Driving in Thailand

Aug 2nd, 2008, 06:50 PM
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Driving in Thailand

My husband and I are considering renting a car at the Bangkok airport (after seeing Bangkok-not for traveling inside the city) and driving northward, stopping in Ayuthaya, Lopburi, Sukkothai, Lampang, Chaing Mai, Chaing Rai & the Golden Triangle area. Is this advisable or not? We are experienced international drivers, but have never driven in Asia. Would we see more with a car, or would we be better off using public transportation and guides? Thanks in advance - June
dgunbug is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2008, 06:52 PM
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By the way, I neglected to state that we will be traveling for 3 weeks in total beginning at the end of January so the roads should be fairly dry.
dgunbug is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2008, 07:06 PM
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I think it would be fun and you'll definitely get to see more as well. Armed yourselves with a good map(Asia Book), guide book and check out this excellent web site from Bangkok Post where you can download their road maps(with city, restaurants and lodging guide). - http://www.bangkokpost.com/9destinations/

If you need to know the estimated driving time between destination let me know as I drive theses routes quite often.
Hanuman is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2008, 07:42 PM
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many of us are experienced international drivers, but i would not ever plan to drive in or around bangkok.....in other parts of thailand fine, but not any where near to bkk....

i think i would go to my first stop by other means: taxi, driver, train or bus and then rent a car there
rhkkmk is online now  
Aug 2nd, 2008, 10:06 PM
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It's up to you. Is any of your "international driving experience" on roads where you drive on the other side of the road like in Britain and Australia? Thailand drives on the same side of the road as Britain.

I wouldn't drive in Bangkok for any reason. Transportation is very good, meter taxi cabs (using the meter only) are cheap. Get a hotel near the Skytrain (overhead train service) and you can get to most popular areas in the city.

When foreigners are involved in accidents the police may make you pay for damages up front and you get your money back from the insurance companies later (your fault or not!) When tourists are involved in accidents the person you collide with are often afraid that you will leave the country and not pay the damage.

Several links available under a Google search on driving in Thailand, sample:

Good luck.
SirHalberd is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2008, 01:54 PM
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Do you think it is safe to rent a car from the Bangkok airport and head North from there without going into Bangkok?
dgunbug is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2008, 04:30 PM
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Hanuman, who is a local, probably can give you a better sense than the rest of us.

Personally, I wouldn't drive from the airport. I remember the road from Bangkok to Ayutthaya 20+ years ago and it was very crowded and the traffic was chaotic. You can easily visit Ayutthaya as a day trip from Bangkok.

If you really want to drive in Thailand, wait until you are in the north. I wouldn't drive in Chiang Mai, but outside the city and north would be fine. Remember, you can hire a car and driver for about the same price as a rental car in many areas.
Kathie is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2008, 04:57 PM
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This isn't something I would recommend, but as Hanuman says, you'll see a lot more of the country than most tourists do.

The thing is, you'll have to study your route carefully, especially from the airport to Ayuthaya. There are several new expressways to Ayuthaya since Kathie's experiences, so especially since the airport moved, traffic is not as bad as it used to be. In particular, there's a ring road that circles Bangkok. It comes very close to the new airport on the east and runs through the southern part of Ayuthaya province in the north. You'll want to use it rather than fighting your way through the city.

Between Ayuthaya and Lopburi, don't miss the Buddha footprint temple outside Saraburi.
MichaelBKK is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2008, 06:32 PM
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As Kathie and Michael have said I would suggest that you avoid inner city driving in the major cities like Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Highway or expressway driving is quite easy and similar to the US in a lot of respect.

It's really not hard once you know the driving behavior in Thailand(or any other country you're not familiar with). Take the time to learn from the local car rental companies what to do if you're in an accident and keep the their telephone number handy.

Always be careful of motorcycles and beware of cars and motorcycles under-passing you.

