Transport in Thailand – 14 Ways to Get Around (Easy Guide)

In this article, we will explore the various modes of transport available throughout Thailand and weigh the pros and cons of each.

Getting around Thailand

Taxi

Taxes are ideal if you’re looking for a convenient way to get around Thailand. However, convenience comes at a price – they are often the country’s most expensive mode of road transport.

Taxis are widely available in major cities across the country and are also a great option for getting to destinations that are farther away.

Personally, I have used taxis to travel long distances, such as from Bangkok to Pattaya, or shorter trips, like from Bangkok Airport to the city center.

Regarding affordability, Bangkok is one of the most affordable cities for taxi travel, while areas like Phuket tend to be more expensive.

Public taxis in Thailand operate on a meter system, but for longer distances, you can negotiate a fixed fare.

Taxis are especially convenient for airport pick-ups and traveling around cities. Just be prepared to pay a bit more for the convenience.

Pros:

  • Convenient way to travel in Thailand
  • Ideal for getting picked up from airports or traveling around cities
  • Can be used to get to further away destinations
  • Available in major cities around the country

Cons:

  • Can be expensive compared to other modes of transport
  • Prices can be higher in touristy areas like Phuket
  • Drivers may not speak English
  • Some drivers may refuse to use the meter and insist on a fixed price

Insider Tip:

Ensure that the taxi driver uses the meter or agrees to a fixed price before starting the journey to avoid being overcharged

Motorcycle Taxi

Thai Moto Taxi

Motorcycle taxis are a popular mode of transportation in Thailand’s big cities, particularly for those who want to avoid traffic.

They are much cheaper than standard taxis, making them an affordable option for locals.

You can find motorcycle taxis near transport hubs and shopping malls in large cities, where the drivers wear distinctive high-visibility vests gathered in groups waiting for customers.

However, it’s important to note that motorcycle taxis can be dangerous despite being cheaper and faster in traffic. For your safety and to comply with local laws, wearing a helmet when riding a motorcycle taxi in Thailand is mandatory.

Motorcycle taxis are not metered; instead, the driver will ask where you want to go and provide a fixed price upfront but only pay the driver when the journey is complete.

Pros:

  • Affordable and often faster than car taxis in heavy traffic

Cons:

  • Can be dangerous, especially if proper safety precautions are not taken
  • Can be Difficult to communicate the destination with the driver (tip: show them on Google maps)
  • Not suitable for long-distance travel

Insider Tip:

Motorcycle taxis should always have an extra helmet for the passenger. If they don’t you can wait for the next available taxi that does.

Grab

Grab is a well-known ride-hailing service in Asia and is a popular alternative to Uber in Thailand since Uber no longer operates here.

With the Grab app, you can easily manage all your local road transport needs, including selecting your pickup and drop-off points, and the type of vehicle you prefer.

Grab offers multiple vehicle types to cater to different budgets and accepts multiple payment methods.

Although Grab may not be cheaper than using a local taxi, it provides the convenience of managing everything through the app and offers additional safety measures.

I personally use Grab on numerous occasions to travel both short and long distances. For instance, I booked a Grab from Bangkok to Pattaya for around 2,000 THB.

Pros:

  • Convenient app for managing all your transport needs
  • Multiple vehicle types to choose from
  • Accepts multiple payment methods
  • Additional safety measures

Cons:

  • More expensive than local taxis
  • Surge pricing during peak hours or high-demand times
  • Limited availability in some areas outside major cities

Insider tip:

Get a tourist SIM to access the internet and book using Grab while out and about.

Bolt

Bolt is a ride-hailing service that’s been gaining popularity in Thailand, especially in major cities like Bangkok.

It offers a range of vehicle types, from budget to luxury, and generally has lower prices than Grab, although not as low as local taxis.

While Bolt is known for its comprehensive pricing, it only accepts cash payments in Thailand.

As a frequent traveler, I often compare Bolt prices against those on Grab, and sometimes use Bolt when Grab is in high demand and drivers aren’t available.

Keep in mind that while the fare is fixed with Bolt, it can change based on factors such as traffic or other circumstances during the ride.

