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Chao Phraya River Express Boat in Bangkok ThailandBangkok's famous tuk-tuksTransportation in Thailand:
How to get around the country and in the cities in Thailand

From Express Boats - to Tuk-tuks, to "Limousines" and "Moto-taxis" - Thailand offers a mulititude of options for getting around the country and the cities.

By Plane

 Never terribly expensive to begin with (at least by Western standards), the deregulation of the industry has brought in a crop of new operators: with a little research, it's possible to fly pretty much anywhere in the country for less than 2000 baht. Note that various taxes and (often hefty) surcharges are invariably added to "advertised" prices.

Thai Airlines

Bangkok Airways promotes itself as "Asia's Boutique Airline", and has a monopoly on flights to its own airports at Ko Samui, Sukhothai and Trat. Their Discovery Airpass with fixed per segment rates can be good value, especially if used to fly to Siem Reap (Cambodia) or Luang Prabang (Laos). Note that the Discovery Airpass can now only be purchased from abroad.

 Hua Hin Air Shuttle is currently the only passenger carrier offering regular flights to/from Hua Hin Airport.

 Nok Air took to the skies in 2004 sporting a lurid purple paint scheme with a bird's beak painted on the nose. Owned mostly by Thai Airways, they compete with Air Asia on price and, with a fairly comprehensive domestic network, are a pretty good choice overall.

One-Two-Go (part of Orient Thai Airlines) is a low-cost brand with flights daily to a handful of domestic destinations.

 PB Air flies domestically to Lampang, Nan, Mae Hong Son, Roi Et, Sakon Nakhon, Nakhon Phanom, Buriram, Nakhon Si Thammarat, and also to Danang (Vietnam).

 Thai AirAsia is a budget airline offering discounted tickets if booked well in advance, but prices rise steadily as planes fill up. They fly from Bangkok to a number of places domestically, as well as Cambodia, China and Macau, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, and Vietnam. Keep in mind the price displayed in your search results is only the base fare, additional "taxes and fees" mean the true price will be appreciably higher. On-line booking is straightforward but must be done at least twenty-four hours in advance; ticket sales at the check-in desk close one hour before the departure time. 

Thai Airways is the most reliable and frequent Thai airline, but also the most expensive. Unusually, little to no discount is given for flying return. Travel agents can usually sell only THAI Airways tickets; you can also book on-line.

SRT Railway

 State Railway of Thailand (SRT) has a 4000-km network covering most of the country, from Chiang Mai in the north all the way to (and beyond) the Malaysian border in the south. Compared to buses, most trains are relatively slow, but safer. Point-to-point fares depend on the type (speed) of the train and the class of the carriage. There are three main classes:

    * First class (chan neung) 2-berth sleeping compartments with individually regulated air conditioning are available on some trains, but prices are sometimes matched by budget airfares.

    * Second class (chan song) is a good compromise, costing about the same as 1st class buses and with a comparable level of comfort. Some 2nd class trains are air-con, others aren't; air-con costs a little more. Second class sleeper berths are comfortable and good value, with the narrower upper bunks costing a little less than the wider lower bunks. Food and WCs are basic. 2nd class Express Railcar trains have reclining seats and refreshments are included in the fare; unlike all other Thai passenger trains, they can match buses for speed.

     * Third class (chan saam) is the cheapest way to travel in Thailand, with virtually nominal fares, and can be great fun. Sometimes packed with tuk-tuk drivers heading home with a sack of rice and a bottle of cheap whisky for company. Some 3rd class trains have wooden seats, others are upholstered; some services can be pre-booked, others cannot; refreshments are available from hawkers who roam the aisles.

Pre-booking is recommended, especially for sleeper berths. Many travel agencies will spare you the trouble of travelling to the station to buy tickets for a service fee (often 100 baht/ticket), or you can reserve with SRT directly by e-mail at passenger-ser@railway.co.th for a 200 baht/booking surcharge.

By Road

Thailand's roads are head and shoulders above its neighbors Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia, but driving habits can be dangerous. Drunk driving, speeding and reckless passing are common. It is common for motorbikes even police! to drive close to the curb on the wrong side of the road. Death tolls sky-rocket around major holidays, especially Songkhran, when bystanders often throw water on passing cars and bikes. Many drivers don't use headlights at night, multiplying risks, and it is wise to avoid or minimize overnight travel by road.

Note that unlike in its neighbours (except Malaysia), traffic moves on the left side of the road in Thailand and Thai cars are right-hand drive.

Tuk-tuks

The name tuk-tuk is used to describe a wide variety of small/lightweight vehicles. The vast majority have three wheels; some are entirely purpose-built (eg the ubiquitous Bangkok tuk-tuk), others are partially based on motorcycle components (primarily engines, steering, front suspension, fuel tank, drivers seat). A relatively recent development is the four wheeled tuk-tuk (basically a microvan-songthaew) as found in Phuket.

Taxis

Metered taxis are ubiquitous in Bangkok, but rare elsewhere in the country. When available, they are an excellent means of transport - insist on the meter. Beware of taxis which idle around touristy areas and wait for people. They are looking for a tourist who will take their taxi without using a meter.  If you must negotiate a fare, do it before you enter the vehicle.

Rental Cars

Driving your own car in major cities in Thailand is not for the faint-hearted, and many rental companies can supply drivers at a very reasonable price. Prices without insurance for a self-driven cars start from around 800 baht/day for small cars, and from as little as 600 baht/day for open-top jeeps; cars with insurance start at just under 1000 baht/day, and come down to around 5600 baht/week or 18000 baht/month.

 Driving is (usually, but not always!) on the left hand side of the road. As of September 2007, fuel at large petrol stations is 27-30 baht/litre. Small kerbside vendors who pump by hand from drums and/or pour from bottles charge a few baht more.

Cars can be rented without difficulty in many locations. It's worth paying a little more than the absolute minimum in order to use one of the international franchises (eg Avis, Budget, Hertz) to minimize the risk of hassles, and to ensure that any included insurance is actually worth something.

More reputable agencies require that valid licences be produced: foreigners who do not have a Thai driving licence must carry a valid International Driving Permit. Even if you manage to rent a car without an IDP, not having one will invalidate the insurance and count against you in the event of an accident.

A common rental scam involves the owner taking a deposit, and then later refusing to refund it in full on the basis that the customer is responsible for previous damage; the Tourist Police (dial 1155) may be able to help.

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English Language Newspapers throughout Thailand:

Bangkok Post
The Nation -  Bangkok
Phuket Gazette
Pattaya Mail
Chiang Mai Mail
Samui Express

Tourism Thailand - Government Tourism website
 

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