What is the best way to get around Thailand?

Thailand is great, it offers all modes of transports. But it is also bigger than you might think and the roads aren’t the best. If you want to hang out in some more rural areas you might be wondering how to get there, and how to get around Thailand when island hopping. Well, hopefully I can help!

Table of Contents

Flying around Thailand

Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport is one of the most well connected and busiest in the world. They offer direct lights from all over the world, Europe, Australia, Africa, Asia, it’s just the Americas which you can’t reach directly.

From Bangkok you can reach smaller areas of Thailand and also the islands. This is the most convenient and quickest mode of transport but won’t be your cheapest. Flight prices are comparable to European flight costs and you need to be mindful that baggage is not always included in the cost.

Reputable airlines within Thailand that offer domestic flights include Thai Lion Air, Air Asia, Bangkok Airways, VietJet, Thai Airways and Thai Smile.

From Bangkok you can fly to over 25 domestic locations, all within 75 minutes or less. You can fly direct between other cities and islands but Bangkok will of course always give you the highest amount of flight options.

Getting the train in Thailand

Taking the train in Thailand is a long experience but can be pleasant. Thai trains are cheap but they are more comfortable than buses. The first thing to be aware of is you need to book your train ticket at least a few days in advance if possible, they can sell out fast.

The best way to book your train tickets is through 12go. The website is much more user friendly than the train company themselves and in English. There is a small booking fee but they accept international payments, making it much easier for the traveller. Click here to access 12go.

A number of people are entitled to a 50% discount on trains. These include children between 100-150cm (under 100cm travel free), Buddhist monks, Christian priests and Muslim imams, soldiers in uniform, and Thai nationals who are over 60.

Popular train journeys in Thailand include the route between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. This takes 10-12 hours but passes through stunning countryside and is a great, slow style of travel.

Click here for an interactive map of the train routes in Thailand.

There are three classes of travel, 1st, 2nd and 3rd. 1st class is only available when offering sleeper services. 2nd class also is in the sleeper class, and 3rd class offers seat only. If you are not taking a long overnight trip, you will save money by choosing seating in 3rd class. Train standards in Thailand are not fancy but they are clean and comfortable.

Important to note: If you have booked your ticket online, you need to show your confirmation at the station and pick up your ticket. You must have a physical ticket to avoid getting fined, the confirmation on your phone isn’t enough.

Is getting the bus in Thailand easy?

The bus network in Thailand is huge, connected far more locations than train or plane, there are many off the beaten track locations where bus is your only option. Of course, the majority of buses will depart from or for Bangkok.

If you’re budget conscious, buses will be the cheapest mode of travel. There are many overnight bus options with comfy reclining chairs. Travelling overnight is particularly popular with backpackers as it saves a night’s accommodation cost!

Long haul bus journeys will make 2-3 stops for toilet breaks and also stop at small supermarkets such as 7-Eleven so you can stock up on snacks. It’s important to note that alcoholic beverages are forbidden to be consumed, as is smelly food!

The buses in Thailand are reliable and usually depart on time, arriving either on schedule or slightly early. The best way of being sure of the bus times is to go to the bus station and check the timetable, not the most convenient but often people aren’t aware of which bus company to go with. Even when you google the timetables they tend to be in Thai. However, 12go is now showing most bus routes so if you don’t have time to go to the station or it’s not convenient, 12go is pretty reliable and you can check buses here.

How to book ferries in Thailand

If you want to go island hopping in Thailand, ferries will become very useful to you. Marine safety standards have improved a lot in the last decade and tourists can feel confident taking to the waters. 
The easiest way to book your ferry is in advance via a website such as Direct Ferries or 12Go. During my trip in February 2023 I found that ferries sold out a few days in advance so it is well worth pre-booking a ticket a week or more in advance.
There tends to be a slow service and a fast service, the former being the cheaper. Bad weather can affect services so it is always wise to make sure you aren’t taking a ferry on the same day you fly out, just incase the service is cancelled. It is also fairly common for ferries to be late, most will ask you to arrive at least 30 minutes early to check in.

Leave a Reply