Getting Around Thailand On The Cheap – We Did it All!

How do you get around Thailand on the cheap? Having spent over 4 months traveling Thailand on a tight budget, to the north, southern, central and eastern regions we’re here to share the most efficient and cheapest forms of travel across the land of smiles. The best forms of travel for low cost are train and coach, but they are not always convenient or available. We’ll share why in this article, and by the end of it you’ll learn an easy technique that’s not covered on many other sites, that has saved us 1000s on bus tickets, train tickets, flights, and more.

Getting Trains Around Thailand On The Cheap

Our video is timestamped at Hua Lampong train station in Thailand to show you what trains are like. This was 2nd class AC.

The cheapest most efficient way to get around Thailand is by train. Thailand has great train lines across most of the country. To get train tickets, either go to the train station or google “รถไฟ”, or visit the State Railway Thailand website to see train times, then use google to translate the page. You will find all train times and prices here, with no extra booking fee.

This prevents all the other booking services from charging you an extra fee just for sorting out the booking for you. You can also check all the railway times on here, and head to the train station to book yourself if you like. We’ve left a photo below to show you how to translate the page. You can also do this trick with booking buses, which we’ll share later down the page 😉

Unfortunately, you can’t get trains all across Thailand just yet, and some places you will have to get a mix of a train and a coach, but that’s the essence of travel eh?

Where possible try to get train tickets, they’re far cheaper and more efficient from what we found traveling around Thailand.

This is the local train, no aircon and hard seat.

Top money-saving tip: You can get extremely cheap tickets if you ask for the local train, but don’t expect this form of travel to be fast or efficient. There is no aircon, you’ll have a hard seat and they’ll often wait at train stations for a while. They are very safe, and the locals are very friendly. We never had a problem with anyone, but some people might look at you strangely when you get on board.

We traveled as a man and woman couple and encountered 0 problems. People were generally just very curious where we were from and where we were going. If you have no problem with this, you can enjoy extremely cheap travel and we mean cheap!

For instance: we took a train from Prachuap Khiri Khan, all the way to Hat Yai for 70 baht for two tickets. That’s about $1 USD for a 300km trip!

Getting Flights Around Thailand On The Cheap

Flights are the most efficient way to get around Thailand. You can expect to pay anywhere between $50 USD to $100 USD for domestic flights around Thailand and the Islands. Please take into account luggage weight and carry-on requirements when getting flights, as you might be asked to weigh your bags. Air Aisa is the cheapest airline by far.

Throughout our whole 8 month trip around SEA and Central Asia, we were not asked once to weigh our bags, but we didn’t take much and lived out of one bag for nearing on a year. This can cause a large unexpected expense if you don’t prepare for this.

The Secret To Booking Cheaper Flights

Cheapest Airlines To Look For

The cheapest airlines in Thailand are as follows:

  • Air Asia – cheapest by far, but economy is not comfortable and leg room is not great. 7kg carry-on baggage included.
  • Thai Lion Air – also very cheap, same for economy seats, 7kg carry-on baggage included
  • Thai Smile – started to combat Air Aisa. Also cheap, similar economy seats, 7kg baggage included as well as a free snack and bottle of water.

For shorter flights around Thailand, Asia Air is your go-to. It is the equivalent of Ryanair for flights around Asia. Their prices are very reasonable, and we have used Asia Air multiple times to fly around Thailand as well as around other parts of Asia. If you have long legs we would avoid sitting at the back of the plane and try booking middle seats or emergency exit seats but note these are a bit more money.

Minor factors that could play a big part in getting cheap flight tickets are:

  • Day of the week: It’s commonly known for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday to be the cheapest days of the week to travel. If you’re just as shocked as I am to see Saturday, it’s a good day for domestic flights and it’s said that most people make the most of the weekend and fly back Sundays.
  • The time you book: Skyscanner suggests early flight times will save you money. Yep, that sucks for those who love their sleep, but you always got the time on the flight. You can use Skyscanner’s flight calculator to roughly see when the best times for you are.
  • The season you flighting into: We all know that flying out on a holiday period or into a common season time for certain countries will automatically raise the price.
  • Booking in advance or on short notice? Typically, booking in advance will save you money, especially for long flights, long time frame holidays (1 week plus), and even holiday periods. Shorter or domestic flights are usually okay to book with short notice.

