Thailand’s main international airports are in Bangkok and Phuket, both of which are well served by intercontinental flights. Almost all airlines flying to Asia also have flights to Bangkok, which means there are many connections and competition on these routes helps keep ticket prices down. There are two main airports in Bangkok: Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK), which is served by most major airlines and is the main airport, and the smaller Don Mueang International Airport (DMK), which is mainly served by smaller airlines, both international and domestic.
International airports are also located in Hat Yai, Krabi, Ko Samui and Chiang Mai, although these are largely reserved for flights from other Southeast Asian countries. Kuala Lumpur and Singapore are great for flying into these small Thai cities, which means you can avoid the ubiquitous tourist traffic and queues in Bangkok.
The national carrier is the well-respected Thai Airways, with Bngkok Airways filling some of the gaps in the region. Bangkok Airways offers free internet access while you wait at your gate for boarding. Thai Airways’ subsidiary, Thai Smile (low-cost carrier), has also started international operations from India. In addition, the Malaysian low-cost carrier AirAsia has also established a subsidiary in Thailand and is often the cheapest option for flights to Thailand.
Charter flights to and from Thailand to international destinations are operated by the Hi Flying Group. They serve Bangkok, Phuket, Ko Samui and Udon Thani.
Many low-cost carriers serve Thailand.
Cambodia – six international border crossings. The highway to Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor via Poipet and Aranyaprathet, which used to be a nightmare, is now simply bad and can usually be done in less than 3 hours.
Laos – the busiest border crossing is the Friendship Bridge across the Mekong between Nong Khai and the Lao capital Vientiane. It is also possible to cross the Mekong at Chiang Khong / Huay Xai, Nakhon Phanom / Tha Khaek, Mukdahan / Savannakhet and elsewhere.
- Vientiane / Udon Thani – There is a bus from the bus station at the morning market in Vientiane to the bus station in Udon Thani. The cost is 80 baht or 22,000 kip and the journey takes two hours. Udon Thani Airport is 30 minutes by tuk-tuk from the bus station and is served by Thai Airways, Nok Air and Air Asia.
Malaysia and Singapore – it is quite possible to get there by car, but not with a rental car. The main border crossings (with the name of the town on the Malaysian side in brackets) between Thailand and Malaysia are Padang Besar (Padang Besar) and Sadao (Bukit Kayu Hitam) in Songkhla province, Betong (Pengkalan Hulu) in Yala province and Sungai Kolok (Rantau Panjang) in Narathiwat province. Buses run regularly between Singapore and the southern centre of Hat Yai.
Myanmar – Border posts with Myanmar are located in Mae Sai/Tachileik, Mae Sot/Myawaddy, Three Pagoda Pass (Sangkhlaburi/Payathonzu) and Ranong/Kawthoung. Since 2013, the Burmese government has lifted all restrictions on foreigners entering and leaving Myanmar via the Thai border, so it is now possible to travel overland between Yangon and Bangkok. Just make sure your Thai (if required) and Burmese visas are in order as there is no visa on arrival at the border.
As Thailand drives on the left, but all neighbouring countries except Malaysia drive on the right, you usually have to change sides of the road when crossing an international border in Thailand.
Thailand’s only international train service runs between Butterworth (near Penang) and Kuala Lumpurin Malaysia and on to Singapore. Tickets are cheap, even in first class, but the journey can be slow. A 2-hour flight to Singapore will take you almost 48 hours by train, as you have to change trains twice. The luxury option is to travel on the Eastern & Oriental Express, a refurbished luxury train that runs once a week from Singapore to Bangkok, with a gourmet restaurant, personal butler service and every other colonial amenity you can imagine. However, at around $1,000 one-way from Bangkok to Butterworth, it is about 30 times more expensive than a regular first-class berth!
Although it is impossible to get to Laos or Cambodia by train, you can get very close, with rail terminals just over the border in Nong Khai (across the Vientiane River) and Aranyaprathet (for Poipet, on the road to Siem Reap). A link across the Mekong to Laos opened in March 2009, but the link to Cambodia is still under study.
There are no train connections to Myanmar, but the Thai part of the infamous Burma Death Railway is still in operation near Kanchanaburi.
It is now possible to take a ferry from Phuket down the coast to Indonesia in high season (November-May).
This can now be done without touching the mainland,
From Phuket (Thailand) to Padang (Indonesia), islands on the way :
- Ko Phi Phi
- Ko Lanta
- Ko Ngai
- Ko Mook
- Ko Bulon
- Ko Lipe- Ko Lipe is the junction on the Thai-Malaysian border with a Thai immigration office.
- Langkawi – Malaysian immigration here.
The Thai part can be done in one day.
Ferries operate between Satun in southern Thailand and the Malaysian island of Langkawi, while in Narathiwat province, a car ferry runs between Tak Bai and Pengkalan Kubur, near Kota Bharu in the Malaysian state of Kelantan.
There are also occasional cruises from Malaysia and Singapore to Phuket and Bangkok, the main operator is Star Cruises, but there is no scheduled service.