Thanks to the country’s generally welcoming, friendly, open attitude, Thailand has become somewhat of a haven for LGBT travel. There are a huge number of bars, clubs, hotels, and beaches that are gay-friendly so if you’re travelling to Thailand as a member of the LGBT community there’s no need to worry! However, it is worth noting that there are certain areas that are more accepting than others. For example, rural and particularly religious communities may be less tolerant than larger cities and known LGBT-friendly destinations.
Here we’ll talk about LGBT safety in Thailand, the best places to go to have a great time as an LGBT traveller, the history of ‘Ladyboys’ (Sao Pra-phed Song), and give you some other tops tips for your time in Thailand!
Of course, as with anywhere, there is still going to be a minority that is less tolerant and you’ll need to be aware of these people’s attitudes.
Is Thailand Safe For LGBT Travellers?
On the whole, yes, Thailand is safe for LGBT travellers, assuming you travel to some of the larger, touristy areas. Urban areas have become accustomed to seeing couples of any gender travelling together and public displays of affection are accepted in most of these regions. Outside of these larger regions, however, it is best to avoid too many PDAs whatever your gender or sexuality, as these are somewhat frowned upon and may cause unwanted attention or unintended offense. As much as you want to be welcomed with open arms, it is important to respect the local communities and beliefs and understand that they may not look at outward displays of affection in the same way that you do.
What to be aware of as an LGBT traveller
There are the usual things that all travellers (LGBT or not) need to be aware of and keep in mind while travelling in Thailand. These include theft and petty crime, drink spiking, unsafe buses and roads and scams such as the “the palace is closed, my friend in this tuk-tuk will take you to another temple/site/palace” scam.
One of the main things to keep in mind as a gay traveller in Thailand is the high rate of HIV. Unfortunately, the vibrant gay scene in much of Thailand has become synonymous with open, unsafe sex, prostitution and drug use. This has led to a spike in the levels of HIV positivity of which Thailand now has one of the highest rates in the world. If you plan to get involved with anyone while travelling, please be aware of this and have condoms available (these can be purchased across Thailand) at all times.
Best Places to Travel in Thailand as an LGBT Traveller
As a starting point to your trip, it doesn’t get much better than Bangkok! The city is often referred to as the ‘gay capital of Asia’ as it’s for good reason. There are a whole host of gay-friendly bars across the city (although it is worth noting that the lesbian scene is vastly underserved). Soi 4 is one of the best streets to kick off your night with a number of LGBT-welcoming bars and the lively DJ Station which hosts a cabaret extravaganza at 11.30pm each night.
Pattaya is the second LGBT capital of Thailand thanks to its amazing nightlife and gay-friendly beaches (Dongtan Beach and Jomtien Beach). The city has a district called BoyzTown which, as you can imagine, is gay-friendly and packed to the rafters with bars, clubs, restaurants, and hotels that happily welcome gay couples and solo travellers.
If you’d prefer a more chilled atmosphere, head to the coast or one of the stunning Thai islands. Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Phuket, and Krabi are all known to be LGBT-friendly.
Ladyboys (Transwoman = Sao Pra-phed Song)
The transwoman community in Thailand – known locally as Sao Pra-phed Song – has become renowned around the world with the Ladyboys of Bangkok touring globally and the Miss International Queen transgender beauty pageant running each year in Thailand. However, it is worth noting that this community isn’t without its issues in its home country.
Many Sao Pra-phed Song have decided to leave their friends and families from their home villages to move to the city where they are more accepted. While this, of course, comes with its positives, many ladyboys Sao Pra-phed Song suffer poor working conditions, low wages and are sometimes forced to work in the sex industry.
It is therefore vital that you are respectful towards all Sao Pra-phed Song and don’t expect that all ladyboys offer prostitution simply because they work in the entertainment industry. On the other hand, be aware of ladyboys using flirtatious behaviour as a cover-up for pick-pocketing and note that many ladyboys will expect payment if you wish to take a photo together.
On the whole, Thailand is a great place for LGBT travellers. Gay guys are welcomed at bars and clubs across urban areas and, while lesbian travellers are less-catered for, this is slowly changing to become more accepted. If you keep your wits about you, stick to popular tourist areas and minimise public displays of affection in rural areas you’re unlikely to come into any troubl while travelling in Thailand.