Get around and Sightseeing
Thailand is a large country, and if sitting in a bus for 11 hours is not
your idea of a fun time, you may well want to consider domestic flights.
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.
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.
SGA Airline 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.
Nok Air took to the skies in 2004 sporting lurid paints 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. However, they've run into some
serious turbulence in 2008, cutting their flights by two thirds, and their
continued survival is now in doubt.
PB Air flies domestically to Lampang, Nan, Mae Hong Son, Roi Et, Sakon
Nakhon, Nakhon Phanom, Buriram, Nakhon Si Thammarat, and also to Danang
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
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.
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
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, but cannot carry bicycles.
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, as a farang (foreigner of European ancestry) you're
guaranteed to be the center of attention - quite enjoyable in small doses,
but 10 hours of this might be a bit much. 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
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
Thailand's roads are head and shoulders above its neighbors Myanmar, Laos
and Cambodia, but driving habits are still quite dangerous. Drunk driving,
speeding and reckless passing are depressingly common, and bus and taxi
drivers (especially for private companies) work inhuman shifts and often
take drugs to keep themselves awake, with predictable and tragic results.
It's 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 generally right-hand
drive. All official road directional signs are written in both Thai and
Buses travel throughout the country and the government's bus company BKS (บขส
Baw Kaw Saw), known in English simply as the Transport Company, has a
terminal in every town of any size.
Generally speaking, BKS buses are the best option for both price and
comfort. There are also many private bus companies, who mainly compete on
price and are less reliable in terms of amenities, schedules and safety.
In particular, beware of non-government "VIP" buses, which may be nothing
of the sort. A special subclass are the cheap Khao San Road buses,
targeted at backpackers. These are the slimiest of the lot and you may
find that your supposed VIP bus is in fact a cramped minivan - after
paying in advance, that is.
The basic bus types are:
Local - relatively slow, can be cramped when full (nevertheless there's
always room for one more), and stop at every village and cowshed along the
way. Many are of larger songthaew flavour. Not suitable for long-distance
travel, but may be the only cheap way to get around locally.
Express (rot duan) - skip some stops, but no other frills. Identifiable by
their orange colour. Size varies, with the largest having around 65 seats
(five seats per row) as well as an open space across the width of the bus
by the back door for you to sling your rice / chickens / bicycle /
Second class (chan song) - skip more stops, but often take a less direct
route than 1st class / VIP / S-VIP. Blue and white with an orange stripe,
usually 45-48 seats per bus, air conditioned (some provide blankets, some
do not), and most have no on-board toilet (however the frequent stops mean
this isn't a problem).
First class (chan neung) - generally take the most direct routes and make
very few stops. Blue and white in colour, air conditioned, blanket usually
provided, fewer (larger, longer pitch) seats (typically 40, but some
double-decker types seat 60+), snack and drinking water included. Most
have a toilet on board (only very short haul services sometimes do not).
"VIP" - as per 1st class, but with only 32-34 seats, which have more leg
room and recline further. Basic meal included and freshly laundered
shrink-wrapped blanket provided. Also blue and white (or sometimes blue
and silver) but usually signed "VIP".
"S-VIP" - Super-VIP is very similar to VIP, except there are only 24
seats, which are wider - the aisle is offset, each row having a pair of
seats on the right and only a single seat on the left. Primarily used on
Some buses may have TVs and sound systems blaring, so earplugs are well
worth having, just in case.
On long-haul buses, if your ticket allocates you a front seat, you may
have to switch seats if a monk boards.
A songthaew is a truck-based vehicle with a pair of bench seats in the
back, one on either side. By far the most common type is based on a
pick-up truck and has a roof and open sides. Larger types start life as
small lorries, and may have windows, and an additional central bench;
smaller types are converted micro-vans, with a front bench facing
backwards and a rear bench facing forwards.
