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Posted in Thailand Family Travel Tips

Getting around Thailand as a Family

Getting around Thailand as a Family

So you’ve got your tickets to Thailand already. Now, how are you going to get around between cities once you’re already here?

Solo travellers and couples have tons of choices. For families, things are a bit trickier. But luckily, an added level of comfort or privacy can sometimes be more cost effective for families as well.

Planes, trains, busses, boats, vans, long-distance taxis, chauffeured cars, rent-and-drives… you’ve got tons of Thailand transport choices depending on your budget and personal preferences.

Thailand transport by air

Budget airlines like Air Asia help family travellers save big time on costs.
(Photo Credit: Hajime Nakano)

Thailand Transport by:
Domestic Flights

The best and easiest option for most of the major tourist destinations is domestic flights. Most travellers arrive into Thailand at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok. From here you can catch flights to Phuket, Koh Samui, Chiang Mai, Krabi and numerous other destinations throughout Thailand.

Airlines Operating out of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport:

  • Thai Airways – Thailand’s national carrier; you may have flown it to come into the country
  • Bangkok Airways – Award-winning, self-proclaimed ‘boutique airline’; flies to the bigger destinations as well as some natural and cultural gems not served by other airlines; until recently they were the only airline flying to Koh Samui

Don Meuang Airport was formerly the country’s gateway international airport before the newer, flashier Suvarnabhumi Airport opened its doors in 2006. Today Don Meuang (also spelled “Don Muang”) serves as hub for flights operated by local budget airlines.

Airlines Operating out of Bangkok’s Don Muang Airport:

  • Air Asia – Budget airline; lots of flights and often the cheapest
  • Nok Air – budget airline flying to 18 domestic destinations
  • Orient Thai Airlines – budget airline flying to six destinations including Chiang Mai and Phuket

If you’re planning to skip a stopover in Bangkok, then when booking your domestic transfer flights keep in mind that Suvarnabhumi and Don Meuang are quite a long distance away from each other. The logistics, time and hassle of travelling between the two airports isn’t really worth the trouble, especially with kids in tow.

If you are spending time in Bangkok and then books flights out of Don Meuang, be very sure to specify to your taxi driver that you need him to take you to DON MEUANG airport and be sure he heard and understood you. By default taxis assume you are probably going to Suvarnabhumi. Also note that the pronunciation of “Suvarnabhumi” is very different from how it is written. In Thai, it is pronounced “Sue – Wanna – Poom”.

While almost all international travellers arrive via Bangkok, there are a small number of international flights direct to Phuket, Koh Samui and Chiang Mai. You may want to explore this option, especially if you are coming to Thailand from a regional city such as Hong Kong or Singapore.

Thailand transport by train

Train travel can be oodles of fun for kids. Got a Thomas the Tank Engine fanatic in the family?
(Photo Credit: The Travelista)

Thailand Transport by:
Trains and Busses

You may want to consider trains and busses for some destinations, but flights are relatively cheap and a much, much easier and more comfortable transport option for far-away destinations. With several people travelling together as a family, it’s often cost-effective to book a van or even a long-distance taxi instead of getting bus or train tickets. It will usually cost a little more for this extra comfort and privacy, but it can be well worth it.

That said, some people find train travel fun. However, don’t expect the same standards of train travel you enjoy in Europe or Japan.

The bus network is very extensive with a few major terminals in Bangkok specializing in different regions. Bus travel is usually your cheapest option if you are on a tight budget.

Thailand transport by car

Travel tip: Many Bangkok taxi drivers are happy to negotiate a long-distance fare to destinations like Pattaya and Hua Hin. In a local cab with a driver you love? Go ahead and ask him.
(Photo Credit: Kevin J. Charles)

Thailand Transport by:
Cars, Vans, Taxis

Many private car and van services are offered. You can book online on the ground at local travel agencies in Bangkok and other tourist destinations. Using a car or van service is a great transport option for short-ish trips where a flight isn’t possible or just seems unnecessary.

Another option, especially for destinations only 1-3 hours away (for example Bangkok to Ayutthaya, Hua Hin, Pattaya, or Koh Samet) is to go by taxi. The major taxi companies have set rates for long distance travel (instead of using the meter as you would within the city). You can call them directly here:

Thailand Taxi Contact Numbers

  • Siam Radio Taxi – Phone number: 1661
  • Taxi Radio – Phone number: 1681

Some taxi companies now have a limited number of SUVs/mini-vans in operation. Request one if possible.

Many taxis will have a long-distance rate card on the back of the driver’s or front passenger seat. If so, you may arrange a trip with the driver instead of through a central number. Some drivers without rate cards will also negotiate a price directly. You will often have to pay them a roundtrip fare or somewhat discounted roundtrip fare even though they are only taking you one way. This is only fair; they are far from guaranteed to pick up any passengers for the drive back to Bangkok. Discuss ahead of time if it’s possible for them to pick you up again for your Bangkok return. Otherwise you may need to make alternate arrangements.

Self-drive rental cars are available but it’s more common to hire a car with a driver. A car with a driver is relatively affordable and million times easier than driving the country on your own. Outside of major tourist destinations, English is rarely spoken. A driver saves you the potential hassle of getting lost, and the small hurdles like communicating with petrol station attendants, looking for restrooms, convenience stores, restaurants, etc.

Thailand transport by boat

This speed boat is parked at Donald Duck Bay in the Similan Islands. Notice something quacky about the rock top and centre?
(Photo Credit: Kullez)

Thailand Transport by:
Boats and Ferries

If you’re visiting islands, you may end up using a speedboat or ferry for a leg of travel at some point during your Thailand holiday. Only the two major islands of Phuket and Samui have their own airports.

Trying to plan your trip to an island and wondering about the jumping off points to catch your boat? Have a look at the box below to see the major ferry and speed boat routes for Thailand’s most popular islands.

Where to Catch Your Boat

  • Boats to Koh Phi Phi leave from both Phuket and Krabi on the mainland.
  • Boats to Koh Lanta leave from Krabi and Phuket.
  • Boats to Koh Samet leave from Ban Phe on the mainland.
  • Boats to Koh Chang leave from Trat on the mainland.
  • Boats to Koh Kood leave from Trat. It’s also possible to go via Koh Chang.
  • Boats to Koh Mak leave from Trat.
  • Koh Samui is usually reached by plane. It is possible to take a ferry from Surat Thani on the mainland.
  • Boats to Koh Phangan leave from Koh Samui. It’s also possible to go via Surat Thani on the mainland or the small island of Koh Tao.
  • Boats to Koh Tao leave from Koh Samui as well as Surat Thani and Chumpon on the mainland. It’s also possible to go via Koh Phangan.
  • The Similan Islands are primarily visited as several-day dive trips on live aboard boats. Most of the trips depart from Phuket or Khao Lak. Day trips are also available.
  • The Surin Islands are also primarily for dive trips. Trips depart from Phuket or Khao Lak.

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