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Thai Ladyboy, What is it and How to Spot Ladyboys in Thailand – Full Guide

thai ladyboys in thailand

If you have visited Thailand before you will be well aware of the Thai ladyboys that are present in every major city in the country.

Today I’m going to explore and educate you a little more on Thai ladyboys, their history, and why they are so prevalent in Thailand.

What is a Ladyboy?

ladyboys in thailand
Ladyboys in Thailand waiting in front of a massage parlor. Source: picture by drburtoni

I know, during my travels I found out that many people are asking “what is a Thai ladyboy?”

A ladyboy, known in Thai as Kathoey, is a word used to describe a male to a female transgender person. It is also used for a person who is of a third gender or a homosexual male who demonstrates feminine characteristics.

A ladyboy in Thailand is often referred to in Thai as “Phuying”. Since January 2015 ladyboys have received legal recognition in Thailand after much activism on the topic.

Thailand’s ladyboys often face struggles to find employment. They are most commonly seen working in entertainment, television, and nightclubs.

This is where you are most likely to see them during your travels in Thailand. Transgender people in Thailand do not benefit from the same legal rights as the rest of the population and often face discrimination.

Now that you found out what Thai ladyboys are, let’s see the difference between a “ladyboy” and a “shemale”.

Difference Between Ladyboy and Shemale

There’s just a slight difference between these two words. It just depends on the geographic area where you looking into.

While “shemale” is used to describe transgender women, mainly in the porn or prostitution area, a ladyboy is describing a transgender woman in Southeast Asia but mainly in Thailand.

 Thai Lady Boy or Ladyboy?

The correct spelling is “ladyboy” – one word, even if I found out there are thousands of people every month searching in Google for “lady boy” keyword instead.

How Many Ladyboys Are in Thailand?

It was really hard to find real statistics about the ladyboys population in Thailand but the best source I’ve found is saying there are more than 1 million Thai ladyboys out of a 69 million population.

How to Spot a Ladyboy?

street ladyboy thailand
asian shemale picture

For men especially, you may want to know how to spot a ladyboy on your travels. Here are my top tips for spotting a Thai ladyboy:

  • Too Tall – most women in Thailand are petite and short.
  • Very feminine – ladyboys love to wear makeup and pay a lot of attention to their clothing and sexy dresses.
  • Broad shoulders.
  • No bra – it’s very uncommon for women in Thailand to go braless!
  • Adam’s apple, although this can also be operated on nowadays.
  • The unfeminine tone of voice.

How to Meet a Thai Ladyboy in Bangkok

ladyboy Silom Red Light District - Bangkok, Thailand
Thai Ladyboys. Source: picture by Nathan Rupert

Bangkok has become the leading city in the world as the best place for single guys to get laid during their holidays.

Red Light Districts

Bangkok has three red-light districts: Soi Cowboy, Nana Plaza (the largest), and Patpong (the oldest), all next to each other in the middle of the city.

  • Soi Cowboy: The most famous of the three, with more than 20 go-go bars but only one ladyboy go-go bar: Cockatoo
  • Nana Plaza: The three-story sex complex is home to the largest selection of ladyboy bars, claiming to be “The World’s Largest Adult Playground”. You can also find plenty of ladyboy street hookers at the street at the entrance of Nana Plaza, Soi 4.
  • Patpong: Bangkok’s oldest red-light district, but also known for ping pong show scams. King’s Castle I and II are both known for mostly post-op transsexual performers.

The top ladyboy go-go bars in Bangkok are:

  • Obsession – Ground floor of Nana Plaza, in the back right corner.
    The best ladyboy go-go bar in Bangkok is Obsession, with the most dancers of all bars in town and the most attractive ones according to many frequenters.

With one big center stage for dozens of transgender people to dance at once, along with more ladyboys taking breaks from dancing to sit with customers, there is no shortage of chances to meet ladyboys here.

  • Casanova – second floor of Nana Plaza, in the back left corner.
    Possibly an even easier spot to meet ladyboys, Casanova is too small to fit all of its staff, meaning you’ll find a lot of ladyboys trying to attract customers while standing outside.
  • Cockatoo – Soi Cowboy.
    One of the longest-established bars of its type, Cockatoo has one long stage suitable for 10 dancers, although they are more often standing outside to attract customers.

Touristy Areas

If you walk by the fountain in front of the famous five-star luxurious Sofitel Bangkok hotel, you will find plenty of street hookers milling about.

For ladyboy street hookers specifically, you’ll find the highest concentration of them along with Bangkok’s beer bar capital and “most sinful street” – Sukhumvit Soi 4.

Massage Rooms

Most massage salons in Bangkok only have girls employed, so it’s best to know where ladyboy massages are. The main areas are:

  • Sukhumvit Road, between Soi 5 and Soi 7: Montra @ Spa & Massage is the most famous
  • Sukhumvit Soi 4
  • Between Soi 11 and Soi 13: in the alley connecting the two streets

Ladyboy Dating Sites/Apps

Ladyboy dating sites are becoming more and more popular, providing possible arrangements for dates outside of the big cities in Thailand. These are the top three ladyboy dating sites:

  • Thai Friendly – The most popular site that clearly separates ladyboys and Thai girls.
  • My Ladyboy Date – focuses solely on ladyboy dating but requires a paid membership to message members.
  • My Transsexual Date – is identical to My Ladyboy Date, but has ladyboys from outside of Thailand too, including western countries.

Alternatively, you could hire an escort on the most common site,

How to Meet a Thai Ladyboy in Phuket

bangla road phuket tiger club
Source: picture by Alla Y

If you’re looking for ladyboys in Phuket, just walk down the middle of Bangla Road in Patong – you can’t miss them, and they often find you rather than the other way around. 

Nightclubs are not the best places to meet ladyboys in Phuket, mainly because the majority of them don’t allow Thai ladyboys. 

Although there aren’t any 100% ladyboy-only bars here, they’re still around in certain bars.

The best place in Phuket is the Tiger Night Club, found on Bangla Road, Patong, where there’s a complex of almost 25 beer bars on the ground floor.

Other options also on Bangla Road are Soi Sea Dragon and Soi Freedom or try the Patong Beer Bar Complex near Christin Massage off Second Road. 

For ladyboy massages in Phuket, you won’t find any exclusive ladyboy salons, but the main spots are Second Road, Bangla Road, Beach Road, and Sainamyen Road. Popular options are:

  • Christin Massage: Soi Rat Uthit
  • Tootsie Ladyboy Massage: Rat-U-Thit Road

 The majority of ladyboy street hookers are also found in Patong along Bangla Road and Beach Road between 11pm-3am. 

See also: 16 BEST Phuket Beach Resorts & Beachfront Hotels

How to Meet a Thai Ladyboy in Pattaya

pattaya walking street
Locals advertising Ladyboy Shows in Pattaya. Source: picture by Roman Lashkin

For ladyboy bars in Pattaya, you have one dedicated area: Soi 6/1, which is simply a narrow alley connecting Beach Road to Second Road.

You could also check out Walking Street, but you’ll find the bars spread out instead of concentrated like Soi 6/1 – you’re more likely to find freelance ladyboy sex workers in this area. Check out Lita Bar in the B.J. Alley or Linda Bar next to Living Dolls A Go Go. 

Lastly, Soi Buakhao has three of the most popular ladyboy bars in Pattaya: Nidcha House Bar, Duangjai Bar Beer, and Fantasy Lounge. 

Freelance ladyboy street hookers will mostly be found between Soi 13/4 and the Royal Garden Plaza along the beach promenade, as well as Soi Buakhao and the center of Walking Street. 

In Pattaya, it’s next to impossible to miss the countless massage salons. However, they aren’t quite as open as Bangkok for advertising ladyboy massages and none of them is ladyboy-only, so it’s best to do some research first.

There are five main areas for ladyboy massages in Pattaya:

  • Second Road: especially between Soi 13/2 and Soi 13/3 in front of the Privi Suites
  • Soi Buakhao: the best area for happy ending massages; Soi Chaloem Phrakiat 25 and Soi 6
  • Soi 13/2: one of the most famous massage streets; more ladyboy options are close to the intersection with Beach Road
  • South Pattaya: carry on down Second Road past the intersection with South Pattaya Road and you can find naughty ladyboy massage salon along the right side of the street
  • Walking Street: better for ladyboy go-go bars and mostly girl massages, but often one or two ladyboys mixed in.

History of Ladyboys in Thailand

LGBTQ thailand

While the exact origins of the LGBTQ community are unknown in Thailand, the common belief is that Thais began to identify themselves as transgender people in the 14th Century.

However, it was not until after World War II that the community became much more prominent in Thailand’s society.

During the 19th Century, Western influences made their way into Thailand. This made rules and life more difficult for the LGBTQ community.

In Thailand, homosexuality was still considered to be a crime by the Thai people and the government until 1956. Even today, laws in Thailand still do not acknowledge those who identify with a gender different from that on their birth certificate.

