The railway system in Thailand is very well-organised and an overnight train is an excellent way to travel long distances and you’ll get to meet lots of other travellers and locals along the way. The trains have a 1st, 2nd and 3rd class; usually, we book 2nd class, the beds are just as comfy as 1st class with enough room for bags. It’s worth taking a warm jumper to keep snug in the air-conditioning and you can store your luggage in the racks. There are shared (usually squat) toilets and wash basins where you can freshen up. In 1st class you will get a private compartment for two with a bunk bed and sink. Train tickets can only be purchased 8 weeks prior to the travelling date but we usually have no issues securing tickets. Occasionally at peak travel times e.g. Christmas, we may not be able to, in these instances, we will work with you to find an alternative.
The trains have a separate restaurant car where you can get good food and drinks. However, if you’ve got time, we also recommend buying some snacks at the station before you board the train. In the evening the train steward will turn your seat into a comfy bed with clean sheets, a pillow and a blanket and the car is transformed into a long row of bunk beds. There are curtains for each bed so you’ll have a bit of privacy. We book the train journeys as far in advance as possible as they tend to fill up fast, especially around the holidays.
Thailand is a large country and to travel longer distances, for example from North to South, we recommend taking a domestic flight. We can arrange your flights for you with Air Asia, Thai Airways and Bangkok Airways; all of which are reliable airlines that fly several different routes within Thailand. Flight schedules and prices tend to vary, so we strongly recommend booking as far in advance as possible. Thai Airways and Bangkok Air have a baggage allowance of 20kg per person; Air Asia has a maximum of 15 kg per person, although you can pay a small fee at the airport to check in more.
Another form of transport is the bus network; all the major cities are linked by bus routes and it’s a cheap and fun way to travel around. There are lots of stops along the way and you’ll get the chance to chat to the friendly locals. The buses have a fan, and they’ll keep the windows open for ventilation, but keep in mind that they are often crammed, with limited space for bulky luggage. For longer distances we suggest the more comfy scheduled bus which we can book ahead for you. There are several connections a day between the major cities. They also have the luxury of air-con- so pack a jumper in case you get chilly!
Many of the larger islands in southern Thailand are easy to get to by boat. This can be a ferry, catamaran or speedboat. Snacks and drinks are available on board and there are several daily crossing between the major islands. Though it’s easy to buy your tickets on the spot, we can also arrange them in advance for you. The longtail is a typically Thai wooden boat that can carry around 16 people used for excursions and short journeys. As the name suggests they’re long, narrow and usually painted in bright colours. To shelter from the sun, we suggest bringing a hat and keeping a bottle of sunscream handy.
The tuk-tuk is one of the most popular forms of transport in Thailand and an experience that shouldn’t be missed! You’ll see these motorised rickshaws everywhere. The crackling engine and the heart-stopping adrenaline ride through frenzied traffic are what make up the quintessential Thai tuk-tuk experience. Make sure you agree a price beforehand to avoid misunderstanding.
Taxis and Săwngthăews
Another great form of transport are taxis. We do recommend using the (brightly coloured) taxies as you’ll pay the metered price. The starting price is usually around 35 baht, with an extra 2 baht per km. It’s not customary to tip, though drivers appreciate it if you round off the price. As most drivers speak limited English, it helps to carry your hotel’s business card or a map on which you can point out where you want to go. A săwngthăew is a covered pick-up truck with built-in benches. It’s a cheap and easy way to travel shorter distances. They travel fixed routes and you can hop on, hop off wherever you want. Just flag down the driver and agree on a price before you get in.
Bike and moped hire
Cycling is a great way to explore the local area, especially in the smaller towns and villages. You can set your own pace and stop off wherever you like. In some towns you can rent a bike at the hotel for about £1.50 a day. Make sure you take a bottle of water with you on your bike ride as it can get very hot. In the larger towns and on the islands you can also rent a moped, ideal for visiting the sights further out of the centre. You don’t need an international driver’s licence, but they may use your passport or a small fee as a deposit. The prices vary from £3-£7 per day. Helmets are compulsory, and we strongly recommend them.
Travelling with Meaning
In Thailand, we highly recommend travelling by overnight sleeper train at least once, as it’s much more environmentally friendly than flying and a great way to meet the locals, see some stunning scenery (especially on the way up to Chiang Mai) and we also think it’s pretty comfortable as overnight sleeper trains go! Your bedding is provided and you have a privacy curtain or lockable door, depending on which class you travel in. The buses, especially the ones between Bangkok and Pak Chong are also comfortable and great fun. Again, you get to travel with the locals, refreshments are provided and you pass through some non-touristy towns on the way.