Tag Archives: transport

Backpack Thailand: Travel Cheap

So you wanna backpack Thailand on a budget? Here are some tricks to keeping things wallet friendly and as cheap as possible giving you more money to spend on activities and adventures in Thailand. The cost of living in Thailand is incredibly cheap and you can make your money go far by following my budget Thailand tips below. As I live in Bangkok, I’m a frequent backpacker and like to keep things cheap so I can travel as much as possible and spend my money on scuba diving.

1. Eat local. Thai street food is delicious and cheap. Most dishes will cost between 30-60 baht. When on the islands, the most expensive restaurants are normally on the beach front, so I’d avoid these touristy restaurants if travelling Thailand on a budget. Western dishes such as pizzas and burgers etc are generally made using imported items which means they are much more expensive. Stick to noodles, rice and soup if you want to travel Thailand cheaply.

 2. 7-11 convenience store is your new best friend. Snacks, alcohol, toiletries…there’s nothing you can’t do here. (You can even pay in cash for flights here with Air Asia or Nok Air). Beer is obviously much cheaper here than at a bar and a large bottle of water costs around 13 baht.

3. Save the planet and save your money by refilling your water bottle at a water filling machines. You can fill up ONE large bottle for ONE baht. If you’re consuming around 5 bottles a day then that’s a serious saving and definite help for the environment. If you’re reluctant to refill plastic bottles then consider buying a refillable bottle instead. I bought my mum this one for Christmas as I think it is a great size, contains a filter and is available in various colours. 

4. Negotiate. Most prices in Thailand are up for negotiation and this includes accommodation. If you have unlimited time then you can haggle with hostels and hotels and if you stay longer then they might give you a discount. Always haggle with patience and a smile!

5. Having said that, you can find fantastic accommodation deals on both booking.com and Agoda. I usually compare the both to find the best deal. Agoda also do ‘insider deals’ once you have an account with them which I find to be very reasonable rates.

6. Drink local. Most travellers find that their biggest expense in Thailand is spending money on alcohol. While Thailand is generally cheap for alcohol, it can add up when drinking every night. Thai beers are great – Leo and Singha (I avoid cheap Chang at all costs…here we call it a Changover!). Thai rum Sangsom is also delicious with coke and costs next to nothing! Imported beers or wines is incredible expensive so avoid these if you want to keep it cheap. Tax is exceptionally high on most imported goods.

7. Shop around different tour operators when booking snorkelling/island hopping/day excursion trips. I often find your guesthouse charges you more than the street stalls tours.  Snorkelling tours in a long tail boat are often cheaper than in a speedboat. For the cheap tours, the agencies will fill up the boat as much as possible so be prepared for the boat to be busy and to make some new friends. Make sure to enquire if National Park fees are included as I have been caught out many times. For example booking a snorkelling trip for 400 baht which is a great price, only to find out the morning of the trip that National Park fees are an extra 400 baht, doubling the cost of my trip. These are fixed by the government and tour operators cannot reduce the cost of National Park fees. Read more about National Parks in Thailand here.

8. Shop in markets. I’m not sure how I can ever return to the world of H and M now that I have discovered 100 baht dresses and bikinis at Thai markets. As a general rule, I find that if the price is written on the items then haggling is not possible. My haggling tip for Thailand is to negotiate the price down for one, and then consider buying two or more to make it even cheaper again.

9. Use night buses. Not as comfortable as trains or planes but they are generally the cheapest way of travelling around Thailand. Package deals can often be booked which include ferries which I think is a good idea as they often take you all the way to the pier rather than dropping you in a town near the coast. From Bangkok you can leave from Mochit 2 Terminal (to go North), Ekkamai or Sai Tai Mai/Southern Bus Terminal (to go South). Some tourist companies leave from Khao San road and these tend to be the more comfortable buses in my experience. A friend has a travel company and you can get great discounts by booking multiple tickets and group tickets as well, as each time you add a trip it decreases in price, saving you money. 

10. For travelling to Thailand’s many islands there are often multiple options concerning boats. There are slower ferries, faster ferries, long tail boats and speed boats. The cheapest options are obviously the slower transport so if you aren’t in a hurry the always take the ferry or a long tail boat.

11. Take public transport. It’s an obvious one but taxis can be at least three times more expensive than local buses and songtaews (trucks) so stick to public transport to save a lot of money. If you’re in a group then a taxi might be worth sharing however as they still are very reasonably priced when on the meter.

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How to Travel Around Thailand

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.

Check out this website for every trip you book you get more of a discount and if there are more people the fares get cheaper too! Most buses from here depart from Khao San area which saves on travel and traffic time of getting to Bangkok’s bus stations that are further out.

 

Travel Around Thailand by: Night buses

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…

Travel Around Thailand by: Minivans

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.

How To Travel Around Thailand by taxis
The view from my window, multicoloured taxis in Bangkok
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.

Travel Around Thailand by motorbike
One Way to Travel Around Thailand: Feeling the Fear and Doing it Anyway
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…

how to travel in Thailand by boat
The pier on Koh Phi Phi for ferries and longtail boats