Getting around in Thailand

Transport options in Thailand - taking planes, trains, ferries, buses, rental cars, and tuk tuk taxis

Tour (without air)

8 days
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Internal airfare

Bangkok - Koh Samui
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Inter-city bus

Bangkok - Chiang Mai
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Rental car

per day
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tuk tuk
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If you don't go for an all-inclusive tour with air, you can take an inexpensive land-only tour, or simply get about on public transportation.

Shop front travel agents cluster around backpacker enclaves and bus terminals and are the easiest way to find out the cost and time involved (and book tickets) to get to the next stop on your itinerary.

As a rule of thumb: if a bus or train ride is going to take more than five hours, look into "splurging" on a low-cost airfare instead.

Yes, Thai trains ( and long-distance buses ( are ludicrously cheap, but not very fast (buses are, actually, usually the faster than trains, especially as the trains notoriously never run on schedule).

Meanwhile, thanks to such low-cost carriers as Bangkok Air, planes are super-cheap. The one-way cost for most flights within Thailand and the surrounding SEA region is about $50–$140—and by air it only takes 70–120 minutes to get anywhere (

For example: To get from from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, you could take a 10-hour bus ride ($17–$28) or a 12-hour train ride (in air-conditioned 1st class: from $30 for a seat, $42–$48 for a bed in a sleeper car; in in padded-seat 2nd class: from $20 for a seat, $26 for a bed; in frankly uncomfortable 3rd class: from $15 for a hard seat).

Or you could simply hop a 75-minute plane ride for around $50. Practically speaking (assuming you book at least second class on the train) that's an extra $2–$33 to buy yourself back nearly an entire day's worth of time—and that, my friends, is vacation funds very well spent.

Getting around in town

For getting around town, jump in a taxi (flag fall is about 35 THB/$1, plus 3 THB/10¢ per kilometer)or, for more fun (but a greater chance of being overcharged—not that it costs too much to begin with) flag down a tuk tuk, Thailand's ubiquitous three-wheeled, open-sided taxis (technically, these are sǎamláw, but everybody calls them tuk-tuks).

Many smaller towns also feature motorcycle taxis—cheap, but a bit problematic if you have luggage (also: motorcycles are far from the safest form of transportation—in general, not just in Thailand).

In watery Thailand, also handy are public ferries and longtail boats (motorized canoes that act as water taxis).

In smaller cities, you can usually rent a bike or moped for $1.50 to $5 a day (not recommended in Bangkok).

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This article was by Reid Bramblett and last updated in April 2011.
All information was accurate at the time.

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Copyright © 1998–2013 by Reid Bramblett. Author: Reid Bramblett.