Thailand rose to dramatic fame some thirty-odd years back, majorly due to the ‘banana pancake trail’ preferred by backpackers back in the day. And even today, this beautiful country continues to sparkle like a timeless jewel in the tourism industry.
A preferred destination for approximately 25 million people each year from across the globe, Thailand is considered a haven for all kinds of tourists. What does this signify? It simply means that it truly does not matter what kind of a tourist you are – Whether you are a backpacker, a cultural, business, religious or even an eco-tourist, Thailand will surely suit your kind of travel!
You want to know how you can make the best of the cheap transport facilities in the country, don’t you? Here is the right place as I am gonna share the nitty-gritty of travelling around Thailand that is easy on the pocket.
How many modes of transport are there in Thailand?
Did you know that there are more than twelve modes of transport to choose from, to travel across Thailand? Crazy, right? But what are they? How much do they cost? How can you avail them? Most importantly, which is the best (and the cheapest) one? So let’s start addressing all these pointers!
Here are the different options for you to travel efficiently in Thailand:
The Fastest Option would always be by Plane
This is by far the fastest way to travel across Thailand. But for all that speed and time saving, it is the most expensive option too! There are plenty of Airways but if you are looking for more local options, Bangkok Airways and Thai Airways are two major carriers that serve across almost all parts of the country.
If you are entering the country via a flight, there are good chances you will be landing at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport (pronounced as ‘Sue-wanna-poom’) of Bangkok.
The capital city is also home to Don Mueang Airport, which is now majorly used for domestic and budget carriers.
There is no doubt that choosing this way of commuting can save you hours of toil in case you decide to travel from a place like Phuket to Sakon Nakhon. But it will take a toll on your pocket, costing you anywhere between 4000-5000 THB (Thai Baht) for a comfortable two-hour flight. Flights from Bangkok to places like Chiang Mai, Krabi or Chiang Rai will cost you somewhere between 2000-5500 THB. If you do intend to travel like this, remember that flights to the islands will cost you far more than those between Thai cities.
Here is a pro tip for you: Make the best of ongoing offers (mostly from budget carriers) to make the best of promotional deals. Remember that you can save a good amount of money on such deals. Be sure to check out such offers a few weeks ahead of when you are actually planning to travel!
Travelling By Train-The Authentic Thai Experience
For an authentic Thai experience, I recommend that you travel by train once when you are here. With a sprawling rail network spreading across more than 2500 miles, this is actually a decent option for those intending to save money. While trains here are not particularly fast, they are deemed safer compared to travelling by road.
One important point for you to remember is that there are three primary classes of train services. They are:
- First-class trains include air conditioning, convertible beds and private sinks on long-distance routes. Choose these for a luxurious experience.
- Second-class trains cost less and give you an option to choose from a foldable or a seated bed, with curtains to ensure privacy.
- Third-class trains do not include AC and are more suited for a cost-effective traveller. Most trains in this category offer wooden seats, which as you can imagine, are not the most comfortable.
Coming to the cost, the fares depend on the class of the seat opted. While third-class seats are offered from as low as 50 THB, the higher classes are priced from 500-1000 THB
An important point to note: The Bang Sue Grand Station in Bangkok will replace the Hua Lamphong Railway Station as the new railway hub. Currently, in its final stages on completion, the brand new station will become Southeast Asia’s largest railway station. Expected to open from March 2021, the terminus will offer an elevated walkway directly connected to the Mo Chit Bus Terminal.
So keep this in mind when you are looking out for train travel!
Travel By Bus For Overnight Trips
Much like trains, there are different classes/types of buses that you can choose. From the cheapest option of local buses, all the way to the relatively costlier (and luxurious) option of VIP buses – There are quite a few choices that you have, to suit your travel plans.
Travelling via bus in Thailand is relatively inexpensive and easily available.
- Local buses cost 250-350 THB for an overnight journey. Keep in mind that although they might seem cheap, local buses are quite slow!
- Some of the second class buses may have air condition, it really depends on the cost and the route of the bus. These can cost you in the range of 400-700 THB for an overnight trip.
- The VIP class of buses are most suited for longer journeys as this offers you comfortable legroom, reclining seats, complimentary water and WIFI. The fare of these buses generally ranges from 800-1500 THB, depending on the travel distance.
