The Gay Globetrotter

Ladyboys of Thailand – A Ladyboy Guide

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ladyboy thailand - thailand ladyboys

This ladyboy guide will tell you what to expect, where to go, and give you some tips and pointers for your Thailand ladyboy experience.

Thailand ladyboys are known to be some of the most eccentric and interesting people to meet while you are visiting Thailand. Many tourists actively search out ladyboys to get a feel for their relaxed outlook on life, and stunningly beautiful and feminine looks.

Spotting a ladyboy while you’re out and about isn’t uncommon, but you will often not even realize you are speaking with one! They blend in beautifully with society, and have become a staple of Thai society for both tourists and locals.

ladyboy thailand

Image via Flickr

What is a Ladyboy?

Ladyboys in Thailand are well integrated into society, and widely accepted amongst both the Thai people and tourists.

Thailand ladyboys are sometimes referred to as kathoeys or katoeys, which directly refers to ‘someone of a third gender’. In western society and throughout most of Southeast Asia, we refer to them as ladyboys – meaning transgender women or effeminate gay men in Thailand. The Thai kathoeys are world famous for having beautifully feminine appearances and working to appear as normal women in society, using things such as hair and makeup, plastic surgery, gender reassignment surgery, and various other cosmetic procedures.

Thanks to their knowledge and transformation required to become a woman, you will often find Thailand ladyboys working in salons, beauty counters, and in fashion. Ladyboys are often seen as being even more eccentric and beautiful than some cis-women, and are generally looked up to for that reason.

Ladyboys in Thailand are also known to put on amazing cabaret performances, unparalleled to anything you will see elsewhere in the world. If you are in Thailand, seeing a ladyboy cabaret is definitely something you should have on your itinerary. Ladyboy Cabarets are almost always considered a family friendly event!

Image via Flickr

Why Are There So Many Ladyboys In Thailand?

Ladyboy Thailand Population: as of 2017, it is estimated that there is a population of over 1 million ladyboys in Thailand, making up for 1.6% of the total population. The way people identify themselves fluctuates, making these numbers only estimates.

Thailand is among the most accepting and welcoming of LGBT and kathoey culture in Southeast Asia. It’s no surprise that there are so many ladyboys to be found in Thailand. Bangkok is considered the gay capital of Southeast Asia, with many LGBT people flocking to the city to live in a place of wider acceptance from society.

Thailand’s heavier tourist areas have a higher rate of ladyboys, as there are many more jobs available to ladyboys and a larger level of acceptance throughout the larger cities.

Image via Flickr

HIV Rates and Safety Among Thailand Ladyboys

According to The US National Library of Medicine, it is reported that HIV and substance abuse rates are much higher among kathoey workers, with just half of them reporting having being tested recently for HIV. It was also reported that one third of kathoey workers have engaged in unprotected sex in the last 6 months. While travelling, it is important to remember both your physical and mental health. Make sure to take the necessary precautions to ensure that you are safe while abroad.

While in Bangkok, we were fortunate enough to have the privilege of speaking firsthand with a few ladyboys. We quickly learned that many of them have a quite troubling past. It isn’t uncommon to hear about Thai ladyboys being disowned by their families while coming out, and being forced to move to an area of wider acceptance. This results in ladyboys beginning to work young, often underage, and being thrust into the Thai nightlife and prostitution scenes very early.

It is extremely important to ensure that you are doing your research prior to seeing the ladyboys, so you are going to the correct areas to avoid the underage ladyboys, who are often forced to grow up too fast and work in inappropriate conditions.

5 Tips for Seeing the Thailand Ladyboys

1. Enjoy Yourself

When you are amongst the ladyboys throughout the country, staring is unavoidable. They are used to seeing people’s jaw drop, and welcome it! 

It’s important to be confident in yourself while amongst the ladyboys, as they will make jokes and blatantly flirt with you while ‘in character’. It’s all fun and games, so don’t take anything too seriously! It’s the whole reason you’re there.