Utilising Point Schemes

Flight rewards scheme

One reason we’d recommend Air Aisa over the other airlines is their points scheme. way to get around cheaply on flights is by utilising credit cards and point schemes. Air Asia (one of the biggest budget airline companies), has a points scheme you can use to rack up rewards that you are able to use for flights in the future. We recommend signing up for an account and using your flyer number when booking a flight.

If you’re on long-term travel or plan to come back to Asia again, you might rack up enough for a couple free flights or upgrades.

We also personally used a British Airways card for long-haul flights and ended up getting a £69.50 flight from New Delhi India, back to the UK. If you’re from the UK this is by far the best travel credit card. If you’re from the US you’ll have so many more options available to you. It’s definitely worth looking for a scheme like this in your country.

Just pay for your flights and other travel things through this card, and pay it straight back off to rack up points and better your credit score. You can also pay for things like rent, gas, electricity, your weekly shop etc. to rack up more points. But only pay for things you are able to afford and pack straight back off. They add up in the end, and you can even get hotel stays, or book experiences with these points too.

Like everything, there are T&Cs that should be looked at before using.

Use Google Flights Price Calendar & Compare With Others

Another way to save money here is by using Skyscanner or Google flights. We personally prefer Google flights because it shows you a calendar and tells you when the cheapest prices are likely to be. If you can fly off-peak and don’t have a rigid schedule to stick to, we recommend doing it because it can save you a lot of money.

Prevent Tracking, Spoof Fingerprint & Log Out

Most sites will track all your sessions through cookies, and even if you’re in incognito, logged out etc. they’ll use your browsing fingerprint to try and identify you, then push you ads and potentially inflated prices based on your browsing profile. To remove the risk of this, use a separate browser when purchasing flights, do not log into any email and use privacy extensions to block these trackers and spoof your fingerprint.

We personally use Firefox just for this purpose and have installed extensions:

  • Ghostery – allows you to block all trackers from websites
  • Canvas fingerprint defender – spoofs your browsing fingerprint

Fingerprint tracking is a technique that can identify a browser. This method can be used to distinguish person, and display personalized advertisements or uniquely identify a person on the next visit even when that person has no login details available.

Always remember to clear you cookies and browsing history if you are booking flights, because websites keep logs of what you are looking for and often price tickets higher if they realise you want to purchase a ticket. The best way to do this is clear cookies, and history, then open a new, incognito tab. Close all other browsing sessions. This way you are more likely to get more reasonable prices.

Getting Coaches Around Thailand On A Cheap

Coaches are cheap to get around Thailand and vary in cost depending on where you’re going. However, if you’re prone to travel sickness, you will experience some going through the mountain regions.

Here are some prices of trips we took:

  • Bangkok to Khon Kaen – 700 baht per ticket
  • Khon Kaen to Chiang Mai – 300 baht per ticket
  • Chiang Mai to Laos border – 400 baht per ticket
  • Bangkok – Pattaya – 131 baht per ticket

Coaches are a good way to get around Thailand and relatively cheap, please beware of the company you book though. Some companies will over-fill buses and will not have working aircon etc. making your trip worse than it has to be. Also, keep in mind that coaches take a lot longer than trains or flights. Our bus from Kohn Kaen to Chiang Mai took over 10 hours to arrive.

You will travel through mountainous regions too and buses drive extremely fast through these, so if you are prone to travel sickness, you will definitely get it on one of these coaches.

All in all coach travel is fantastic in Thailand compared with neighbouring countries. The roads are smooth, buses have aircon and comfy seats. If you really want an experience try Laos of Cambodia’s rocky rides.

