Travelling in Thailand
Thailand is not a large country, it is perhaps the same size as the United Kingdom, but it is long (also like
the UK). However, besides having a similar size of population (about 65 million), the similarity ends there.
Travelling in Thailand
Thailand is long (north to south), but there are just as many people in the far north as in the centre and the
far south, whereas few visitors from abroad ever get to see the far north of Scotland. However, it is fairly easy
to do so, whereas travelling in Thailand takes a very long time unless you fly.
However, internal flights are quite cheap in Thailand, typically costing about $60 each way. The flight from
Bangkok to Chiang Mai takes less than an hour and there are many regional airports scattered around the
There have to be, because other forms of transport are extremely slow.
There is only one rail road track and that runs up the centre of the country from Bangkok to Phitsanulok, where
it turns north-east through Phichai, Phrase and later west to Chiang Mai. The 'Sprinter' takes about 24 hours over
that 1,000 km journey, but to be fair the rolling stock is old and the third quarter of the journey rises up steep
If you decide to take the train on this long journey, you would be best-advised to take a sleeper, which is
quite cheap. The cost of a sleeper from Bangkok to Phitsanulok (half way) is about $15. Be ready for delays,
because the trains often break down in the mountains while travelling in Thailnd.
On the other hand, the roads are excellent, if you discount the rural drivers in some areas. One drawback is
that buses are restricted in how fast they may go. It is best to take an overnight VIP luxury coach, which is very
comfortable and reasonably priced. BKK to Phitsanulok takes 6-7 hours and costs about $12.
There are much cheaper buses, but they stop everywhere and the seats are quite narrow. They were definitely not
designed with Caucasians travelling in Thailand in mind. In between these two types of buses is the luxury
coach, which seats 40 compared with 32 on the VIP.
The VIP bus has a toilet and a stewardess, who provides crisps, biscuits and water under way. Sometimes the bus
stops for a meal and sometimes one is served en route. The cost of all the food and water is included in the price
of the fare.
Thai VIP buses are better than any coach I have been on in The UK and are often Mercedes. The seats are almost
fully reclinable and some have lumber massage pads. There is video on board, but this is usually turned off
when it gets dark, because most passengers go to sleep.
It is easy and cheap enough to hire a car, and if you drive at night, you can make good time and avoid the crazy
motorcyclists. Do make sure that you avoid cities during the rush hours, because they are a nightmare: easily as
bad as the worst European cities.
Bangkok is definitely the worst place for travelling in Thailand, as you would expect, but they have done a lot
to improve the roads and the fly-over motorways speed up the traffic for a small fee.
If you decide to stay in a city like Pattaya, you can hire a motorcycle for about $4 a day, if you feel
confident travelling in the mayhem that passes for traffic.
by Owen Jones