Buckle Up: The Many Forms of Transportation in Thailand


I’ve reached a point where I don’t know what day or time it is anymore. It’s a little disorientating to say the least. Pook told Miranda and me that it’s a good sign when this happens as you are truly on vacation. Well, count me in as I realized today was already July 8th. I can’t believe that one more week remains before returning to the States. My friend Miranda flew out of Thailand on Saturday morning while Alyssa joined me from Chicago. Yesterday Alyssa and I flew from Bangkok to the island of Koh Samui. Since arriving in Thailand and exploring the Northern and Southern regions by various forms of public transportation, I have been able to experience first hand how different it is to travel using a car, minivan, and airplane compared to back home.

Driving in Thailand is like nothing I have ever experienced before. It is chaotic and congested but also exhilarating. Scooters and tuk tuks weave in and out of cars at a standstill. I didn’t know this before arriving in Thailand but cars drive on the left hand side of the road. This has changed my perception of right-handed turns and still messes with me at times. It also makes crossing the road more difficult as I get confused which direction cars are coming from. There doesn’t appear to be many laws enforced with driving as cars pass each other whenever they want and do not seem to abide by a speed limit. Nonetheless, one of our taxi drivers did inform us that three years ago Thailand started to enforce wearing seat belts while in vehicles. For cars that do not follow this and are caught, they can face a fee of up to 5,000 Baht. This only seems to apply to cars and minibuses, as tuk tuks do not have seat belts at this time.

When Miranda and I drove to the town of Pai via minibus, there were 762 curves on a mountain that lead up to it. Depending on the driver, if you are prone to motion sickness, it is advised to take medication in advance as many individuals are known to get sick. Our driver joked that there were only two curves to get to Pai, right and left, and he meant it. Despite, the craziness of the traffic and curves, many of the locals have their way of communicating with other drivers which can consist of flashing of lights before passing other cars as a signal. If one is unaware of these driving signals, it can be a stressful experience for a passenger. Overall, I’ve felt very safe driving with the locals since they know what signals the other drivers are communicating with them. Sometimes I think the foreigners who are unaware of these signals can get themselves into trouble while driving.

Flying has also been very different than in the States. It is much more glamorized here. All of the flight attendants are perfectly manicured and much more cheerful than any of the stewardesses that I have ever met back home. Meals are served on every flight, some of which are only about 50 minutes. I have really enjoyed flying in Thailand.

Before arriving in Thailand, I was very nervous about traveling via plane or car based on what I read regarding transportation. I have really enjoyed my time exploring Thailand by bus, tuk tuk, boat, car, and airplane. The streets are filled with so much energy. Driving is part of the culture of what makes Thailand, Thailand. Coming back to the States it will be very confusing to see cars on the right side of the road. I never thought that I’d say this but it will also make driving in Chicago seem relatively mild compared to in Bangkok.

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Sarah Masse