The best methods for traveling around Thailand
There are many different way to be able to travel in Thailand. Depending on where you want to go will often determine the best transport options for you. If you want to visit one location you will want to look at the options in that one location. But if your planning to travel the length and breadth of the country, then more suitable transportation should be looked into. Lets start with the long haul options first as these either come at a price or at a cost of your time.
Most destinations within Thailand will have a domestic airport located near by. This is often the quickest way to get from Bangkok, where most people start, to your chosen destination. A simple return flight to Phuket from Bangkok will cost you around £75 per person and will take approximately 90 minutes. There are many airline that service the country and it is important that you find the right airline for you. So do you research once you have worked out where you want to go. This is often the preferred option as many people have travelled before arriving in Bangkok and just want to get to their destination as quickly as possible. You should try and book these as far in advance as possible to avoid being disappointed.
Over Night Busses
This is often one of the best ways to get around on a budget, but as most of these journeys can take in excess of 8 hours they come at a cost of your time. Having taken an overnight bus from Pattaya to Khon Kaen overnight i can say that this is definitely value for money. I paid 490 Thai Baht for the journey and was able to get some sleep whist the journey occurred overnight. But this was only half of the normal level of sleep in normally would have gotten due to the twisty roads that i experienced. As with any bus route you will stop at almost every town on the route which is why this takes so long. So your legs may feel a bit cramped up when you eventually get off the bus.
But that being said the vast majority of busses in Thailand are air-conditioned, meaning you will feel comfortable for the duration of your journey. Most bus companies will also provide you with a blanket to cover yourself with as at night the air-conditioning can become quite cold. In most cases you will be given some food for your journey. This may seem highly unusual to people from the western world, but you will come to applicate this when you wake up hungry. Now the food is not particularly great, but it is comparable to food on an airline and it does the job. Which is a nice touch i think.
These a compare favourably to the overnight busses in terms of cost, but that is dependent on the type of tick you buy. There are several options open to you ranging from first-class to third class with all offering a different level of comfort. Also how much you will pay for the ticket you buy will be dependent on the speed of the train. There are as many options open to you as there are train lines and it is a personal choice of how much you are willing to pay.
For example if you wanted a standard third-class ticket you would be sitting on a slightly padded bench for a seat. This can get quite uncomfortable after a while, so be warned before you go really cheap. You will also have the option of Air-conditioning, which comes at a price too. Usually this will add 100 Thai Baht to the price of your ticket. You should also be advised that the trains generally fill up quite quickly so it is advisable to book your tickets a few days in advance. Otherwise you could find yourself in an area of the train that you had not planned to be in.
Now let move on to the transport that could be available to you in your destination.
This is only available in Bangkok, but can provide one of the best ways to get around the city. Remember there are 8 million people live within the main city itself so it can get crowded during the rush hours. You can buy your tickets at the station for as little as 15 Thai Baht. There is also an option of a day pass for 130 Thai Baht. This would be my preferred method of payment as you can go where ever your heart wants to go for the whole day. Sky train Stations are located in all the major areas of the city and are usually within walking distance of nearly all hotels.
These operate throughout most cities in Thailand. A useful tip with taxi's is to negotiate your price before you get in. This will help you avoid any excessive bills at the end of your journey. Most taxi's drivers will give you an elevated price so try to negotiate down. If you are not happy with the price do not get in. The main advantage of a Taxi is that most have air-conditioning. This will be quite a relief if you have been outside in the sun for any period of time. These are best used for times when you have luggage such as getting to and from the airport.
These are more commonly know as Baht busses by foreigners. Their simplistic design helps people get around the city with easy on a pre determined route. If you wish to get on you will need to flag the driver down. Try to do this with your palms facing down to avoid any offence. Simply climb on to the back and when you see somewhere you want to stop, just press the overhead buzzer and get off. Always go to the passenger side window to pay the 10 Thai Baht fee. Yes that right 10 Thai Baht, as long as you stay within your designated zone. Otherwise it will cost another 10 Thai Baht per person.
It is advisable though to keep all valuables out of site on these as thief's can easily ride up alongside on a scooter and take your stuff without you knowing. they will usually be long gone before you can get the bus to stop.
In more densely populated cities these are often one of the fastest ways to get around. Simply tell the rider where you want to go, agree a fee and your off. You should always ask for a helmet as it is against the law to not wear one. However you will see many Thai nationals without them. You do not want to get a fine for not obeying the law. It is important to note that the riders are usually highly experienced riders, but there are a few who will take unnecessary risks. as you can weave in and out of traffic this is often the quickest way to get from point A to point B. But remember, Thailand has some of the highest road traffic accidents in the world. It is not advised to use these if you have luggage with you, as it will be difficult for you to hold onto it and the bike at the same time.
Renting a Scooter
Like many holiday destinations, motorcycle and scooter rental places can be found all over the place. This is often the preferred option for many visitors as it gives you the freedom to go wherever you want. You can rent a bike for as little as 100 Thai Baht a day, but be warned inspect the bike thoroughly, taking pictures as proof of any damage. This will stop any disputes upon return of the bike. I would only recommend renting a motorcycle or scooter if you are highly experienced. Thai drivers seem to do there own thing you will be exposed to that on the road.
These can be an enjoyable way of seeing the sights of the city. The maximum recommended number of people to be on a Tuk-tuk is 3 passengers, but you will often see them with more. As with most things in Thailand, negotiate the price before getting on to avoid any confusion later. The average journey should cost around 60 Thai baht (100 Thai Baht in Bangkok). You should also avoid stopping at any recommended shops by your driver. This is usually a scam of some sort to get you to buy something you do not want to. The main down side to this mode of transport is the exhaust fumes. You are completely exposed to them in the back.
Ferries and speedboats
If you are visiting any coastal destination, these will be ideal for island hoping and day visits. These will not normally operate during the monsoon season as the sea can become very unsalable. Tickets for a ferry crossing can range from a little as 30 Thai Baht for a short 40 minute trip up to 600 Thai baht for a lengthy fast boat. Again this is a personal choice that you will have to make.
These can be found on rivers of cities and on the Islands to visit remote locations. These are similar to Tuk-tuks in the fact that they are quite loud, but they are an enjoyable way of getting around. You should try and share your boat if possible to reduce the cost and some drivers will wait until the boat is full before departing. Either way you should agree you price before boarding.
This brief overview of the different styles of transport available for getting around Thailand is not the full definitive list, but there are some common themes that you should follow.
- Agree you price before you board any transport
- Be prepared to try something else if you cant agree on a price
- Some modes will get you to your location faster than others, but at a risk to yourself.
If you follow this basic advice then you should be able to have a safe and pleasant time traveling around Thailand.