All the information below is provided by Pink Pangea community members based on their experiences abroad. Add your voice!
Feminine Hygienic Products
Kaytia says: Pads are freely available, though brands are limited. You can get them at most pharmacy stores. ‘Boots’ is probably the most popular.
Nichole says: Tampons are elusive. You will have no problem finding pads (in limited brands), but tampons are hard to find. There are OB brand applicator-free ones in almost every drugstore and supermarket, and some tampons with applicators in Boots pharmacy. Boots stores are popular in the larger cities, but harder to find in other areas. Bring enough with you for your trip, or be prepared to use what you’ll find. Or, use a different method, such as a Diva Cup.
More on Feminine Hygienic Products
Jenny says: Thai supermarkets and convenient stores sell feminine hygienic products such as tampons, pads, soaps, creams, etc. In addition, there are many international stores that sell these products (ex: Boots).
Chandra says: If you have a very particular grooming regime, I highly suggest bringing multiples of your favorite products. In retrospect, I would have brought at least duplicates of deodorants, body scrubs, lotions, facial cleansers, cosmetics and hair products. Westernized products are available in limited supply but at an exorbitant cost. In both Cambodia and Thailand it is quite difficult to find hygienic products without whitening agents. If you like the idea of maintaining your bronzed body earned from an adventurous weekend in Koh Phi Phi, then come prepared with your own supplies.
Kat says: In the city, it’s easy to get your hands on everything – make up, lotions, deodorant, shaving cream, shower items, even pads. However, tampons are hard to come by, and a lot of sun screen and foundation has whitening agents in it. In Bangkok, or even Chaing Mai, if you look hard enough you can find things for a more Western taste, but in the villages, not so much. However, even out of the cities 7/11’s and other convenience stores have almost everything you could need.
Payal says: Hand sanitizer, intimate wash & wipes are must haves while roaming in Bangkok/Thailand. There is a mall called MBK Center and Siam Square.
Nichole says: As far as condoms, they’re widely available. However, people say that condoms in Asia are not the best to use. They’re often expired, could be made with something you wouldn’t want in your body, and are a smaller size. Bring some with you. Even if you’re not planning on having sex, better safe than sorry.
Kaytia says: Birth control pills are available at most pharmacies within Bangkok. In Siam, it is possible to get Plan B. However abortions are illegal and heavily stigmatized.
More on Birth Control
Jenny says: Most pharmacies have birth control available to purchase. They sell common brands such as Yaz and Melodia. In certain pharmacies, a prescription is not needed in order to purchase birth control. In addition, there are many hospitals and clinics in Bangkok that can give expert advice if needed.
Chandra says: Before relocating to Southeast Asia, I decided to forfeit my oral contraceptive method that I used for several years in favor of having a flexible matchstick-sized rod forcefully injected in my upper arm. After the unsightly tender black bruise healed, it has been a mostly carefree experience. I opted for this method due to the duration of the effectiveness and because it does not require any further maintenance for three years. I will voluntarily accept the few undesirable side effects and sporadic hormonal imbalances if it is one less stress while adjusting to my life in a foreign country.
It also may be a good idea to stockpile on trusted condom brands from home. The contraceptives available here lack flexibility and are not meant for the well-endowed … so I’m told.
Kat says: There aren’t as many options of different kinds of birth control as in the States, but it’s available at virtually every pharmacy. Just know your brand, or something close to it, ask at the desk, and they should be able to get it for you.
Payal says: Female and male condoms are easily available and can be found at Siam Square and MBK Center.
Recommended Gynecologists and Doctors
Kaytia says: Dr. Witima Sangtawan is a good gynecologist and she speaks good English. Her staff, however, speaks little to no English. She is located at BangPo hospital in BangSue, which is a bit off the beaten path. The hospital has very little English signage as well.
The international hospitals offer English-speaking staff, signage, and doctors, but come with a western price tag. BNH (Bangkok Nursing Hospital) in Silom is good as well as Sumitivej Hospital on Sukhumvit 41/39.
One big difference particularly at private hospitals is there is a lot of time and effort put into the aesthetics of the place. The more important difference is that Thai people can seem indirect. You have to be prepared not to receive concrete answers, which in a time of medical incidents can be quite stressful.
