Public buses in Thailand

Transportation In Thailand: An In-depth Guide For Seamless Travel

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When sprawling roads stretch far into the horizon, the roadways connecting places far and wide are your love and the excellent infrastructure in Thailand should have your whole heart. Whether you’re an adventurous backpacker or a leisurely traveler, whether it is the original thrill of authenticity or comfort you seek, Thailand’s transportation promises everything you want and more. 

This article is a one-stop solution that guarantees a seamless travel experience in Thailand. With a detailed overview of the different transportation options available, how you could effectively use them, and an insight into the reservations, bookings, and more, here’s our insight on using them! You’re welcome.

Thailand Transportation System

Two Wheeler, Taxi/ Cab Services

Riding a grab in Thailand

The trusty Uber, unfortunately, doesn’t exist in Thailand. Grab is your alternative to Uber in Thailand. Tourists using two-wheelers and cars for commute is quite common here. We can personally attest to Grab’s reliability after using it several times. The mobile application for this service is simple and user-friendly. You can even request to go beyond the city limits in Grab. Most drivers are well-behaved and have a 5/5 star rating from customers. Grab is not available in Pai, a place in Northern Thailand. However, it has coverage over most parts of Thailand.

You can register in the app using your email ID. A Thailand phone number is not mandatory. A prompt appears to take a picture of yourself when a ride is booked for these users. The same is not required if you register using the mobile number.

You can also find many cabs parked outside the bus station. You can bargain your prices and take a ride.

Tuk-Tuks

Tuk-tuks are not commonly found in Thailand. We caught sight of them only in a few prime cities like Bangkok. Tuk-tuks cannot be booked online. The prices are also not fixed and it depends on the distance, traffic, number of passengers, and duration of the ride.

Renting A Two-Wheeler

There are rental shops and accommodations from where you will be able to rent two-wheelers on a daily or monthly basis. The scooters cost between 200 to 500 THB per day, while the price for superbikes is higher. The price difference is entirely dependent on the type of vehicle you choose.

Since most rental bike operators operate on a 24-hour basis, you can return the bike the next day, 24 hours from when you rented it. Be sure to confirm the return time with your rentals since you will be charged hourly for every additional hour. 

The deposit ranges from 2000 to 4000 THB, which will be refunded when you return the bike. Alternatively, you can deposit your original passport. However, this is an option we do not recommend unless the bike you rent is from the accommodation you are staying at. We also suggest you record the bike from all angles and check for damages and scratches to avoid paying for it later. Be sure to get their Whatsapp number to contact them in emergencies.

The traffic rules in Thailand are followed strictly. Know the basics of the traffic rules before you rent the bike. Helmets for both the driver and pillion are mandatory. They drive on the left side of the road. 

An international driving license is also compulsory for driving in Thailand. The rentals usually do not ask for one. And in the case of the tourist being caught by the police, which is rare, you are quoted hefty fines at first, and you could be offered discounts upon request. We had a friend who paid only 300 THB as the fine. So, we would say it depends on the officer.  

You can save quite a lot by renting a two-wheeler in Thailand compared to package tours. You can also rent bicycles and electric cycles in different places across Thailand.

Twin’s Tip: Google Maps works pretty well in Thailand. We don’t think you would need any other navigation apps.

Mini Vans

While they are a little pricier than the public buses, the minivans are used for short-distance and long-distance travel. The primary transport in North Thailand for traveling from Pai to Chiang Mai is minivans, which take about three hours. The tour operators offer these rides or can be booked online using 12 Asia Go. There is a rest stop halfway through, where you can use the restrooms (some could be paid) and stock up on snacks. Besides, minivans are commonly used in tourist destinations for pickup and drop services, day tours, etc.. Minivans are not commonly used for renting purposes. 

Minivans are air-conditioned and accommodate about 10+1 passengers. We suggest you do not book the last seats since the luggage is kept in the last seat, making traveling inconvenient. It is safer to have all the valuables in your carry-on baggage and carry it with you. 

Buses

City buses in Thailand

In every place, buses are the most affordable means of transport to hop between different places. Google Maps would give you the bus numbers and routes only in Bangkok; the same cannot be said for the other cities in Thailand. The cities in Thailand have at least two bus terminals. Google for <place name> bus terminal or <place name> bus station.

Bus to reach the tiger cave temple, Krabi

Another thing we noticed in Thailand is that the local buses in certain places can occupy about 40 people, and there are different colored trucks (red, blue, green, yellow) known as “Songthaews.” Used for both public and private purposes, they can accommodate about 13 – 21 people and are commonly used for both short and long distances among locals and tourists.

Overnight sleeper buses in Thailand

Overnight buses are a common and convenient way to travel in Thailand, with classes like Star, Supreme, Gold, and VIP varying by bus company. Equipped with amenities such as attached restrooms, fresh bed sheets, and complimentary snacks, these buses even stop for a free dinner halfway through the journey. But the dinner time is strange – one night the driver stopped for dinner at 1 AM in the morning.

Complimentary dinner for sleeper buses
Complimentary dinner for sleeper buses

To secure your seat, booking in advance is recommended, as buses can sell out, even on weekdays. During our trip from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai, we had to take connecting buses midway due to fully booked direct options. Planning ensures a smoother travel experience.

