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The ultimate guide to getting around Thailand

Thailand is filled with diverse scenery, from mountains and rainforests to rice paddies and white-sand beaches. However, given that the country is more than twice the size of the UK, its top sites are spread miles apart and can be challenging to reach. Get the most out of your Thai holiday with this guide to getting around Thailand.

What’s in this guide?

•    Getting from the UK to Thailand
•    Getting from Suvarnabhumi Airport to Bangkok
•    Getting around Bangkok
•    Internal flights around Thailand
•    Travelling around Thailand by train
•    Thailand cruises and sailing
•    Getting around Thailand by bus
•    Local transport in Thailand
•    Top tips for travelling around Thailand

Getting from the UK to Thailand

According to the UK government, British nationals make over a million visits to Thailand each year. This huge demand means that flights run frequently from major airports such as London, Manchester, Cardiff and Edinburgh to Thailand’s main transport hub, Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok. Direct flights from London take around 11 hours on high-end airlines such as Eva Air, Thai Airways and British Airways. Connecting flights to other popular destinations in Thailand include:

•    London to Phuket – with a flight time of 14 hours
•    London to Koh Samui – which takes 13.5 hours
•    London to Chiang Mai –  has a flight time of just under 14 hours

Getting from Suvarnabhumi to Bangkok

Suvarnabhumi Airport lies 30 kilometres from central Bangkok, so you’ll need to take a taxi or train into the city. There’s a licensed taxi rank on level one of the airport, make sure the driver uses the meter and expect to pay a 70 Baht freeway toll and 50 Baht airport tax on top of your fare. Depending on traffic, the journey can take from 30 to 50 minutes. Alternatively, take the Airport Rail Link City Line from Suvarnabhumi to six stations in central Bangkok, which costs a maximum of 45 Baht. The journey takes up to 40 minutes and trains leave every 15 minutes between 6am and midnight.

As an example, one of Bangkok’s most popular hotels the Rembrandt is located in the Sukhumvit area of Bangkok near trendy Siam Square, Pratunam Market and the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center. A taxi from Suvarnabhumi Airport to the hotel takes around 45 minutes depending on traffic, or you can take the Airport Rail Link to Phaya Thai station and get the BTS Skytrain to Asoke station, which takes around an hour.  The Rembrant is a great base to explore the city from and has lavish suites, a gym, pool, spa and range of restaurants to relax in at the end of the day.

Getting around Bangkok

Bangkok is a vibrant capital city home to over eight million people from all over the world, as well as the political and business heart of the country. There’s plenty to explore, from megamalls and rooftop bars to the glittering Grand Palace, sprawling Chatuchak market and the backpacker hangout Khao San Road. Here are some of the best ways of getting around Bangkok:

•    The Metropolitan Rapid Transport System (MRT) – is the city’s underground train network and has 18 stations stretching from Chinatown in the south to Bang Sue in the north. Trains run from 6am to midnight and fares cost from 16-42 Baht per journey
•    The Bangkok Mass Transit System (BTS Skytrain) – an elevated train system with 35 stations across two lines.  Silom runs south to west and the Sukhumvit Line runs north to east, the network connects with the MRT at two points. BTS trains run from 6.30am to midnight and fares start at 15 Baht per journey
•    Taxi – it’s easy to hail one of Bangkok’s thousands of taxis, which are typically clean and air conditioned, just make sure your driver uses the meter and doesn’t try to charge you a more expensive fixed rate
•    Riverboat – local or private longtail boats avoid the traffic jams and take you straight to some of the city’s best sights located along the Chao Phraya River and Bangkok’s canal network. Take a river boat to Ta Chang Pier to visit the Grand Palace and Tha Thien for Wat Pho. From there, you can cross the river to see the city’s iconic Wat Arun temple
•    Tuk tuk – Bangkok’s fleet of colourful three-wheeled tuk tuks typically cost more than taxis (at least 100 Baht for a journey) but are a novel mode of transport for tourists and can weave between traffic

After exploring Bangkok’s delights, most tourists depart the capital by bus, train or plane to visit other areas of the country. Common routes include heading north for jungle trekking, mountains and elephant experiences or south for tropical rainforests, marine parks and island-hopping beach breaks.

Internal flights around Thailand

Flying is by far the quickest way to get around Thailand and domestic airlines such as Bangkok Airways, Air Asia, Thai Lion Air and the more up-market Thai Airways depart from Don Muang Airport. It takes around an hour to fly from Bangkok to these favourite Thai destinations:

•    Chiang Mai – a city nestled between forested mountains in the north. The old city is a cultural hub filled with over 300 temples surrounded by a moat, with easy access to nearby trekking and elephant experiences
•    Koh Samui – the largest island on Thailand’s eastern Gulf coast known for fine beaches and fancy resorts. You can easily hop from Samui to nearby Koh Phangan, famous for the Full Moon Party, and the snorkelling and diving mecca Koh Tao
•    Phuket – situated on the western Andaman Coast, Phuket is the country’s largest island famed for its long sandy beaches, turquoise waters and dynamic nightlife in Patong. Day trip to nearby national parks, islands or sail through limestone outcrops in Phang Nga Bay
•    Krabi – located on the southern Andaman Coast, Krabi has superb beaches overlooking the limestone-karst pitted sea and is the launching pad for islands like sleepy Koh Lanta and the Phi Phi archipelago, where The Beach was filmed
•    Surat Thani – a coastal town on the south east of Thailand and jumping off point for Koh Samui, Koh Tao and Koh Phangan, which are about an hour and a half away by boat