Pros:

  • Generally cheaper than Grab
  • Multiple vehicle types are available

Cons:

  • Only accepts cash
  • Not as cheap as local taxis

Tuk Tuk

Tuk Tuks are an iconic mode of transport for tourists in Thailand’s cities like Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

Although more expensive than regular taxis, they’re great for getting around temples or on small streets.

Tuk Tuks are generally found around tourist hot spots and are not on a meter, so you can bargain for a lower fare.

They can hold a maximum of four people and are generally more comfortable than motorcycle taxis, but they are still more pricey.

Most Tuk Tuks in Thailand run on diesel fuel, which can emit a significant amount of smoke and is harmful to the environment. However, a new service called Muvmi is now operating in Bangkok, offering cheaper electric Tuk Tuks as an alternative.

Locals tend to avoid them due to the cost.

Pros:

  • Unique and fun experience
  • Great for short trips and navigating small streets

Cons:

  • More expensive than regular taxis or motorbike taxis
  • Negotiating the fare can be a hassle
  • Not the most comfortable or safest option

Insider tip:

Always negotiate the price with the driver before getting in the Tuk Tuk to avoid being overcharged.

Songthaew

Are you ready to explore Thailand on a budget? Look no further than the Songthaew! These converted pickup trucks are a convenient and cheap mode of transport in major cities like Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

The covered seating area means you can stay dry during rainy seasons.

The Songthaew is a shared form of transport, usually following fixed routes where you can hop on and off.

Hail the driver, tell them your destination, and negotiate the fixed cost.

Communication with drivers can be tricky, so having a map handy is a good idea. Remember to pay the driver ONLY once you’ve reached your destination!

Pros:

  • One of the cheapest ways to travel in Thailand
  • Covered seating area protects from rain
  • Ideal for short affordable trips

Cons:

  • Shared type of transport so may not be suitable for those who prefer privacy
  • Communication with the driver may be difficult
  • Limited to specific routes and may not go to certain destinations.

Insider tip:

When taking a Songthaew, it’s helpful to have a map or a translation of your destination written in Thai to show the driver.

Bus

Traveling around Thailand on a budget? Buses are your best bet. They’re one of the cheapest forms of transport and are widely available across the country.

You can book bus tickets on the day of travel or plan ahead and book through a platform ticketing platform.

Public city buses in Bangkok can be notorious due to vehicle age, overcrowding and lack of air conditioning, but some newer electric buses have been introduced recently.

Many tourists and locals use regional buses to travel between cities because they’re more affordable than flying or taking a taxi. The major bus stations in Bangkok with regional connections are Ekkamai Bus Terminal and Morchit Bus Station.

I only recommend taking a local Bangkok public bus if you know it’s a newer vehicle with air conditioning.

Pros:

  • One of the cheapest forms of transport in Thailand
  • Regional buses are affordable for getting between cities
  • Buses can reach destinations that other modes of transport cannot

Cons:

  • Public city buses in Bangkok are mostly dated and overcrowded
  • Some public city buses in Bangkok do not have air conditioning
  • Can be uncomfortable for long journeys
  • Can be delayed due to traffic and other factors

Insider tips:

If you’re taking a public bus in Bangkok, have small change ready, as they may not accept larger notes.

BTS

The BTS Skytrain system is one of the most convenient and reliable ways to get around Bangkok.

With multiple lines and stations, the BTS Skytrain network covers many central areas and popular tourist landmarks, including Sukhumvit and Siam, making it a popular mode for tourists and locals.

The BTS network runs above ground, so you can get great city views. Trains are modern, clean, and air-conditioned, providing a comfortable ride.

I recommend avoiding the BTS during peak hours (8-10 am and 5-6 pm) because it gets very crowded with locals heading home from work.

To use the BTS Skytrain, you can buy tickets at the train station or top up a Rabbit Card, a prepaid card that allows you to tap and go at the entrance gates.

If you’re planning to stay in Bangkok, booking a hotel close to an MRT or BTS station is recommended for easy access to transportation.

Pros:

  • Convenient way to avoid traffic in Bangkok
  • Modern, clean, and air-conditioned trains
  • Good for getting to central areas and tourist landmarks

Cons:

  • Expensive compared to other cities’ inner-city transport
  • Crowded during peak hours

MRT

The Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) underground train system is a reliable and cost-effective option when exploring Bangkok as a tourist or local.

