Thailand – Bangkok, Thailand – Is It Safe To Travel Around Thailand?…

Apr 03, 2012 2 Comments by

Thailand – Bangkok, Thailand – Is It Safe To Travel Around Thailand?…

by The Guru

Thailand experienced record growth during the late 90s and early 2000s and continues to attract a lot of tourists but all is not always what it seems.  In fact, those in the know call it a “parallel universe” as things appear to work in reverse to most other countries.  This may well be the attraction for many but it also brings with it many dangers.  One major danger is travel in a country that is very much a third world country so I will guide you through my top 10 tips for situations you may encounter…

In no particular order, here are the top ten things you HAVE to know about getting around in Thailand.  Although each experience is different, there are some common unwritten rules:

Planes – Thailand is well served for airports and internal flights between them are frequent.  The main Bangkok International Airport is Suvarnabumhi (nickname ‘swampy’ because it was built on a swamp) and this is new and big but not that nice.  A long story of corruption and bad planning is the reason but it boasts the largest terminal in the world and handles a lot of flights as Asia’s main hub.  The old airport is Don Mueng which is now used for some domestic flights.  All major locations in Thailand have an airport and the some like Phuket are international also.

The national carrier is Thai Airways and it is a good airline.  There are various other regional Asian airlines including no frills carriers that traverse Thailand and link to neighbouring countries.  There are also many other smaller airports like Hua Hin and U-Tapao (an old Air force base near Pattaya) that have light aircraft operating from them.   Prices for flights in Thailand very enormously so do shop around.

Thailand – Bangkok, Thailand – Is It Safe To Travel Around Thailand?…

Trains – Trains in Thailand are very old and very slow but they are a great experience.  There are railway stations in most places but it takes an age to get anywhere and the trains never run on time.  Some pleasant journeys are from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and also to Hua Hin and Pattaya.  For the better healed, you can take the Orient Express from Bangkok to Singapore!

Buses – Buses are everywhere.  They run from everywhere to everywhere but they are predictably quite basic.  There are air conditioned and non-air-conditioned buses and they also vary in size, speed and comfort.  Be careful to watch your luggage being loaded into the hold and leave NO valuables in this hold luggage as there are many reports of thefts.  Better still, keep your bags with you on board and lie on them.  The bus journey will be long and possibly even quite dangerous depending on the driver with frequent unscheduled drop offs and pick-ups and even toilet and smoking breaks for the driver so if in doubt, just get off and get another one.

Thailand – Bangkok, Thailand – Is It Safe To Travel Around Thailand?…

Taxis – Metered taxis operate in Bangkok but few other places though they do travel nearly everywhere on longer trips so you will see them elsewhere but they will be dropping someone off or on vacation.  Some places like Pattaya and Hua Hin have a taxi ‘mafia’ that stops the outside taxis trying to trade in their areas.  As a result a taxi from Bangkok in Pattaya will not risk picking up a fare to go back to Bangkok on risk of a severe consequences as the local baht bus drivers have successfully kept them out but I have seen the first few normal taxis in Pattaya recently so hopefully things are changing.

Taxis are most plentiful in Bangkok and they are exactly what you pay for.  They are very cheap but very annoying.  Don’t be surprised if you traverse the city for only 200 THB but also do not be surprised by their antics.  They will spit, pick their nose and snort regularly.  They wil play their stereo regardless of your wishes and drive at either a snail’s pace or like an F1 driver.  It is all about the fact that they see it that they are doing you a favour letting you get into their battered old wreck and customer service is non-existent.  Even a thank you for the payment is rare.

Make sure the driver knows where you want to go or you will get lost and spend hours going in circles, always insist they use the meter as they try not to and negotiate a fixed (far higher rate), make sure you have change as they regularly cannot change even 100 THB.  This is either a plot to keep the change or they are genuinely too lazy to get change for themselves which once again reminds you that you are lucky to have been given a lift!

All major hotels will write down the number of the taxi and hand you the card with the details as a safeguard for you.   Be careful with taxis overall as they are poorly regulated and very greedy and there is little recourse.  The best policy is to let them know you are not happy, walk away and curse them in your language but do no more!

