Thailand is one of the most popular destinations in Southeast Asia. Millions of tourists visit this amazing country every year from all over the world. No matter where you travel in Thailand – the big city of Bangkok, temples in Chiang Mai, beaches of Phuket, or jungles in Khao Sok – you’re going to need to know how to get around Thailand. Fortunately, Thailand offers many different transportation options to make sure you get to your destination.
If there is one thing you can count on it is that you will always leave with stories to tell. Oh Thailand, there is nowhere quite like it. A common story you’ll hear is how people get from point A to point B. If you are like us, blind faith and budget friendly alternatives is what you tend to turn to. After three trips through this beautiful country, we know A LOT about how to travel through Thailand successfully.
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Plane - Flying in Thailand
Most people would naturally assume that taking a plane from one place to another would be the best way to get around Thailand – but you’d be surprised by the availability and quality of other options of transportation in Thailand.
Thailand technically has 39 airports but the main ones are:
- Suvarnabhumi International Airport (DMK) – Thailand’s main airport located in Bangkok. Most people will fly into Thailand using this airport. Use this airport if you’re going to Pattaya or looking for cheap travel throughout Thailand. It’s the jumping off point for trains, busses, and tours.
- Phuket International Airport (HKT) in Phuket. This is another popular Thai airport that’s located in the southwest of Thailand. Take this airport if you’re looking to travel to Phuket, Krabi, Koh Lipe Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, or Khao Sok National Park.
- Krabi International Airport (KBV) is located in the southeast part of the country. This is close to Phuket, you’ll use this airport to explore the famous limestone wilderness of Koh Lanta. It sometimes has better deals than flying into Phuket, depending on where you’re flying from.
- Samui International Airport (USM) is located on the largest Thai island on the east coast. This is the best airport for getting to our favourite islands in Thailand: Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui.
- Chiang Mai International Airport (CNK) is located in northern Thailand and can get you to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Pai. This is the best airport if you’re wanting to do treks through Thailand.
Main Airlines in Thailand
- Thai Airways is the National airline that flies to all of the major destinations like Bangkok, Phuket, Krabi, Chiang Mai, and Samui.
- Bangkok Airways is another option, classified as a boutique airline, flying to similar destinations as Thai Airways
Budget Airlines in Thailand
- Thai Smile is their low cost airline that has routes to smaller destinations like Sukhothai, Trang, and Narathiwat among others.
- AirAsia is another budget airline that operates in the area. They fly to locations like Hat Yai, Chiang Rai, Koh Chang, and Koh Samui. Its headquarters is in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and has routes in the Philippines, Indonesia, and India.
- Another option to save some money on flights is Nok Air. They fly throughout Thailand and have destinations in China, India, Vietnam and Myanmar.
Things You Should Know About Flying in Thailand
– If you’re planning on traveling to Thailand in December to February and April you’ll want to book ahead as these are peak travel times in Thailand.
Benefits of traveling by plane in Thailand
- Fast, reliable, and convenient.
Drawbacks of traveling by plane in Thailand
- Smaller airlines usually don’t include baggage in their pricing. Even carry-on luggage can cost you extra so read the fine print! We search and filter with the luggage box ticked.
- Flying, even short distances, is not good for the environment.
If you’re looking for an affordable and scenic way to get around Thailand you should consider traveling by train. There are routes to and from popular destinations like Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Ayutthaya, Surat Thani, and more.
Things You Should Know About Taking a Train in Thailand
- There are many different ways of booking train travel in Thailand. You can head to the train company’s website, book through a travel agent, or just show up at the Thailand train station.
- Book in advance! Especially if you’re planning on sleeping on the train. State Railway of Thailand and 12 Go Asia are a couple of places to book a reliable Thailand train ticket.
- There are 4 classes of train: First Class (private air conditioned cabins with beds and sinks), Second Class (seats/berths that convert to beds, with or without a/c), Third Class (hard seats with fans and windows), Fourth Class (wooden benches). Choose wisely!
- Bring snacks, drinks, and entertainment. Thai trains should have a dining car (or at least a food cart) but just to be on the safe side we recommend bringing some of your favourite snacks.
- Check your train’s status before you depart and make sure you’re on the right train!
Benefits of travelling by train in Thailand
This is a popular way to travel in Thailand because it allows you to get a different perspective of the Thai countryside from your window during the day and sleep if you book a night train.
- There are different classes of comfort and service. Obviously, the price increases as you increase the amenities, but it can still be reasonable to travel comfortably and stay in your travel budget.
- One of the many perks of traveling by Thailand train is that you get to meet new people. You’re able to get up and walk through the train.
Drawbacks of train travel in Thailand
Traveling by train in Thailand can be… interesting. We recommend going into this experience with a relaxed mindset and a go with the flow expectation.
- Thailand train travel can be crowded and noisy. We suggest bringing a face mask and ear plugs whenever we travel, but especially on a Thailand train sleeper.
- Delays are known to happen – frequently in peak season and holidays.
