If you’re going to Asia for the first time or you’ve never been in Thailand, the question of getting around the country to reach the places you want to visit may pop up in your head. Everyone told us that it’s super easy to travel here, but as we’ve never been to Asia before, we obviously had our doubts. However, after arriving here, we have realized that Thailand is extremely tourist friendly and is probably one of the easiest countries to travel around! Here are some options that we have come against during our stay. Some of them we or our friends used and can recommend with clear conscience, others… well… are probably better to avoid if you have any other options. In some cases, you can also try to bargain the price, like in the case of tuk tuks, trips with long tail boats or even, sometimes, ferries.
There are quite a few airports in Thailand, therefore if you want to get to the place which you’re really far away from, getting a plane may be the best option. Believe it or not, it can also turn out to be the cheapest one as well, depending on how much time before you book your flight or, just, how lucky you are. We met some people here, who flew from Bangkok to Krabi with Air Asia. One group (7 people O_O) paid like 15 euro each O_O! I honestly don’t think you can get much better deal than that… But another couple were not so lucky and got tickets for more like 70 euro. Remember one thing about Air Asia: normally the price does not include the checked luggage, therefore if you don’t travel light or go on spending sprees, you’ll have to pay extra for that!
Long distance buses
If you plan on covering some long distances, the long-distance buses are an alternative for flights. They are surely much more time consuming, but if for some reason you fail to find a reasonable price for planes, the overnight bus won’t eat out your budget. According to our friends who took one from Bangkok to Krabi, the price is around a 1000 baht for an overnight (ok… 12 hours) journey. However, the vehicles are surprisingly modern, with air-conditioning and even a TV available to entertain you.
Ferries are definitely a great and safe way to move around in the southern Thailand. They are really huge and arrive on time (kind of a nice change ;)). The capacity of such ferries is enormous, don’t worry, they’ll take everyone! The ticket price usually goes with the transport from or to your hotel.
Travelling on one also gives you an opportunity to admire the views when you approach to the land or island. The most common ones get to the Phi Phi Islands from Phuket or Krabi (Phuket-Krabi 600baht/one way or 700-750/return ticket).
After getting on board, you can either stay on the upper deck, to admire the surroundings or below the outside deck to keep away from the sun. And please remember, that the sun here is truly unforgiving and 2 hours can burn you alive!
A frequent alternative for ferries between such places as Krabi, Koh Lanta, Khao Sok or Phuket are the minivans. They are generally much smaller, but can give you some opportunity to go through less tourist-oriented areas. We took a minivan from Krabi to Karon Beach. To our surprise the first van took us to a huge van station, where there were dozens of other tourists waiting for their proper minivan. The personnel didn’t exactly speak English there, so they just wrote down our destination and we were shown to sit down. Then, you can only hope that they know what they’re doing, as you really don’t ;). On our way in the second van, we had 2 stops, first one was a real toilette stop, in a drive-by place near the highway, where our driver stopped for lunch. Second one- much more annoying- to sell some trips around Phuket (we had the same situation with a driver from the airport). The price for a combined ticket long tail boat/minivan from Krabi to Karon Beach: 500 bahts/person
Speed boats are another popular way to get round between the shores. They are much faster than ferries, but also much smaller, which makes them more expensive. Generally, they are at least twice as pricey as the latter. However, the experience you get by trying a speed boat can be pretty interesting, especially in windy conditions. Therefore, if you suffer from seasickness or have a delicate stomach, it’s probably not for you, as a lot of people feel seriously nauseous and get sick. The price for a speed boat from Krabi to Phuket: 1400 baht (ferry/650 baht).
Long tail boats
These are the most common way for covering small distances through the sea and my personal favorites. The can serve as regular taxi boats, like in Railay Beach. From Railay or Ton Sai to Ao Nang the price is 100 baht, but remember the boats only take off when there are at least 8 passengers on board. Long tail boats can also be hired for trip boats. The most popular example here is going to Maya Bay on the Phi Phi Islands (the cost is around 1500 baht per boat). They are fast for their size, very much fun to travel around inand a must-try in the parts of Thailand, where they are available.
The first means of transport that I would recommend avoiding as much as possible. Taxis in Thailand are generally much cheaper than in Europe, however it’s very unlikely to get a fair deal if you’re a foreigner. Especially a very white foreigner, who just got off the plane in Thailand. We wanted to get a van from Phuket airport and ended up in a taxi to Phuket town for 650 baht. Yeah… everyone gets overcharged in taxis here, unless you talk your driver to put the meter on. However, good luck with finding one at the airport ;). In theory, it is compulsory, but generally very hard to find. Another annoying thing when you take a taxi from the airport is that you’ll probably have a stopover in some place, supposedly to explain to a person speaking more or less English where exactly you want to go. In reality, they’ll try to sell you hotels, trips, ferries some attraction trips, or whatever it is that is available in your surroundings. It’s annoying, but harmless and they will eventually take you to your accommodation.
Tuk-tuks are more popular in the northern Thailand, but we’ve seen a lot of them in Ao Nang and on Phuket. If you wish to drive a tuk-tuk, please make sure you discuss the price first and STICK TO IT. Even if you do so and you discuss your destination, you’re most likely to be taken to some shops of the friends or partners of your tuk tuk driver. He’ll tell you to just take a look around and that he needs to stop here to get a commission. Again, harmless but annoying.
Renting a car
We didn’t rent a car here personally, but some of our friends did. And, quite frankly to our surprise, claimed to be a completely ok experience. However, remember that the traffic in Thailand is heavy, especially, when you approach the towns. And the respect for the rules is absolutely none! So if you’re an inexperienced driver or don’t feel safe on the unfamiliar roads, Asia is definitely not the best place to practice. Another, extremely important issue is the insurance. Renting a car is cheap, however the insurance generally doesn’t cover much, so if anything happens, you’ll probably be paying from your own money.
Another very important thing: in Thailand there is a left-hand traffic, so if you come from states or most parts of Europe, it will probably be quite of a shock for you at the beginning.
Renting a scooter
Scooters are extremely popular here, both among the locals and tourists. For covering smaller distances, they are really great means to get around. Just mind the same warnings as when renting the cars: there are almost no rules here, so riding scooters can be seriously dangerous! And be aware of the left-hand traffic!
One last thing about renting a scooter- make sure you make a very good documentation before you rent it and try your best not to leave your passport in the rental place. I’ve met some people who had to pay like the entire price of the scooter, far a scratch and had no choice, as they left their passports. Renting bikes here is a common way to scam tourists, so super careful!
Taking local sightseeing tours
For those of you, who don’t wish to bother about wandering around and dealing with the transportation issues, but are still interested in seeing some of the most popular attractions, buying an organized tour may be an option. Purchasing it from a local tourist agency gives you a sense of comfort, as there’s nothing you personally have to worry about, but it has two major disadvantages. First, it’s horrendously expensive! Seriously! You get 1-day tours from Karon Beach to Big Buddha, including elephant riding (please, don’t…) and a meal for like 2500-3000 baht/person! The trips to Khao Sok can even cost you up to 6000-7000 baht depending on the company.
The second obvious minus is that you’re not flexible. During such trips the major issue is that you literarily have to run around, as you generally end up having too little time for enjoying anything!
Walking walking walking
For covering small distances, it is, by far, our favorite way to get around. For me, it’s the only way to really feel and enjoy the place we visit. Obviously, it applies only to smaller distances, but walking allows you to discover small corners and hidden places that you would never have found otherwise!
These are the ways of getting around this wonderful country that we have come across during our travel. If you have some more experience, feel free to let us know or leave a comment below- we’ll be happy to discover it!