Navigating your way around Thailand
A New country, a new city, a new island, a new village, a new hill tribe.
A new place to navigate your way around.
From Tuk-Tuk’s to guidebooks, Ubers to Scooters, you’ll find your way.
Wherever you may be in Thailand, rest assured that these days, getting around is incredibly easy for the most part, especially with the technology that is available.
Thinking back over the decades, travel has changed beyond recognition in terms of how we navigate & explore new surroundings.
There are more than just a few options when it comes to navigation, beyond the old school method of asking for directions or using a paper map (does anyone even do that anymore?!)
Joking aside, asking for directions will often be happily assisted should the language be understood! Most locals are happy to assist a foreigner in finding their way.
As with anywhere though, you’ll perhaps get a mixed bag of expectations depending on what part of Thailand you are in!
Bangkok is known for its hustle vibe, meaning that assistance of any kind may come at a price (or at least an expected one!). This is of course optional, just make sure you have small change on you; pulling out big notes when a payment is requested, could leave you parting with a little more than small change.
Northern parts of Thailand hosts a very beautiful nature, most of the locals are incredibly generous, they have a willingness to help without any expectations of anything in return!
This is warming to witness & results in you wanting to give more.
The strange thing is, many locals don’t actually want for more than they have, they are happy just as they are.
An eye opening experience to say the least.
Besides asking for directions, there are a number of ways to navigate your way around Thailand;
Guide books often have those pull-out street maps that could certainly come in handy if you find yourself without power on your mobile device. But let’s be realistic; not a great deal of people carry paper books whilst travelling these days,
what with their size & weight, they aren’t the most travel friendly items.
A sack load of guide books is a tell-tale sign of a newbie backpacker!
Some pocket sized guidebooks can be more suitable, but everything is usually available to download!
One of the most reliable portable & downloadable maps for Thailand is MapsMe.
This user friendly App can be downloaded & taken with you anywhere.
No need for extra baggage, just a little storage space on your device!
Save the luggage space for souvenirs & genie pants!
MapsMe is reliable & full of features that assist in making navigation a stress free experience!
Make sure you download the area you would like to be available offline, before you lose signal or Wi-Fi.
When travelling to a new part of Thailand, just search for It & then download the area.
Standard Google Maps is also a great navigation tool, but as it stands you will require data or Wi-Fi to keep your map live when on the move!
It is possible to load the map whilst connected to the internet & follow it offline,
providing you don’t go off the map track as it will attempt to re-route, which of course it cannot do whilst offline, sending it into a frenzy!
Thailand generally has good quality internet
In well developed areas you can find high speed connections, so using & loading online maps is pretty straight forward.
Stopping at the nearest café for a pit stop, using the Wi-Fi & finding your way is standard daily practice.
In less developed areas, Wi-Fi can be hard to come across, so using an offline map like MapsMe will ensure you have straight forward navigation!
Just think one step ahead, where are you heading & do you require any pre-downloaded maps!?
Depending on the length of your trip, it may be worth investing in a Thai sim card. Available in most Family Marts, airports & shopping malls – AIS & other network stores. Passports are usually required for foreigners to buy a sim, to register the number in your name, a proof of identity in mandatory in Thailand.
You can buy a sim with some pre-paid data for as little as 400Baht, this usually lasts up to 30days. There are many options, depending on data allowance, minutes, texts etc, but the data alone is worth it, to save the hassle of not having a connection in times of requirement!
You don’t realise how much you rely on a data connection, until it’s unavailable!
Travel by Tuk-Tuk!
When you think Thailand & transport in the same sentence, the famous Tuk Tuk springs to mind! With their noisy engines, distinctive looks & authentic feel.
Tuk-Tuk’s allow getting around tourist hotspots to be manageable on a budget.
These little open air vehicles are everywhere you look in developed tourist areas, they come in a few different styles, with some boasting flashing lights & pumping bass, heading to the party areas & driving around lively tourists on a night out!
A 5 minute ride may only cost 40Baht, cheap as chips if you are sharing with one or two other passengers!
It can be a little more costly if taking a ride solo, if it’s raining or you are taking a trip during a busy time, but you can usually barter a little!
In heavy populated tourist areas, Tuk-Tuk’s are super easy to find, just flag one down & barter a fair price!
Songthaew (Red trucks)
These converted pick-up trucks are great for getting about on a low budget, a little like buses in that you are often sharing the ride with strangers.
