Getting There and Around

Practical advice for Thailand healthcare and wellness travel

Vehicle traffic in Thailand is still chaotic, and even more so in heavily populated urban centers like Bangkok, a seething mix of trucks, cars, motorbikes, buses, taxis and other transport. To ease the congestion, the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) here is introducing Smart Thailand via Intelligent Transport System Empowered by MOST. All cars in the country will have sensors that transfer real-time location data to the Ministry of Transport’s control center. Analyzed and combined with CCTV network data, the result will be transmitted to both the traffic police and commuters in the form of reports through in-car navigation devices or smartphone apps.

Bangkok’s mass-transit subway system is inexpensive and efficient, and links to the skytrain through several interchange stations at important junctions. The government is expanding the network significantly. Taxis are everywhere, and cheap. The waterways of Bangkok also handle a significant amount of traffic on express boats, long-tail boats and ferries.


While Thai is the official language spoken throughout Thailand, many Thais also speak and understand English, typically more so in Bangkok and major tourist destinations. English is typically the common means of cross-cultural conversation. Since many Europeans and other Asians visit Thailand, there are some locals who can handle these other languages to varying degrees.


Most people have a pleasant visit to Thailand and do not encounter any problems. Be aware that scams are common here—from fake tickets to fake goods to fake police—and that a dark alley can be just as dangerous as it is back home. The same goes for animal life; Bangkok in particular has a stray dog problem. Traffic is also haphazard and fast, so whether you’re a pedestrian or a passenger, take care.

Airports and Transportation

Thailand has six main international airports—two in Bangkok and one each in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Hat Yai, and Phuket—including Bangkok’s new Suvarnabhumi Airport, which opened in late 2008, handles 45 million passengers a year, and is the primary point of entry for international travelers.


Thailand has a 4,000 km rail system that is both efficient and comfortable. There are three classes, and even very budget-conscious travelers will have viable options. First class features private cabins with sleeping arrangements and air conditioning on certain routes, but they’re not cheap. Third class is cheaper than the bus, but on long journeys may be less than comfortable. Second-class prices are bout the same as a first-class bus ticket in price and in comfort, but offer beds and more options to stretch your legs.

Thai trains depart throughout the day, but they can be crowded, so it’s best to buy tickets in advance through an agent, at the station, or from the State Railway of Thailand.


Taxis are cheap, safe, clean and plentiful in Thailand, and you can catch one at any time of the day or night. You can ride several kilometers for just over US$1, in fact, making it far cheaper than owning a car here. By law, all taxis in Thailand have to use the meter, by the way, so make the driver turns it on. All taxis in Thailand also must have air-conditioning. If the driver asks if you want to take the tollway, which adds to the fee, do so; traffic in Bangkok is incredibly bad and taking the tollway could considerably shorten your taxi ride for just a little more money. On that score, avoid getting in a cab during rush hour, when traffic jams are the norm.

Rental cars:

Renting a car in Thailand can be an enjoyable and relatively inexpensive way of getting about. Unless you’re an experienced urban road warrior and have driven in this country before, however, renting a vehicle with a driver/guide may be a better idea, and is only marginally more expensive. Your insurance from home might not cover an accident while driving a Thai rental car or motorbike in Thailand, by the way, so check before you do.

International car rental agencies such as Avis and Hertz are well represented in Thailand, and there are many local companies as well, which tend to be cheaper. Many rental companies here will not rent a car to drivers without an international driving license, and may stipulate that the insurance on the car is not valid if they do. While you can drive in Thailand with a valid foreign driver’s license, an international license will make everything easier to settle.


Thailand’s bus network is extensive, inexpensive—some costing just a few baht, in fact—and offers a lot of options, including long-distance coaches. As you move up the quality scale, you’ll get greater comfort, air-conditioning and VIP treatment complete with entertainment and sleeping facilities. The time you spend on a bus here, however, will largely depend on the traffic situation and what type of bus you’re riding. That is especially true in Bangkok. Depending on your destination, buses leave from different terminals in Bangkok. Elsewhere in Thailand you’ll generally find just one bus station for all bus travel in and out of the town.


