Public transport in Thailand

Buses, trains, tuk-tuks & airplanes

Transportation in Thailand is very chaotic and varied. Motorbikes and bicycles are the main mode of transport in rural areas and are generally used for short distances. While bus transportation dominates in Bangkok and for long distances.

Public transport in Thailand

Buses

Two types of buses run in Thailand: Non-air-conditioned buses, and air-conditioned buses. The non-air-conditioned buses are operated by the government and are therefore cheaper and slower.

Air-conditioned buses are more comfortable and faster. These buses are run by the government as well as private companies. Also, there is another alternative if you are travelling long distance. This typical bus is called a “VIP” or “sleeper” bus. It has many features, for instance, more legroom for passengers and the VIP bus only has 30-40 seats, so it may well be quieter!

Tuk-tuks

Tuk-tuks, also known as three-wheelers, are used for short distances in most Thai cities. This type of transportation is found everywhere in Bangkok and will be able to take you to most places. There are more than 35,000 tuk-tuks in Thailand and they can carry around 2-3 passengers each.

Trains

The train network does not cover all of Thailand, however, it is a good way of travelling over long distances if you can. Trains are one of the most comfortable ways to travel for those who do not want to go via plane. Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Railway Station is the centre of all train travel in Thailand.

The railway network is divided into four sections:

  1. Eastern line: The Eastern main line goes to the Cambodian border and continues to the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. The other branch of the Eastern line goes along the coast passing Pattaya, but there is only one train a day.
  2. Northern line: goes directly to Chiang Mai.
  3. Southern line: goes to Malaysia
  4. Western line: goes up to Nam Tok.

Air travel

The international airport in Bangkok, Suvarnabhumi Airport, is used for both international and domestic flights. The national Thai airline is Thai Airways which is concentrated on international flights. On the other hand, Bangkok Airlines’ destinations are mostly in Southeast Asia or within Thailand itself. The low budget airline, Airasia, takes passengers to Southeast Asia and to a couple of destinations in Europe.

Skytrain in Bangkok

The Bangkok Mass Transit System, commonly known as the BTS Skytrain, is easy, fast and cheap. Moreover, they run from 6.00am until midnight and you can avoid the crazy traffic in Bangkok.  The downside is that it gets very crowded during the week, but it is much less crowded during the weekends. Furthermore, the Skytrain does not reach all of Bangkok.

Cost and reliability

Transportation in Thailand is much cheaper compared to western countries yet price negotiation is much more important than expats may be used to.

If you would like to use a taxi in the area of Bangkok, you should be aware that the meter should always be on, just point at the meter if it is not and if the taxi driver doesn’t turn it on then use another taxi. Otherwise, they can charge you more. Also, for journeys outside Bangkok, you need to negotiate the price before you start. Furthermore, only pay when you have arrived at your specified destination.

The 2013 rates for a taxi trip are listed below:

Kilometres Price (Thai Baht ฿)

0-1 km - 35฿

2-12 km - 5฿ per km

12-20 km - 5.5฿ per km

20-40 km - 6฿ per km

Buses

Two types of buses run in Thailand: Non-air-conditioned buses, and air-conditioned buses. The non-air-conditioned buses are operated by the government and are therefore cheaper and slower.

Air-conditioned buses are more comfortable and faster. These buses are run by the government as well as private companies. Also, there is another alternative if you are travelling long distance. This typical bus is called a “VIP” or “sleeper” bus. It has many features, for instance, more legroom for passengers and the VIP bus only has 30-40 seats, so it may well be quieter!

Tuk-tuks

Tuk-tuks, also known as three-wheelers, are used for short distances in most Thai cities. This type of transportation is found everywhere in Bangkok and will be able to take you to most places. There are more than 35,000 tuk-tuks in Thailand and they can carry around 2-3 passengers each.

Trains

The train network does not cover all of Thailand, however, it is a good way of travelling over long distances if you can. Trains are one of the most comfortable ways to travel for those who do not want to go via plane. Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Railway Station is the centre of all train travel in Thailand.

The railway network is divided into four sections:

  1. Eastern line: The Eastern main line goes to the Cambodian border and continues to the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. The other branch of the Eastern line goes along the coast passing Pattaya, but there is only one train a day.
  2. Northern line: goes directly to Chiang Mai.
  3. Southern line: goes to Malaysia
  4. Western line: goes up to Nam Tok.

Air travel

The international airport in Bangkok, Suvarnabhumi Airport, is used for both international and domestic flights. The national Thai airline is Thai Airways which is concentrated on international flights. On the other hand, Bangkok Airlines’ destinations are mostly in Southeast Asia or within Thailand itself. The low budget airline, Airasia, takes passengers to Southeast Asia and to a couple of destinations in Europe.

Skytrain in Bangkok

The Bangkok Mass Transit System, commonly known as the BTS Skytrain, is easy, fast and cheap. Moreover, they run from 6.00am until midnight and you can avoid the crazy traffic in Bangkok.  The downside is that it gets very crowded during the week, but it is much less crowded during the weekends. Furthermore, the Skytrain does not reach all of Bangkok.

Cost and reliability

Transportation in Thailand is much cheaper compared to western countries yet price negotiation is much more important than expats may be used to.

If you would like to use a taxi in the area of Bangkok, you should be aware that the meter should always be on, just point at the meter if it is not and if the taxi driver doesn’t turn it on then use another taxi. Otherwise, they can charge you more. Also, for journeys outside Bangkok, you need to negotiate the price before you start. Furthermore, only pay when you have arrived at your specified destination.

The 2013 rates for a taxi trip are listed below:

Kilometres Price (Thai Baht ฿)

0-1 km - 35฿

2-12 km - 5฿ per km

12-20 km - 5.5฿ per km

20-40 km - 6฿ per km

Does this article help?

Do you have any comments, updates or questions on this topic? Ask them here: