Travelling to and around Thailand is easy with a choice of planes, trains, buses and boats with fares that won’t cost the earth.
Thanks to decades of backpackers traversing this beautiful nation, travelling around Thailand is easy. First, you need to start by getting into the country. There are land borders from Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia, and the process is pretty simple. There are also a number of crossings from Burma/Myanmar, but it’s unlikely that you’ll be “passing through” Burma, as the country has serious restrictions on travel. The number one port of entry, however, is the stunning Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok, which is served by flights from all around the globe. Thailand thrives on tourists, and as such it doesn’t charge them for visas. Wherever you enter the country, you just turn up and have your passport stamped.
Once you’re in Thailand, there are three options for getting around: plane, train, or bus. Flights are amazingly cheap, particularly if you surf AirAsia’s websites a month or two in advance. They have recently moved their operations from Suvarnabhumi to the older Don Muang airport, however, so if you’re coming from abroad, allow plenty of time for a transfer. From Don Muang, you can fly to many of the cities and islands around the country. AirAsia offers boat transfers to the islands but it’s often cheaper just to fly into the nearest city and later book your boat ride.
The train offers a wonderfully peaceful and scenic means of transport. One line even runs to the border with Laos, and is the main means of entering that particular country. Another line stretches from Bangkok down through Malaysia and into Singapore. Tickets are astoundingly cheap, and the trains, which are scheduled to run through the night, offer a reasonably comfortable alternative to a flight.
The final option is the bus, which is usually faster than the train, but far less comfortable. Expect to be jammed into a packed vehicle with other travellers. If meeting fellow backpackers is your thing, then the bus is definitely the best option, but if comfort is important, it’s probably best to go with one of the other two.
In the cities, you will doubtless be offered tuk-tuk rides. These can often cost as much as a taxi, so haggle hard and confirm the deal in advance. Taxis are the more reliable and far safer option, but there are also motorcycles for rent in the smaller towns and cities, and of course local buses, which can be a little tricky to navigate.