See also: The Best Party Hostels in Thailand

Ladyboy Culture in Thailand

Ladyboy Mambo Cabaret Bangkok Thailand
Source: picture by zaphodsotherhead

Figures estimate that the transgender community in Thailand is not necessarily larger than that of other countries in the world.

Estimations suggest that the percentage of the population that is transgender is 0.3 percent. Primarily due to the thriving sex trade in Thailand, ladyboys are much more visible in cities in Thailand.

Figures suggest that Thailand has over 200,000 prostitutes. Trans women in Thailand are often well-educated and are more affluent than the average citizen. They aren’t merely dressing up just to benefit from tourists as seen in many countries around the world.

Due to the difficulties Asian ladyboys face in employment, they are mainly employed in entertainment venues. Everywhere you go in Thailand you will see beer bars, massage salons, clubs, and go-go bars.

See also: Thailand Nightlife Travel Guide Book

Such a high percentage of the Thai population work in retail and hospitality venues. Therefore, this is one of the only well-paying employment options left for ladyboys.

A large number of foreign visitors find them very alluring and attractive. This has increased the interest in the sex and prostitution trade in Thailand over the last few years.

Prostitutes in Thailand earn up to 20 times the national minimum wage hence why this industry is so popular to work in.

Procedures for Becoming a Ladyboy

ladyboy plastic surgery

Sex-reassignment surgery first took place back in 1965 in the US. In Bangkok today, it’s usually for two to three of these surgeries to take place each week. However, to qualify for the operation, individuals must follow specific measures.

Anyone undergoing genital reassignment surgery must be over 18, and if under the age of 20 they will need to receive parental permission.

To qualify for the surgery, you will need to have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria by a psychiatrist. Hormones must be taken for at least one year before the operation.

Thailand has become a popular spot for foreign visitors to receive their gender-reassignment surgery. This is due to the excellent reputation and competitive prices in the country.

There are up to four different genital reassignment surgeries you may undergo, and these generally cost around $10,000 per procedure.

You will need to live as a woman for one year before the procedure to ensure this is the correct choice for you.

Surgeries that ladyboys regularly receive include Orchiectomy, Penectomy, Vaginoplasty, Breast augmentation, and Facial and Voice Feminisation.

Bangkok’s Ladyboy Community

ladyboys bar sex workers
Source: picture by drburtoni

When I visited Thailand, I know that certain areas appeared to have a more prominent ladyboy community than others.

Bangkok, as a major nightlife city, is the main center of the Thai transgender community. Ladyboys in Thailand appreciate their ability to be able to live their lives in public.

This is something that many people are unable to do in countries throughout the world. I’m sure this explains why you will regularly see them on your travels in Thailand.

The Asian ladyboy community in Bangkok consists of many members that relocate from more rural areas in the country.

Some of the smaller villages and towns still don’t accept transgender people. This is probably why when you visit these larger cities that the community seems much more prominent.

See also: Where to Stay in Bangkok: Best Hotels and Hostels

If you are visiting Thailand and are a member of the LGBTQ community, consider visiting the DJ station, which is one of the biggest gay clubs in Asia.

If you are looking to see a ladyboy show, the Playhouse Theater Cabaret is one of the most popular venues.

I hope I’ve helped you learn a little more about ladyboys in Thailand. After seeing them many times on the streets in Bangkok and throughout Thailand, I’ve found it very interesting to learn about their history.

Remember to always be respectful and polite to ladyboys while visiting Thailand, regardless of your interaction type. They are a well-immersed and respected part of society and a fascinating part of Thai culture.

See also: Southeast Asia Packing List; What to Pack for Backpacking

HIV Rates and STDs Among Ladyboys                 (ladyboy sex workers)

bangkok street workers sex
Source: picture by drburtoni

The ladyboys in Thailand are known for often engaging in sex work and are at high risk for HIV infections. However, HIV and STI prevalence among them is not as well-known or studied as you might expect. 

A study completed in 2005 looked at 474 transgender participants and found an overall HIV prevalence of 13.5%, with only half of the participants in a different investigation having recent HIV tests, while a third of them engaged in unprotected anal sex with customers in the past six months. 

In another study looking into sexually transmitted infections among transgender sex workers in Thailand, 16% reported having rashes, ulcers, or lumps, while another 7% stated they have discharge or urination, or testicle pain.

On the plus side, 84% of respondents claimed to have none. As always, it is best to be cautious and use protection if engaging in sex.

It is also beneficial to approach your doctor to get vaccinated before traveling to Thailand to drastically reduce your chances of catching infections or viruses such as hepatitis A and B and human papillomavirus (HPV).