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Self Drive or Driver

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We have pretty much finalized our SEA trip.

A good part of our 5 week trip will be in northern Thailand travelling the Golden Triangle and Mae Hong Son Loop.

To drive or not to drive?

We have driven extensively in Europe but never in SE Asia. We like to have a destination but the freedom to stop at will for rest, photos, meals, etc. We absolutely don't want to stop at sights or markets in which we have no interest (not big shoppers). We really don't want a guide at this point.

Are we crazy to think of renting a car and self driving in both these areas? Or should we hire a driver? If we hired a driver for a week in each area, what would be a normal fee? Do we pay for the driver's expenses e.g.gas, food, lodging as well? Is it customary to tip the driver? Are there recent recommendations for drivers?

Our first self drive would be from Chiang Mai to Chiang Dao and north to Chiang Saen and Chiang Rai. Would this prepare us for the Mae Hong Son Loop? And is it easy to buy gas in these areas?

Lots of questions, I know. Hoping your experiences will help us make a good decision.

Thank you.

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