After disembarking the plane in Thailand you will likely want to know your options for getting around. There are many including regular taxis, tuktuks, motorcycle taxis, buses vans and trains.
Watch where you walk - The sidewalks of Bangkok are uneven and full of obstacles, so pay attention! Also, the streets have many stray dogs - the dogs are not aggressive, but they may leave little smelly landmines on the sidewalks.
There are many roads without sidewalks and many sidewalks with dangerous holes and construction to be aware of. Keep half an eye downward to ensure your safety while you enjoy your tour.
As always when you are in a strange land, be aware of your surroundings and stay in more lighted area. Thailand is fairly safe country but don't push it. Also, be ware that the majority of the crime in Thailand is the snatch thief. So ensure you are protective of your belongings.
With the very real possibility of you meeting another vehicle coming towards you on the same side of the road, driving in Thailand is not for the sane (I was going to say faint of heart, but surely any normal person would avoid such circumstances)? Saying that though I, like many other travelers in Thailand, love to drive around this great country.
There are a few things you need to bear in mind before embarking on your epic road journey, things that will hopefully keep you safe and make you ride as smooth as possible. There are laws for driving in Thailand; however it would appear for the most part that these rules are there to be broken. Officially, everyone drives on the left, although there will be occasions when a car or motorbike will head towards you on the same side of the road. Normally they will drive slowly on the hard shoulder – don’t be alarmed, just carefully pull around them to let them pass.
Although it may seem as if parking is a bit of a free for all in Thailand, there are some general points to be aware of. Unless you want the police to issue you with a ticket, don’t park by a curb or in front of railings that are painted in red and white stripes. The Thais have an ingenious solution to the fact that parking is limited, by double and triple parking. The owner of a car that has been blocked in simply has to push the offending vehicle out of the way – therefore when using a car park keep you car parked in neutral.
Drinking and driving in Thailand is illegal, but many still do it, and in the interests of self preservation, it is better to assume that every other driver on the road is a little worse for wear. Expect to see people running red lights and stop signs, trucks piled dangerously high with all manner of goods, motorbikes precariously balancing whole families and packs of dogs running wild in the middle of busy highways. It is also not unknown for someone to try to overtake as you are overtaking them or to undertake you by driving on the hard shoulder. In every circumstance the best survival technique is to constantly check your mirrors while liberally employing your horn. It may seem odd at first beeping and tooting everyone, but it helps to keep you safe and is a common practice on Thai roads. Flashing your headlights in Thailand is a warning sign meaning ‘don’t go’.
Should you be unfortunate and have a road accident in Thailand, it will be considered your fault – as a Westerner you are seen as rich and therefore responsible for paying for a crash even if your car was parked and you were no where near it at the time. You can also be stopped and fined by the police for doing what everyone else is doing. (However, this prejudice works in your favor during road blocks as Ferangs (Westerners) will be generally waved through). If you do get stopped by the police, don’t argue, pay any fine and in the case of an accident pray that your hire firm has got good insurance.
Also, be aware that whether you are hiring or borrowing a car, one thing that will remain prevalent is that your windscreen wipers will not work in the rain. This is because for most of the year the sun will have slowly melted the rubber of the wipers, welding them on to the windscreen. So, when it rains, all you will be effectively doing is smearing a couple of small strips of perished rubber across your eye line – handy if you are trying to create the impression of a badly tuned in TV in stripy mud, not so good if you are trying to negotiate your way through unknown roads during a tropical thunderstorm.
With that all said driving in Thailand is generally easy and good fun. The roads are wide and in overall great condition, most of the tourists sign posts are written in English and Thai, and you never have to pump your own gas. Just drive with your eyes open, expect the unexpected and enjoy your Thai road trip.
Taxi Drivers - Most taxi drivers are fine. Generally, in Bangkok it is always better to use the metered taxis. Tuk tuks are always more expensive than cabs and with Bangkok traffic you could be breathing in a lot of smog on the way. If you are traveling a significant distance, try to negotiate the fare. Also, bear in mind that the taxis marked, "We love farang, we speak English", may not - they will however, have a radio connected to a person who will knows a little English.
Taxis are the most common, but there are many types of taxis. There is the common taxi that uses a meter and are usually yellow or pink in color. The metered fare is reasonable and they will often try to negotiate a flate rate before getting the ride. The rate is almost always way too high. Then there is the tuktuk. Said as it's spelled. The tuktuk is a three wheeled modified motorcycle, that runs on natural gas, making them a bit loud. The tuktuk can be expensive but pricing is negotiable. The motorcycle taxi is a quick alternative for getting short distances around the city but requires a bit of courage, especially during rush hour. While I often take a motorcycle in the morning to the office, it took several years to build the courage.
There are also Motorcycle Taxis... They are quick to get around but are quite dangerous, especially during rush hour. They are usually used for short distance travel from the train station or bus stop to your home, store of office.
Taxis of Klong Sansab - Klong Sansab is a canal that runs through the heart of Bangkok. The canal is used for a taxi boat service which runs between Bangkok's old town area and Bang Kapi districts in Bangkok. two things to understand about the boat taxis 1. It is quite tricky getting in an out of the boat. The boat is moving in the water. and 2. you need to tell the money collector your destination in Thai.
The bus - there are different types of buses - city buses, route buses and tour buses. The city bus is the most difficult mostly because they have numbered routes and the destinations are mostly only in Thai. Route Buses operate outside Bangkok, will take folks from Bangkok to all parts of Thailand and back again. These are relatively easy to get IF you know the correct bus station for the part of Thailand you want to go. Tour buses are the easiest for they are usually set up entirely by someone else - the tour agency. They can be quite organized with pre-programmed stops at appropriate intervals etc. If you like that go for it! The bus, of any sort, is usually the cheapest way to travel in Thailand.
Vans are a great alternative to buses but they do not operate on a given schedule. When they fill, they leave. They are usually fastest if they are going where you want to go and can be comfortable but are crowded. The tour agencies often use vans as an alternative for smaller groups. Vans usually operate at a competitive price and there are many van companies so if you can, shop around. The main hub in Bangkok to catch a van is Victory Monument Circle.
There are three main routes, the MRT (Bangkok subway), BTS (Skytrain) and the Airport Link. The map above shows they are well connected to each other allowing access to a big part of the city. The MRT and BTS are currently being expanded to the west. The MRT will underlie the Chinatown area and actually extend under the Chao Praya River. The BTS continues to add stations to the west.
For getting around outside of Bangkok there is the SRT. In Bangkok the main train station for the SRT is the Hua Lampong Station, located in the heart of the city, next to Bangkok's Chinatown and at the southern end of the subway (MRT) also called the Hua Lompong Station. The Train station can be quite intimidating and I will be honest I have only taken the train once but here is a good website to help you understand what to look for...
Tips for the savvy traveler to prepare for the best trip in their lives.