Many people often ask me about how to travel around Thailand Bangkok, also known as the gateway to South East Asia, has amazing connections to almost everywhere in the country and indeed the rest of Asia. Flights, buses, trains and minivans connect this big bad city to the world beyond Bangkok. Read on to find out the lowdown about each type of transport around Thailand, where to catch them from, how to get there and approximate prices:
Travel Around Thailand by: Trains
Travelling by train is of my favourite ways to travel in Thailand. Super slow, extremely noisy but lots of fun, sociable and a more local way. You can take the night train all the way up to Chiang Mai (12 hours +) and down to Chumpon/Surathani (for islands in the Gulf). The night trains usually cost around 500-800 baht. You get given a seat and later in the evening a helpful Thai guy comes around and converts your seat into a bed! You get a sheet, a light blanket and a pillow in Second Class sleeper – air-con is cold so take warmer clothes! I recommend booking lower berths for a better night’s sleep and take advantage of the food lady bringing you a cuppa in the morning. Be warned, trains are often delayed and arrive late so only bother if you are ready for a slow pace of life (and you save on accommodation). Other options are taking a day trip to Ayutthaya or Kanchanaburi both a couple of hours from Bangkok. Travelling 3rd class is about 20 baht and you must book at the station if you don’t want agency fees tacked on. Go straight to the ticket office window and ignore the touts who approach you! You can now get boat and train tickets combined to the Gulf islands. Hualampong Station is near Chinatown, not far from Khao San.
A really handy and useful way to travel around, night buses depart from 4 main areas in Bangkok. Mochit 2 (in the north), Ekkamai (in the east and on the BTS skytrain line), Sai tai mai (southern bus terminal) slightly further out and across the river and Khao San Tourist Buses. VIP and First class buses have slightly unpleasant smelling toilets, fairly comfy reclining seats and you are handed a blanket, water and bread bun on climbing into the bus. I often use night buses to head to places like Krabi/Phuket/Khao Lak as the train line doesn’t extend to the Andaman side. Some buses will play LOUD Thai TV so take ear plugs, an eye mask and socks if you get cold sitting in aircon. Read my essential South East Asia backpacking list here for more useful items for travelling…
The fast and furious version of Thai travel. These minivans head to the nearby provinces around Bangkok (2-5 hours away) generally speaking. They are cheap and the fastest way to get to places close to Bangkok and slightly further away. I use them for heading to Bangkok’s nearby islands and national parks. Fees normally cost between 180-220 baht. They stop regularly for toilet and snack breaks and when at a gas station everyone is expected to get out and stretch their legs while refuelling. Up until recently all vans went from Victory Monument but now they have been re-routed to go from different areas of Bangkok depending on their final destination. To go North, most go from Mochit 2, East from Ekkamai Bus Terminal, South from Sai Tai Mai Southern Bus Terminal and some do still go from Victory. Try to avoid the seats in the back as these are the least comfortable.
Travel Around Thailand by: Flights
You can find dirt cheap flights to places if you book slightly in advance. I rarely pay more than 1000 baht for a flight and there are promo deals for 700 baht with Nok Air and Airasia to airports such as Phuket/Krabi/Surathani/Chiang Mai. If you are heading to the Andaman islands I’d suggest flying to Krabi just to avoid the expensive taxis in Phuket as there is a reasonably priced airport bus to Ao Nang (Krabi’s beach) and for the piers to the islands to get to Koh Phi Phi/ Koh Lanta. For the Gulf Islands like Koh Tao, Koh Phangan or Koh Samui if you would like to keep things cheap then I suggest flying to Surat thani and taking the ferry as flying to the airport on Koh Samui is generally much more expensive.
Most cheap flights go from Don Mueang airport which is served by various buses:
from Victory Monument or Mochit/Chatachak you can take the A1/A2 bus for 30 baht
for Khao San take the A4 bus.
Airasia and Nok Air are generally the cheapest domestic airlines in my experience. Thai smile can also offer great deals. Nok Air are more recently appearing on skyscanner – I always use this website to compare the most recent prices.
Travel Around Thailand by: Taxis
Taking taxis is Thailand can differ massively depending on the area you are staying in.
Taxis in Bangkok
Bangkok has the cheapest taxis when they will travel by meter. It is technically illegal for taxi drivers to charge otherwise but many will try because they know we are tourists and they earn very little and have been refused multiple pay rises in the past by the Thai government. Meter taxis in Bangkok start at 35 baht and go up incredible slowly. For most places in Bangkok you should never need to pay more than 200-300 baht and if you want the fastest route ask for the ‘highway’ which are the toll roads – the passenger is expected to pay. Both airports have a taxi surcharge of 50 baht which the passenger will pay on top of the meter.
Taxis Outside of Bangkok
Taxis outside of Bangkok will rarely go on the meter (never for me in 3 years of living here anyway!). In places like Phuket, taxis can be very expensive so I recommend using minivan shuttle services or buses to keep transport cheaper.
Travel Around Thailand by: Tuktuk
Tuktuks are fun, noisy and many see travelling in them as a tourist attraction. This means that their prices are often very steep so bargain hard if you are in a tourist area and don’t expect to get anywhere particularly fast. I strongly recommend avoiding at rush hour times as sitting in traffic is bearable if you are in a A/C taxi but not so much in hot and sticky tuktuk surrounded by traffic fumes.