More on Gynecologists and Doctors
Jenny says: Although I have not personally visited the gynecologist in Bangkok, I have been to a couple of medical facilities for other reasons. I would recommend going to any facility that caters towards international patients. Many of the hospitals provide a translator and a lot of the doctors and nurses speak English. Local clinics are often less expensive than hospitals but may not provide a translator. From my experience, I would recommend Bangkok Hospital or Paolo Memorial Hospital for any medical treatment.
Payal says: In case of any emergency, you can ask the hotel receptionist or your tour guide to take you to the private gynecologists.
Payal says: You can find any paid female washrooms at the airport or mall and find the special section for breastfeeding or diaper changing. It’s not exactly allowed to breastfeed in the open but in case of emergency, you can look for a safe place to sit and breastfeed while covering the baby & breast.
Nichole says: There is no PDA in Thailand. You don’t kiss your significant other in public. In fact, you really shouldn’t even hold hands. It’s disrespectful, but if you are traveling with your boyfriend or girlfriend, it is more accepted among foreigners. However, be courteous to the culture. If you are a solo female traveler, everyone will ask if you have a boyfriend. Men are friendly, as is everyone.
Kaytia says: Outside of the city, live in couples are a rarity. Most people live with their parents until they move in with their spouses. As a foreigner, be conservative in your dress. Showing cleavage is viewed much more negatively that showing off your legs. Whether you want to reject a date or not, if pursued by a Thai man, try your best not to ‘lose face.’
More on Dating Locals
Jenny says: I have never dated a Thai man and I don’t know any foreign women who have. However, I think it is fair to say there will most likely be some cultural differences. I have heard stories of a foreigner’s Thai boyfriend/girlfriend getting very possessive and jealous. In addition, I rarely notice public affection between Thai couples because that intimacy is kept more private than in western culture.
Kat says: Thai guys are somewhat intimidated by western women when it comes to dating. Dating is naturally a very shy, personal topic, so it has to be approached delicately. It’s also good to note that sleeping around isn’t very much a thing in Thailand – if you start sleeping with someone, they’ll definitely think you’re dating!
Payal says: Thailand is a free country to live, laugh, travel and love. At night, pubs and clubs are very lively with bands. Beaches and islands are great places to date.
Types of Men
Kaytia says: ‘Femmes’: There are many gay men and/or ladyboys in Thailand. They see themselves as women and assume a feminine role in their relationships. They often seek out foreigner boyfriends, but are not openly gay with their family.
‘International Thais’: The wealthier Thai men who usually went to international schools and have stayed in line with that lifestyle, going to university abroad, and working international jobs, which involve a lot of traveling for work. They are easier date in the sense that they speak English and are more accustomed to cross-cultural relationships. Their dating tastes can largely depend on how traditional or international their family values are.
‘The Expat’: These men are not Thai, but they are often there for Thai women. Most are upwards of forty and are not known for their outstanding personalities. You can find them in the more seedy areas and they are often juggling multiple relationships with women. Be careful to make sure you’re not anyone’s second girlfriend. There are multiple incidences of Thai women beating their cheating partner or his accomplice.
More on Types of Men
Jenny says: Like any country, the population has a variety of personalities and ways of living. Here are examples of types of men and women:
Street Workers- This could include workers who serve the common pedestrian outside of a store or office. Examples include: food vendors, and cab drivers. From my experience, they tend to speak limited English unless they work in a tourist location.
Hi-So Thais – “Hi-So” stands for high society. These individuals are trendy, fashionable and financially well off.
Lady Boys – Seeing a lady boy is very common in Thailand. However, many of these transgender individuals look surprisingly feminine and it can sometimes be hard to distinguish a lady boy from a biological female.
Promiscuous Thais – Thailand can often be stereotyped by its notorious sex industry. In specific areas in Bangkok, it is easy to find bar dancers, prostitutes and “ping pong” shows. Thailand’s sex culture does not by any means define Thai culture or Thailand’s general population, but it is something to be informed of.
The Homeless – Like in any big city, there are homeless people in Bangkok. Many of these people are missing a limb and look as though they are not in good physical condition. They have never disturbed me or made me feel in danger.
Conservative Thais – Although having a boyfriend or girlfriend is common, many Thais still live at home with their families, do not drink and are generally well behaved.
Monks – In Thailand, monks wear orange and shave their heads. Monks are one of the most respected levels of society and it is very important to be respectful towards them.