It connects areas like Asoke and Lat Phrao and is cheaper than the BTS system.

The trains are modern, clean, air-conditioned, and have seating and standing areas.

However, there’s no shared top-up card for BTS and MRT, so purchasing separate tickets or using the MRT’s unique card system is necessary.

The central MRT station is Sukhumvit, connecting the city’s north and south.

Peak hours between 8-10 am and 5-6 pm can be crowded, so it’s better to avoid the MRT during these times.

However, it’s also better to get a train than a car in peak hours.

The MRT system is an excellent choice for exploring non-central areas of Bangkok. If you’re looking for accommodation, choosing a hotel close to an MRT or BTS station is recommended for convenient transportation.

Pros:

  • Modern and clean trains with air conditioning and seating
  • Great for getting to non-central areas of Bangkok
  • Cheaper than using the BTS

Cons:

  • No shared top-up card with BTS Skytrain, separate tickets, or MRT top-up card required
  • Crowded during peak hours

Insider tip:

Plan your route using an app like Google Maps that will show you which stops and exit to take during your journey.

Train

If you’re planning a trip to Thailand and want to explore the country on a budget while being eco-friendly, consider taking the regional train system.

While regional trains in Thailand are typically slow, the government is investing in faster high-speed trains.

Basic class tickets are affordable, but facilities will be limited.

Some carriages lack air conditioning and rely on small overhead fans for cooling.

The train network in Thailand is not extensive, but popular routes with tourists include Bangkok to Chiang Mai (north), Bangkok to Surat Thani (south), and Bangkok to Ayutthaya.

Thailand’s train system offers various classes, including standard and first class, with the unique experience of sleeper trains available for longer journeys. Staff members will assist in transforming your seat into a comfortable flatbed when it’s time to rest.

You can purchase tickets for regional trains at train stations on the day of travel or through online platforms.

While train travel is generally budget-friendly, it’s worth comparing flight prices to ensure you get the best deal.

Pros:

  • Budget-friendly option
  • Sustainable travel
  • Unique experience with sleeper trains

Cons:

  • Limited routes
  • Slow travel
  • Basic facilities in lower class tickets

Insider tip:

Bring snacks and drinks as the food options on trains can be limited

Plane

Thai Smile Plane

When traveling within Thailand, it’s hard to beat air travel to get around the country quickly and efficiently.

The country boasts a wide network of domestic airlines like Thai Smile, Thai Lion Air, Nok Air, and Thai Airasia that offer affordable and convenient flights.

Budget travelers can take advantage of the low-cost options, while those willing to spend more can enjoy the luxury of high-end carriers.

The primary international airport is Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK), but there are other international airports you can fly into Thailand, including Don Mueang, Chiang Mai, and Phuket.

Check my article on flight journey times and routes to Thailand from airports worldwide.

To find the best deals on airfare, I use search engines like Skyscanner or Google Flights to compare prices and book my flights in advance.

Pros:

  • Air travel is the quickest way to get around Thailand
  • Thailand has a vast network of domestic airlines
  • Air travel is relatively affordable in Thailand

Cons:

  • Getting to and from the airport adds time to your journey
  • Domestic flights in Thailand often have strict baggage restrictions

Insider tip:

Check the airline’s baggage allowance policies before booking your flight to avoid being overcharged on arrival.

Car hire

Renting a car might be a good option if you’d like more freedom and flexibility to explore Thailand.

Car rentals are available at major airports or branches within cities like Bangkok or Chiang Mai.

However, before hitting the road, ensure you have the required license to drive legally in the country and are aware of local laws.

Google Maps is an essential tool for navigation in the country, but you need a good SIM with a data plan or the ability to download an offline map.

The car rental will come bundled with basic cover, but read the fine print and understand what you are covered for.

If you’re staying in Bangkok, I wouldn’t recommend hiring a car because plenty of other forms of transport are available, and Bangkok is notorious for bad traffic.

Comparing rental options on Discover Cars or Skyscanner sites can help you find the best deals with regional hire providers.

Pros:

  • More freedom to explore off-the-beaten-path destinations
  • More comfortable and convenient for traveling in groups or with luggage

Cons:

  • Road conditions can be challenging and unpredictable in some areas
  • Traffic congestion and lack of parking can be frustrating in major cities.