Minibuses – These are a good alternative to the buses and are generally cleaner, faster and better driven as they are privately owned and maintained.  They are plentiful and leave at 10 minute intervals from central points in all towns and cities but you will pay a little more.  I think it is worth it.

Thailand – Bangkok, Thailand – Is It Safe To Travel Around Thailand?…

BTS Skytrain – The Skytrain is in Bangkok and is a great way of getting around.  Since its construction a few years ago it has revolutionised travel in the city and is a great experience.  Linking all the main places and being extended all the time, it is easy to use, quick and clean.  Above all it is very well air-conditioned which is a life saver in the hotter months.  You can buy a ticket for the trip, the day or a longer period at either the booth or the automatic machine.  If you are staying longer than a couple of weeks and plan to use it regularly, buy the SmartPass which is a card that you charge up and then just press onto the pad by the entry gates.  This saves time and has a discount too!  It goes without saying that Thai etiquette forbids any frisky activities in rush hour periods so keep your hands to yourself or you will land yourself in trouble unless the recipient is willing!

MTR – As an alternative to the Skytrain, the MTR is the underground system that links other places and runs alongside.  It is also new and clean and works fine but at the time of writing used a different token system for payment and did not accept the SmartPass for some reason!

Thailand – Bangkok, Thailand – Is It Safe To Travel Around Thailand?…

Tuk Tuks – These are present in Bangkok and most other cities but the most traditional small three wheeler motorcycle engine ones are in Bangkok.  They are a great experience you have to try on the roads of Bangkok but the novelty will wear off.  Compared to taxis they over charge and are smelly and not very comfortable but for a tourist attraction, they are perfect.  Watch out for the wheelies though!

Motorcycle Taxis – The fastest way to get around Bangkok where the Skytrain does not go is to use a motorcycle taxi.  They are fast and cheap but only for those who know the risks.  They often drive very dangerously, do have accidents on a regular basis and rarely have any insurance so you take a risk in using them.  Many expats swear by them because of the traffic jams but you need to be aware of the risks…
Here are the top ten things you have to know about eating out in Thailand. I will guide you through my top 10 tips for situations you may encounter and tell you the best way to deal with them and avoid getting into too much trouble…

Thailand – Bangkok, Thailand – Is It Safe To Travel Around Thailand?…

Baht Buses – Some places in Thailand, notably Pattaya, have a very old fashioned system of jump-on and jump off buses called ‘baht buses ‘ or ‘sawngthaew’. They are convenient and cheap though there is a dual pricing system for foreigners and locals!  As a tourist you will like them and many expats do too but they are a major nuisance to motorists as they drive badly and crawl along looking for anything with a pulse that could be a fare.  There are also far too many of them.  There are 800 in Pattaya alone and half of them could do the job better and avoid all the congestion but the ‘mafia’ lobbies the local government very strongly for more licenses rather than less.

The general rule is that you pay a fixed rate(around 20 THB for foreigners, half for locals) to go on their route but if you want them to go especially for you in another direction, you will have to negotiate beforehand as this costs extra, usually around 100 THB.  Other places like Phuket or Hua Hin have their own version of these buses that are smaller and more like tuk tuks but not quite.

Thailand is a big country and you should explore it.  Most trips can be done safely and enjoyably but you really, really need to keep your wits about you.  The incidence of accidents and injuries/fatalities is all too common to ignore.

If you agree with me, tell me your own experiences.  If you disagree, don’t stay silent, tell me WHY!

The Guru

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Asia, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hua Hin, Krabi, Thailand

About the author

I have traveled and lived all over the world - 95 countries and counting! I have information you can't find elsewhere and I share it here to promote healthy discussion about the world's people and cultures.

2 Responses to “Thailand – Bangkok, Thailand – Is It Safe To Travel Around Thailand?…”

  1. Marc Lewis says:

    I’m enjoying reading your blogs about Thailand.
    They’re interesting and insightful.
    A little note on this article…
    “Prices for flights in Thailand very enormously so do shop around.”
    I’m sure you meant to use the word “vary” in this case.

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    • The Guru says:

      Hi Marc

      Yes, indeed… “vary” not “very”… Thank you for spotting this.

      I am glad you like the articles.

      Let me know if you need any more specific help!

      All the best

      The Guru

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