Various private companies operate long-distance buses in Thailand, and prices vary accordingly. Opting for affordability, booking tickets directly at bus terminal counters is the most economical choice. Alternatively, consider the 12 Asia Go for competitive prices, surpassing tour agencies. When compared, tour agencies impose a service fee of at least 100 THB per ticket, with an additional 5% charge for card payments. Choose wisely to ensure a cost-effective and convenient booking experience.

The buses depart at the time mentioned. Most of it waits for five to ten minutes. Be sure to check in about fifteen minutes before at the bus counters to find the platform number from where the bus departs. 

Sombattour’s Star Class is a budget-friendly option with generously spacious seating. Despite exploring various alternatives, we found their services impressive and chose them with great satisfaction.

Trains

BTS trains in Bangkok - transportation system in Thailand

Most of Thailand can be covered by railway lines, except for the Eastern and far North regions above Chiang Mai, where mountains and national parks exist. Bangkok to Chiang Mai is the most frequently used railway route. Be sure to arrive at the train station at least forty minutes before the departure since it might take time for you to figure out the platforms in Ban Sue Grand Station. 

All the trains come with classes- Class 3 Fan Seats, 2nd class Fan (Pushback) seats, and 2nd Class Sleeper AC. You can see the pictures of these different classes and book your tickets online from 12Go. Apart from a small service charge, the prices are similar to the ones you pay when you book at the ticket counter. 

Fan class compartments lack charging points, but you’ll find overhead luggage compartments for your belongings. Onboard inspectors will check your tickets. Strict regulations prohibit smoking and drinking, with violators facing hefty fines. Local vendors often sell food, including meat, on the moving train.

Baggage lockers at train stations
Locker facilities at train stations

Thailand frequently experiences train delays. During our journey from Bangkok to Udon Thani, we encountered a delay of 2 hours.

Local stations typically operate with a straightforward boarding process, allowing passengers to board the train upon its arrival at the designated platform. However, the boarding process resembles an airport at major stations like Bang Sue Grand Station in Bangkok. Passengers can access the platforms only after the train arrives; ticket validation occurs 20 minutes before boarding. Bang Sue Grand Station boasts airport-like amenities, including massage chairs.

Bangkok’s train stations offer locker facilities, and within the station premises, you’ll find sit-in restaurants, supermarkets, and take-away eateries. Restrooms are conveniently available in both railway stations and trains across all classes.

Metro Trains

Buying a metro ticket in Thailand

The metro network in Bangkok is constructed, covering about 135 km. Over 4,10,000 people use the Bangkok metro every day. The 4 independent train systems include,

  • MRT (Metropolitan Rapid Transit)
  • BTS Skytrain (Bangkok Mass Transit System)
  • SRT red lines (The State Railway of Thailand)
  • ARL (Airport Rail Line)

The same ticket card cannot be used if you interchange between the train systems. The smartest way to escape the traffic in Bangkok is the metro. The metro operates both on the underground and ground level. The direction boards and instructions are made available in both Thai and English. Making noise and consuming food are prohibited on the metro.

The boarding process is simple. All you need to do is select your departure and arrival stations, insert cash, and get the tokens from the machine. The display languages are available both in Thai and English. The more frequent travelers use Stored Value cards. If you continue facing issues or need help, you can buy tickets from the counter. Unlike the tokens from the machines, they’ll give you a single journey card.

Inside look of the metro trains in Thailand

The operating hours are from 5:30 AM to 11:30 PM on all days of the week. The frequency is between 5 and 7 minutes.

The one-day tourist pass for unlimited rides costs about 120 THB, and the three-day pass costs 230 THB. The 30-day pass costs 1400 THB. These are non-refundable and are functional only for metro services. 

Children under 14 get a 50% discount, and children under the 90 cm height limit travel for free.

Ferries, Speedboats, Long Tail Boats

Pileh Lagoon, Koh Phi Phi Leh

The standard means of transportation amongst the locals and tourists in the Southern part of Thailand are the ferry services, speedboats, and long tail boats. The companies offer different ferry services in packages and organized day trips. Hopping between 3-7 islands is done in a single day with activities like snorkeling. 

The seating on the speedboats, ferries, and long tail boats depends on a first-come, first-serve basis. So, the early bird catches the seat!

The cost depends on the kind of boat you choose, the facilities offered in it, and the duration of the ride. We found the best price to Phi Phi island in the hostel at Phuket, where we stayed. The closest to that was what we found was Bookaway and 12AsiaGo done online, followed by the counter at the departure pier. The tour agencies quoted crazy high prices!

Refer to the guide that explains how to reach Phi Phi Island by different means of water transport.

Airways

Airways in Thailand - Phuket International Airport

Thailand has several airports across the country- 11 international airports and 28 domestic airports, excluding the military and private ones. This provides excellent connectivity to all parts of Thailand. The two airports in Bangkok are the primary ones tourists use, followed by the airports in Phuket and Chiang Mai. People also fly from the South to the North, and vice versa, to save time instead of traveling over land. 

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