Thailand—home of some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, a diverse culinary mecca, and ranked the number one tourist destination in Southeast Asia by TripSavvy—is one of the premier global travel locations, and for good reason. With so much to do, and so many varied locales and flavors to explore, visitors often find themselves wondering how to get around this magnificent country.
Luckily, Thailand offers a gamut of transportation options varying in price, comfort, and speed. Tourists can experience everything from tuk-tuk rides through Chiang Mai, to the hyper-modern Skytrain in Bangkok, and countless other options in between.
Take some risks, be willing to face the heat and hop on the nearest taxi, tuk-tuk, subway, bus, ferry, scooter, rental car, plane or train and get out there and experience the wonders of Thailand!
Our Top Pick: Flying Throughout Thailand
Thailand has several international airports, though Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK) is by far the largest. Outside of these major airports including Phuket (HKT), Chiang Mai (CNX), Hat Yai (HDY) and Koh Samui (USM), there are several domestic airports scattered across the country serving commercial passengers.
Most of these airports are served by budget airlines, and airfare will be quite cheap once you are moving around domestically. As there are so many airports in Thailand, double-check your tickets before and after purchase to be sure you head to the right airport.
If you are looking to book flights to or within Thailand, we recommend these airlines: AirAsia, Bangkok Airways, Nok Air, Sawadee, Thai Airways, and Transit Bangkok. Google Flights is another excellent way to compare flight prices. You can also save money by using credit card points to fly to Thailand. Check out this article from Money Magazine on additional options for reward points, free upgrades, or other incredible credit card perks.
Renting a Car, Scooter, or Motorcycle
Driving in Thailand can be either a great way to explore or a serious risk depending on where you travel and your experience driving in South East Asia.
We do not recommend deciding to get behind the wheel in any of the major city centers like Bankok or Chiang Mai.
But, if you are in more rural or less congested areas, driving can be a fascinating way to explore on your own. The roads are generally well kept, but be aware Thailand follows British-style, driving on the left-hand side of the road, with the driver sitting on the right side of the car.
Aside from the numerous Thai rental firms, travelers can get rentals from all the major rental companies, including Avis, Budget, National, Sixt, and Hertz.
In some cases, you may only need your usual driver’s license, but if you go with a local agency, you may be asked for an International Driving Permit. These are a good idea to have in case you get stopped by local authorities as well and can be obtained from any AAA office in the US.
If you decide to drive on your own, we recommend checking out this article on the cost of international auto insurance, which covers everything from who might need international auto insurance, to the costs involved, to where to purchase, and more.
Thailand by Train
With so many affordable flights available throughout Thailand, when going long distances try flying as much as possible.
But, if you’re hoping to see some more countryside along your journey from the comfort of a train car, the country has nearly 2,500 miles of rail lines.
Traveling by train can add a considerable amount of time and money to your travel, but the Thai tourism office advises that trains are safer than buses. Plus, you definitely will be riding in comfort and style. There are four kinds of trains: Ordinary (local), Rapid, Express and Special Express — each in ascending order of increasing speed and comfort.
Busing Around Thailand
Buses vary widely in Thailand, with everything from Local (no AC), Express (despite the name, they are cheap and slow), Second Class (possible AC), First Class (AC), VIP and Super-VIP (both of which include reclining seats, meals, bottled water, and sometimes even Karaoke—if you’re trying to sleep this can get loud).
Tuk-tuks are the fast-moving, three-wheel, daredevil equivalents to taxis. They will get you where you need to fast, but you will have to face heat, pollution (which can get smelly), and risk of death in an accident.
If you choose to ride for the experience and convenience, we recommend sticking to short trips. Be sure to bargain and set your price before getting in, as many tourists get scammed into paying more than a taxi for a ride.
Bio: Kalev Rudolph is a travel blogger, foodie, and writer for AutoInsurance.org. When not exploring abroad, he can be found enjoying the outdoors or cooking new meals.