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.
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.
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.
Hin Air Shuttle is currently the only passenger carrier offering regular
flights to/from Hua Hin Airport.
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.
Air flies domestically to Lampang, Nan, Mae Hong Son, Roi Et, Sakon Nakhon,
Nakhon Phanom, Buriram, Nakhon Si Thammarat, and also to Danang (Vietnam).
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.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for a 200 baht/booking
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.