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Domestic flights are one of the most convenient ways of getting around Thailand, particularly if you’re heading to the islands. Plenty of low-cost airlines run services, so even if you’re on a budget this option needn’t be out of bounds.
A number of popular destinations, such as Chiang Mai and Krabi, have airports, so travellers can be relaxing on a sandy beach or trekking through northern Thailand in a matter of hours, rather than enduring an overnight journey by bus or train.
Bear in mind, however, that transfers in Thailand from the airport to your hotel usually need to be pre-arranged, particularly if you’re arriving at an awkward time. So, contact your hotel before you arrive to get this sorted in advance.
Thailand’s rail system is pretty basic, with only a few lines. The Northern Line will take you to Chiang Mai in between 12 and 15 hours, while the Southern Line goes to Hua Hin and Surat Thani in the south.
But remember, trains tend to be slower than buses, and in Thailand, transfers from train to bus will often be necessary to get you to your final destination.
If you’d like to watch Thailand’s scenery scroll past your window, then buses should be your transport of choice. First-class or VIP buses have air-conditioning and reclining seats, and in many cases also offer shorter journey times.
Ordinary and second-class buses, meanwhile, are bearable for short journeys, but tend to be much less comfortable. Cheaper (and more uncomfortable still) are Thailand’s songthaews, local pick-up trucks that can be found travelling between towns in rural areas.
This method of travel, where passengers sit on two benches facing opposite one another, is only for those intrepid travellers who want to get a glimpse of gritty everyday life in Thailand.
Despite an improving infrastructure, Bangkok’s roads are in a permanent state of gridlock, so it pays to avoid them and take the subway where possible. Getting around Thailand’s capital via the air-conditioned BTS Skytrain (an above-ground transit line) or the MRT underground is a much more pleasant experience.
On the roads, taxis are available, and cheap – though not as cheap as tuk-tuks. Just watch out for unscrupulous drivers who inflate fares or are unwilling to use their meters.