When seven percent of your gross domestic product depends on tourism, a flair for logistical facility is paramount. Simply put, you need to ensure that people can get to where they want to go with a minimum of fuss and stress.
Thailand has made significant strides in this regard over the last two decades. Chicken and egg arguments aside (did tourists beget infrastructure development, or vice versa?), the Kingdom had no choice in the matter. Blame it on hotel deals in Phuket, the charms of Chiang Mai and, surely, on Bangkok.
The Thai capital, by most accounts, ranks first in international visitors on the planet, with 16 million in 2012. Impressive when you consider the next five on the list: London, Paris, Singapore, New York and Istanbul. As a country, Thailand welcomed a further 7 million people in 2012.
Long story short, transport in Thailand can be spotty and chaotic in spurts. On the islands and in rural areas, of course, small boats, tuk-tuks, vanpools and songthaews are pervasive. In urban Thailand congestion is a consistent irritant but, that aside, the emergence of rapid rail, a good international airport and Bangkok’s MRT help some.
Here’s a closer look at how to get in and around Thailand.
Some 30 km from Bangkok, Suvarnabhumi Airport is a massive, modern hub that serves over 50 million passengers a year. By far the most popular gateway to Thailand, the airport offers a slew of different ways to access the capital, from the rapid Airport Rail Link, which connects to downtown Bangkok, to private limousine shuttles.
Phuket International Airport is Thailand’s second most important international hub. The airport serves close to ten million passengers per annum, with direct service to and from the likes of Abu Dhabi, Beijing, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, London, Perth, Shanghai, Seoul and, curiously, Vladivostok. The list divulges much about Phuket’s development in recent years and helps illustrate the need for the airport’s current USD 188 million upgrade.
Chiang Mai International Airport is the gateway to northern Thailand and, of late, serves three million passengers a year. The small facility has direct links with the likes Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, Macau, Singapore, Seoul and Yangon.
While not necessarily the most popular option with tourists, the State Railway of Thailand serves the capital with four major lines, all of which end at pivotal Hualamphong Train Station in Bangkok. First and second class air-conditioned sleeper tickets are relatively affordable and service is available to farflung parts of Cambodia, Laos and Malaysia as well.
The Metropolitan Rapid Transit that sprawls across the Bangkok Metropolitan Region at large is one of the more prolific public transport networks in Southeast Asia. Much of it is state-of-the-art as well, sufficiently so to serve more than 240,000 passengers every day, on average. The system operates 18 stations along 27 kilometres of underground track – not much in comparison to a Shanghai or Tokyo but a good start. With several extensions in the works, the ultimate hope is to relieve some of the pressure from the metropolis’ crippling dependency on automobiles. The MRT, while not as thrilling as a tuk-tuk taxi ride, is by far the best way to navigate Bangkok proper as a tourist on a budget.
License: Creative Commons image source
Recently, Sarah has traveled all through Thailand and hopes that share can help tourists out by providing as much information as she can around the location.