Five go to Thailand - Experiences and advice from teenage girls travelling alone
My daughter, Holly, recently visited Thailand with four of her best friends. All girls, all aged 18. I thought it would be interesting to chat to her to find out how they got on on their trip, where they stayed and visited, the places she recommends, if they encountered any problems or scams and just how safe and confident they felt as a group of young women travelling alone in Thailand. I hope you find this as interesting as I did, oh yes - and see if you can spot which one of the girls above is my daughter!
Where did you travel during your trip?
We flew into Bangkok on Saturday 6th June. Stayed in Bangkok until Monday 8th and then we flew to Chiang Mai. We stayed in Chiang Mai for 4 nights until Friday 12th, which was when we flew back to Bangkok and got transported from the airport to Pattaya. We stayed there a week (until 19th) when we drove back to Bangkok ready for our flight home.
Where did you go and What activities did you get up to?
In Bangkok we used the sky train to travel to Siam square, a massive shopping area. We also went to the water front and took a boat down to China Town.
In Chiang Mai we visited the zoo, here we did Zip lining / Zip wire, saw animals and also zorbing (really bloody hard!!!) Also in Chiang Mai we did the elephant riding, but not at the zoo. We booked a day experience through Blue Elephant Tours (AMAZING!!) Our tour guide picked us up from our hotel. It was a good hours drive at least to a market where we brought fruit for elephants and sweets for children, as we then went to visit a long neck tribe and saw where they lived and met the children and people. We then visited tiger kingdom where we chose to see 3 different tiger sizes (they have different price packages) which was around 900 baht (just under £20!) We then headed to a river and went white water rafting which was fun we got to jump in the water during the journey. After that we drove out to a scenic area where the village with the elephants were. We all had an elephant each and a tour guide which walked alongside us to help control them (mine was very naughty and kept running off to eat plants!) We trekked up and down hills and through streams for at least 40 minutes.
When we got back to the village we were all given a basket full of bananas whilst sat up on the elephant and had to feed them the whole thing. Then we got off them and led them to the river near by where we got to bathe them clean as the trek got them very dusty. This whole day experience also included lunch and getting driven home after! Overall came to about 5000 baht which is £100, which we thought was very good for everything included and the tour guides were lovely.
We headed into Chiang Mai town the day after and got a fully back head and neck thai massage which lasted for an hour, very relaxing and cost me the equivalent of £6. We also found (a very clean and safe!!) tattoo shop called Tattoolism where we got matching elephant tattoos done. We also found a roof top bar and stopped for food and drinks.
In Pattaya they had night markets selling all kinds of souvenirs/food/fruit everything mega cheap. One of the days we took a boat out, 60 baht (just over £1) to an island called Koh Larn which had many beaches on with clear water, very beautiful! We visited walking street which had a wicked Jack Daniels bar down it called Blue Sky 3 where a Thai band covered rock music, anything from ACDC to Queen! Very amazing and they took requests which was even better.
Where did you stay?
In Bangkok we stayed in Lasalle Suite Hotel for two nights, costing us £30 per person for both nights.
In Chiang Mai we stayed in Tree Boutique Resort costing us around £45 each for 4 nights
In Pattaya we stayed in Acqua (do NOT recommend!!) which cost us £44 each for 4 nights.
We then (all running low on money) stayed in a hostel for the last 3 nights of being in Pattaya, which was really nice and clean and cost us around £20 per person for all 3 nights altogether.
Finally for the last two nights in Bangkok we stayed in Dwella Suvarnabhumi, an airport hotel providing a shuttle service to the hotel which cost us £15 each for both nights. Overall very decent prices, could have been even cheaper if we stayed in hostels the whole time but as it was only two weeks and more of a holiday than travelling, we decided on comfort and it was really worth it. The hotels were all apartment rooms with two bedrooms with en suite bathrooms, lounge and kitchen area including a cooker and a washing machine and fridge freezer. They all also came with swimming pools which in the heat was a God send.
Did you get scammed or ripped off anywhere?
We got ripped off travelling from Bangkok airport to our first hotel. We had no idea on taxi prices so ended up agreeing to the upfront price of 1000 baht (£20) which doesn't sound like much but on the way back to the airport we got into a taxi with a meter and even after driving for nearly an hour in traffic it only cost us 250 baht. Also we stayed in a hotel in Pattaya called Acqua, very beautiful (one with roof top pool) and we agreed to pay cash on arrival, which we did, but they also charged the credit card used to make the reservation, which luckily we noticed and managed to get refunded. Then 4 days after we left I received an email claiming we'd ruined two towels and a bed sheet and that they were charging us £40 for it. They attached photos and the worst of it looks like a coke stain on the bed sheets, which considering it can be washed out and we paid a 600 baht room cleaning fee I thought was ridiculous. I emailed back saying I refused to pay but they had already charged my friends card with the money.
Did you feel safe travelling as a group of girls? Were there any places you didn't feel 100% safe or comfortable?
We all felt very safe, despite the rumours, we experienced no robberies or attempted ones, everyone was very fascinated by us being English and tried to help with anything they could. The one place I didn't feel 100% comfortable was Pattaya Walking street (strip) as I will explain in a bit!
Were people you met friendly?
Everybody that we met was lovely and overly keen to help us out if we were lost/stuck/needed any assistance.
What was the best bit of your holiday that you would recommend to others?
The best bit of the holiday was definitely the elephant experience. It was slightly argued amongst us that cramming all that into one day would seem too planned. But we couldn't have gotten more for our money. Blue Elephant Tours made the whole day enjoyable and it all felt well planned and not rushed. 10/10 recommend.
