There are many ways to get around Thailand: Tuk Tuk, bus, motorbike, train, boat and others. Here's how to do it all safely and avoid being another statistic.

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Travelers are usually overwhelmed by the chaos that is the Thai road network, with its 'toughest driver wins' right-of-way system, the consistent threat of being sideswiped by a Tuk Tuk, and incessant honking. Follow these tips to stay safe.

Riding in Tuk Tuks

Riding in Tuk Tuk is a fun way to travel around Thailand – but they‘re best for short trips. Anything longer than 30 minutes can become uncomfortable.

It‘s essential to bargain your fare before you board and write down the agreed fare. If your fare results in a dispute, tuk-tuk drivers can become aggressive, and sometimes violent, especially in resorts like Patong.

Set your destination, and make sure your driver takes you there. If you have a feeling that you are being steered down the wrong path, say “yoot tee nee“ (Stop here).

Tuk Tuk drivers like to zip through the traffic which can seem unnerving especially a tuk-tuk offers little to no accident protection, which can seem like a bumpy and somewhat dangerous ride. Keep your hands, arms, and feet inside the vehicle at all times.

Hold on to bags and purses tightly, passing motorcycle thieves will grab it and speed off.

If it's about getting somewhere rather than the experience of riding in a tuk-tuk, you'll be better off in a taxi. Just make sure you know the ins and outs of taking a taxi in Thailand. While it's not so bad in Bangkok, in Phuket the taxi and Tuk Tuk mafia are ready to pull a fast one on you.

Bus Travel in Thailand

Thailand, unfortunately, has one of the worst road fatality rates in the world. During the day, the roads are crazy and at night, they can be deadly.

There are no laws compelling truck drivers to have rest breaks, drug use is common, as is drink driving. Vehicles can be sub-standard, maintenance rates are low and the road conditions can be terrible.

It seems that not a week goes by without a news report of a tour bus crash. 

Many foreign governments including Australia, US,  and UK warn their citizens about the dangers of traveling by overnight bus.

If you must take an overnight bus, choose a reputable company with a good safety record. Plus you don't want to scrimp on comfort either. 

Trains in Thailand

In the past couple of years, there‘ve been a number of derailments especially on the Bangkok to Chiang Mai line and old, poorly maintained tracks are blamed. There‘s been some work on improving the infrastructure, but if you have to be there on time - get a plane.

Rail services are notoriously late. Delays of three or four hours are not uncommon, but who‘s in a hurry anyway. Some passengers use this as an excuse to get roaring drunk.

It‘s doubtful if any overnight/sleeper train anywhere in the world is 100% secure while you snooze. So take padlocks, bike chains and cable ties - lock your bag to something sturdy and keep your passport and cash tucked away on your person.

Do I Need a License to Ride a Motorbike or Scooter in Thailand

Yes! Either a license you obtained in Thailand, or you need to be licensed to ride a motorbike in your home country.

For a full explanation of licensing, and what happens if you don't have one, check our guide to motorbike riding in Thailand.

Boat Travel in Thailand

Traveling by boat is how most people get from the Thailand mainland to outer islands off the coast or even travel along the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok to dodge the road traffic. Whether it's a longtail, speedboat or ferry, traveling on a boat can be a pleasant way to see Thailand, but it can also be dangerous. Like their road safety record, Thailand also has a poor maritime safety record. What you may be used to back home in terms of enforcement and regulation isn't always the case in Thailand with travelers often caught out in bad situations. But you can take preventative measures to ensure your boat ride is as safe as possible.

In 2018, 47 Chinese nationals perished off the coast of Phuket after the boat they were traveling on sunk in poor weather conditions during monsoon season. Monsoon season is one of the worst times to travel by boat due to the inclement weather and dangerous ocean conditions. Authorities will often close off national parks and islands for safety reasons.

If you are planning to travel by boat here's some things to consider before hopping on:

  • If the boat doesn't look well maintained, don't get on it.

  • Always wear a lifejacket where possible. Unfortunately, many vessels in Thailand don't have them.

  • If the boat looks overloaded, avoid getting on it and don't be afraid to ask to get off.

  • If the boat captain or any of the crew appear under the influence of alcohol or roaring drunk, don't get on.

  • If the boat is planning to head off and the weather looks dodgy, avoid it.

  • Avoid traveling by boat at night.

  • Planning to travel to the Full Moon Party? Stay on the island overnight rather than risk getting on a boat in the dark and avoid getting the first boats off the island. Not only is it dangerous due to lack of vision, the boats can be overcrowded. Overcrowding plus drunk people is never a good ending.

Border Crossing Safety

Government travel advisories highlight tensions and the danger of banditry on the following border points:

  • Thailand and Cambodia - While there is a dispute between the two countries over the border location and the risk of unexploded landmines, crossing this border is incident-free most of the time. Watch out for the visa scam when entering Cambodia. The visa costs US$30 on arrival, however, sometimes you may be asked for extra. Always keep your passport with you unless you need to hand it over to receive the visa.

  • Thailand and Myanmar - Clashes with armed ethnic groups and Myanmar military forces. Drug traffickers operate in this area, and bandits have been known to attack travelers. To learn more about crossing this border, check out our article on the logistics of the Thailand-Myanmar border.

  • Thailand and Malaysia - Travel advisories highlight this location as a Do Not Travel due to the high level of violence including bombings and armed attacks in Yala, Pattani, Songkhla, and Narathiwat.

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1 Comment

  • James Nardell said

    The problem with Thai roads is that you can be a great driver, and still get involved in a terrible accident by the actions of someone who is not.

    [In my opinion] Thailand's huge number of road traffic accidents are really down to two core issues:

    1. There is no real enforcement of traffic laws.
    2. Most Thai have never learned [like you do in the US/UK] how to drive.

    Check out the video below which highlights why Thailand is such a dangerous country to drive in.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMaxh9-u3v4

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