How to Travel in Thailand – Taxis, Buses, Trains and Tuk-Tuks
May 9, 2018Amy Trumpeter
I’ve used pretty much every possible mode of transport so far in Thailand and I’m here to give you tips on train travel in Thailand, buses in Thailand and avoiding getting rip off Taxis and tuk tuks! Enjoy my ultimate guide on how to travel Thailand.
Flying into Bangkok to Travel Thailand
You will most likely arrive at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport through an international flight. If you want to avoid the hustle and bustle of the city as an introduction to Thailand, it might be a good idea to do a Bangkok airport layover and continue with an internal flight either North to Chiang Rai or Chiang Mai, or South to the islands. I flew straight to Chiang Rai, and don’t regret it! Chiang Rai was a peaceful introduction to Thailand where I was less likely to get ripped off or run over! I ended my journey in Bangkok, buy which time I was used to the money and the taxi system.
Travel Thailand – Get a SIM Card with a Thai phone number!
My best tip on how to travel Thailand is to buy a SIM with unlimited data so that you can trace your journey on google maps. This means that if you don’t understand what they say, or a Taxi tries to rip you off in Bangkok, you know exactly where you are.
Travel Thailand by Bus
Buses in Thailand are incredibly efficient and the main roads between the big cities (Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Bangkok and Kon Kaen) are very well Tarmacked unlike some bumpy pot holed roads I’ve experienced in India, Uganda and even Malta. Most buses are air conditioned. Some of them will even give you a free food ticket for long journeys and bring you water! Everything is well sign posted in English, and people help you, so there’s no need to worry. Try to book a day in advance where possible, and more if it is a festival such as Songkran.
My first bus trip was from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai. I was impressed that you simply download the Green Bus App, and book online. Then you show the booking at the ticket office and they give you your ticket. This makes booking simple, and you know that there is space on the bus as you have a seat number. The green bus was very comfy.
Tip – book the front seat if it is available as you will have more leg room and somewhere to put your drink!
The longest bus journey that I took was from Sukhothai to Bangkok – around 7-8 hours (my ticket was just 207 baht). To my surprise, I was given a tea and cake on board, and a ‘meal ticket’. The meal ticket was exchanged for a yummy pork with Bok Choi and boiled rice at our main stop! You won’t go hungry in Thailand 😉
Sometimes you can pay a bit extra for a VIP bus, which will have more leg room and less stops. Some of them have reclining seats so that you can lie down!
Travel Thailand by Train
Train travel is easy and comfortable in Thailand. I used the train to get from Bangkok to Lop Buri. On such a short trip, there’s no need to book in advance. I just turned up at 6.40am and I was on the train to Lop Buri by 7am! There are different classes of train in Thailand.
Without realising, The first time I travelled by train in Thailand was on the basic third class, which is actually standing! When he told me I looked quite shocked and I asked if I could pay him money to upgrade! He just pointed to he seats implying I could stay despite my ticket. I recommend that you state 2nd class when you are booking to get a seat, even 1st class for long journeys – it’s not expensive by western standards. My ticket to Lop Buri (standing!!!) was just 50 baht!
If your journey is longer, you may want to book a sleeper for the overnight train, for example from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.
Tuk Tuks in Thailand
Tuk tuks are one of my favourite ways to travel in Thailand, just not in Bangkok! Bangkok tuk tuks are generally a tourist rip off. Locals rarely use them and they can be unsafe ok Bangkok roads. Most tuk tuks in Bangkok will charge you double what a taxi will, many not taking you to your intended destination, in favour of some shop where they will get commission!
However, in the smaller cities like Chiang Rai and Sukhothai, tuk-tuks are great. Drivers are nice and friendly and in my experience, get you to your destination. Expect to pay around 50 baht for journeys within a small town or city. Here’s my Tuk-Tuk in Ayuttaya (they look like frogs!)
Taxis in Thailand and how to Avoid Rip off Taxis in Bangkok
Rip off Taxis in Thailand can be a problem, particularly in Bangkok. They see a ‘Farang’ and straight away want to charge extortionate prices. Bear in mind that it is a legal requirement for all Taxis to start the meter (35 baht basic). It is illegal for taxi drivers to talk on their mobile phone in Thailand – I tell them off and report them.
Be aware of scamming taxi drivers, even at official stands. For example, avoid the ‘official Taxi booking’ at Asiatique. They charge 20 baht to flag you a taxi and tell them where to go – all of these should also of corse be metered. However, despite this, many fail to put the meter on or take you for a ride all around the city! We ended up having a guy try to take us from Asiatique on the freeway with no need and also trying to drop us off at the Sky way instead of our hotel. I told him off and could see where we were going on the app. The fare was almost double what we should pay so I got out and paid him the standard fare, and our hotel boy told him off and offered to get the tourist police!
The best thing to do is flag a cab from the street and then get in presuming he will put the meter on and knowing how the system works. You can save the number of the tourist police and Department of Transport and report the if they do not.
Few taxi drivers speak English and a little Thai (left and right) will do you good in these situations.
In order to solve all of your Taxi scam problems in Bangkok and other cities in Thailand, I recommend that you download the GRAB app and always order Taxis through there. This way they will know exactly where you are going and how much the fare will be approximately. The driver also knows that he is going to get a good review from you (if he does his job properly).
Usually, if a driver does a good job I round it up to the next 10 baht which makes them happy and encourages good practice.
Tip – Download the GRAB App and only book through this.
Bangkok MRT (Metro) and BTS Skytrain
When you’re in Bangkok, the easiest way to get around the city and by far the best way to avoid scamming Bangkok Taxi drivers is to take the MRT (metro or underground) or the BTS Skytrain. Most shopping centres, main sites, bus stations and airports are connected to these, and although not as extensive as it could be, it’s a great way to travel.
Most tickets are around 30-40 baht and work out cheaper if you buy in bulk or get a ‘Rabbit Card’ for multiple trips.
How to use the Bangkok Skytrain
Your travel Thailand experience is not complete without a trip on the Bangkok Skytrain! You can ask at the ticket office how to get to places and how much the ticket will be. They all speak English in my experience, and they can also give you change as you pay for your ticket on a machine. Simply look on the map to find the price of your destination and select this along with the number of tickets. Then insert your coins. Main stations such as Siam also take small notes.
On the skytrain you should expect to get your bag searched as you go through the barrier, for security.
Travel Bangkok and other Cities by Boat
When you are in Bangkok, you will find that most of the main sites including Wat Arun, Wat Pho and the Grand Palace (Wat Phra Kaew) are positioned along the river, and therefore the easiest way to get the them is by boat. The cheapest boats down the Chao Phraya river are the orange flag boats at just 15 Baht. Be aware that they do get quite full. When you need to cross the river from one side to the other the charge is usually 5 baht.
This (above) is what the river taxis look like. There are also long boats which are private river taxis – avoid those as most of them are out to rip you off. There have been reports of boats switching the engine off halfway across the rive and refusing to shore unless you pay them 1000 baht!
You will come across many ‘boat touts’ at the ports who will try to steer you away from the boat taxis and towards the tourist boat (50 baht) or the Longtail boats (above – hundreds of Baht!) Just say ‘orange flag’ and continue to where the majority of people are!
You might also like to read about my 30 Day Thailand Itinerary for travel Thailand including the North and Central Thailand.