Chandra says: Men are men no matter where you go. Biology is a universal phenomenon.
My evening and weekend work schedule isn’t all that conducive for a busy social life. I have become quite comfortable with my dear friend and wingman, Tinder. I have been in great company and conversed with several interesting and intellectual people along my journey. That being said, a majority of the “men” I’ve encountered in Thailand thus far are either in college or freshly graduated and enjoying a father-funded backpacking trip through Southeast Asia. Avoid this “man” at all cost unless you wish to subject yourself to a Chang-fueled drunken rant on what a life-changing experience getting inebriated all over Thailand has been.
Kat says: Thai guys are either really sweet, well dressed, and funny, or they are incredibly creepy and dirty. There was almost no middle ground, which was definitely strange.
Payal says: You can find different personalities of men everywhere. In Bangkok, sex work is legal. Hundreds of girls can be found standing and waiting for their customers. If you are looking pretty, some men will not be afraid to ask you to go home with them.
Nichole says: There are openly gay individuals, and Thailand is famous for it’s ladyboys, but there are still some people who will express very strong opinions against homosexuals. My students joke around all the time calling each other gay, and I try to discourage that. I’ve found that they will make these comments around me, but are very respectful and kind to the openly gay and lesbian teachers at school.
Kaytia says: Gay friendly yes. If you are a man, people are friendly no matter your sexual preference. If you are transitioning into a man or are a transman, Bangkok is certainly a good, fairly safe place with lots of venues specifically for you. For women, it’s not the same. Lesbians aren’t really taken seriously within the culture and although I can think of many streets designed for gays I don’t know of any geared towards lesbians. As a foreigner you’ll have an easier time regardless, but I’d advice against hardcore PDA.
More on LGBTQ Friendly
Jenny says: Thailand is extremely LGBTQ friendly. In fact, Thailand is well known for its “lady boys.” Lady boys are accepted in society and their presence is not hidden or shamed.
Kat says: In Bangkok, it’s more gay-friendly than lesbian friendly, but as long as you’re obviously not Thai no one questions it. Outside of Bangkok, the culture is not as friendly.
Payal says: Public places are LGBTQ friendly and there are special bars and pubs which are specifically for LGBTQ people.
Kaytia says: Women assume a feminine role, and culturally speaking are placed in the home. In business women can be seen in higher roles, but they aren’t omitted from ‘motherlike roles.’ As a result, they are just expected to perform well in both areas.
Nichole says: It seems to be somewhat equal on the surface. In restaurants, both men and women work similar jobs. Sanitation workers, construction workers, and groundskeepers are both men and women. They receive equal schooling and have equal opportunities there. Still, women assume a feminine role socially and culturally, and if they are in a high position professionally, they are still expected to perform just as well as a mother at home.
Thailand is a Buddhist country and men become monks. Women cannot become a monk and women cannot touch a monk or look them in the face. Men, however, can.
More on Women's Rights
Jenny says: Like in most countries, women here have always been considered somewhat “lesser”. I think women’s rights and place in society is better than it used to be. Women are educated and have careers and well-paying jobs, just like men.
Chandra says: Although I do not think women have the same position in society as men in Southeast Asia or anywhere in the world, I do consider them to be the cornerstone of the Thai community. They may not compare to the foreign standards of strong women, but they are absolutely a force to be reckoned with if crossed or disrespected. Many of the women I have met are wonderfully charming, curious and classy individuals.
Kat says: In Thailand women outnumber men in the workforce 7:1, and are more likely to have college degrees and have greater foreign language skills. I noticed this especially when I worked for companies to teach English. Nearly all my students were women and nearly all Thai women seemed to place higher in English skill.
Payal says: Women have the same rights and positions as men but females have more responsibilities. I have seen females being single parents who earn for themselves and to feed their kids.
Kaytia says: Thai women are more conservative than Western women. Most controversial or potentially controversial topics aren’t discussed.
Thai people can also seem like they don’t take things as seriously as those in Western culture do. For example, a Thai woman in her mid to late twenties could date a Thai guy for years, but then tell a friend she has no interest in marrying him and that it’s not that serious.
Nichole says: The ideal of beauty is much different. Women in Thailand strive for straight hair and white skin. They use skin whiteners and special shampoos to achieve this. Many Thai women, especially the younger women, seem to have the same educational and professional ideals as Western women.