In case you are looking to book a bus from Bangkok, here is how you can go about it:
- Mo Chit Bus Terminal: For buses to north, north-east, east and central regions of Thailand. Soon to be connected with the all-new Bang Sue Grand Station via a walkway.
- Ekkamai Bus Terminal: For buses to eastern Thailand and Sai Tai Mai.
- Southern Bus Terminal: For buses to the southern, eastern and western provinces.
- Suvarnabhumi Bus Terminal: Situated right at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport, you can directly book a bus to most parts of the country from here.
The Ferry is the way for Island Hopping or Transfer from Land
If you intend on travelling to the beautiful islands that our country offers, this is a popular mode of commuting. Far more affordable than flights, ferries are apparently one of the preferred ways to explore islands like Koh Phi Phi and Koh Samui around Thailand’s coastlines.
Ranging from 200-600 THB, the relatively affordable fare of ferries is a result of high competition between different vendors. Thanks to the new-age shift to online bookings, you can safely book your tickets online and save yourself from the prying eyes of the touts. Keep in mind, you will have to keep a track of ferry schedules as they have a tendency to change from time to time.
Travel by a Van
There are two kinds of vans you will see in Thailand. The first category of vans is more like mini-buses which are traditionally rented by foreigners travelling in bigger groups.
The second option in this category is a minivan, which takes you from one province to another. You just go to the bus terminals ( refer to travel by bus above ) and buy a ticket and hopped in. However, they are not private meaning you are sharing and if you have huge baggage, you will be charged extra.
The fares of these may vary in the range of 100-250 THB depending on the distance.
Trips start from Bangkok to the following
- Ayutthaya – 130 Baht onwards
- Pattaya – 200 Baht onwards
- Hua Hin – 230 Baht onwards
- Kanchanaburi – 150 Baht onwards
- Erwan National Park – 210 onwards
- Lopburi- 170 Baht – onwards
- Aranyaprathet(Border of Cambodia) – 330 Baht onwards
- Mae Khlong Railway Market – 150 Baht onwards
- Damnoen Saduak Floating Market – 170 Baht onwards
You can also take the Minivan to do Ferry transfers, the trips start from Bangkok to (inclusive of minivan+ferry+taxi) * Prices are estimates
- Koh Chang – From 450 Baht
- Koh Samet – From 520
- Koh Kood – From 900 Baht
- Koh Mak – From 800 Baht
Travel by a ‘Songthaew’
Not to be confused with the famous ‘Tuk-tuks’ which you will be more familiar with, these are simply truck or lorries modified with carriage and Thais called them ‘songthaews’ (which is different from a conventional van); it varies in different shapes and sizes depending on which city you are in. These are a common form of transport for local Thais to get around their daily lives in their neighbourhood, and you would often see different passengers sharing a ‘songthaew’., the fare for these is generally well under 15 THB. It is actually a pretty experience and very much like the Jeepney of the Philippines minus the flamboyant colours and loud music.
Travel by Car
If you are looking for a more personalised experience with more freedom to choose where and when to stop, this is the way to go.
You can choose to rent a car through any of the trusted dealers, as it is one of the most accessible modes of commuting. Although this option is a strict no-no if you are planning to rent a car in congested cities like Bangkok, it is a perfectly viable option in case you are exploring the less explored parts of the country. Renting a car can cost you anywhere between 900-2000 THB depending on the duration of the trip.
Travel by ‘Tuk-Tuk’
Tuk-tuks are widely popular in many cities of our populous country and are quite a reliable option to explore the cities of Thailand in an immersive manner. Do not judge them by their looks, as they are far safer than how they might be perceived. Owing to tourist touting, you have to ensure that you bargain effectively for these. Expect to be charged more than locals, as one ride can cost you 50-80 THB.
Travel via a Motorbike
By now, you already know that there are numerous ways to travel around Thailand. To add to this big list, there is this option to do your sightseeing on a motorcycle. What better way to completely immerse in Thailand with the soothing coastal breeze, than a motorbike?
Here again, you have different options to choose from:
- The first option is to rent a motorbike for yourself and get going. Make sure that you have your documents with you when you choose to rent one, and ensure that you rent one from a trusted vendor. This is a more common way to explore the islands as many tourists prefer to rent scooters/bikes to help navigate the busy-narrow streets.