Getting around Thailand by train

If you have the time, travelling around Thailand by train is more eco-friendly than flying and an opportunity to watch local life and spectacular scenery unfold right outside your window. First class sleeper trains from Bangkok have private cabins with fold-down beds, western toilets in each carriage, air conditioning and staff serving Thai snacks and meals. Here are some of the most common Thailand train routes, tickets to the islands include boat transfers:

•    Bangkok to Chiang Mai – a journey of 11 hours
•    Bangkok to Kanchanaburi – a journey of 3 hours
•    Bangkok to Krabi – takes 15.5 hours
•    Bangkok to Koh Lanta – takes 19 hours
•    Bangkok to Koh Phi Phi – a 19.5-hour journey
•    Bangkok to Phuket – takes 16 hours
•    Bangkok to Koh Phangan – a journey of 17 hours
•    Bangkok to Koh Samui – takes 14.5

Thailand cruises and sailing

A cruise or sailing trip is the most luxurious way to see Thailand’s tropical islands and coastal destinations. Choose from Star Clipper cruise liners or 82-foot modern catamaran sailing boats, both have traditional nautical décor with modern en-suite cabins and private verandas. You’ll have an experienced skipper and guide as well as an onboard chef to serve up tasty Thai meals. Thailand cruise itineraries vary and can be tailored to your tastes, but a boutique island hopping tour on the Gulf coast will take in Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui.

The most popular cruise options on the Andaman Coast begin and end in Phuket. Sail around Phang Nga Bay taking in its famous limestone outcrops, stop at the Similan Islands for some of the world’s best diving, visit protected marine parks and explore desert-island delights such as Koh Rok Nok and Koh Yao Noi and Yai. Stops also include coastal beaches such as Railay and islands like the Phi Phi archipelago, Koh Lanta and Thailand’s southernmost island Koh Lipe.

Getting around Thailand by bus

Thailand has a good long-distance bus network with VIP options that include air conditioning, allocated seating, snacks, blankets and DVD players. Buses around the country go from three main stations in Bangkok:

•    The northern terminal Mo Chit – goes to destinations in the north of the country such as Chiang Mai, which can take 10 hours to get to, and Chiang Rai
•    The eastern terminal Ekamai – runs buses to the east coast, including routes to places like Pattaya, which takes two to three hours, and Rayong
•    The southern terminal Sai Tai Taling Chan – has buses to southern destinations like Krabi, which takes around 13 hours, Koh Samui and Phuket. Bus tickets to the islands include boat transfers

Local transport in Thailand

Thailand has a range of local transport options which are generally cheap and allow you to travel with local people and experience a taste of Thai life. Here are the most common options:

•    Ferries – are reliable and cheap, with regular routes to the islands off the Gulf and Andaman coasts
•    Longtail boats – wooden longtail boats can be hired for a fixed price and are good for short hops between island clusters or beaches
•    Songthaews – are open-ended vans with bench seats that drive around cities picking up passengers along the way. Journeys usually cost a fixed fee from as little as 20 Baht
•    Public buses – are very cheap and popular with locals, but the journeys can also be long with many stops
•    Motorbike taxi – a less-common option but a cheap way to hop short distances
•    Tuk tuks – are three-wheeled, open-sided vehicles and a traditional Thai method of transport. Drivers usually charge a fixed price, so journeys can be expensive
•    Taxi – metered taxis exist all over Thailand and are easy to hail, this is usually a cheaper option than a tuk tuk
•    Samlors – are three-wheeled bicycles with a small passenger cart. Samlors are still used in small towns and rural parts of the country and can be less expensive than tuk tuks and taxis

Top tips for travelling around Thailand

Whatever means of transport you use in Thailand, here are some top tips to ensure your journeys run smoothly:

•    Book tickets in advance to get the best prices and seats, particularly when it comes to securing internal flights. In peak season, tickets can run out fast, particularly for overnight trains
•    Always ask taxi drivers to use the meter and refuse inflated, fixed-price fares
•    Keep any valuables with you, don’t put them in the luggage hold where they can be lost or stolen. Always keep a copy of the photo page in your passport, this makes it easier to get a replacement if yours goes missing
•    Book journeys through a reputable hotel for security and convenience
•    Opt for air conditioned transport and always carry water with you to cope with the heat and humidity.  However, it’s worth taking a light jumper or scarf with you on trains and buses, as the air con can get fierce on long journeys
•    Agree prices for tuk tuk, samlor and motorbike taxi journeys before you get on

We offer a fantastic range of multi centre holidays allowing you take in even more of Thailand’s startling natural beauty, golden coastline and fascinating cultural attractions.

Uncover the very best of Thailand with these recommended multi-centre holidays and experiences

 

Elephant Hills Experience & Thai Beach Multi Centre (12 nights)
Khao Lak & Krabi Luxury Twin Centre (10 nights)
Bangkok, Koh Samui & Krabi Multi Centre (12 nights)
Thailand & Star Clipper Cruise (11 nights)
Overnight at The Float House River Kwai (1 night)


Need help finding your perfect Thailand holiday? Call our travel experts on
Tralee 066 7164410 Dublin 01 6649999 Call us 9am - 9pm Mon - Sun

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