Here are some "unique" Thai driving habits or signals that are different from the US:

High beam = I have the right of way don't cross my path.
Emergency blinkers at intersection = I'm going straight through and not turning(rather strange but not everybody uses it).

You might want to check if the rental company have a car with GPS navigation.
Hanuman is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2008, 07:36 PM
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i think the highway driving is easy, its the signs and lack of english ones that would be hard for me...in the city that is...
rhkkmk is online now  
Aug 4th, 2008, 12:22 AM
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Plenty of advice already, I would say stick with Budget as they have good coverage, good maps etc. See if you can rent from somewhere north of Bangkok.
Take not of what Hanuman has said about hazard/warning lights meaning I am going straight thru !
You don't get any 'rage' that seems to occur in other countries, but expect the unexpeced, you need to get used to motorbikes and sometimes vehicles driving towards you when going on a dual highway and other such things.
It is always best to observe for a few days first and then decide.
JamesA is offline  
Aug 4th, 2008, 12:26 AM
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Budget has a location in Phitsanulok ( near Sukhothai ) which could be of use to you.


A car with driver inclduing fuel is a good idea and you can find easily to take you from one point to another.
Other tips from Budget. Note that rental compaes do not often ask for an International Permit is is however 'the law' and you must have one !
JamesA is offline  
Aug 10th, 2008, 11:22 PM
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Hi there, I also would want to share to you a guide on driving for Chiang Mai since you plan to go there. Check the street-view level imagery of this place at www.mapjack.com/ChiangMai with that you'd be able to get a preview of sights you expected to see. Good luck.
eulariza is offline  
Aug 11th, 2008, 01:59 PM
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The streets look pretty empty on this site and fairly easy to maneuver. Am I missing something? I've heard previously that one should not drive in Chiang Mai.
dgunbug is offline  
Aug 11th, 2008, 02:16 PM
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My goodness! When did they take these photos? Even on my first trip to CM 20+ years ago the streets were crowded. I don't know how they got photos of empty streets... maybe photoshop.

My experience in CM is that the traffic is just awful in the city. There is no public transportation, so tuk-tuks and songthews are your options if you don't hire a taxi or a car and driver. Personally, I wouldn't drive in CM. Out in the rural areas, you'd be ok. But in the city? Not for me!
Kathie is offline  
Aug 11th, 2008, 02:19 PM
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Looking at the website above, I find that the San Francisco streets are likewise pretty empty. The website uses big blue dots on the street photos to direct you, and I'm guessing they must remove the traffic (digitally) in order to do that.
Kathie is offline  
Aug 12th, 2008, 01:15 PM
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I have driven in Thailand during several visits to the country and can thoroughly recommend it as a way to see the best of the country IMHO the flexibility it provides is well worth the effort. I have driven throughout all of the areas you have mentioned and have never encountered any problems.
Usually we have picked up a rental car from the airport (both old and new). The drive from the airport is all on major highways and is well signposted to the major towns. I would strongly recommend getting a road atlas before you go (Lonely Planet do an excellent one) and a good road map once you get there (readily available in many bookshops).

I relied heavily on my wife to map read, spot road signs etc. and between the two of us we did not go wrong too many times. (NB In some of the very out of the way places, road signs are sometimes in Thai script only)

I have driven through Bangkok on a number of occasions (sticking to the expressways and didnt have too many problems. However, on balance, I would not recommend driving around town as there really is no point.

The standard of driving in Thailand is "variable" to say the least and gets better the further you go from BKK. You really need to adopt the Thai driving style which is to say don't indicate (only kidding!), use your horn to make people aware of your presence (regularly!), expect people to drive on the wrong side of the road if they have only a short distance to go. Flashing headlights do NOT mean come through but get out of my way!

Above all expect the unexpected!

Having said all of this I come from England where we drive on the left (i.e. the "right" side of the road!!) If you have never driven on the left, Thailand is probably not the best place to start.

crellston is offline  
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