The prospect of finding your way around a large, populous country like Thailand by yourself can be pretty scary, but it’s usually fine if you do some research beforehand and know which forms of transport are best for specific journeys. That’s why we’ve compiled this guide to getting around Thailand – hopefully, it should allay any fears you have!
If you don’t like the idea of your itinerary being controlled by the sometimes unpredictable nature of public transport, renting your own car or motorbike for the duration of your stay is probably the best idea. Just be sure to check the overall condition of your vehicle if you hire from a local company as opposed to a major brand with branches all over the world, as the quality of the cars and bikes on offer will vary quite a lot.
Other than that, you’re looking at using the bus system if Bangkok or the other larger cities are on your list of places to visit. Fares tend to be very cheap and you usually pay the conductor once you’ve sat down. Buses are generally more likely to be used to travel between towns, however (see below). Bangkok also has its own light rail system, which is more efficient than jumping on a bus.
Perhaps the most common way of getting around Thailand’s towns and cities is by songthaew, which is a truck converted into passenger transport by installing seats in the back. This can be a cheaper alternative to hailing a standard taxi.
Another slightly riskier mode of transport is motorbike taxis, which are exactly what their name implies – motorcycles where the passenger clings on for dear life on the back. For the most part, you can expect to get from A to B completely safely (as long as you don’t have much in the way of luggage, otherwise you may struggle!), although some of the bigger cities are infamous for their, shall we say, overenthusiastic motorcycle taxi drivers. You’ll find these taxis at road junctions in town and city centres.
As mentioned above, locals like buses as a cheap way to travel between cities and towns. While they’re slower than trains and planes, they offer an excellent opportunity to enjoy the scenery if you’re travelling through countryside or along the coast. They’re also cheaper to use!
Having said that, trains are pretty much the transportation mode of choice for Thais. The coast-to-coast public network is extensive and well-maintained, although punctuality can be an issue at times, and there are several price options to choose from when it comes to tickets.
These range from the basic seating (and overcrowding!) of third class to the luxury of the first class carriage. It’s worth treating yourself to the first class experience for long/overnight journeys. The second class carriage is usually air conditioned and is a good option for most trips.
If you fancy a journey with a difference, it’s also possible to get between certain destinations along rivers and the coast by boat. This is probably the most appealing option if you’re exploring Thailand on a leisurely tour and want to take the scenic route wherever you can.
On the other hand, if you need to travel from one end of the country to the other as quickly as possible, the domestic airlines are your best bet. While they’re not cheap, a number of low-cost flights are available between the more popular destinations, and prices are becoming increasingly competitive – making the rail system less attractive to a certain degree. The main carriers in Thailand are Thai Airways, Nok Air/Nok Mini, Air Asia and Bangkok Airways.
Want to minimise the hassle of putting together your own trip to Thailand? Book a Hayes & Jarvis Thailand holiday package for an unforgettable stress-free getaway.
photo by Philip Roeland on flickr