A detailed guide to transportation in Thailand

There’s probably very little that can be said about Thailand that has not been said already. The go-to destination for tropical escapades, an abundance of spicy, lip-smacking food, and islands and beaches worthy of envy – Thailand truly has it all! This time around, we’re not going to mull over the usual things to do in Thailand or the places you need to visit. You have heard about them enough. 

This guide has been put together to help you figure out how to travel within Thailand once you’ve planned a suitable itinerary. Although who is to say that this transportation guide won’t inspire you to plan new, off-beat routes in Thailand? So gear up to rediscover Thailand and plan an adventure unlike any other!

Cross-country transportation in Thailand

Flights

Thailand is one of the most well-connected countries in Southeast Asia, especially when it comes to air travel. With multiple domestic airlines and Thai counterparts of international airlines connecting all parts of the country, flying within Thailand is the best way to cover ground if you are short on time. 

©Oliver Mallich/Flickr

It is a fast, economical and reliable mode of transportation that can not only take you to destinations on land but also fly you directly to some of Thailand’s islands. Here are some popular flying routes to get you started on your planning process.

RouteFrequencyPrice
Bangkok to Chiang MaiUp to 13 times a dayStarts at USD 33
Bangkok to Koh SamuiUp to 10 times a dayStarts at USD 87
Phuket to BangkokUp to 11 times a dayStarts at USD 31
Chiang Mai to PattayaUp to twice dailyStarts at USD 50

Train

If you enjoy slowing down and relishing a journey through the countryside, train transportation in Thailand is perfect for you. Whether you’re planning to go all the way up north to Chiang Mai or down south towards Suratthani, Thailand’s rail network is a reliable and enjoyable alternative to flights and buses. 

©Tore Bustad/Flickr

Ticket prices typically depend on the length of the journey, whether or not the train is air-conditioned and what other amenities are offered (for example, sleeping berths). Most long-distance trains originate from the hub in Bangkok and offer advance booking facilities. Take a look at some of those train routes below and take your pick:

RoutePrice
Hua Hin to Bangkok Starts at USD 9
Bangkok to Chiang MaiStarts at USD 19
Bangkok to SuratthaniStarts at USD 16

Bus

Thailand’s bus transportation network covers almost every corner of the country and can take you wherever your heart desires. It gives you an opportunity to explore lesser-known destinations while also keeping you connected to the thriving hotspots of Thailand. 

While it may seem like bus journeys take up a lot of time, they definitely cost much less than flights and may in fact help you save precious daytime hours for actual sightseeing if you take an overnight bus. Despite the convenience, Thailand is notorious for making it difficult for travelers to find and make sense of bus schedules. To help you navigate bus routes and schedules in Thailand, here are some ideas for your itinerary.

RoutePrice
Ayutthaya to Chiang MaiStarts at USD 26
Bangkok to Mae SotStarts at USD 17
Chiang Mai to KanchanaburiStarts at USD 24
Pattaya to BangkokStarts at USD 6

Ferry

Thailand is home to close to 1,500 idyllic islands and choosing only a few to visit can be daunting. But once you have zeroed in on which ones you want to visit, figuring out transportation to and from the island can be a task in itself. Fortunately for us, Thailand has an excellent network of ferry services that not only run from the mainland to the islands but also in between many islands, making it perfect for island hopping! 

©TravelSafe BC/Flickr

Prices are fairly cheap especially on the popular routes and most ferry boats have basic amenities like air conditioning and toilets. We hope you can let your imagination take flight (or a ferry in this case!) when planning your island ferry transportation, but to help you get going, here are a few exciting routes you must check out.

RoutePrice
Suratthani to Koh PhanganStarts at USD 12
Koh Phi Phi to PhuketStarts at USD 11
Koh Samui to Koh TaoStarts at USD 18
Bangkok to Koh ChangStarts at USD 24
Koh Phangan to Koh SamuiStarts at USD 7

Traveling within cities in Thailand

Bus

Local buses are one of the most popular modes of transportation in Thailand’s biggest cities like Bangkok and Udon Thani. Bangkok, being the capital, undoubtedly has the most extensive network of buses covering almost every part of the bustling city. 

©Bernard Spragg. NZ/Flickr

Buses are cheap but the fare depends on the route and the distance, which is to be paid to a bus conductor after you hop in. They can be easily hailed from your nearest bus stop by simply waving out to an approaching bus. While there is a certain charm about taking local buses in Bangkok, do keep in mind that it may take a while to get used to the experience.

Trains 

Bangkok has two complementary railway networks servicing the entire city – Skytrain and MRT Subway. The Skytrain passes through many of Bangkok’s tourist attractions and is perfect for beating the traffic congestion the city is known for. 

The MRT Subway on the other hand passes through the rest of the city where the Skytrain doesn’t reach, intersecting at certain stops to allow travelers to hop trains. Taking a local train has got to be the fastest and most convenient way to travel in Bangkok.

Tuk tuk

Tuk tuks are almost synonymous with local transportation in Thailand, and for good reason. These quirky, fun rides are not only a popular subject of many photographs representing Thailand, but they also offer an easy way to breeze through the city, given their small size. 

©Bernard Spragg. NZ/Flickr

Although convenient, do keep in mind that tuk tuk drivers tend to overcharge tourists since they mostly operate around the popular tourist attractions in Bangkok. So before you hire one, use all your bargaining prowess to get a fair deal.

Taxi

Bangkok has a well-established metered taxi system in place which makes it a reliable and comfortable mode of transportation, especially when you want to avoid the crowded trains and buses. Taxis will take you almost anywhere in the city and the final fare will depend on how far you have traveled. 

Alternatively, motorbike taxis can be hired in Bangkok for a quick ride to your destination without breaking a bank. They are able to cut through traffic much more easily than conventional taxis, although they might not be the best choice on a rainy or hot day. Take your pick depending on your destination, budget, and the comfort level you seek. 

Transportation in Thailand for tourists can come across as chaotic, and we don’t deny that it can get a tad bit overwhelming if you’re not prepared. Having said that, it is absolutely possible to travel within Thailand safely and comfortably using the local transportation. We hope this guide helps you do just that and you come back with glowing memories of this tropical paradise!

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