Songthaews are operated extensively as local buses (generally the most
economical way to travel shorter distances) and also as taxis; sometimes
the same vehicle will be used for both. Be careful if asking a songthaew
to take you to someplace if there is nobody in the back, the driver might
charge you the taxi price. In this case, check the price of the ride
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
Metered taxis are ubiquitous in Bangkok, but rare elsewhere in the country
(although somewhat common in Chiang Mai). 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. Always use the
As is the case throughout virtually all of Asia, motorcycles (motosai) are
the most common form of transport overall; the most popular type are the
100cc-125cc step-through models. These are very widely used as taxis, with
fares starting from as low as 5 baht.
Motorcycles can be rented without difficulty in many locations. Rates
start at around 150 baht/day for recent 100-125cc semi-automatic (foot
operated gearchange, automatic clutch) step-through models, 200 baht/day
for fully automatic scooters; larger capacity models can also easily be
found, although the rates reflect the risks - up to around 2500 baht/day
for the very latest model high capacity sport bikes, such as the Honda
CBR1000RR. In all cases, lower prices will apply if paying upfront for
more than a week or so; in some cases, long-distance travel may be
prohibited. Motorcycle rentals do not include insurance, and both
motorcycling accidents and motorbike thefts are common.
Many places will rent to you without requiring a license, but legally
speaking you must have a valid Thai license or International Driver's
Permit. Often a deposit will be required; sometimes a passport photocopy,
or even the passport itself (don't do this- bargain to leave some baht
instead), will be requested. Helmets are normally included, but are
usually ultra-basic models with very flimsy chin-strap fasteners - if
you're intending to travel by motorcycle and have a good quality helmet at
home, then bring it with you. If supplied a helmet with a chin-cup (many
cheap rental helmets are), slide the cup up the strap out of the way and
securely fasten the bare strap directly under the jaw, as this is much
Insurance is usually not included (or even available), so try to ensure in
advance that the insurance you leave home with is going to cover you;
alternatively, arrange cover with an insurance broker locally in Thailand.
If you rent a vehicle without insurance and it's damaged or stolen, the
bottom line is that you will be required to pay in full the cost of
repairing or replacing it. Furthermore, some travel insurance policies
will only provide medical cover in the event of an accident if you hold a
motorcycle license in your home country.
Motorcyclists (including passengers) are required to wear crash helmets
and to keep their headlights switched on at all times. Enforcement varies
widely, but in tourist areas spot checks for helmets and/or licences are
commonplace. While the fines are light (typically 200 baht) the
inconvenience can be considerable as offender's vehicle is impounded until
the fine is paid, and the queue at the police station can be lengthy.
Some (but not all) border crossings allow motorcycles through. At those
which do, documentation including proof of ownership must be produced
(with the possible exception of day visits to Payathonzu, Myanmar via
Three Pagodas Pass).
Driving your own car 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 car 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 June 2008, fuel at large petrol stations is 37-41 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
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. Another common scam involves the owner having someone follow
the rented vehicle and later "steal" it, using a set of spare keys. Always
report thefts: a "stolen" vehicle may mysteriously turn up as soon as the
police become involved.
One of the Thais' many names for themselves is jao naam, the Water Lords,
and from the river expresses of Bangkok to the fishing trawlers of Phuket,
boats remain an indispensable way of getting around many parts of the
Perhaps the most identifiably Thai boat is the long-tail boat (reua hang
yao), a long, thin wooden boat with the propeller at the end of a long
'tail' stretching from the boat. This makes them supremely manouverable
even in shallow waters, but they're a little underpowered for longer trips
and you'll get wet if it's even a little choppy. Long-tails usually act as
taxis that can be chartered, although prices vary widely - figure on
300-400 baht for a few hours' rental, or up to 1500 for a full day. In
some locations like Krabi, long-tails run along set routes and charge
fixed prices per passenger.
Modern, air-conditioned speedboat services as well as slower, sometimes
overnight ferries also run from the mainland to popular islands like Ko
Samui and the Phi Phi Islands. Truly long-distance services (eg. Bangkok
to any other major city) have, however, effectively ceased to exist as
buses, planes and even trains are faster. Safety measures are rudimentary
and ferries and speedboats do sink occasionally, so avoid overloaded ships
in poor weather, and scope out the nearest life jackets when on board.
resource : http://wikitravel.org/en/Thailand