More on Local Women
Jenny says Here are some cultural differences I have encountered:
Bluntness – In western culture, asking somebody’s age, salary or weight can be considered offensive and rude. In Thailand, it is very normal to ask these sorts of questions and it is common to receive commentary on your personal appearance. Try not to take offense if someone tells you that you look fat or have acne on your face.
Ghosts- Ghosts are a legitimate fear of many Thais. The fear has come up multiple times with different Thais I have conversed with. In the western world, I don’t feel like ghosts are taken as seriously as they are in Thailand.
General Conversation – Unless a Thai person is fluent in English or has been exposed to international experiences, conversation can often be a little awkward. There are often a lot of mis-communications and translation problems that happen when conversing with Thais.
Efficiently – “Sabai sabai” can often describe the Thai way of life, meaning relaxed and easy-going. Although I consider myself a pretty easy-going person, I can sometimes get irritated with the inefficiency of this mindset. Being late is not a big deal here and decisions are often made last minute. From my personal experience, this impacts the efficiency of my work place and can cause stress as I am used to different work standards.
Take off your shoes- It takes some getting used to, but I now feel weird if I wear shoes into a room. It is very important to take off your shoes in homes, temples, etc.
“Face” – One of the first terms I learned about was “keeping face.” For Thais, it is important to be respected and not lose any sort of dignity or self worth. This can often result in passive aggressive behavior and limited confrontation in fear of causing someone to “lose face.”
Chandra says: I grew up playing sports or in the dirt on a mountainside with my older brother. I have always been steadfastly stubborn and quick to vocalize my opinion. I pride myself on my independence, self-suffiency and the ability to enjoy the company that I keep. I love competition and refuse to back down to challenging adventures. I run marathons, practice kickboxing and leisurely swim miles in my free-time, all the while embracing my femininity and sexuality. Although I have seen local women shame me in Muay Thai, which embodies the essence of mental and physical grit, the majority of women regard my behavior and interests as incredibly odd. A hobby that I have grown up practicing and believing to be socially normal is perplexing to a more reserved, delicate culture.
Kat says: Mainly there were cultural differences, like food we liked or people we found beautiful, or interests in TV shows (the Thai women absolutely love their soaps and rom-com stories).
Payal says: Our Indian tradition never allow us- especially girls- to have sex before marriage. It’s so popular these days- but we openly can’t accept it. However, in Thailand, most of the families earn their bread & butter from sex work.
In India, orthodox people suggest that a girl should get married when she is still a teenager. In Thailand, poverty forces some families to push their teenage daughters into sex work.
Kaytia says: There are certain temples in which women are not permitted to enter, particularly during menstruation.
Chandra says: I definitely get strange glances when I play football on Saturday evening with my company’s staff and students, considering I am the only female in attendance. I have not yet been to a gender-specific environment, but some locations and their resources are tailored to certain male-demographics for profitability. There is specified Lady Parking. Regrettably, I do not have an automobile here so am unable to enjoy the luxury of wider parking spaces for my suspected inability to park a vehicle.
Perception of Foreign Women
Kaytia says: American women have an unfortunate reputation of being ‘loose women.’ There will be an assumption by your skin color and nationality that you have more money. Most Thais I met did not assume that I agreed with American policies. That said, I think it’s always important to pay attention to the news when abroad. In times of conflict or when disagreeable decisions were made, I did sometimes identify myself as Canadian. On the other hand, Thailand as a nation seemed happy with Obama’s re-election as he keeps good relations with the King of Thailand and ASEAN.
Nichole says: I’ve been met so positively here. Both men and women are fascinated with American culture and the English language, and ask a million questions.
More on Perception of Foreign Women
Jenny says: It’s hard to tell what Thais think of Americans because the reaction varies from person to person. Westerners in general are perceived to be very rich, which can obviously cause animosity and tension at times. However, many Thais are very excited to meet an American, considering the impact the country has had internationally. A lot of my Thai friends want to visit the United States and enjoy American music and movies.
Chandra says: Typically both local men and women are intrigued by foreign cultures. I am hesitant to disclose my American upbringing. The locals will use this information to take advantage of your wallet or ask for free English lessons. It is common in Thailand to concede to the “Western prices” as opposed to the much more reasonable local prices. The rest of the world seems to be under the impression that all Westerners are endlessly wealthy, which is ironic considering it seems most of us came here to pursue a better quality of life in our own country’s flailing economy.