2. Tip the Thai Ladyboys

thai ladyboy performance

Image via Flickr

Before, during, and after the show, it is important to remember to tip the ladyboys. For most of them, performing is their only source of income and they work hard to give you the experience you are having.

If you would like a photo with a ladyboy, make sure to tip. If you enjoy a performance, tip, and if you enjoy the whole show they will usually come around and collect tips afterwards. Remember, 50 THB goes a lot farther for them than it will for you, so tipping a small (or large) amount is always worthwhile.

3. Arrive to the Show Early

cabaret ladyboy show in thailand

Image via Flickr

Most cabaret shows will hold multiple performances each night, and most of them will fill up. I love going a little early, and getting to interact with the ladyboys prior to the show! You will get to mingle, grab a cocktail, and ensure you get a good seat to see the show!

Plan to arrive at the venue about 20 minutes prior to the show starting. Do remember, they run on ladyboy time, so the show will often start about 15 minutes behind schedule!

4. Take A lot of Photos!

ladyboy cabaret performance

Image via Flickr

A lot of the performances are done for tourists, so the songs are very popular amongst English culture. From Cher to Madonna to Britney Spears, you will definitely hear a song or two you know!

Most cabaret shows encourage photos and videos, but remember to actually watch the show and not be on your phone the whole time. If you take photos and videos during a performance, or with a specific ladyboy, remember to tip her!

5. Keep Your Belongings Close

pattaya ladyboy district

This one goes without saying, but while you are caught up in the amazing performances it isn’t uncommon for pickpockets to swipe your valuables. Most ladyboy cabarets happen in heavier tourist areas. There will be a LOT of people, so keep your wits about you and make sure you are watching your belongings! 

I would suggest that you keep a money belt or fanny pack – my favorite travel accessory 😉 – on you with your valuables in it at all times.

Where to See The Ladyboys in Thailand

Thailand ladyboys can be seen throughout the country. However, these are the most popular places to see a show or attend an event filled with ladyboys! 

Pattaya

Ladyboy Thailand – Performance in Pattaya

Pattaya is the most popular area to see the ladyboys in Thailand. You will see them everywhere. The mainly female bars usually have a ladyboy or two working at them. There are also many bars and nightclubs that specialize in ladyboys.

Pattaya, being a party city, has a huge red light district. Reminiscent of a naughtier Las Vegas strip, it has strip clubs and bars on most streets. You will find great bars down Walking Street, and some amazing ladyboy shows at Sensations Bar!

Bangkok – Nana Plaza

ladyboy thailand

Image via flickr

Nana plaza is a small plaza located near Sukhumvit Road (home of my favorite street food market on my Bangkok street food tour), and is home to one of the best red light districts in Bangkok. It can be a little overwhelming at first, but you’ll get used to it if you stick it out. You’ll find plenty of adult oriented entertainment in Nana plaza, which includes massage parlors and of course, ladyboy bars!

This plaza has about 8 ladyboy bars that run until 3am, and the shows at Obsessions Nightclub were so much fun. Be advised though, Nana can be a little pricey. If you just want to see a show and head elsewhere, there are a ton of bars and nightclubs in the surrounding area within walking distance!

Phuket – Soi Bangla

thai ladyboy bar

Ladyboy Thailand – Go-go bar on Soi Bangla Street

Located in Phuket, the largest island in Thailand, Soi Bangla street is the home to most of the nightlife in Phuket. There are bars and nightclubs located down the entire stretch, ladyboy bars included.

I found Soi Bangla to be a ton of fun, however, the buskers on the street were pretty overwhelming. Every 10 steps or so, I would have someone shoving scorpions, ping pong show advertisements, or nitrous balloons in my face.

The bars on Soi Bangla were a ton of fun though, I really enjoyed watching the dancers at Bar Funk 3. Bar funk 3 is listed as a sports bar, but there were not a lot of sports being watched there haha!

Bangkok – Soi Cowboy

Image via flickr

Soi Cowboy was the first red light district I visited while I was in Thailand, as it was just a few blocks from my hotel – about a 5 minute walk away from Terminal 21 shopping district. Soi Cowboy takes up a whole city block, and is decked out with beautiful Vegas-style lights that will seriously captivate you. The ladyboys of Bangkok Thailand are among some of the most famous and friendly out there.