There aren’t any bus stops, you simply flag one down as it approaches & if it’s going in your desired direction then you can jump on board!
A 5-min ride may only cost you 20Baht in one of these.
Again, you can expect the price to inflate some-what if it’s raining!
Both Tuk-Tuks & Red trucks are driven by locals, often speaking very little English.
Even with a map to point out where you are going, it can take them a little while to understand where you wish to go, so be patient & get clued up on well-known landmarks, this makes your desired location easier to establish.
Uber or Grab
Some parts of Thailand are covered by Uber or Grab. With cars, bikes or deliveries available, getting around is made easy in these serviced areas.
Grab bikes are a fast way to get about, seeing as high traffic locations mean car journeys can take much longer than the two wheeled trips!
Selecting to pay the driver in cash rather than on card will avoid getting charged an international card fee too, depending on who you bank with.
You will require network connection to order an Uber or Grab, sometimes the arrival time can be much longer than stated, so book in advance, don’t cut it too close if you have someplace to be on time!
Always ask for a meter to be put on, or agree a price before you set off in a local taxi! You could be in for a little surprise otherwise.
Local taxis can be a safe & reasonably cheap way to get around Thailand, just be sure to set the fee before departing.
If you feel that the fare being asked for is too high, barter (before leaving!).
Local buses do exist, believe it or not, despite their ghost like qualities, they are in operation in some parts of Thailand.
You usually find them at airports, leaving for the main locations.
Do a little research before you arrive & check what number will take you to where you want to head.
The service desks at the airports will be able to direct you to the nearest bus stop but it’s always good to know a little in advance.
Chiang Mai airport is really close to the old city, so taking a red truck is cheap enough. Bangkok airport is a further out from the city (Khaosan Road area), it’s an hour drive which can be pretty expensive in a taxi, unless you have 4 people sharing.
You can take the local shuttle bus for about 150Baht.
When it comes to the airport trips, hotels often offer a transfer service, this can be a stress free way to travel for important trips like airport runs, especially when you have a flight to catch or have been travelling all day!
Yes the price will usually be more expensive than when you are arranging your own, but that’s the hotel taking their well-deserved cut.
An airport transfer is worth considering, it will be much more than a local bus, but the comfort, duration & ease of access may be worth it if you have a bigger budget.
A great way to experience what Thailand has to offer & get around stress free, is to book onto arranged tours & trips. Take the thinking out of it & let someone else drive you around & show you the sights!
Hostels & hotels are pretty good at having these available to book at reception. They will be making a little commission for signing you up so it’s in their best interest to make them available.
These tours will usually pick you up from your accommodation, take you on the arranged trip & drop you back to your door. Easy!
Hire a moped
Moped hire is generally cheap in Thailand, costing anything between 100-200Baht/day for a standard model. More fancy bikes can be found at more premium prices if you want to splash out & cruise around in style!
Getting around my moped is by far the quickest method of transport! Whizzing past the cars stuck in the traffic queues in somewhat satisfying!
It’s a great way to explore & see the area, you get to appreciate the scenery from a different angle by moped.
Scooting about during sunset can be quite something!
An international driving license is required to drive a moped in Thailand, available to buy online. It’s a good idea to do this before you leave your home country, but it is possible to do once in Thailand.
Failure to produce your international drivers license if pulled over by police will result in a fine, this can be anywhere from 200-1000Baht! Just like most things in Thailand, the price can be bartered, so if you are asked for 1000Baht, chances are you will get down to 400.
To save the trouble, get international drivers license & keep it on you!
The accident rates are high on Thailand’s roads, so safety must come first! Always wear your helmet, check your mirrors often, drive carefully & be extra cautious in the rain!
One thing to check for when hiring a vehicle is the insurance, find out if the insurance covers just you, or the bike too! Shop around, often you’ll find insurance covering the vehicle AND you, for the same price.
Hire a push bike
Many hostels in Thailand will have push bikes for use, sometimes this can be free, other times you’ll pay a small rental fee, perhaps 40-50Baht/day.
Cycling is a great way to navigate yourself around, providing you stay safe on the roads.
Imagine a horse & Cart, replace the horse with a human!
You have a cycle cart.
If you are feeling lazy but want to see the sights, some parts of Thailand have carts being cycled by locals!
This looks incredibly tiring for the cyclist but none the less, they persist! This is a great way to be in the open air & tour the area, without exerting your own energy!
Pay your driver well for his efforts!
All in all, Thailand is very accessible & getting around is easy when you have awareness of your options.