Getting around thailand
Trains, planes, longboats, speedboats, cars, carts, tuktuks, motorbikes, bicycles, minibuses, coach buses, catamarans, ferries, taxis and water taxis... we took them all. Getting around Thailand was cheap, sometimes confusing and always an adventure. To learn more about Thai transport, keep reading!
We rented motorbikes in Ayutthaya, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. Before our trip, I read several articles about scams involving motorbikes, so we came prepared with David's expired Argentine passport and my expired US passport. We also rented our bikes from people associated with where we were staying. In Ayutthaya, we rented our bike from a restaurant/rental place next to our guesthouse. In Koh Samui, we rented our bike from a British guy who lived in the villas where we were staying. In Koh Phangan we made an exception. David looked up a "trustworthy" bar that rented bikes near the port where we arrived. We didn't have any problems with it... except for that the gas tank was completely empty when we got the bike. In Koh Tao we tried to rent a bike from our hotel, but they didn't have any. So, we did the next best thing. We rented a bike from the hotel across the street. Bikes were quite cheap. They cost about 150 baht a day ($4.33 USD) but you can get them for even cheaper if you are renting for a few days.
Songthaews"Songtells" (a kind of truck tuktuk)
In Chiang Mai and on the Thai Gulf islands, we took Songthaews as they were the cheapest form of transport. They are basically pick up trucks that have two benches in the back and are covered. They boast a luggage rack on the top and you can even hang out on the metal fixtures on the back. We took this vehicle up the mountains in Chiang Mai where we did our hike, through the jungle to the Elephant Sanctuary and from the port in Koh Samui to our guesthouse. Some people don't like them because you have to wait for them to fill up. Often they will not go anywhere until they have 10 passengers. If you don't mind waiting, it's a good option. You'll need to bargain your own price and it will depend on where you are going.
Tuk Tuks are everywhere. Personally, we avoided them like the plague. Why? Let me explain. Bangkok is filled with tuk tuks. It is also filled with air conditioned taxis. Tuk tuks do not have a meter. Therefore, you have to argue a price, hope that your driver won't make an extra stop or three in order to get a commission and you will most likely have some sort of exhaust billowing in your face. Taxis? Tell the driver where you want to go. Ask them to put on the meter. They won't? Ask the next taxi. Easy. Cheap. Air conditioned. Of course tuk tuks are fun, so I would recommend a few rides, but if you are really on a budget - stick with taxis.
Catamarans - High Speed Ferries
Catamarans are high speed ferries that connect the Thai Gulf islands with each other and with the mainland. We took two different companies: Lomprayah and Seatran. Online reviews of the companies seem to be hit or miss. Some people hate them and some people, like us, had no problems. The journeys were usually pretty short and you could go up to the top deck or out back to get fresh air. There were comfortable seats on the upper and lower decks.
The ride of the catamarans varied from quite smooth to choppy. I felt a bit seasick on all the boats, so just a warning to the weak of stomach. Tickets were a bit expensive, but then again everything on the Thai Gulf islands is much more expensive than the mainland. You can check the above links for exact ticket prices and schedules.
Trains and Sleeper Trains
We took a few different trains on our way up north from Bangkok towards Chiang Mai. We also took an overnight train after our stay on the islands. More on that terrible experience later. The first train we took was a third class train. Sometimes you have to stand if they are crowded, but there were many empty seats on our car. Mostly people were taking up multiple seats by putting up their feet (which I thought was insulting in Thailand, but rule breakers were elderly and Thai, so I guess they get to do what they want.) On our next trip, as pictured above, we had comfortable seats and even got lunch which was a bowl of rice, and extremely spicy fish sauce to put on top of it and the strangest spiced, boiled eggs I've ever had in my life. To see a video of the meal and the view from the train, CLICK HERE. You can see the train ride at the end of the video.
Now... the sleeper train. AKA the night I didn't sleep more than 5 minutes.
I took a water taxi from Koh Tao to Nangyuan Island one of the days that David was completing his Scuba diving certification. It was a bit of a struggle to get because I was alone, so unless I wanted to pay 400 baht for the 20 minute ride, I had to wait for more passengers. After about an hour, I was escorted to the longboat and met a Dutch family who was also going to the island to snorkel. Once again, I found myself a bit seasick as we bounced over the waves, but nothing vomit inducing. In the end I think I paid 200 baht ($5.79 USD) for a roundtrip. I was told to come back to the dock at a specific time, and there was my driver, waiting with a smile.
In Bangkok, we rode the River Taxis many times. We used them to get to different temples, as well as a way to relax and enjoy the skyline. Tickets were 40 baht ($1.16 USD) and even cheaper for the ferries that simply crossed the river. The ferry tickets cost 14 baht ($0.41 USD). The river taxis went pretty fast and you can see a different view of the temples along the riverbanks. To see some footage of what it was like to ride in a River Taxi, CLICK HERE.
We hope you enjoyed learning about the transportation in Thailand! If you have any questions, please leave a comment. Happy travels! ~ Jamie and David
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