can be very relaxing and a stress-reliever as well.
      I think it’s fun for the kids as well, to have an adventure and their own learning experience.

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  2. Yep! In my younger post university days. I travelled to Asia solo and what an adventure. I was there for 6 months and I had nothing but a wonderful time and lots of “do you want a boyfriend?!” I used to just point to a random guy and say he was my husband and that I had three kids LOL!
    Everyone was very friendly, helpful and equally fascinated as in those days, dark skinned Europeans were rather rare. Still are unfortunately. 🙂

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  3. I’m really inspired with your writing skills as well as with the layout
    in your blog. Is that this a paid topic or did you customize it yourself?

    Anyway stay up the excellent quality writing, it is uncommon to see a great blog like this one these days..

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  4. Hahaha! The story of my life. This is why I seem to never have any picture with me in it. The one thing I love about solo travel is how seamlessly easy it is to navigate between solitude and ‘hanging out at a crazy party’. As for the stares – I hope more people of colour (black) travel within Asia – the stares can be unnerving. The people are generally nice once they get past the colour of your skin (isn’t this everywhere though? lol). I really didn’t have such a good experience in Thailand but Cambodia has been a blast!

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    • Tell me about it! I hope they are getting used to seeing blacks in Asia coz more of us are heading there!! I love Asia and hope to visit more countries this year. Cambodia was interesting especially Siem Reap (found it more organized and more cleaner)..traveling solo was fun, though I regret that I had an invite from two lovely girls living in Singapore to pub crawl in Phnom Penh and I turned it down coz I had to work!! Had lunch with them the next day and that was fun! Loved Bangkok as well, couldn’t get enough of the greeting! I think being in a hostel rather than a hotel room is the easiest way to meet friendly young people!

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  5. I’m soon to set out on my first solo travel, as I too have had friends cancel/ just not be 100% interested. I intend to go somewhere for a week however i do have cold feet. Firstly I havent a clue where to go, and secondly I’m worried about safety ( standing out which I’m sure will happen, but more so my obviousness attracting ‘danger’ ).
    A little background info ; 22yrs black female from London.
    Could you possibly recommend anywhere?

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    • I traveled for 6 years solo, places I liked I stayed longer, places I didn’t I left. Fell in love with Greece-went to Grad school there and lived there for 2 1/2 years. Liked a lot Kenya (6 months) and Sudan (6 months). Prefer to travel alone so I can do what I want when I want how I want.

      Can’t wait to travel like this again.

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      • So cool that you’ve been up and about! It’s pretty nice to go off alone with no one to delay you or throw off plans! Even now when friends say they are tagging along, I don’t wait up fr them, I’ve had enough friends changing plans last minute!

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    • Hi my name is flavia I’m a 25 Congolese girl. I also live in London & I e been travelling alone for the past 2 years. This is just such an amazing experience. I’ve just found out I’ve got 3 weeks off this month & I didn’t even bother trying to reach my friends as I already know their answers… I’m planning to go Thailand next week & im so looking forward. It’s so exciting since it’s happening so fast!
      I swear u shouldn’t been scare at all!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Etta,

      I’m a 20 year old black female from London, who has done a bit of solo travel. I would be happy to recommend a few places and give advice, since we are around the same age! My email is viviennedovi@hotmail.co.uk (I don’t know if I can do this, if not I’m sorry Caroline!)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve traveled a lot, but not strictly by myself. I’m 25 and I’ve been wanting to teach English abroad for a while. I a lot of people of color venturing into this, but fear keeps holding me back :(. But the travel bug is really biting me lol 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t know where you are based but first traveling in your region can give you confidence to venture out further..there are many people of colour out there so don’t be afraid..just take the necessary precautions as you would in your hometown and I believe you will be fine. As well other things like having a travel insurance, medical insurance and back up credit/debit cards would be advisable!

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      • I’m from a small town in Louisiana where the people only go to church and football games (not that there’s anything wrong with that). And with me I think it’s a mental thing. I’m 24 going on 25 and I’m sort of having a “crisis”, I don’t really know what I want to do with my life right now. But I know that teaching abroad is something I want to do at least for a year. I just fear what other people will think/say since this idea is looked down upon in my family.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh ok..I understand, but you have to do what’s in your heart and not fear what other people think. Once you are out there, you and they will realize that one year is such a short time which will go by so fast anyway! Travel is worth it as an experience for every young person. I say, ‘Go for it!’

