Thailand: accommodation and transport


Flights to Bangkok, Phuket, and beyond, airport guides, key destinations, transport, car hire, accommodation, tours and more.

thai city scene

Getting there and around


Getting from Bangkok airport to your hotel, tips for hiring a car, trip planners and the best sites for booking accommodation - download the Thailand travel guide.

Flights

Flight time from Australia: 6+ hours

At the airport

Most Australian tourists won't need a visa to enter Thailand if they're visiting for under 30 days. Passing through immigration and customs should be straightforward, but will depend on queues and whether or not officials take an interest in you or your luggage.

Airport taxes are generally included in the cost of your ticket, but this may not always be the case - particularly if you are transiting in Thailand for less than 24 hours. Check with your airline or travel agent.

VAT refunds for eligible goods (but not services) can be claimed at the airport upon departure.

  • 30km east of CBD.
  • Taxis are available outside gates 4 and 7 on the first floor. Fares should be metered plus a fee of THB 50 for the driver.
  • A number of car hire desks are located on the second floor, gate 8. See the airport website for a list of companies and their contact details.
  • The Airport Rail Link can take you to the CBD in 30 minutes, stopping at six stations. There are faster express trains coming to the airport.
  • Bor Khor Sor and BMTA buses, as well as public vans, depart from the airport's Public Transport Centre, running to a range of locations.
  • A free shuttle bus connects various areas of the airport, including the Public Transport Centre.
  • Free bus transfers to Don Muang Airport depart regularly (see timetable) from the second floor, gate 3. The journey takes between 45 minutes and two hours, depending on traffic.
  • Airport website: suvarnabhumiairport.com
  • 30km to Phuket town. 40km to Patong. 35km north of Ratsada Ferry Terminal (to Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, Krabi, Ao Nang).
  • Metered taxis are available outside the main terminal. Fares include a 100 THB airport surcharge. Check the airport website for estimated journey costs.
  • A number of car hire companies operate from Phuket Airport, but remember you may get a cheaper rate if you hire a car in town.
  • The air-conditioned Airport Bus runs to Phuket town via a number of other stops.
  • Minibuses and limousines can be organised from within the terminal, or a shuttle service can be booked in advance (try phuket.com or phuketshuttle.com) - a good option if you need to request child seats.
  • Many hotels offer a pre-arranged airport transfer.
  • Airport website: phuketairportonline.com

Scam alert: If your driver tells you your hotel is "closed" and offers to take you somewhere else, or if they stop at a travel agency to "confirm your booking", you're probably about to get a hard sell on a tour or an alternative hotel. Stand your ground and never feel obligated to buy something you don't want.

Key destinations

Airports
Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK)
Don Muang Airport (DMK)
Phuket Phuket International Airport (HKT)
Chiang Mai Chiang Mai Airport (CNX)
Hat Yai Hat Yai Airport (HDY)
Koh Samui Samui Airport (USM)
Krabi Krabi Airport (KBV)
Surat Thani Surat Thani Airport (URT)

How to get to...
Koh Phi Phi Ferry (90 minutes) or speedboat (45 minutes) from Phuket.
Koh Samui: International flight or flight from Bangkok (50 minutes) or from Phuket (55 minutes), or ferry from Koh Phangan (20 to 50 minutes) or from Surat Thani (65 minutes to 2 hours 50 minutes).
Koh Phangan: Ferry from from Surat Thani (90 minutes to 3.5 hours) or ferry from Koh Samui (20 to 50 minutes).
Koh Tao: Flight from Surat Thani (70 minutes) or ferry from Surat Thani (6.5+ hours).
Krabi: International flight or flight from Bangkok (80 minutes) or ferry from Phuket (about 2 hours) or car/bus/taxi from Phuket (3+ hours).
Koh Lanta: Ferry from Krabi (2 hours).
Surat Thani: International flight or flight from Bangkok (70 minutes) or ferry from Koh Samui (2+ hours) or Koh Phangan (90 minutes to 3.5+ hours).
Chiang Mai: International flight or flight from Bangkok (75 minutes). Train/bus/car from Bangkok (10+ hours).
Pattaya: Car/bus/taxi from Bangkok (1 hour 30 minutes).
Hat Yai: International flight or flight from Bangkok (90 minutes).

Tip: rome2rio.com is a great resource for working out how to get from A to B by any means of transport, anywhere in the world.

Getting around

Buses

Buses connect all major towns, cities, airports and tourist areas. Most are cheap and clean, and some are air conditioned. For a higher price, 'VIP' buses offer extra comfort and an on-board toilet for long-distance trips. Buses departing from the state-run BKS stations are the most reliable. There's usually no need to book ahead, but you can buy tickets in advance from bus stations or travel agents, or via the international site 12go.asia (for a small fee).

