Getting Around Thailand
Thailand by plane
It’s a huge country so if you want to make the most of your gap year in Thailand you might want to consider a few journeys by plane. Flights with the lowcost carriers are pretty cheap by British standards and easy to use whether you’re flying domestically or into any of the neighbouring countries.
Thailand by train
Travelling by train around Thailand is a great option if you want to visit the main gap year hot spots. Compared to buses in Thailand the trains are pretty slow and prone to delays, but they’re much safer. Depending on your budget and need to sleep there are three main classes – prebooking is recommended. Check out the amazing seat 61 website for timetables and ticket information.
Thailand by road
Steer clear of the roads in Thailand if possible – there are some terrible driving habits there. Drunk driving, speeding and reckless passing are dangerously common, and it’s often reported that bus and taxi drivers work crazily long shifts too. Be extra careful during the national festivals such as Songkran.
All official road directional signs are written in both Thai and English and traffic moves on the left side of the road. If you do want to rent a car in Thailand it can be a good way of exploring off the beaten track, as long as you’re careful. Drive very defensively at first and watch what the locals do.
Thailand by bus
Buses in Thailand are a popular way for gappers to get around the country. Generally speaking, BKS buses are the best option for both price and comfort. You can catch the local service, the express, second class, first class or VIP, depending on your backpacker budget. Take your earphones or ear plugs to block out the blaring music. Make sure you buy your bus ticket from a reputable company as there are many illegal bus companies about.
And remember, if you’re sat at the front and a monk boards you will need to stand up and let him sit down.
Thailand by songthaew
A songthaew is a truck-based vehicle with a pair of bench seats in the back, one on either side – the name means “two rows” in Thai. The most common type is based on a pick-up truck and has a roof and open sides.
Songthaews are used as buses for local destinations, and also as taxis. Be careful if you’re getting in a songthaew and there’s nobody else in the back, the driver might charge you the taxi price. Always check the price of the ride before embarking.
Thailand by tuk-tuk and motorbike
There are loads of tuk-tuks in Thailand, they’re the little ramshackle taxis that take you around the locality. Motorbikes are also really popular in Thailand, but please be careful if you’re hiring one on your gap year in Thailand. The amount of accidents reported from gappers on these is terrifying – best to just stick with the tuk tuks.
Thailand by rental car
Driving your own car in Thailand is not for the faint-hearted – remember what I said about the dangerous roads? Be careful. It’s worth paying a little more than the absolute minimum to use one of the international franchises (eg Avis, Budget, and Hertz) to minimise the risk of hassles, and to ensure that any included insurance is actually worth something.
Thailand by boat
One of the Thais’ many names for themselves is jao naam, the Water Lords, and from the river expresses of Bangkok to the fishing trawlers of Phuket, boats remain an indispensable way of getting around many parts of the country.
You’re sure to spot a longtail boat – a long, thin wooden boat with a propeller at the end. Great for short distances, but can be a little choppy on longer trips.