Compared with that of its neighbors Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar, Thailand's network of road systems is well designed and maintained for getting around the country. However, the same cannot be said for the driving habits of the Thai people. In fact, traveling in parts of Thailand can be very dangerous indeed.
The death toll in Thailand as a result of road accidents is phenomenal, especially during the two main holiday periods observed in the country - Songkran Festival (April) and New Year (December).
Thailand is second in the world for accidental road deaths, after Lybia. Of the approximately 24,000 deaths from road accidents annually, 73% of those killed are motorcyclists or scooter riders and/or their passenger/s. There are 37 million registered vehicles in Thailand, 20 million of which are motorbikes or scooters. Millons more are on the road, but are unregistered.
Twice a year, the Thai government make available the statistics for road accidents during the New Year and Songkran holiday periods. Known throughout the country as the 'Seven Dangerous Days', this is due in part to the large numbers of people traveling, coupled with the high incidence of alcohol use. The New Year holiday represents a five day period, however the government has extended the period to reflect extended leave days taken by some of the workforce.
During the Songkran Holiday period of 2016, which fell between 11th and 17th of April, accidents resulted in a total of 442 deaths with 3,656 injuries recorded. Unfortunately, these numbers represent an increase in the number of deaths of 21.4% compared with the same period in 2015. During the New Year holiday period of December 2016, 478 people were killed in road accidents throughout Thailand, 4,128 were injured.
When traveling by any form of road transport, as a passenger or driver, always remain aware of what's happening around you. Remain vigilant at all times and be ready to act.
Modes Of Transport In Thailand
Visitors to Thailand can travel most anywhere throughout the country by bus. The government bus company BKS (Baw Kaw Saw) has a terminal in most provinces. Travel by BKS bus is relatively cheap and comfortable as a mode of transport. There are two types of BKS bus:
Local: A cheap method of travel for the local population, these buses are generally cramped and stop frequently along their journey.
Express: (rot duan) The express bus provides another no frills option, much like its local counterpart, and is often identified by its distinctive orange color. The size of the bus can vary, with up to a maximum of 65 seats on board.
Classes Of Bus Transport
Second Class: (chan song) This bus is distinguished by its blue and white color with an orange stripe. The bus is air-conditioned and accommodates up to 45 passengers. Most of these buses are fitted with a toilet on board.
First Class: (chan neung) Making very few stops, and taking the shortest route available, the first class bus features comfortable seating for up to 60 passengers. A blanket, snacks and drinking water is available on board.
VIP: Much the same as a first class bus, the VIP bus seats a maximum of 34 passengers, providing more legroom and a wide seat configuration. These buses are distinguished by their blue and white, or blue and silver combination featuring distinctive VIP signage. A basic meal is included with a blanket available for each passenger.
S-VIP: Super VIP offers more comfort than the VIP bus with 24 wide seats, making it a great choice for those using an overnight service.
When in and around Bangkok, the Syktrain is a popular mode of transport to avoid the heavy traffic jams experienced daily in and around the capital. This rapid transit system comprises 34 stations and two lines. The Sukhumvit Line, travels from the north to the south, on the eastern side of the country. The Silom Line travels above the Silom and Sathon Roads. The Central Station of Bangkok is a station for each of the two lines. The interchange is located at Siam Station where travelers can change to the MRT or BTS.
Likened to a three-wheeled motorcycle with a covered awning and bench seating, the tuk-tuk is a popular and cheap form of transport for travelers. It can be an adventure for the traveler to experience a ride in a Tuk-tuk, so be sure to hold on tight and secure all valuables including bags and cameras as they can be easily snatched by motorcyclists passing by.
My preferred mode of travel around Thailand, the Songthaew is best described as a utility vehicle with a partially enclosed canopy on the rear tray. Bench seating may or may not be fitted, some songthaew's offer standing room only. Songthaew, translates as 'two rows,' these vehicles are operated by small business owners servicing a local area.
Before boarding a songthaew, check with the driver the price of transport by providing your destination. Travel is cheap and easy, with songthaews regularly passing by. There may be a designated stopping area for the songthaew, however for the most part its a simple matter of hailing down the driver.
Metered taxis are everywhere in Bangkok, with the service now expanded into Chiang Mai. A preferred form of transport for most tourists, people can easily fall prey to a driver looking to exploit an opportunity to make money from your ignorance. Always insist the meter is used and negotiate the price up front prior to entering the cab. Taxi's are easily identified by their green/yellow or red/blue color combination.
When in Thailand, I often head to locations outside of the traditional tourist areas such as Pattaya and Phuket. My favorite locations include Hua Hin, Cha Am and Sam Roi Yot between 3 and 4 hours south of Bangkok. These locations are traveled by road, as there is no operating airports in the vicinity. My first trip was booked using a company called 'Oriential Escape' and since then, they are the only service I've ever used in Thailand.
Bookings can be made online with payment options including online or in person. They are a highly professional and reliable team providing vehicles maintained to an exacting standard. A car and driver can be hired for day trips or excursions or airport transfers to many areas around Thailand. Best of all, they have never let me down by arriving late or not at all, especially when departing from my hotel at 3.00am to get to the airport in time for my flight.
The transport of the people, motorcycles are a popular and cheap form of transport for most Thai's. Fares can start from as low as 10 Baht and should be negotiated prior to stepping on to the bike. Only those with nerves of steel or a deathwish should contemplate a trip on a motorbike in Thailand. In many instances you will not be provided with a helmet, and afforded little or no protection from injury of death in the event of an accident.
Hiring a rental car can be an option for travelers who wish to explore the country at their own pace without relying on local transportation options. Driving in Thailand is unlike your experience at home, and is rife with danger. Should you choose this route, ensure to take photographs of the vehicle prior to accepting the vehicle and ensure the insurance policy provides sufficient coverage for the duration of hire.
If hiring a vehicle from a reputable company, the intended driver must hold a valid Thai driving license or carry a valid International Driving Permit. Scams are rife in the area of car rental, so check the reviews online prior to making any commitment.
The long-tail boat (reua hang yao) is a thin boat of wooden construction with a long propeller tail extending from the rear. Long-tail boats are frequently used as an island-hopping taxi service. Passengers can hire the boats and driver's for periods of time exclusively.
What's your preferred mode of travel in Thailand?