Thailand's roads are head and shoulders above its neighbors Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia, but driving habits are still quite dangerous. Drunk driving, speeding and reckless passing are depressingly common, and bus and taxi drivers especially for private companies work inhuman shifts and often take drugs to keep themselves awake, with predictable and tragic results. It's common for motorbikes — even police! — to drive close to the curb on the wrong side of the road. Death tolls sky-rocket around major holidays, especially Songkhran, when bystanders often throw water on passing cars and bikes. Many drivers don't use headlights at night, multiplying risks, and it is wise to avoid or minimize overnight travel by road.
Note that unlike in its neighbours except Malaysia, traffic moves on the left side of the road in Thailand and Thai cars are generally right-hand drive. All official road directional signs are written in both Thai and English.
Renting a car to explore on your own is a cost-effective way of getting off the beaten track, and avoids the constant hassle of haggling with local taxi/tuk-tuk drivers. Most major roads are marked in both Thai and English, and traffic culture is not as bad as some might lead you to believe. Keep a sharp lookout in both mirrors from passing traffic including 18-wheelers and scooters.Traffic on major highways follows 100-120 km/h, while smaller highways are generally 80 km/h. Gas stations are common and most Thai are more than willing to give directions in spite of any language barriers.
Drive very defensively at first and watch what the locals do. Of course, it helps if you are accustomed to driving on the left side of the road, which in itself could be enough to distract some North American or European drivers.
Driving under the influence of alcohol is both illegal and dangerous, and driving at night also increased the risk of accidents â even if you're sober, many others aren't. Renting a car usually costs between 1200-1500 baht if you want to go for an ecomonical one like a Toyota Vios . Most of the national companies can be found in Thailand . Also reputable local car rental companies, which are often a little cheaper, include:
Lek Car Rentals (http://www.lekcarrentalud...), Udon Thani
Braun Car Rentals (http://www.braun-rentacar.com), Phuket
Huahin Car Rent (http://www.huahincarrenta...), Hua Hin
State Railway of Thailand (http://www.railway.co.th/...) SRT has a 4000-km network covering most of the country, from Chiang Mai in the north all the way to and beyond the Malaysian border in the south. Compared to buses, most trains are relatively slow and prone to delays, but safer. You can pick up fruits, snacks and cooked food from hawkers at most stations.
Point-to-point fares depend on the type speed of the train and the class of the carriage. There are three main classes:
First classchan neung 2-berth sleeping compartments with individually regulated air conditioning are available on some trains, but prices are sometimes matched by budget airfares.
Second classchan song is a good compromise, costing about the same as 1st class buses and with a comparable level of comfort. Some 2nd class trains are air-con, others aren't; air-con costs a little more. Second class sleeper berths are comfortable and good value, with the narrower upper bunks costing a little less than the wider lower bunks. Food and WCs are basic. 2nd class Express Railcar trains have reclining seats and refreshments are included in the fare; unlike all other Thai passenger trains, they can match buses for speed, but cannot carry bicycles.
Third classchan saam is the cheapest way to travel in Thailand, with virtually nominal fares, and can be great fun. Sometimes packed with tuk-tuk drivers heading home with a sack of rice and a bottle of cheap whisky for company, as a farang foreigner you're guaranteed to be the center of attention - quite enjoyable in small doses, but 10 hours of this might be a bit much. Some 3rd class trains have wooden seats, others are upholstered; some services can be pre-booked, others cannot; refreshments are available from hawkers who roam the aisles.
Pre-booking is recommended, especially for sleeper berths. Tickets on all main lines can be purchased online at SRT's official E-Stars site (http://www.thairailwaytic...); however, only a quota of 10% of seats can be sold online, so it will often show trains as full when, in reality, there's still plenty of space Tip: if you get an error during registration - just remove any special characters from your registration data; you can always edit your profile later. Alternatively, many travel agencies can book tickets for a service fee 50-200 baht/ticket, or you can reserve with SRT directly by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org for a 200 baht/booking surcharge.
Full information regarding Routes, Timetables and Up-To-Date Ticket costs along with interesting 'Fact' videos can be found on www.seat61.com by selecting 'Asia' and then 'Thailand'.
Thailand is a large country, and if sitting in a bus for 11 hours is not your idea of a fun time, you may well want to consider domestic flights. Never terribly expensive to begin with at least by Western standards, the deregulation of the industry has brought in a crop of new operators: with a little research, it's possible to fly pretty much anywhere in the country for less than 2000 baht. Note that various taxes and often hefty surcharges are invariably added to "advertised" prices.
One of the Thais' many names for themselves is jao naam, the Water Lords, and from the river expresses of Bangkok to the fishing trawlers of Phuket, boats remain an indispensable way of getting around many parts of the country.
Perhaps the most identifiably Thai boat is the long-tail boat reua hang yao, a long, thin wooden boat with the propeller at the end of a long 'tail' stretching from the boat. This makes them supremely manouverable even in shallow waters, but they're a little underpowered for longer trips and you'll get wet if it's even a little choppy. Long-tails usually act as taxis that can be chartered, although prices vary widely - figure on 300-400 baht for a few hours' rental, or up to 1500 for a full day. In some locations like Krabi, long-tails run along set routes and charge fixed prices per passenger.
Modern, air-conditioned speedboat services, sometimes ferries departure every 30 mins also run from the Surat Thani to popular islands like Ko Samui and Ko Pha Ngan. Truly long-distance services eg. Bangkok to any other major city have, however, effectively ceased to exist as buses, planes and even trains are faster. Safety measures are rudimentary and ferries and speedboats do sink occasionally, so avoid overloaded ships in poor weather, and scope out the nearest life jackets when on board.