Getting Around Thailand

Getting around Thailand

Thai Airways International (TG) ( runs services to all major towns, a total of 12 domestic destinations including Phuket and Chiang Mai. Bangkok Airways (PG) ( flies several additional routes including Ko Samui. Discounts are available during off-peak seasons and during special promotional periods. Orient Thai Airlines, formerly known as One-Two-Go Airlines ( and Nok Air ( also offer domestic flights.

Air passes: 
Thai Airways run a ‘Discover Thailand’ air pass each year, which entitles you to fly to three cities for a set fee. Additional flights, up to a maximum of 8, can be added at extra cost. See for more information.

Departure tax: 
Departure tax is included in the price of the air ticket.

Roads in Thailand range from multi-lane freeways around Bangkok to tiny lanes known as sois. Popular routes in the provinces are often four lanes.

Side of road: Left

Road quality: 
There is a reasonable road network comprising many highways, which are designated by numbers, and 52,000km (32,300 miles) of national and provincial roads. All major roads are paved.

Car hire: 
Available in all main towns and cities from both international and local companies.

Taxis are easy to find and cheap to use in Bangkok. In other cities, such as Chiang Mai, local transport such as tuk tuks are much cheaper and more common.

Bike hire is available at most tourist locations throughout the country but, due to the erratic nature of driving standards and the heavy traffic, caution must be observed. It is however an excellent form of transport for those wishing to travel the quieter areas of the country.

There are many intercity bus services, which range from uncomfortable and crowded buses to luxury, air conditioned coaches. Prices are quite cheap but the appalling traffic in some areas of Thailand makes travelling by bus quite slow.

The minimum age for driving in Thailand is 18 years and the wearing of seat belts is compulsory. The speed limit is 50kph (31mph) to 60kph (35mph) in towns and cities and 90 to 120kph (52 to 74mph) on expressways and country roads.

A national licence and International Driving Permit (IDP) are required. IDPs are valid for three months, after which a Thai driving licence is required.

Getting around towns and cities: 
Conventional bus services in Bangkok are operated by the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority, but there are also extensive private minibus operations. Premium fares are charged for air-conditioned (cream and blue buses) and express buses. The ordinary buses are cream and red or white and blue and charge a flat rate regardless of distance travelled. Fares are generally low and are collected by conductors.

In Bangkok, taxis displaying the TAXI-METER sign are metered. Samlors or tuk-tuks are three-wheeled taxis without a meter; the fare must be negotiated before the journey commences. These are cheaper than taxis but are only suitable for short distances.

There are express, rapid and ordinary motorboat services operated by the Chao Phraya Express Boat on the Chao Phraya River between Nonthaburi pier to the north of Bangkok to Rajburana pier in southern Bangkok. The express boats, marked with yellow, blue or green and yellow flags, are more expensive than the rapid orange-flag-flying boats. The ordinary flagless boats are the cheapest.

The Skytrain (BTS), an elevated mass transit system in Bangkok, runs from 0600-2400. The Metro runs from Hualamphong to Bang Sue. Trains leave every five to nine minutes between 0600 and 2400.

Chiang Mai public transport is limited to red songtaew (minibuses), tuk-tuks, rickshaws and distinctive yellow metered taxis mainly operating from the airport. There is now a limited bus service in operation.

The excellent railway network extends over 4,600km (2,860 miles), linking all major towns with the exception of Phuket. It is run by State Railways of Thailand (tel: 1690;; online booking: There are four main routes to the northern, eastern, southern and northeastern regions, and also a western line serving Thon Buri, River Kwai Bridge and Nam Tok.

There are several daily services on each route, with air-conditioned sleeping and restaurant cars on the principal trains. The journeys are leisurely and comfortable, and travelling by train is certainly one of the best ways to get around the country. The Southern Line Express stops at Surat Thani for those who wish to continue by bus and ferry to the islands off the east coast. Most railway timetables are published in English.

Rail passes: 
Thailand Rail Pass: available for 20 days travel on all Ordinary, Rapid, and Express Trains either in Third-class (Air-Conditioned or Fan); Second-Class (Air-Conditioned or Fan); or Second-Class Sleeper Services (Air-Conditioned or Fan). Children aged 4-12 pay half the price of an Adult Pass if they are less than 150 cm tall. Thailand Rail Passes are only available for purchase in Thailand. You can buy Thai Rail Passes at Bangkok’s Hualamphong Rail Station or affiliated travel agencies.

By water: 
Thailand has, depending on the season, up to 1,600km (1,000 miles) of navigable inland waterway. Services operate along the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok between Rajburana and Pakkred by taxi-boat ferries operated by the Chao Phraya Express Boat (tel: (02) 623 6001/3;

In addition, long-tailed motorboats ply the river.

Ferry services operate between the mainland and several islands including Surat Thani to Ko Samui, Phuket to Phi Phi, Pattaya to Ko Samet and Trat to Ko Chang, and can be booked in person at the dock. Strong competition on all of the major routes ensures that fares are kept low. Reduced services operate during the monsoon season from May through to October along the east coast and Andaman coast, and from November until January on the Gulf coast. The more remote spots become inaccessible in these periods.

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