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  7. Great post,

    it’s great to see a different side to how black females feel whilst travelling. Personally laughing doesn’t affect me and often I laugh with them. It’s probably the first time they have ever seen a black person or seen something unknown to them but when you start talking to the locals and educating them, you get nothing but respect and kind gestures, like food offerings or the chance of exploring a hidden gem. However in SEA I did get a lot of people singing the song ‘Oh this is Africa’ (shakira song). I understand my roots but I am British with Caribbean descent, now that was hard for people to believe. haha.

    Really enjoyed the post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for reading Kacherelle and South East Asia is just amazing with its unique responses to blacks..the curiosity is cool,I guess a chance to educate many as it can be something new to them..happy that you experienced this as well!

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  8. I also went on a solo trip to Thailand for two weeks as well as Japan for a few days. It was an adventure! Surprisingly, I never once felt unsafe and I was surprised at the amount of people that would start talking to me because I was alone.

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  9. I travelled to China for just under 3 weeks solo it was awesome. Yes people really stared at me and constantly took pictures of me but for me the key to solo travel us research research and research! I loved China awesome place and awesome people.

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  10. I am glad I found a blog like this! Thanks for sharing your experience. I am going to bangkok at the end of the month alone. At first I felt fearless and excited then I felt extremely nervous. I even called the airline to see how much it is to shorten my trip lol. But reading this brought back my courage. Thank you.

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  11. I am a young (22) black women looking to go on my first solo trip to Vietnam and Bangkok in a month. My mother and sister is trying to scare me out of going and telling me it is not safe for a black woman to be in Asia alone. It will be hard to navigate the city, I will get robbed and no one speaks English. They are making me super nervous…Any Advice for safety and navigation? Have you been to Vietnam?

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    • Hi Sharifa. I haven’t been to Vietnam, just to neighbour Cambodia and Thailand. I met super friendly, warm people and will surely return. I advise you to go, and just keep your wits about, employ the same safety procedures you would as you do at home ie don’t loiter in dark alleys etc. Are you staying in a hostel or hotel? Try to make friends with travelers at your hostel or hotel, or join tour groups and make friends there. I’m sure you’ll meet english speakers, whether Vietnamese or foreigners.Bangkok is cool, you’ll love these places!

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  12. i am a young 23 year old African American female from NYC and I’ve been wanting to travel for the longest, but i have so many reservations. I’m become so nervous when i think about traveling alone. I want to explore South Africa, starting from Cape Town, then making my way to Victoria Falls, then Kruger National Park, and finally ending my three week trip in Joburg. I’m extremely nervous because I’ve never traveled out of my country before. 😦 won’t you please help me? with advice, suggestions, anything, especially on safety. thanks

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    • Hi India, amazing trip you’d like to undertake. I think you should go and just apply the same safety that you do when you’re at home ie don’t walk alone in dark alleys, take registered cabs etc.. As well, to make friends, it would be advisable to book a bed in a female-only dorm, or at hostels with good reviews where you can find friendly travelers, you won’t have any problems having company when you’d like to see different parts of the country. I shared my dorm with ladies in Cambodia, and we planned to see Angkor Wat the following day, so it’s possible you’ll meet companions this way.
      Another thing, be firm with potential scammers..if they try to sell you something that you don’t need or want, politely say no and walk away. I think you’ll be fine, let me know how it goes..and happy travels!

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      • Thanks soooo much! And I definitely with post my advantages☺️ I have another question. I’ve been conducting research about solo traveling and I sometimes come across private tours. Should I partake in tours? I’m so confused.

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      • You’re welcome. I think you should participate in tours as you can see the country with reputable tour firms through a local’s perspective…and for the short period you’ll be there..tours are advisable in order to see as much but with limited time. Check the reviews given of them and choose one not too costly but with great reviews.

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  13. Hi! I’m curious but also very nervous of traveling alone. I think my biggest fear is because I’m really shy and it’s hard for me to open up to strangers and enjoy doing things alone, that I won’t enjoy my trips.

