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Overland Travel in Thailand – Getting Around in Thailand

A guide to overland travel in Thailand, getting around and traveling within Thailand and beyond

Once you have arrived in Thailand, there are many options to get you around.  Whether you are just looking for a way to get round town and take in some sights or are wanting to go a bit further afield, using Thailand as a base to explore more of Asia and Malaysia.
  
Overground Trains:
Chiang Mai’s train station is located on Thanon Charoen Muang, 2km from Tha Pae Gate.  The main route from Chiang Mai is to Bangkok running daytime or sleeper over night trains.  1st, 2nd and 3d class carriages available.  
We paid 780 baht for a ticket on a 2nd class overnight sleeper to Bangkok which was purchased the day before departure.
The journey took almost 2 hours longer than stated and trains tend to always be late.   
There is also a left luggage office at this train station.

Train in Thailand
Chiang Mai Train Station

Bangkok’s main train station, Hualamphong Station,is centrally located, with trains departing daily to many destinations throughout Thailand.  For overnight journeys, tickets should be bought at least a day in advance and there is a left luggage office at the train station.
It is also possible to travel overland from Bangkok into Malaysia, there is one train a day to Butterworth (in Penang) which takes 21 hours, it is then possible to continue on to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore with an onward connection. 

Train in Thailand
Long Distance Train in Thailand 

Metered Taxi:
Metered taxis in Thailand are plentiful and are sometimes the best option for travelling around town.

Taxi in Bangkok
Bangkok Taxi 

Make sure that the taxi driver turns on the meter before they start to drive, as they sometimes tend to leave it off and want to just set a flat rate with you.
If they refuse to turn the meter on, which they sometimes do, especially in rain, guaranteed there will be another taxi along with moments that will have the meter on.  
 
Taking a metered taxi is often much cheaper than getting in a tuk tuk and also much more comfortable.  

Bangkok Taxi
Taxi’s in Bangkok 

You will know a taxi is free when they have the red light illuminated in the bottom right of the windscreen. 

taxi in bangkok
Bangkok Taxi, ready for passengers 

Songthaews and Tuk-Tuks:
Tuk Tuks are bit of a novelty for first timers in Thailand, they are expensive, noisy and cramped, especially if you have luggage. 
Always expect to have a lot of haggling to do if you chose to travel in one of these.  The base fare for a metered taxi is 35baht and most tuk tuk drivers start off asking for 200 baht. 

tuk tuk driver in Bangkok
Tuk-Tuk driver in Bangkok 

It is also common for tuk tuk drivers to try and con you into visiting jewellery or souvenir shops that they then get a commission on.  A tuk tuk journey, can often be more stressful and than its worth really. 

Tuk Tuk in Bangkok
Tuk-Tuk in Bangkok 

Songthaews are shared vehicles, with 2 long benches in the back.  They are good value and you can just hail it down and hop on.  Sometimes the driver will wait until the truck is full before setting off.  Prices for songthaews are normally 20 baht each around town and you can also hire the whole vehicle to take you somewhere, around 100 baht for a local journey or city attraction. Usually the ‘in town’ songthaews are red whereas the ones that go out of town are yellow.  Always check the destination of the truck to make sure it’s going in the direction that you want first.  

Songthaews in Chiang Mai
Songthaews in Chiang Mai 
 
Vehicle rental – Cars and Motorbikes:
Renting a car is a good option if you are in Thailand for a while and want to explore further afield at your own pace. 
Cars and motorbikes can be rented in Chiang Mai from Tha Pae Gate area with motorbikes starting at 150 baht per day and cars around 800 baht per day.  If you rent for a longer period of time, it works out cheaper, with monthly car rental from around 15,000 per month.

It could be worth checking out the big car rental companies for when you arrive, such as Avis and Budget.

If you do intend to rent a vehicle while you are in Thailand it is recommend to get an international driving permit before you leave, which from experience, I know can be obtained from specific post offices around the UK.
Also don’t forget to bring your full driving license and a credit card.

Bike for rent in Chiang Mai
Mopeds for rent in Chiang Mai 

Buses:
Chiang Mai’s main bus station is the Arcade Bus Station on Thanon Kaeo Nawarat, 3km from town centre.   

Bangkok has a few long distance bus stations which are all outside of the main city, the Southern Bus Terminal, Sathaanii Sai Tai, 11km west.  
Northern Bus Terminal, Mo Chit, located near to the Chatuchak Market is one of the busiest bus stations in Bangkok. 
The Eastern Bus Terminal, Ekamai, is next to the Ekamai skytrain stop on Thanon Sukhumvit. 
All of the bus stations have a left luggage office. 

You can take a long distance buses all over Thailand, destinations and prices can be found out from the stations themselves or visit a travel agent near to you.   

Bangkok has a massive city bus service, over 400 routes, as well as the long distance buses.  City buses are the main way to get around in Bangkok, with normal, non A/C buses charging around 8 baht and the air conditioned buses charging more like 15-25 baht, depending on how far you travel, it is advisable to pay the bit extra and get on an A/C bus, with the Bangkok traffic, a bus can only go as fast as the rest of the cars, which is not fast at all in the city and getting around can take a while with the all congestion!  

Internal Flights: 
Internal flights within Thailand are available through a number of flight carriers, notably Thai Airways offers the widest choice of internal flights.  
Bangkok Airways also covers all the major destinations in Thailand. 

Passports

Taking an internal flight in Thailand generally saves you a lot of travelling time, a flight from Bangkok up to Chiang Mai takes just under an hour, whereas if you were to take a night bus, you would be looking at a 16 hour journey or a 10 hour+ ride travelling by train to cover the 700km. 

Internal, domestic flights are available through: 
Thai Airways 
Bangkok Airways 
Air Asia 
Nok Air 
Tiger Airways

Thai Airways is the leader in flights for Thailand, both international and domestic, followed by Air Asia and Bangkok Air.
Nok Air mainly covers domestic flights within Thailand and the Islands with just one route out of Thailand into Vientiane, the capital of Laos.   
Tiger Airways is a low cost, no frills airline and flies from Bangkok, Phuket, Hat Yai and Krabi.  They have spread their wings into neighbouring countries, flying to locations such as Australia, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines.

A good flight comparison site for Thailand is domesticflightsthailand.com 

Chiang Mai’s international airport (CNX) 3km South of the city center.

Bangkok’s international airport (BKK), Suvarnabhuni, pronounced ‘soo-wanna-poom’, is 25km east of central Bangkok.  

Sacha El-Haj – 8 Miles from Home 

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