The fares for renting a two-wheeler for yourself would depend on what kind of motorbike you are looking to hire. It ranges from around 200 THB to 1000 THB for a day.
- The second option is more of a motorbike taxi (‘motor-sai, as locals call it), which operates only in short distances within the city – usually less than 10 minutes per ride. It is similar to how taxis work, other than the fact that you are on two wheels. This is a pretty common way to travel for locals as it is time-efficient. Make sure that you bargain well as the cost for these can be between 20-30 THB for a short ride!
Airport Rail Link From Suvarnabhumi International Airport
There are more than just one way to travel to and fro from Suvarnabhumi Airport. The Airport Rail Link is just one of these ways, and possibly the most efficient. Exclusive trains run on an express railway line connecting the Phaya Thai station to the terminal station at the international airport
There are eight stations on the railway line, where passengers can board/deboard, which makes the commute even easier. The train hardly takes a total of 30 minutes to reach the airport from the Phaya Thai station, effectively covering a distance of 28 km. Now Isn’t that amazing?
But how big a dent will that bring to your wallet, you ask? Barely any, in my opinion. This is because the fare for travelling on the airport rail link is a nominal 15-45 THB depending on the distance.
You can go to their website directly here for more information here.
BTS SkyTrain-Electric Railway Station
The SkyTrain runs across the cosmopolitan city of Bangkok on an elevated track, which is in itself a tough sight to miss once you are in the capital city. The transit system runs along 3 primary lines, which consist of a total of 61 stations. The entire route spans a length of almost 70 km.
Historically, the BTS SkyTrain was the first electric railway system to function in Thailand. Since its inception, it has been an unparalleled form of commute for the locals. The carriages of these trains are all air-conditioned, which is a blessing in disguise considering the weather Bangkok majorly experiences.
The fares of the BTS depend on the distance and vary from 15-50 THB one way. It may also be worthwhile to note that many discount passes are available at BTS ticket offices. This includes a one-day travel pass which would cost you around 140 THB.
You can go to their website directly here for more information here.
Bangkok Metro-Mass Rapid Transit (MRT)
Every major city in the world is equipped with a seamless metro system, and Bangkok is no exception. The Bangkok Metro is an underground rail system that is commonly known as Mass Rapid Transit (MRT).
The MRT is a 70 km long railway system that runs along 53 stations right below the illustrious surface of the busy city. The route consists of two primary lines – the Blue Line and the Purple Line.
Once you get a hang of the railway systems in Bangkok, it is quite easy to travel via rail. Not to mention, it saves you the trouble of bargaining with taxi drivers and the everpresent city traffic.
The fares can vary between 15-70 THB depending on the distance. Similar to the SkyTrain, a one-day ticket can be availed by you for around 140 THB. An interesting point for you to remember is that tickets are free for children under 90 cm in height.
You can go to their website directly here for more information here.
Try the Canal Taxi-Way Of Life In Thailand
To add to this extensive list, there is this unique way of soaking in the innate beauty of Bangkok. That’s right, you can hop on a large taxi-like boat and get to exploring the urban city, on a river! Don’t be surprised if you find it hard to get a seat on these fancy boats though. This is because the water bus is a huge success among locals, who still use it to get to work or from one point to another even today.
The canal taxi runs on the Khlong Saen Saeb river and there are two routes that you can choose from. The western line which ends at Golden Mount makes up the first route. The eastern line, which ends at the National Institute of Development Administration makes the second.
As a whole, the entire canal route runs over a course of 18 km, with over 100 boats serving the passengers in a day. An exciting river-side seat on the water bus can cost you 8-20 THB, varying as per the distance travelled.
Insights on Travelling in Bangkok
Remember to stay away from money-hogging touts who try to lure foreigners with fancy slangs like ‘cheap Thailand tour packages. Do your research well, speak to your hotel manager and locals around, and you should be okay.
The bottom line is that if you are looking to travel around Thailand cheaply, there are actually several ways you can do it with. Trains are the best option to travel long distances while spending the least. Buses are your next best bet in case you are looking to make good on your time and comfort. Choose a ferry for island hopping. Pick ‘tuk-tuks’ and ‘motor-sai’ for exploring a city well. Lastly, if you are short on time, you can opt for the more expensive option of flying.
That’s about it. I hope this article helped you to understand how to make the most of Thailand’s expansive transport network. Until the next one, travel safe!