While not completely catering to ladyboys, you will still find quite a few bars that have ladyboys at them, as well as a ton of them mingling with tourists and locals outside of the bars! If you want to see a cabaret show while you are in Bangkok, I would suggest heading over to Nana Plaza before you come to Soi Cowboy.

Whether you are visiting to see the Thailand ladyboys or just happen to cross paths with them, it isn’t hard to see why they have quickly become so world famous!

Have you had an experience with the Thai ladyboys? Let me know in the comments below!

Dont forget to pin this to your travel board!

thai ladyboys pinterest art

48 thoughts on “Ladyboys of Thailand – A Ladyboy Guide”

  1. I love how you even have this post!! <3
    I also love the fun and giggles that ladyboys are naturally able to bring to any situation. And they always instantly clock me as not straight, even though I’m married with kids 🙂

  2. The Carters On Tour

    Mr Carter had his haircut by a ladyboy in Krabi and I swear I could not tell it was a man. We never got a chance to go to show but I really want to if we go back. Caberet of any kind id always a great night.

  3. I really love how you went further with this article discussing not only who they are, but heir backgrounds and making sure to see shows that are “ethical” in nature, not ones that are exploiting minors.

  4. Lovely reading your post on a subject where not much has been written. Visiting Thailand, it was impressive to see the efforts being made for have an inclusive and accepting society for lady boys. Back then an airlines company was promoting a flight with an all lady boy crew.

  5. Thailand has a thriving third gender culture. I’m sure the cabaret was amazing and it’s something I’d like to go to when I do visit Thailand. Buskers are the same world over…annoying lol. What the heck is a nitrous balloon?

  6. This is such a different and new post for me. I love how you have introduced the concept. Never chanced upon a ladyboy on any of my visits to Thailand. But will keep an eye now for sure.

  7. It’s a really interesting phenomenon in Thailand – not only in shows, but everywhere. I find it’s wonderful that the society seems to be very tolerant to the ‘third sex’ that is even marked in official documents.

  8. I visited Krabi last year and was mesmerized by how pretty and feminine some of the lady boys were. I didn’t get to see a show tho, but from what I’ve read here, it sure does sound like a fun night.

  9. I wish I had read this before going to Thailand! I was so curious to go to a lady boy show but was traveling alone, so wasn’t sure if it would be a bit strange going alone as a girl… but now that I know that families go I’m kicking myself for not seeing one!

  10. Now this is one comprehensive article. I think we in the west could learn a thing or two about acceptance of diverse genders and people. Nice read.

  11. There is so much great information in here that i never knew!! Like you said I probably would of never known I was talking to them or what not but didnt know the prevalence was so high! I would definitely go to a show!

  12. Alexander Popkov

    Ok, so actually they don’t mind being photographed. I would like to make a documentary on them, but always thought that they stay away from the cameras.

  13. Fascinating post and now when we get to Thailand, attending a Caberet performance is absolutely on the list. We have seen some simply amazing drag shows in Orlando, and thoroughly enjoyed one at, I believe it was called, Funky Monkey Bistro and Bar a number of years ago (now closed I hear). Totally family safe, totally enjoyable, and the performers were incredible!

  14. This is just lovely ! Have you heard the story of two shoe salesmen? Where a factory owner sends two of his men to a village to find out if they can sell shoes there. One of the men returned back saying there is no possibility since they don’t wear shoes at all while the other one came back and said that there is immense prospect since no one wears shoes there. It’s how you look at things!
    We have been to Thailand numerous times and seen ladyboys several times but never thought of writing about them. It’s such an interesting article. Keep it up!

  15. This is such a great post! My partner and his best friend went to Thailand years ago and were actually pick pocketed by a couple of ladyboys, so it really is important to keep track of your personal belongings! Thank you for this post!!

  16. When we visited we didn’t get to see any ladyboys, we did have a show lined up but it was cancelled last minute which was a shame! Hope to go back in a couple years and experience it though! Nice post!

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