Tip: Lonely Planet warns: "We do not recommend using bus companies that operate directly out of tourist centres, like Bangkok's Th Khao San, because of repeated instances of theft and commission-seeking stops."

Trains

Trains connect much of Thailand, from Bangkok to Chiang Mai in the north, Hat Yai in the south, and on to Malaysia and Singapore (the Australian government currently advises against travelling to the southern border regions). Trains can take you to the Cambodian and Laos borders where they connect with buses. The train at Surat Thani connects by bus to Phuket and Krabi, and by ferry to Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui. Train tickets can be bought at stations, but if you want to book ahead, try 12go.asia or a travel agent. The official State Railway website only shows timetables and doesn't take bookings.

Ferries and boats

Ferries and boats serve popular tourist islands such as Koh Phi Phi, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. They also connect some coastal mainland towns, such as Phuket and Krabi. Ferry and boat companies are privately run, so prices, booking procedures, speeds and even safety standards will vary. Often ferry tickets cannot be booked in advance and some boats may be overloaded at peak times. If you're concerned, ask your hotel, travel agent or a local tourist information service for a recommendation.

Domestic flights

Flights link Thailand's cities, towns and some islands. Almost all of the country's airports can be reached via Bangkok. Airlines include Nok Air, Thai Air Asia, Orient Thai Airlines and Bangkok Airways. Search and book tickets through domesticflightsthailand.com or through an international search engine such as skyscanner.com or expedia.com.

Tip: Many domestic flights, particularly with budget airlines, depart from Bangkok's Don Muang Airport (DMK) which is about 45km from the main airport, Suvarnabhumi (BKK). Transport between airports can take between 45 minutes and two hours, depending on traffic.

Getting around towns and cities is best done on foot, bicycle, taxi or tuk-tuk (motorcycle rickshaw). Bangkok has an extensive bus and metro system. Taxis, tuk-tuks, minivans and private drivers are all readily available and can either be organised on the spot, or booked in advance via your hotel or travel agent. To avoid excessive haggling or rip-offs, make sure you have an idea of how much the trip should cost.

Tip: Taxis are generally metered whereas tuk-tuk drivers will want to negotiate a price.

Car hire

Car hire is available from major airports, cities and tourist centres. Operators include Nu, Sixt, Budget, Thai Rent A Car, Avis and more. You will need an international licence - some companies may not rent to you without one, plus you run the risk of being fined by police or negating your insurance.

It goes without saying that you should make sure you and the vehicle are properly insured (through your travel insurance and through the insurance offered by the car hire company). Before you pay extra fees for vehicle insurance, check to see if you're already covered by your travel insurance for the same clauses.

Tip: Book with a well-known international car hire company. They're likely to be easier to deal with if you get into a dispute.

Find more tips in our car hire guide.

Motorcycle and scooter hire is easy to find on the street in tourist areas. Most vendors are local small businesses and they may not check your licence (you'll need an international motorcycle licence), offer you a helmet (it's the law) or any kind of insurance (if you crash, you will probably have to pay for damages). Never leave your passport as collateral, and make sure your travel insurance covers you for injuries, as many policies exclude motorcycle or scooter crashes.

Warning: Foreigners have been arrested and detained by Thai police until they agree to pay compensation to locals for motorcycle or jet-ski crashes.

Driving in Thailand

A study found Thailand's roads are the second most dangerous in the world (Namibia won the top spot). If you're planning on driving, make sure you have the appropriate skills, licence and insurance.

  • Vehicles drive on the left.
  • You need an international licence to drive in Thailand.
  • Seat belts are compulsory for those sitting in the front of the car. Child seats are optional.
  • The blood alcohol limit is .05%, or .02% for drivers who have held their licence for less than five years.
  • Mobile phones can only be used hands-free.
  • Right of way is generally determined by size of vehicle (ie. trucks trump cars, cars trump motorcycles, etc.)
  • There is no fast lane or slow lane on highways, and drivers will rarely indicate when changing lanes.

Accommodation and tours

Accommodation ranges from beach shacks to five-star resorts and health spas. Prices may not be quite as low as in neighbouring Laos and Vietnam, but by Australian standards you can certainly grab a bargain holiday in Thailand.

Most hotels, resorts and hostels are easily booked online through sites such as wotif.combooking.com or a well-known local site such as sawadee.com. Compare booking sites and the hotel's website (if it has one) to find the lowest price. Check reviews on tripadvisor.com before you book.

Tours can be organised through a travel agent or online through a major tour operator before you go (try intrepidtravel.com or contiki.com). But if you're only interested in short trips or day trips, you'll have more choice and probably find better deals once you're in the country.

If you prefer everything to be organised for you, consider a package deal from a travel agent such as Flight Centre which includes flights, transport, accommodation and sometimes even meals.

Got a travel tip about Thailand? Or spotted something in our guide that needs updating? Add a comment below.


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