Kat says: Usually people are very surprised! Most English-speaking expats are British or Australian, so when they hear I’m from America it’s like, wow! She came from so far away! Neat!
Payal says: Recently when I was just sitting on the roadside having snacks, an old lady (Tarot) asked me about where I am from. As soon as I told her about India, she got so excited and started telling me her love for Bollywood movies! She started singing some popular Hindi songs & told me she wants to visit India once in her life time.
She asked me about my culture and if I am with my boyfriend or husband. Most of the people get excited when they hear about India.
Kaytia says: The safest forms of transportation are the subway and sky train (MRT and BTS). There are cameras everywhere, but they don’t run from midnight to 5 am. Taxis are probably the least safe for a women alone at night. The consequences for drinking and driving are fairly minimal by law in Thailand, so be wary of drunk drivers. Depending on the distance, motorcycles are safer than taxis, because of incidences in which taxi drivers have attempted to attack women. It’s easier to have an idea of where you’re going on the back of a motorcycle, and you can get away a bit easier.
When getting in a taxi, make sure the driver knows where he’s taking you and stays on populated roads. Get the driver’s name from the dashboard. Don’t let your guard down.
More on Transportation
Nichole says: Just be smart, especially when traveling alone or at night. When getting in a taxi, make sure the driver knows where he’s taking you and stays on populated roads. Get the driver’s name from the dashboard. Be safe on motorcycle taxis, on trains, on buses and on boats. I’ve never felt unsafe because I was a woman, but that doesn’t mean I ever let my guard down.
Jenny says: Most of the public transportation in Bangkok is very safe and reliable. This transportation includes the BTS, Airport Link and MRT. There is also a public bus system, but I have not taken the bus. Information regarding public transportation is available online.
I also use taxis on a daily basis in Bangkok. When I first got to Thailand, I had a lot of trouble with taxis as the drivers often don’t speak English and don’t know how to get to specific places (hotels, restaurants, etc) in the city. It is important to always have the address (written or spoken in Thai) or be able to direct the cab driver. In addition, it is a good idea to have the phone number of the place you are going.
The least safe option is to take a motorcycle taxi. I have burned my leg on the exhaust, been driven into a curb and fallen off of one before. Some of the drivers drink, take drugs or work long hours. Therefore, I almost only take motto taxi drivers that I am familiar with.
Chandra says: Safety does not seem to be a primary concern for Southeast Asians regarding transportation methods. It is customary to see multiple helmet-less humans, including young children, strapped to the back of motorcycles. I have hopped on the back of several motos in dire situations, like when I am late for a flight, interview or soccer match, which occurs quite frequently. While motos are unfortunate during the rain or when wearing a tight pencil skirt, it sure trumps sitting in a cab, van or bus in unmovable Bangkok traffic for hours.
Tuk-tuks and songthaews are the usual form of transportation in the less populated areas. In the islands or along the riverside, I have taken boats, longtails, ferries and catamarans, sometimes all in the same day. Although I have not been in any uncomfortable situations, I try to be aware of my surroundings when commuting solo. I was told if ever I had to take a taxi late in the evening to be sure to snap a photo of the license plate or driver’s information which is advertised on the front windshield. It is a good idea to have enough battery life in your phone in case you have to make an emergency call and also to track your location on a navigational application.
Kat says: Public transportation is always safe in Bangkok, taxis are safe as long as you’re not being very rude, but tuk tuks can be a little sketchy. Just make sure you haggle well and put your foot down when you need to and you’ll be okay.
Payal says: Autos are very popular and safe in Bangkok/Thailand. The auto is shared and almost 10 to 12 people can sit together. At night when you are alone and not sure about the roads, or if the autos are crowded or lonely, it’s better to ask hotel staff to pick/drop you for specific plans.
Shady Areas for Women
Nichole says: Don’t go farther south than Phuket. My program won’t even place anyone there to teach. If you must go, don’t go alone and be safe. Use your head, be smart, and always watch your back.
Jenny says: I don’t know of anywhere that is specifically unsafe for women. But I think it is important to always use common sense and take the same safety precautions you would take in any other country. I don’t go in dark, unfamiliar alleys and side streets and I leave if I am feeling uncomfortable.