Insider tip:

When driving in Thailand, be aware of motorcycles and scooters in blind spots. They are everywhere!

Ferries

If you want to discover Thailand’s gorgeous islands, then ferries are a fantastic way to travel between them. You’ll find frequent services between popular islands like Koh Samui or Koh Phangan, providing a practical and cost-effective option for exploring the region.

Traveling to Koh Samui? Check my how-to on getting there.

Some ferries can even accommodate cars, which is a game-changer if you’ve hired a vehicle and want to bring it along on your island-hopping adventure.

Booking your ferry tickets is easy.

You can purchase them online in advance on a ticketing platform or on the day of travel.

While ferries may not be the quickest mode of transportation, they offer a comfortable ride and an opportunity to take in beautiful scenery.

What’s more, ferries can be a more practical choice if you have more luggage compared to taking a speedboat.

Of course, safety is paramount when traveling by ferry, so it’s crucial to wear the lifejackets provided.

Pros:

  • An affordable option for traveling between islands
  • Can transport cars, making it easier to explore the islands with a hired car
  • A comfortable ride with the opportunity to enjoy the scenery

Cons:

  • Slower mode of transportation compared to speedboats
  • Can be affected by weather conditions, causing delays or cancellations

Insider tip:

Stay up-to-date with ferry schedules, especially during the low season, which can be subject to change.

Speedboats

If you’re short on time and want to reach the islands of Thailand quickly, then speedboats are a great option.

Although they can be more expensive than slower ferries, they are fast and efficient.

Keep in mind that speedboats have limited space for luggage, so if you’re traveling with many bags, this might not be the best option for you.

For those who prefer a more exclusive experience, you can book a private speedboat.

Whether you opt for a private or shared speedboat ride, tickets can be purchased on the day of travel or online, providing flexibility in planning your trip.

Safety is always a top priority when traveling by speedboat, so make sure that lifejackets are always provided and worn.

Pros:

  • Fast way to get to islands
  • Private speedboat options are available

Cons:

  • More expensive than ferries
  • Limited luggage capacity

Insider tip:

Bring motion sickness medication if you’re prone to seasickness, as speedboats can be a bumpy ride.

Thailand transport tips

Stay safe and prepared if you plan to travel when using transport in Thailand.

Below are a few tips based on my personal experience traveling in Thailand

  • Get travel cover: It’s always a good idea to have cover for unexpected events such as emergencies, trip cancellations, or lost luggage.
  • Look after your belongings: Keep your valuables like passports, phones, and wallets secure and within reach.
  • Download essential travel apps: From navigation maps to language translators.
  • Check weather conditions: Thailand can experience heavy rain and flooding during certain months, so monitor the weather before your trip.
  • Prepare route: Plan your route using Google Maps or a trip planner
  • Keep note of emergency services: Note important emergency contacts such as ambulance, police, or hospital numbers.
    • Police: 191
    • Tourist police: 1155
    • Ambulance: 1669
    • Fire: 199
  • Follow the local regulations: When using any form of transportation, always follow the local regulations, including wearing a seat belt in a car.
  • Follow the advice: your country will have guidelines for traveling within Thailand. Some examples below:

Thailand transport resources

Below I have included some helpful resources when traveling in Thailand

  • Skyscanner and Google Flights are great for comparing flight tickets and finding the best deals for your journey.
  • For checking bus timetables, the ViaBus app or transitbangkok website are both helpful tools.
  • For navigation, Google Maps is a reliable resource that works well in most parts of Thailand.
  • If you plan to travel by train, then the railway.co.th website is the official source for checking rail timetables in Thailand.
  • To make communication easier, you can use Google Translate for Thai translations.
  • Lastly, for getting around cities and towns, use ride-hailing services that can be accessed via a mobile app.

Before you go…

Looking for other travel guides? We have compiled a list of helpful articles to help you plan your trip to Thailand.

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Written by Nicky

Hi! 👋 I'm an expat who has lived, explored, and worked in Asia for over 10 years. I started findyouthere.com to share the knowledge I've picked up over the years with travelers interested in visiting Asia. Find out more on our about page.

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