- We suggest paying a little more for your Thailand train tickets to not be in the lower classes or older trains – trust us, it’s worth it.
Overall, Thailand train travel is one of the most interesting ways to get around. Expect an adventure – even if everything goes smoothly.
Myles’ first time in Thailand we flew into Bangkok and caught an overnight bus to Koh Tao. The Thailand bus was not what he was accustomed to in Canada. Windows seemed to be held in with duct tape and we broke down halfway through the trip and had to help fix it. But even with this experience we cannot recommend traveling by bus in Thailand more.
Things You Should Know About Taking a Bus in Thailand
- There are different types of Thailand buses ranging from local buses that make frequent stops, have no amenities and are cheap to VIP buses that have fewer, more comfortable seats with legroom, blankets, pillows and entertainment systems.
- You’ll be able to buy Thailand bus tickets almost anywhere in Thailand through travel agents. These are easily found in high tourist areas. Khao San Road in Bangkok for example has about 10. We recommend buying in advance though.
- Secure your belongings while traveling on buses – especially Thailand night buses.
- Bring some extra Thai Bhat so you can pick up some snacks at a pit stop.
- It’s important to trust the process. There have been many times we’ve been traveling by bus in Thailand and amongst the chaos we did not expect to get to our destination – but Thailand has never let us down.
Benefits of traveling by bus in Thailand
No matter where you’re planning on traveling in Thailand a bus will be able to take you there (well almost anywhere). What we’re trying to say is that Thailand bus travel is one of the most popular (and affordable) ways to get around the country.
- Thailand bus booking is one of the easiest things to do. Even in smaller Thai towns, villages, and islands, there will be travel agents that can book a bus, or night bus, for you.
- The Thailand bus schedule is amazing. There is usually a bus that’s leaving at the time you want throughout the day.
- Taking a night bus will save you the cost of accommodation. We love that you fall asleep in one place and wake up where you want to be.
Drawbacks of traveling by bus in Thailand
- Depending on where you’re being picked up the Thai bus could be in bad shape. If you’re wanting to travel in relative comfort we suggest paying the extra money to not be in the lower class. They may say they’re “VIP” but don’t expect luxury treatment.
- Thailand bus stations aren’t necessarily the best marked pickup locations. Listen carefully (even write down) the directions to get to the station. Ask for landmarks or stores that it’s near.
- Sometimes the arrival time you were quoted is not accurate. We took a Thailand bus Bangkok to Koh Tao where we thought we’d arrive at 6:30 am but in fact, we were awoken at 2:30 am by someone yelling “Koh Tao get off now!”.
- Buses, especially for long distances, will make pit stops along the way. You may be thankful to see a bathroom, but don’t have high expectations as most of the time these are just holes in the ground. (Pro Tip: bring your own toilet paper!)
Thailand bus travel is one of the best ways to get around Thailand. We strongly recommend experiencing this for yourself.
Tuk Tuk - The Most Famous Way To Get Around Thailand
For those that don’t know a Thailand tuk tuk is a three wheeled scooter looking vehicle. They have a rich history in Thailand and have evolved from traditional rickshaws. Thai tuk tuks are mainly found in larger cities like Bangkok and Phuket. These little Thai scooters are great for short trips in town.
Things You Should Know About Taking a Tuk Tuk in Thailand
- Avoid the Thailand tuk tuk scam: Excited travelers will jump on without a price only to be told a huge amount when they reach their destination. Avoid this by agreeing on the Thailand tuk tuk price (and pay) before getting on. This is one of the biggest scams in Thailand.
Benefits of traveling by Tuk Tuk in Thailand
- Cheap and fast. They can go where cars may struggle. This also means they weave between vehicles they maybe shouldn’t at speeds that are questionable.
- One of the most Thai things you can do.
Drawbacks of traveling by Tuk Tuk in Thailand
- Thailand tuk tuk safety is up for debate. They are completely open and don’t have seatbelts or airbags. The more cautious traveler will say they are incredibly unsafe while others will say they’re just plain unsafe. Either way, tuk tuks are not safe. Hold on and make sure your bags are securely fastened.
- Not great for long distances.
Traveling by taxi are some of the most common methods of transportation around the world. Thailand has many, but there’s a reason it’s so low on this list. There are so many ways to get around Thailand that taxis don’t hold their importance as they do in other places.
Things You Should Know About Taking a Taxi in Thailand
- The biggest Thailand taxi scam is the meter starting at a higher price. Make sure the meter reads 35 before starting your journey.
- Another scam is that the taxi driver will drive off with your bag still in the trunk of the cab. To combat this ask them to get your bag for you or if you’re traveling with someone, one person stays in the Thailand cab until the bag is secured.
- Some cab drivers in Thailand will take longer routes to avoid tolls or to run up the meter. You can ask them to take expressways instead. A Thailand taxi tip: Modern cell phones will show you your location even without data – use this to track your route.
- Bring smaller Thailand Bhat with you. Some drivers don’t carry small bills to make change.