Top money-saving tip: Search on Google for รสบัส. This is the Thai word for bus, and will come up with the Thai websites for booking coaches. These tend to charge a lower booking fee than something like 12goasia, or other booking services. You can use these to check the times, then book at the station. This is our preferred option

Getting Taxi’s Around Thailand On A Cheap

If you really need to go somewhere fast, and there’s nothing available for a while, private taxis are not that costly for tourists compared with other countries. We recommend using Bolt for long-haul taxi rides as it’s generally a much cheaper rate. Grab is also good, but you’ll pay a premium. For a 300-400km journey, expect to pay $40-70 USD.

We had to get a Taxi from Chiang Mai to Chiang Khorng (Laos border) as my visa had run out and it was cheaper to do this than pay the over-stay fee. The total set me back 1400 baht ($39.83 USD). In the end, I gave him a 2000 baht tip because it was a 4 hour drive to and from and he did it all in one go. So the total cost $96.73 USD.

If you compare this rate with the Grab rate I was shown – it was a saving of around 500-700 baht. So you’re essentially saving $12-15 using Bolt over Grab. If you use Bolt over Grab, you can tip the driver the rest you would have paid (in cash) and he won’t have to pay a fee to the company for it.

If I hadn’t tipped him so much it would have cost much less and if you’re feeling less generous, tipping is not expected in Thai culture. But if you’re going that far… I feel a tip is due, even if it’s a smaller one.

Getting Around Thailand by Motorcycle

Getting around Thailand by motorcycle is by far the most fun way, most cost-efficient, and efficient because you can plan your trip as you wish. If you are renting monthly, you can negotiate a rate as low as $3 USD per day for a 125cc bike. So 1 month will cost about $100 USD, then you have fuel on top, which is $1.14/L.

We personally didn’t take this option in Thailand, but did it in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos. It was the best decision we made for the whole trip and if you’re into adventure, seeing the countryside and seeing villages/cultures you otherwise wouldn’t have seen if you traveled the more trodden path – then motorcycle travel is 100% for you.

You need to make sure your health insurance covers motorcycle accidents abroad, and be sure that you have an international driver’s permit – otherwise anything that happens is automatically not covered by insurance seeing as you don’t have the proper documents to drive in the country.

Driving in SEA is also much different to your home country. In Thailand the driving is generally pretty chilled out compared to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, but it will still be a lot more dangerous than what you’re used to at home, so take pre-cautions and be aware at all times.

Which Bike Should I Hire?

The best bike to hire to travel around all of SEA is the Honda Wave. These are ridiculously common and most locals drive them. This means spare parts are very cheap, fake, cheaper parts are easy to find and mechanics, even in the middle of nowhere, will know how to fix your issue for a pretty low price. But doing long journeys will be a chore.

The Honda Wave is a semi-auto bike with an engine size of 125cc. This mean if you’re going up mountains for a long part of your trip, you should really get something with a lot more juice.

We experienced the worst riding through rocky, un-built mountain roads with sheer drops either side in Laos, having to do the whole thing in 1st – 2nd gear on the trusty Honda Wave. Poor thing took a beating. So, if you’re doing something like that, please check your route and make sure you get a more powerful bike.

If you’re doing a shorter trip however, the Honda Wave should do you just fine. Just make sure to double the time Google maps tells you it’s going to take by car and take a lot of rest.

Important tip: you can buy motorbikes from other travelers who have finished their journey and generally want to get rid of them quickly. If you’re able to purchase a bike, do your trip, and then sell it at the end, you’ve essentially cut the rental cost by 80% (when taking into account the value decline due to added mileage).

To find a motorbike to buy, check Facebook groups and hang out around Hostels, asking people if they know anyone selling a bike. You’re more than likely to run into someone.

You can usually purchase a cheap Chinese knock-off Honda Wave for about $200.

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