Getting Around Thailand
There are many ways to get around the Kingdom of Thailand. Although most tourists opt to fly between the main tourist hubs of Bangkok, the North and South, wide range of alternatives are just as exciting to “see” the real Thailand.
Domestic air, rail, water and road transport in Thailand is surprisingly inexpensive. If possible, booking should be done in advance for all modes of transportation during public holidays particularly the Songkran and New Year’s Holiday.
The country also has a large network of highways and smaller roads linking the main cities with outlying areas. Tourist with international driving licenses wishing to explore the country on their own. There are many available car rental companies, such as Avis and Hertz, located in major tourist destinations throughout the country.
Traveling by train is another delightful way to explore the country. The State Railway of Thailand provides a nationwide network of routes. Trains offer first, second and third class options, including air-conditioned first- and second-class sleeping coaches.
Here are your alternatives to the major transportation methods for inter-city travel. The choices are absolutely trouble-free, comfortable and economical.
Travel by air is the best option and most convenient way for travelers to save time. Domestic flights are available in many major cities. Apart from domestic services of Thai Airways, Several budget airlines are also available to provide quick way of getting to remote parts of the country.
Domestic flights in Bangkok are available both Suwanabhumi Airport and Don Muang Airport, known as formal Bangkok International Airport.
- Thai Airways – The national flag carrier flies to almost all major tourist destinations.
- Bangkok Airways– The nation’s second carrier is almost solely responsible for developing special destinations such as Samui and Sukhothai.
- Nok Air– Owned mostly by Thai Airways, they compete with Air Asia on price and, with a fairly comprehensive domestic network
- Air Asia– The first budget airline to go regional. Based in Malaysia. Has a reputation for offering some of the lowest fares around. Thai destinations include Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Hat Yai and Phuket.
- SGA (Siam General aviation) -Now joint with Nok Air, is currently the only passenger carrier offering daily flights to/from Hua Hin Airport. New routes also between Chiang Mai-Pai, Chiang Mai-Mae Hong Sorn.
- One-Two-Go – The budget arm of charter carrier Orient Thai Airlines. Serves mostly the standard destinations – Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Phuket.
- PBair– flies small ‘executive’ style jets to an increasing number of destinations. Destinations include Krabi and Lampang. Nan, Mae Hong Son, Roi Et, Sakon Nakhon, Nakhon Phanom, Buriram, Nakhon Si Thammarat,
The State Railways of Thailand are easily the best way to get around and see the country and beyond. The State Railway of Thailand has a 4000-km network covering most of the country, from Chiang Mai in the north all the way to the Malaysian border in the south. Rail road travel is efficient and extremely well organized in Thailand.Railway service in Thailand links Bangkok to most cities of the country at very reasonable prices for express, fast and ordinary trains. The Hua Lam Phong Station in Bangkok is the center of the country rail networks, which is the origin of almost all route. There are 4 major routes to the north, the east, the south and northeast Thailand, and a line serving Thon Buri, River Kwai Bridge and Nam Tok.
There are three classes of accommodation when traveling on Thai trains. The train has first class, second class and third class options, including air-conditioned first- and second-class sleeping coaches. Get a reservation for second class or first class accommodations when travelling long distance. Fares will depend on the length of your trip and selected carriage class
There are also different categories of trains. Ordinary trains are slowest, and they only have third class carriages. Rapid, express, and special express are fast long distance trains. Luxury train such as Orient Express is also available.
The Skytrain is a convenient, affordable and fast way to get around Bangkok, allowing you to move swiftly from one place to the next while enjoying the terrific views of the City’s ever changing skyline. The trains are numerous, tidy and cool. The trains normally come every 5 minutes. The two lines cover the downtown areas of Silom and Sukhumwit, reaching the river at Taksin Bridge, and the northern Bus Terminal and weekend market at Chatuchak. There are three interchanges between the Skytrain and the Bangkok Metro System (MRTA).
The minimum fare of the Skytrain is 15 baht for the first stop, increased by 5 baht in every two stations thereafter.
Bangkok Subway (M.R.T.)
This high-tech subway train provides a fast, comfortable and economical way to travel across the city. Stretching over 20 kilometers across metropolitan Bangkok, the M.R.T has 18 stations and the line operates from 5am to midnight. The Subway route is from Hualamphong Central train station down Rama 4 road to Asoke; then runs up Rachadapisek all they way to Lat Phrao, across to Paholyothin, down to Chatuchak Park and then to Bang Sue, crossing the Sky Train route at several points.