What was the worst bit?
The worst bit was probably staying in Bangkok. The traffic gets RIDICULOUS, which led to Charlie and I missing our flights to Chiang Mai. We had to buy new ones and it split the group up as there was a lack of cars to fit all 5 of us in at the same time. Took a while to get around.
Is there Anything you wish you had packed (which you didn't) in hindsight?
I wish I had packed toilet paper. You aren't allowed to flush it over there it has to be binned after you've used it (gross!!) and when 5 girls are sharing an apartment room and they only provide you with 1/2 rolls for 4 days it is a nightmare! We constantly had to buy or ask for more.
Was there WIFI in most places or did you need to use data roaming?
EVERYWHERE had wifi. Every hotel we went to had wifi, and most cafes/bars also provided it. Even the tattoo shop.
Was it easy to get in touch with your parents if there was a problem?
I easily stayed in contact with my parents over facebook, as did my friends/used various apps that require wifi but as it was everywhere it was not an issue.
You did the whole Pattaya strip walk I spy, so how did you find that whole fun / bars / sex tourist area?
The "strip" Walking Street was full with bars, restaurants, shops, strip clubs, you name it. We visited it regularly for the New York Diner (I'm a sucker for English/American food even abroad) and Blue Sky 3 bar where a Thai band did rock covers. On our first night there we decided we'd try out a club, a couple of us got drunk. It was fun we started by going to an ice bar and ended up in a club called insomnia. The drinking age there was 20 but they were too happy that we were English to ID, Insomnia was a nice club with English chart music playing. There were raised stages for dancing and we all got up and got a load of Thai people up and dancing with us. The only downside to all the bars and clubs was that they constantly pestered you to buy drinks and if you didn't buy they told you to leave, so we ended up finishing the night relatively early as no one wanted to get so drunk in an unknown place. The other thing that ruined walking street was that the strip clubs over took anything else, half naked ladies begging you to come inside and men shoving sheets in your face with a list of options, one being 'pussy ping pong show' and I don't think any more needs to be said about what kind of thing you find there... We happily stayed away from it for the rest of the time we were there.
How did you get about whilst there and what did it cost?
We used motorbikes to get around in Bangkok as they can skip through traffic queues easier and was the quickest way of getting around. It cost 30 baht, not even £1 for one person to get around on the back of one. We didn't end up actually hiring them as many were proper motor bikes that I wouldn't know how to ride, and also as we were tourists they asked us to give them our passports as insurance in case we damaged anything which as you can imagine we weren't too confident in.
In Chiang Mai and Pattaya especially we used Tuk Tuks. Best way of travelling. In Pattaya they are every where you just call them over and jump on the back and it does a massive circle journey which covers all the main areas and both beach fronts, you ring a buzzer whenever you want to get off and pay 20 baht each time (40p!!!) so that came in very handy. A mini van belonging to the hotel we stayed in in Pattaya picked us up from Bangkok airport and drove us roughly two or so hours to Pattaya costing 500 baht each (around £50 for all of us for the whole journey!!) it was amazing, comfy leather reclining seats air con AND the driver gave us an aux cable, with funky light inside it was like a party bus.
What was the price of food and drink cOMPARED TO THE UK?
Prices for food was very good. All the restaurants we ate at like New York Diner, we could buy a main and a starter or desert and a drink for around 300-400 baht which is around £8. We visited a Hard Rock Cafe and my meal and drink came to 800 baht so slightly more pricey at £16, but no different than what you'd expect here for a hard rock cafe. The night market sold take away meals for 60 baht, just over £1 and this included chicken nuggets, burgers, ribs, rice etc. Alcohol was priced more as you would expect here, cocktails priced at around £4.
And finally, the thoughts from her father:
What were your initial thoughts when Holly said she wanted to go to Thailand?
Initial thoughts were:
Sounds great, I wouldn't have had the confidence to do it at her age.
How's she going to afford the flights and spending money?
Who's she going with, luckily she has a good set of 'sensible' friends...
Did you have any concerns before she left?
Luggage. She didn't have a large rucksack so we took a risk on a £20 EBay special - would it last the trip!
Essential stuff she's going to need. Luckily I had a friend at work who advised a good travel list and I spent a few lunchbreaks gathering items. Everything from travel adapters to plug-in insect repellant, plasters and antiseptic. Not forgetting decent sun cream!
Money - how much cash should she take?
Did you have any concerns whilst she was there?
While she was there we had almost constant contact using Facebook Messenger. Luckily she seemed to have regular wifi connectivity. There's a 6-hour time difference so I was woken in the early hours more than a few times with a message alert...
The photos from the tiger sanctuary were an eye-opener, there's no way I'd be getting that close to a tiger, even a drowsy one.
Always a slight worry of getting a message or a call with something wrong: a couple of examples - missed flight due to thunderstorm and a friend burning her leg on a motorbike exhaust.
Now she's home, have you any advice for other parents of teens travelling to Thailand?
Make a good list of essential items.
Arrange a way of transferring money if needed while over there - we used online banking and she took her debit card.
Giffgaff (or mobile network) login details - essential if emergency top-up needed!
Go as a group and stick together.
Make sure you know all flight details. Flightradar24.com good for keeping up with progress and expected arrival times.
Much love and thanks to Holly for sharing her Thailand experience and holidays photographs with me - I'm chuffed that she had such a good (and safe) time. Thanks to Iain for grabbing time in his lunch hour to answer my questions too ;)