Choosing Your Transportation in Thailand
Vibrantly colored three-wheelers buzzing through the busy traffic of Bangkoks. Long sleek boats with bright colours reflect as they glide through the turquoise blue waters. That’s the popular image of transportation in Thailand singed into every tourist’s mind. But there’s so much more to it than that, especially in Bangkok.
These days, transportation in Thailand has moved on. Yes, you should still hop in tuk tuks and long tail boats for the travel experience. Once you realize you have plenty of options beyond that, you’ll be hopping from destination to destination stress-free and with more in your wallet.
So you want that authentic experience, the Thai tuktuk is the way to go. A descendant of that old oriental favourite, the rickshaw. With a hairdryer-like motor engine, this quintessentially Thai mode of transport in Thailand is a national emblem.
Take a spin around the city to see the tourist spots. Be careful of getting scammed especially if you are around Khaosan Road and the Grand Palace in Bangkok. Before hopping on board, ask the price. Typical start point will be an inflated price. So, get haggling.
Heavily polluted cities make even short tuk tuk trips through the city unpleasant. Protect your lungs by avoiding peak hours.
This is the way Thais travel. A cross between a shared taxi and a share bus, you’ll find red cars (rod daeng) outside of the big cities. If you can share a songthaew, it’s a social occasion in itself.
Small pickups with two rows of seating on the back end of the vehicle, Songthaews literally mean two rows. Covering longer distances than tuktuks, this shared mode of transport can be a bit circuitous. The driver will choose the route that makes the most sense rather than who got on first.
Popular in cities like Chiang Mai, songthaews are a cheaper choice when visiting the mountains or other spots. Perfect alternative if you’re in a group.
Grab taxis is the Asian version of Uber. Download the Grab taxi app on your smartphone and get booking – even without a Thai number.
With reasonable prices, Grab’s service is efficient and safe. Generally great value. Avoid pre-booking in advance as this can double or even quadruple or rate. Premium car options bump up the price when Grabbing a car.
Rua hang yao are Thailand’s “gondolas of the south”. Mostly found around Krabi and Phuket, long tail boats seem like a romantic option to sail around Thailand’s southern seas.
As the traditional water transportation of Thailand, the locals use these iconic boats as cargo and fishing boats. They are also used to ferry around locals and tourists alike. Their design is passed down from generation to generation. These traditional designs wouldn’t pass Western standards of health and safety. The shape has evolved to cope with climatic conditions as well as their overall purpose.
Navigate the coves and bays of the Andaman coast, moor up on idyllic beaches far away from everyone else. Renting a long tail boat for the day is an adventure. The spirit of Mae Ya Nang (Grandmother of the Boats) protects you and promises a bountiful catch of fish.
We recommend booking your long tail boats through a trusted source like Koh Life since the experienced is completely streamlined compared to local travel agencies.
Watching the local Thais zipping around on their scooters, your envy levels will rise. Independence and daring might spring to mind. Don’t forget dangerous too. With scooter rental shops everywhere, temptation is ripe. Beginner’s might want to read upon the finer details of how to rent a bike in Thailand.
Riding a scooter in Thailand is the way to get into the routine of a city. Used to riding a bike elsewhere? Adapt your riding style. There’s no need to go full-on Thai with ten of you on the one bike.
High above the city, Bangkok’s Skytrain is an elevated rapid transit system. Ideal for escaping the horrendous Bangkok traffic below.
Its two heavily air-conditioned lines dart across the city. The BTS lines, Sukhumvit and Silom, are clean and fast with an aerial view of the city. Sukhumvit runs from north to the east of the city. Silom runs from west to the south. Cross over between the two at Siam station. You’ll be pretty much covered for travelling around Bangkok on public transport.
Although expensive, you can always pick up a day ticket. If you do use your Rabbit card, you’ll be charged extra outside of the main part of the system.
Linking into the BTS, the MRT (Metropolitan Rapid Transit) is Bangkok’s subway system.
As fast, clean and efficient as the Skytrain, the Bangkok metro travels in a horseshoe shape from Bang Sue in the north to Hua Lamphong in the south of the city. Use the MRT to get out to Phetchaburi Station from where you can take the Airport Link to Suvarnabhumi.
All the different transport systems in Bangkok have different ticketing systems. The MRT is no different. You can’t use your Rabbit card. You need to buy a token. Keep it safe as you need it to get out of the subway.
Sightseeing by boat gives any city a distinctive vantage point. As they snake through Bangkok’s waterways, the canal buses lack the romance of Venice’s gondolas.
The Khlong Saen Saeb Boat service is one of the numerous routes around Bangkok. It runs 100 boats and 60,000 passengers everyday the 18km across Bangkok from east to west. As this is a commuter service, you’ll discover the non touristy parts of Bangkoks.
In need of some touristic rebalancing, sail through the Thonburi canal. Charter your own rua hang yao (long tail boat) and visit the floating markets. Decrepit houses on stilts contrast with ornate temples and remarkable private residences. A city full of contrasts in so many ways.