The Bangkok Subway has a capacity to whiz 40,000 passengers per hour in each direction, trains every five minutes in peak hours and every seven minutes at other times.
In Thailand, one way in navigating the city and beyond is thru their bus system. Thailand’s bus system is efficient, convenient and one of the most inexpensive modes of transportation. The bus routes are shown by area of the city that you want to go to/from. Normally, buses run their routes in both directions, so it’s worth checking that the bus is going where you think it is when you get on. But if you get confused where to get off, you can always ask the conductor of the bus or ask other passengers, surely they’re very helpful.The red, yellow, blue and white buses in Bangkok are non air-con buses and the minimum fare is 7 Bt. While air-con buses have orange colored bus as commonly called “euro bus”, the two toned blue-white bus, and the yellow bus with a minimum fare of 12 Bt.In Bangkok, there’s an extensive network of inter-city buses Comfort options range from ordinary air-conditioned buses to luxury coaches with refreshments. A few of the longer routes, such as Bangkok to Chiang Mai, even have a sort of super-first class service with fully reclining seats and other amenities.Taxis
Taxi in Thailand is perhaps the easiest and most comfortable way to get around, if not always the quickest. Metered taxis are plentiful in Bangkok, finding one at any time is never a problem. Thailand taxis come in quite a few psychedelic colors, the green-yellow and red-blue ones are the most common of them and now you can see pink taxis plying around Bangkok.
All taxis in Bangkok are metered, however, in the tourist belt they may try to negotiate a much higher price, claiming that “meter no work”. In such cases, you have an option to hail another taxi – there are lots to choose from. If taxis do not have meters, fares must be agreed upon before starting. The fare will vary depending on the distance, traffic, weather and the negotiating skills of the hirer. Passengers must pay tolls in the case of using an expressway. The flag fall rate is 35B (0.85 US$ approx) including the first 2km and its 5B/km after that.
The ubiquitous three-wheeled mini-taxis called “tuk-tuks” can be found anywhere in Bangkok. So named because of the sound of their engine, these are motorized rickshaws and are popular amongst tourists for their novelty value.
Three-wheel tuk-tuks are not metered and passengers must bargain the fare with the driver before setting off. The two-stroke engines are noisy but around town they can be much faster than a taxi, in that they can go through narrow roads and spaces. Best for shorter trips during off-peak hours, but it isn’t always a good idea to ride a tuk-tuk during traffic jams due to the heat and air pollutions.
River ferries & Water taxis
Bangkok is known as “The Venice of the East”, is bisected by the Chao Phraya River and riddled through with waterways called “klongs” – it should come as no surprise that river ferries and water taxis are one of the most popular and convenient ways to get around town. With road traffic being so congested and slow you will discover how easy it would be to travel around Bangkok by waterways. River express and canal boats regularly ply several routes unaffected by the constant traffic on the roads, and are very cheap too.
Often cited as one of the top bargains available in Thailand is the 1 hour 15 minute boat trip running between Krung Thep Bridge and Nonthaburi charges for only 10 baht. (0.25 US$) per person. The Khlong Saen Saep canal boats go across Bangkok for the same kind of price also.
The river boats go up and down the large Chao Phraya river, and there are around 20 main stops. They can be substantially quicker than the equivalent journey by road. A trip from the Grand Palace to the Silom district could easily take over an hour by taxi, while the boat ride will only take around 15 or 20 minutes.
The old district of Thonburi can be seen from its many klongs. Tha Chang landing, near the Grand Palace, serves as a major departure point for the long-tailed taxis servicing Thonburi.
Tickets can either be bought on the boat or at the pier. Piers are marked in English and Thai, so it’s easy to know where to get off.
Tourists wishing to rent their own vehicle may approach any of the car rental companies operating within Thailand’s major tourist destinations. Hertz, Avis, and other reputable car rental companies have branch offices in Thailand. Cars, four-wheel drive vehicles and vans can be hired in Bangkok and at other major tourist areas such as Pattaya, Chiang Mai, and Phuket.
Tourists, who wish to drive a rented car, ought to have a valid international driving license. Even if the car hire company does not ask to see it, the police will demand for it if you are stopped or have an accident. You must carry your driving license and your passport at all times when you’re driving
In Thailand, cars drive on the left side of the road and have the driver’s seat and steering wheel on the right. (same as Australia, New Zealand, U.K, Japan, etc.) If you’d like to see Thailand by road but aren’t comfortable driving, an alternative is to hire a car with a driver. Charges for driver and vehicle hire vary and are cheaper outside Bangkok.