Travel Around Thailand by: Motorcycle Taxis
Motorcycle taxis are generally not for the faint-hearted, my sister has still never forgiven me for making her go on one. They drive extremely fast, occasionally on the other side of the road, and will rarely, if ever, give you a helmet. Having said that, they are a very efficient way of getting from A-B and avoiding being stuck in traffic and can be cheaper than taxis in places like Bangkok for short journeys. Check the price before getting on one, most places in Bangkok have fixed prices anyway.
Travel Around Thailand by: Motorcycle Hire
Another hair-raising idea for some, hiring motorcycles is a fantastic way of getting around quieter areas of Thailand, whether it’s the North, National Parks or certain islands. It’s cheap, easy and gives you a lot of freedom. Beware motorcycle scams, incompetent drivers and drunk/drug drivers when on party islands such as Koh Phi Phi or Koh Phangan.
How to Travel Around Thailand by: Boat
There are various types of boat in Thailand and if you’re here visiting for a while you will probably get on a few of them. There are the noisy, wooden, long tail boats which are often use for island hopping day trips as well as slightly more expensive speed boats (which in my opinion are not always comfier!). For travel from the mainland to the islands there are a range of ferries, car ferries and even small flat boats mainly holding motorcycles. The Lomprayah service is usually the fastest for getting to the islands in the Gulf of Thailand (Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui). Most ferries take a couple of hours and cost anywhere between 300-500 baht. Book your buses and ferries together for a smoother experience, through this website for great discounts…
I am not quite a local but three years here isn’t nothing! I also love tourist time and have lots of visitors passing through (you suddenly become very popular when you live in Thailand!) So I am always looking for activities to do here that isn’t the Grand Palace yet again…
Bangkok…gateway to hell or Southeast Asia or whatever Dicaprio says in The Beach! Crazy, overwhelming, polluted, noisy, hot, sticky, smelly, crowded, this is the place that I have called home for the last 3 years.
If limited on time, visit:
Temple Time – Wat Pho with the reclining Buddha is my favourite and only 100 baht entry. Get the river boat to Tha Thien.
Party on Khao San road – you haven’t been to Khao san if you haven’t drunk a bucket. Check out Golf Bar and then Da Club for dancing. They do charge entry but are open late so you can keep boozing until 5am.
Massage – if you’re brave enough to get a Thai massage, do it. But don’t say I didn’t warn you… Soi Rambuttri has lots of shops near Khao San that offer relaxing oil massages instead 😉
Jim Thompson’s House Museum – Visit the house belonging to former CIA agent who revived the Thai silk industry, small but worth doing. Near MBK. 100 baht entry. BTS National Stadium or short walk from Siam BTS.
Chatachak Weekend Market – Everything you could possible want to buy and more. You’ll need an extra suitcase (you can buy that here too!). BTS Mochit/MRT Chatachak
A bike tour – Get a guided tour around Chinatown on a bicycle, see the flower market and cycle along the Chao Praya river. CoVanKessel company are your guys. Depart: Chinatown
A skybar – my personal favs are Octave and Vertigo. Lebua from the Hangover 2 movie has a fantastic view too but prices to match. Above 11 on Soi 11 near Nana BTS is also a good shout.
Street food – Pad Thai, Noodles, Spring Rolls and fresh fruit or smoothies from the street and the ultimate dessert Mango Sticky Rice.
Rent bicycles and cycle around Bang Krachao/Prapadaeng. Take a small wooden boat across the river, rent your bikes and head into one of Bangkok’s last green areas, known as the Green Lung. Narrow elevated paths snake through the jungle and even on the main roads there are very few cars around. Avoid Mondays as most things are closed.
If here for longer and can explore more:
Wat Pra Kaew or the Grand Palace. 500 baht entry but it also includes the Ananta Throne Hall with a lot of gold and bling inside!
A manicure&pedicure for 300 baht on Soi Rambuttri
Vimanmek Mansion – museum, an interesting insight into how the Royals lived. Near Victory Monument
Lumpini Park – a green area of Bangkok and great place for spotting the impressive Monitor Lizards that roam around…don’t get too close!
Chinatown – large main street to stroll down, avoid the shark fin restaurants and go for some ‘sala pao’ buns by the side of the road!
Party like a local at RCA (Royal City Avenue) where a collection of bars and Thai clubs are. Route 66 is a popular one!
Explore Asiatique. Take the free boat from Saphan Taksin and eat at fancy restaurants, shop and go on Bangkok’s wheel!
Drink at a fancy interior designed bar such as Maggie Choos or Iron Fairies. Not backpacker prices but this is where you can find the hi-so’s of Bangkok.
Shop at MBK if you can’t make Chatachak’s weekend market. Similar idea with reasonable prices if you haggle! Great for technology but be warned of the fakes! BTS National Stadium or walk from Siam.
Try Muay Thai boxing. Take classes at RSM and be prepared to get sweaty! BTS Asok
Go wakeboarding at Thai Wake Park at Lake Taco. BTS Bang Na then a taxi
Any activities or places you think are missing from my list?