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  14. Hello Caroline,
    I love, love love your blog.
    You are such a beautiful writer. Very refreshing.
    I just discovered you today on the comment thread of another blog! And I am going binge read your posts this weekend. Yep, I must have been living under some rock in Ghana, but glad I found you.
    I have travelled across many parts of Europe and Asia and I feel you. Sometimes you don’t know whether to categorize it as curiosity, rudeness or rascism. The lines are so blurred.
    You are a friend in my head already. I posted a blog a few days ago on solo travel. Please check it out when you have the time. https://vamejotravel.wordpress.com/2016/11/16/redefining-solo-travel/

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    • Hahahaaaa…great to be connected Edem! And no..I don’t think you were living under a rock..there are a plethora of travel blogs out there and one is just fortunate to rise out of the heap and get another to read the posts.
      I have checked out your blog and followed..impressive amount of travels you’ve had! I itch and yearn to travel through Africa, and for sure when I get to West Africa, you’ll be my go to person.
      The first time I visited South East Asia, the stares got to me, but gradually as I’ve gone to other regions, I reckon it as some sort of “celebrity status” and gladly smile and pose for selfies with them..to the few who burst out in laughter, I mostly ignore ignore…the lines are indeed blurred..is it shock, discrimination or surprise? It will take time to understand it all I guess. The good thing is that so many Africans are traveling more and more, so the world is getting accustomed to seeing us out there..travel for leisure though is a new concept in our continent. I find that people travel very purposefully; be it for education, medical treatment, to join a spouse, business etc..then some for a vacation..:-)

      Liked by 1 person

      • These are some of the moments that I love the internet; bringing people together.
        So many blogs , I tell you. I found you when you made the comment on Oneika’s Blog about Africans and African Americans being treated differently . I topic I am researching on and losing sleep over. I went on to read your Dutch passport story. Congrats by the way. I had written a post on Visas and also how all passports are not equal, so I was curious and here we are.

        I try to travel as much and as often as I can.
        You have done some pretty awesome trips too. The travel bug is real. Our people wonder if “you don’t have anything “better” to do with your money.” I always say in my head, its good its my money not yours. I wonder what better is. Very subjective. These days, I dont bother keeping anyone updated. That is what blogs are for.

        You are more than welcome to West Africa, just let me know whenever you are in my side of town, I will be more than happy to help in whichever way so your stay is fun and memorable.
        I am in the Netherlands pretty much once or twice a year, so I bet our paths will cross.
        Yes, smiling and ignoring is the way.
        Off to binge on your blog. Have a super weekend. 😉

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      • Thank you so much for reading through my blog, I appreciate it. It would be lovely to touch base some day and really compare notes on African experiences as we globe trot…but for sure, more and more Africans are traveling everywhere.
        People’s complaints don’t stop me because I find travel therapeutic..and my psychological well being is very important to me.

        Liked by 1 person

      • You are very welcome. You are a great writer, so it’s super easy to be hooked on your blogs.
        I have a lot of exploring to do on our beautiful African continent. I hope I can do so in the coming year.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. I appreciate the perspective you share. As a fellow solo traveler of the melinated tribe, I relate to having to ask the question, “Are black people safe in [insert locale]”. Jan. 2017 I’ll be in Thailand for 3 weeks. Outside of my first 3 nights in Bangkok, A train ticket to Chiang Mai, and *maybe* and RT ticket to Bali, I’m totally free styling it. Reading your words provides a decent self-check of where I should curb my irritation at being exoticised, Thanks for sharing!

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    • How was your trip to Bangkok? I am off to Thailand in 8 weeks travelling alone!I also have cold feet about this trip although i am extremely excited about going.
      do you mind sharing your experience any do’s and don’t.

      thanks in advance

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      • I loved Bangkok. I found their greeting ‘sawasdee-ka’ made with clasping of the palms, a slight bow of the head, extremely polite and endearing.
        You will love the people, Thais are friendly.
        Dos and don t’s…when sightseeing temples, you may be required to remove shoes, or cover hands and arms. At least be respectfully dressed. Happy travels!

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