Thailand has some of the finest accommodations on the planet, and it would be a challenge to find anyplace that offers the scenery, luxury, amenities and hospitality at the price. Even four-star establishments offer rooms for between US$100 and $200 that come close to what the big five-star hotels present, and the resort venues in Koh Samui, Pattaya, Chiang Mai and elsewhere give you an enormous range to choose from budget-wise.

Be aware that hotels in the upper price range are often fully booked months ahead. If you are heading to Thailand during the high season from January to April, book well in advance, especially for the latter month, which is when the Songkran water festivals attract masses of overseas tourists.

Cellphones and Wi-Fi

As of August 2013, Thailand had a total of 120,000 free Wi-Fi access points, and the Thai government is pushing to create many more—400,000 by 2014. The access points are installed at public universities, city halls and official offices, local communities, state-run hospitals, police stations, post offices, and tourist spots and other important locations throughout the country. Users can access the free Wi-Fi for 20 minutes each time they connect for a maximum of two hours a day, and each access point has a 2 Mbps connection and can handle up to 15 users at once. Foreign visitors can use their passport numbers to register.

Many overseas cell phones will work in Thailand if they are GSM compatible. SIM cards are available for a few dollars, either at the airport or in IT markets throughout the country, and are charged with prepaid phone cards you can buy at virtually any convenience store in the country.


Thai cuisine is multiethnic and inventive, a blend of centuries-old Eastern and Western influences suffused with spices and herbs, and yet harmony among ingredients is the guiding principle behind every dish. Tastes range along the spectrum from fiery hot to comfortably cool. Noodles and rice are staples, as are fish, other seafood and aquatic herbs and plants of all kinds. Since Thais are Buddhists, big cuts of meat are not popular here, and end up finely sliced or shredded and mixed with spices and herbs.

Depending on what part of the country you’re in, you may be feasting primarily on Chinese-influenced dishes, noodles and jasmine rice, sausages, spicy green papaya salad and sticky rice, spicy roasted and grilled dishes of beef and chicken, or lobster, fish and curries infused with rich coconut milk. Throw in wild cards like the pungent but tasty durian and a host of other exotic fruits like rose apples and plum mangos, as well as desserts that revolve around coconut, rice and fruit, and you’ll be satisfied indeed.

Traditionally, a Thai meal is served all at once so that you can enjoy the harmonizing combinations of different tastes and textures. A typical set includes a soup, a curry dish with condiments or a spicy salad, a dip with fish and vegetables, and fruit.

Drinking in Thailand is largely a tourist phenomenon. While men enjoy a drink and liquor, wine and beer are easy to find, many women and practicing Buddhists avoid alcohol. Thailand brews several beers, and imported beers are also widely available. Most bars serve liquor until after midnight, except on Buddhist holidays, though those in tourist areas may stay open late.

Travel and Sightseeing

Thailand is the whole package when it comes to tourism. Whether you’re after a cultural experience, a jungle trek, foodie excursions, ecotourism, seaside relaxation or virtually any kind of sport, you’ll find something memorable here. From hot-air ballooning to kite surfing, nearly every imaginable activity can be pursued during your time in Thailand.

The sights alone will draw you—islands and white sand beaches, lush greenery, elaborate temples and palaces, floating markets, hill tribe villages—but the Thai people will be the ultimate attraction. They call this country “The Land of Smiles” for a very good reason.

There are day tours to take you virtually anywhere you want to go in Thailand, and plenty of them cost US$100 or less. A jungle exploration on elephants in Ching Dao and Ping River rafting tour is just $88, for example, and a private tour of Bangkok’s Grand Palace complex and Wat Phra Kaew is around $39. Multiple-day tours are available as well, like a five-day trek up north into hill tribe territory followed by some leisure time in Chiang Mai for around $425.
Useful Thailand Travel Resources

Know Before You Go

Thailand News & Features


Thailand : Medical Travel and Exotic Appeal

Thailand has long been a favorite tourism destination in Asia with an exotic appeal, a long list of historic and modern attractions, friendly people and internationally renowned cuisine.

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