- Some taxis will allow you to schedule a pickup time. This can be helpful if you need to get somewhere the next day and don’t want to risk hailing a cab.
Benefits of traveling by Taxi in Thailand
- Thailand taxi fare is quite cheap when compared to that of western prices. The meter starts at 35 Baht ($1.35 CAD / $1 USD).
- Many Thailand taxi drivers will get to your destination fast! When we say fast, we mean scary fast.
Drawbacks of traveling by Taxi in Thailand
- Compared to other means of transportation in Thailand, taxis are not the cheapest way to get around.
- Thai taxis don’t have the cultural appeal as tuk tuks
- Some Thailand cab drivers turn off their meter when they see tourists hail them. If this happens make sure you agree on a price before you get in or you run the risk of a high bill.
Scooter - The Most Fun Way To Get Around Thailand
By far the most fun way to get around Thailand is by renting a scooter. These are cheap to rent and can be found everywhere. Thailand scooter rentals give you the freedom to explore a larger area than you thought was possible.
Things You Should Know About Taking a Scooter in Thailand
- Be sure to take a video of the bike before you rent. This way you can protect yourself. You will have proof of the condition when you return the bike.
- According to Thai law, you should have an international scooter license in order to drive one. You have to get this before traveling to Thailand. We got it when we got our international driver’s license.
- Wear your helmet! Every scooter should come with a helmet. Make sure everyone who’s riding it wears one (they’ll give you two if you’re in a couple).
- Follow the rules of the road. Stay on the proper side of the street, abide by the speed limit, and don’t drive recklessly.
- Be aware that driving scooters in Asia is not like driving in North America. The “rules of the road” are much more relaxed and people weave in and out of the lanes. Horns are not a form of aggression -they are used freely for everything. Move right – honk your horn. Switch lanes – honk your horn. Almost hit a pedestrian – honk your horn.
- Consider renting from your hotel. You’ll have to leave some sort of collateral (likely 10 000 Bhat or your passport) until you return your scooter. Renting from your hotel or a travel agent can give you peace of mind.
Benefits of traveling by Scooter in Thailand
- Incredibly fun. This is one of the most fun ways to get around Thailand.
- Freedom. You’ll be able to see so much more than any other way. You can plan your own trips without having to rely on anyone else.
- Cheap cheap, good price. A typical scooter rental should cost around $15 CAD per day. Gas is also incredibly cheap and comes in glass alcohol bottles and is available everywhere. When we mean everywhere, we mean children selling it on the side of the road everywhere.
- Available everywhere. You’ll be able to rent a scooter in Thailand in every city, town and island.
Drawbacks of traveling by Scooter in Thailand
- Don’t crash! It’ll cost you. We traveled with a friend who crashed his bike and had to pay 16,000 THB ($640 CAD) for a few scratches and a broken mirror.
- Being pulled over by police. When scootering around Phuket we got caught in a road block without an international driver’s license and no helmets. A mere $20 CAD payoff later and we were free to go. We were given a note that said we no longer had to pay if we fell into any more trouble with the law.
- Can be dangerous. If you’re nervous or distracted you could crash the scooter. Don’t do this ;).
Longtail boats are tied with tuk tuks as the most famous way to get around Thailand. They allow you to connect to the ocean and sights in a way you never thought possible.
Things You Should Know About Taking a Longtail Boat in Thailand
- They are beautiful and don’t look like they can float. Trust us – they can.
- Longtail boats are propelled by car or tractor engines with a propeller attached.
- They are usually found in near Phuket, Krabi, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta.
- Longtail boat tours can range from a short trip to multi day excursions.
Benefits of traveling by Longtail Boat in Thailand
- A more intimate way to travel around Thailand. You’ll be just inches from the water.
- Boat drivers usually chat with you while they drive. You can learn about secret spots only locals know.
Drawbacks of traveling by Longtail Boat in Thailand
- Usually no shelter from the elements. Be sure to bring sunscreen.
- Loud engines
- Not very comfortable
Ferries are one of the main ways you’ll get to the islands that everyone loves. There are many different kinds and classes. Be sure to choose wisely!
Things You Should Know About Taking a Ferry in Thailand
- You should book your Tuailand ferry ticket in advance during the high season (November to March) and holidays
- Check the weather and sea conditions before you get on the ferry. May to October are the rainy season and can cause delays or cancellations.
- Bring some anti-nausea medication.
Benefits of traveling by Ferry in Thailand
- Comfortable seats.
- Snacks are available
- Has a below deck to hide from the sun and elements
- Usually much cheaper than flying
Drawbacks of traveling by Ferry in Thailand
- Can be slower than other forms of Thai transportation.
- Can be unsafe. A boat capsized in rough waters a day before we were supposed to leave – on the same route we were taking.
- Can cause motion sickness
Thanks for stopping by!
Thailand is one wild ride no matter which form of transportation you choose. With trust and some common sense you are bound to leave smiling and with a great story to tell.
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