How to Get Around in Thailand

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How to Get Around in Thailand
Image by Quinn Kampschroer from Pixabay

While we’re sure your hotel room in Thailand is very nice, you certainly won’t want to stay there all day every day. You’ll want to get out and about and see the sights because there are so many sights to see! This is why getting around is one of the most important things to know about when you visit a new country, and Thailand has certain modes of transport that are unique to it. Some are only available in Bangkok, but most of them can be found throughout the country. Here are all the ones you need to know about that will help you get around in Thailand:

BTS Skytrain

The Bangkok BTS Skytrain carries over 600,000 passengers a day in its clean, air-conditioned carriages. There are 48 stations along two lines: the Sukhumvit line that runs north from Kasetsart University to Kheha in the southeast, and the shorter Silom line that stretches from the National Stadium to Bang Wa in the west. Siam station is the interchange between these two lines.

Getting around on the BTS is a breeze. Signs and recorded announcements are in English, as are the automated ticketing machines, and there are always English-speaking counter staff around if you need help. The Skytrain runs through most of Bangkok’s city center, in particular the upmarket neighborhoods such as Asoke, Thonglor, and Ekkamai. Its operating hours are from 6 am to midnight every day, so do mind the time if you want to catch the last train.

MRT Subway

The Bangkok MRT Subway complements the Skytrain by traveling to the areas that the Skytrain doesn’t reach. Many of Bangkok’s daily commuters take both trains every day, made easy by three intersecting stations at Asoke/Sukhumvit, Silom/Sala Daeng, and Chatuchak/Mo Chit. A recent extension of the original Blue line runs through Bangkok’s Chinatown and Old City neighborhoods, whereas the newer Purple Line connects the province of Nonthaburi to Bangkok at the Tao Poon interchange station.

As with the BTS, the subway is easy to get around on for foreigners. It’s clean and air-conditioned and probably a lot more welcoming than many other commuter trains in other countries. And as with the Skytrain, the subway runs from 6 am to midnight every day.

Boats and ferries

As the name states, the Chao Phraya Express Boat is a river transport service that runs along the Chao Phraya river across Bangkok. These boats actually serve a lot of daily commuters who wish to get around the city while avoiding the horrendous Bangkok traffic jams. There are five different lines and they all run along the same route but stop at different stops, though they’re all accessible from the central pier at the Sathorn BTS station.

There are also various ferry services to Thailand’s most popular island destinations, such as Koh Tao, Koh Samui, Koh Samet, and more. The piers from which to take these ferries are always accessible, either by taxi or even a bus from Bangkok that stops right at the pier.

Tuk-tuk

Named after the “tuk-tuk” sound of their small two-cycle engines, tuk-tuks are the motorized 3-wheel vehicles that are one of Thailand’s most famous sights. Aside from Bangkok, they can also be found in dense cities such as Nakhon Ratchasima, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, and Trang. Since their advantage is being able to weave in and out of heavy traffic, you can guess what all these cities have in common.

A tuk-tuk ride is a lot of fun, and we certainly highly recommend it at least once on your trip. But here’s a couple of things to bear in mind: one, a tuk-tuk ride will always be more expensive than other forms of transport, since they’re mostly geared towards tourists. Be sure to name your destination and the price before you get in. And two, it’s a fun ride but also a somewhat rough one – there’s no suspension on these things, so you’re going to feel every bump in the road!

Motorcycle taxi

The ubiquitous orange-vested motorcycle taxis are one of the most popular modes of transport in Thailand. Sometimes you just need to go a short distance that’s too short for a taxi but would be a hassle to walk – hence, the “win motosai,” as they’re called in Thai. You’ll find them in Bangkok as well as most cities throughout the country.

One thing to remember about Bangkok’s motorcycle taxis is that you can’t generally just flag them down – you need to take them from designated stops, which can be hard to find since they’re not marked with signs. If you see people queuing by the roadside or a bunch of the taxi riders hanging around somewhere (you can spot them by their bright orange vests), then that’s where you can get a motorcycle taxi.

Songthaew

The humble songthaew is another means of public transport that’s unique to Thailand. They are essentially pick-up trucks converted into small passenger buses by adding two rows of seats to the truck bed (the word “songthaew” literally means “two rows”). You wave one down, get on, press a stop buzzer once you reach your destination, then get off and pay the driver. This is one of the cheapest modes of transport, with trips costing as little as 10 baht.

You’re not likely to see or need to take a songthaew though – they’re largely used by locals in small towns or areas with little attractions for tourists. But if you’re feeling adventurous, there might be one that takes you where you’re going.

Taxi

Taxis in Thailand are easy to spot, with their bright colors in green, blue, red, orange, pink, and more. And being one of the most visited cities in the world, Bangkok has one of the world’s highest ratios of taxis to people.

Bangkok’s taxis follow a strict metered rate, so you won’t have to worry about being ripped off. (It’s when the driver asks for a fixed price that you know you’re being scammed.) The fare starts at 35 baht and increases with the distance. If you’re lucky, you’ll even meet a friendly driver who’ll offer to be your personal chauffeur throughout your stay.

Bus

While you can take buses to get around within Bangkok or other cities, we wouldn’t recommend it – it’s almost exclusively used by locals, which means no signs in English or English-speaking bus drivers. However, express buses are a great way to travel across Thailand or to neighboring countries like Malaysia, Laos, and Cambodia.

There are three major express bus terminals in Bangkok. Mo Chit mostly serves northern routes such as Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai and is accessible via Mo Chit MRT station. Sai Tai Mai is on the western banks of the Chao Phraya river and serves southern routes such as Phuket, Krabi and Hat Yai. The Ekkamai terminal is right next to the Ekkamai BTS station, and its routes head to eastern destinations such as Pattaya, Rayong, and Chanthaburi.

Trains

An alternative to express buses for traveling across Thailand is the trains. The SRT (State Railways of Thailand) is the national railway service operator with lines to every major city in the country, all accessible from Hua Lamphong Railway Station in Bangkok. You can even get 1st and 2nd class air-conditioned sleeper cabins and travel in style! They’re not very expensive either, costing less than 1,000 baht. The downside is that tickets sell out fast especially during holiday periods, so best to book well in advance.

Air

If you need to get where you’re going fast, then there’s always traveling by air. Thai Airways is the national carrier with the most number of destinations, and there’s also Bangkok Airways that largely serve regional routes within the country. Budget airlines like AirAsia and Nok Air are also good options, whether you’re traveling across Thailand or taking a trip to its neighbor countries.

Learning how to get around Thailand is absolutely worth it – there’s so much to see and experience in this gorgeous country than can be found in just one location. In fact, getting around can be a fun experience in itself! That’s just one thing that makes Thailand such a wonderful place to visit!