Chandra says: I am extremely fortunate enough not to have come across any unsafe situations so far in this journey, so I cannot advise on this subject. I live in a secure high-rise building in the city, but still try to exercise caution when traveling alone or in unfamiliar settings.
More on Shady Areas for Women
One of the most frequent crimes in Thailand is pickpocketing and robbery. When in Cambodia we were cautioned to keep our handbags to the inside of our bodies when riding in a tuk-tuk. Also it is best not to take photos with your hands extending outside of the vehicle because a motorcyclist can grab it and take off weaving through the standstill traffic. When walking or standing on the side in the city area, carry your purse on the inside. I know a woman who was standing outside of the pub in Bangkok, sipping on a beer and chatting with her friends when a motorcyclist snatched her purse right off her shoulders while knocking her to the ground. She reported it to the police, however her belonging were never recovered. It may be wise to invest in a cross-body bag or remember to be very self-aware of your surroundings.
In another incident, one of the women whom I met in my language program, was robbed on the side of the road in Phuket. A group of men tried to rip her bag from her body when she was riding her motorcycle alone in the evening. They were unsuccessful in their first attempt, but when she pulled over to compose herself they circled back and threatened her with a metal bar. Onlookers stood by watching as she finally volunteered her possession to avoid escalating the severity of the situation. Fortunately in this case, she reported it and even identified her attackers in court, where they were arrested from robbing several tourists in the area. As women, we need to take extra precautions when traveling abroad. The best advice I was ever given was to be confident in demeanor, but if something instinctively feels wrong and potentially dangerous then forego the plan. As the old adage goes, it is far better to be safe than sorry.
Kat says: If there is an area that doesn’t have a lot of expats, definitely be more careful. You’re perceived as a naive tourist, and they’ll probably try to scam you. Also, always be wary of your purse! Most crime in Bangkok are crimes of opportunity, so as long as you’re always being careful you’ll be okay.
Payal says: In search of some particular mall, I have experienced some lonely roads and streets at night. It can be dangerous for a single traveler so I recommend not roaming streets without maps especially at night.
Kaytia says: Cover your chest and shoulders with scarves or short sleeves. If you’re in a big city, shorts are okay. Otherwise, wear knee-length skirts or pants.
Nichole says: When visiting temples, you must cover your knees and your elbows. Jeans and pants are acceptable. I was told to be conscientious and conservative when walking around town, but there are plenty of women who wear shorter shorts and tighter shirts than I do. If I am comfortable in it, and it looks respectable, I have no problem wearing it. Just look at how other women around you dress, and be slightly more conservative than the locals. That’s my best advice.
Jenny says: In Bangkok, it is fine to wear almost anything. However, temples require visitors to cover their shoulders and wear longer skirts or pants.
More on Clothing
Chandra says: As an incoming teacher trainee, I was falsely instructed to pack religious resembling garb that covered every part of my body with the exception of my hands and face. This was entirely unnecessary as I work in a business environment and would have been much better off bringing my chic professional clothing from my previous experience in Corporate America.
Clothing is cheap in Thailand, but finding outfits to fit my fuller-figure is a daunting, discouraging task. I recommend choosing a wardrobe dependent on your motivations in visiting Thailand. If simply passing through, it is best to bring breathable clothing made of light materials. You can basically dress comfortably and casually during your everyday routine, but if you wish to visit the temples you have to dress respectfully with a top that covers your shoulders and a skirt or pants that fall past the knee. Some temples are more lenient than others, but it is considered extremely impolite to not adhere to a proper dress code in religious facilities.
Kat says: In Bangkok, you can get away with wearing just about anything. Of course, shorts and tank tops will get you stared at a bit, but nothing too bad. Outside of the cities, it’s smarter to be more conservative – pants, t-shirts, or at least capris are better so you don’t stand out or get cat-called.
Also, all Buddhist temples require you to cover your knees and shoulders, but this applies to men and women.
Payal says: There are boundaries in Bangkok. Anyone can wear almost anything except some holy places. In Sleeping Buddha Temple, women are not allowed to wear shorts or anything revealing. Even if somebody is not aware, you don’t need to worry- the temple entrance offers some clothing to cover your legs and you can return it when you leave.