Getting Around Thailand. The Many Modes of Transport That Make It So Easy.

Bangkok Aerial Photograph and Chao Phraya River, Bangkok

Getting around Thailand could not be easier with the incredible infrastructure and endless transportation options available to you, from Bangkok’s modern Skytrain to traditional tuk-tuks, trains and ferries. On your next trip, we invite you to count the different ways you travel within Thailand; be it on the subway, by taxi, ferry, bus, train or plane – and let us know.

Bangkok offers more transportation options than you can imagine with the Skytrain or BTS the most efficient way to get around Bangkok and avoid the city’s notorious traffic. There is an escalator at each stop that takes you to the platform where you’ll find ticket machines and a manned window, should you need help. The Skytrain is air-conditioned and runs to the river where you can switch to a local ferry if you’re interested in visiting sights that aren’t near a Skytrain stop. You can buy a single-fare ticket or get a refillable Standard Rabbit Card – https://rabbit.co.th/.

There is also a subway system in Bangkok known as the MRT, which is just as well-maintained, modern and efficient as the Skytrain, yet it services destinations less frequented by tourists and has fewer stops. Again you can purchase tickets from automated machines at the various stations.

For travelling on the river, the Chao Phraya Express is the way to go. Tickets can be bought at the main piers or even onboard. The ferry system connects with the Skytrain at the Saphan Taksin stop, where there is a major ferry dock and ticket sales booth. The boats are open-air and offer an opportunity to see more of the city from the water, so sit on the edge if you want to use the opportunity to capture a few pics as you go. There is also the Khlong Commuter Boat, water taxis that run the 18 kilometres along the Khlong Saen Saep river, making access to and from Siam Square quick and easy.

If you need to reach a destination within Bangkok that is not serviced by these three main forms of transport, there are various bus services within the cities. For air conditioning, choose an orange or yellow bus. If you have time and want to take in the scenery, taking a local long-distance bus between cities is the least expensive way to travel. The long-distance VIP buses offer recliner seats, refreshments, an onboard toilet, an attendant, blanket, pillow and a warm meal.

Thailand also has one of the best metre-gauge rail systems in the world and train travel is one of the most affordable ways to get around the country.  It’s comfortable, safe and environmentally friendly while offering a genuine Thai experience that makes the journey as much a part of your trip as the destination. The train is the best way to travel between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, and a train and ferry or train and bus combo is the best way to get from Bangkok to Koh Samui or Bangkok to Phuket or Krabi.

There are four types of trains: Ordinary, Rapid, Express and Special Express. Long-distance Thai trains typically have three classes of service: First Class offers private cabins with convertible beds and a private sink; Second Class offers a sleeper fare and a fold-down bed with privacy curtains; while Third Class cars have bench seating and are not typically air-conditioned. You can buy train tickets directly online or in-person at train stations.

Commuter ferries very efficiently transport people between major destinations, again these can be bought in advance, simply search for the ferry that services the port you are leaving, and the most convenient time.

Grab is Thailand’s version of Uber and maybe most convenient if you simply want to get from A to B within a city. All you need to do is download the app, and you can book a ride from your phone. Don’t opt for this is you are in a hurry in Bangkok as the traffic can be slow. For a faster – and more fun option, the Grab moto-taxi is cheaper and will let you get a real sense of the place. Make sure you wear a helmet.

If you don’t have the Grab app, you’ll find metered taxis at most major sites and businesses or you can simply flag one down on the street. Insist that the driver uses the meter, if he says it’s broken, we recommend that you get out of the car and opt for another. Always take a card from your accommodation that has a map, address and phone number in Thai as some hotels are tucked away and it’s not unusual for a driver to have to call for directions. Be sure to leave a tip.

Travelling in a Tuk-tuk offers a quintessential Thai experience, as they zoom around the city and weave through the traffic. They are faster than Grab or taxis, but do know that you’ll have the heat in your face as you breathe in the smells of the city as you go. They are best for short hops and be sure to set a price before getting in, to ensure you’re not overpaying.

Like with Grab’s moto-taxi, motorbike taxis are available throughout the country. You simply hop onto the back behind the driver and off you go. Drivers tend to congregate in areas around the Skytrain stops, as well as near markets and popular tourist attractions and can be recognised by their brightly coloured vests with numbers on them. Again, set a price before getting on.

Songtheuws are shared bus trucks you’ll find in parts of Thailand such as Chiang Mai. They are the equivalent to city buses in some areas and the cost depends on the distance. Tell the driver your destination and ask the cost. In order to flag down the songtheuw, stand on the street and when one arrives, wave at them with your palm faced down. You pay when you arrive at your destination. A yellow truck taxi offers a similar service in some cities.

As soon as you hit the islands, Longtail Boats will become a standard means of transport, whether you are using them to transfer to your accommodation, or for a private tour. Rent a longtail boat to see the khlongs of Bangkok or to hop between beaches from Phi Phi, Krabi or Phuket. If you prefer the wind in your hair, opt for a speedboat tour or transfer, or one of the tourist boats that are geared to offer snorkel tours out in the many marine reserves.

A popular mode of transport in Thailand is the motorbike and you’ll see many Thai families relying on these for getting around. On the islands and in the quieter towns and villages, consider renting a motorbike for the added freedom of exploring at your own pace. Make sure you’re an experienced rider though and have a license, and always wear a helmet, it is a legal requirement in Thailand.

Take a cycle tour in the city, or rent a bike to explore the island or village that you find yourself in, and most of all, walk the streets for the most up close and personal experience of all.

Read my other posts on Thailand. Photos supplied by the Thailand Authority of Tourism.

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Dawn Bradnick JorgensenDawn Jorgensen
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