Street Smarts in Thailand
The streets of places like Pattaya, Chonburi or Bangkok are known to be quite hectic indeed
Transportation could be a bugaboo for the first-time visitor of Pattaya, Chonburi, Sattahip, or any other region of Thailand. That’s because western tourists may require a certain level of adaptation to the Thai way of travel. However, with some knowledge about what to expect on the streets of Thailand, a visitor will arrive with an advantage so that they’ll know how to quickly and efficiently get from place to place.
If you hail from many places in Europe, the United States, or Canada, then you should brace yourself for left-lane traffic, with cars which have steering wheels that are positioned on the right side. This can be confusing at first, and may require a couple of days of adjustment—especially before you decide to get behind the wheel.
However, after a few days to learn the alternate system, most visitors will feel perfectly acquainted—it just takes a little bit of time for the brain to adapt to the way everything is seemingly backwards. In fact, after you spend a few weeks in Thailand expect to feel disoriented all over again upon returning to a right-lane system.
Watch Out For That Car!
The streets of places like Pattaya, Chonburi or Bangkok are known to be quite hectic indeed. In many parts of the world motorists are used to ample space in-between cars and it’s typically not considered to be very polite to cut in front of other drivers. In Thailand, however, it’s unlikely you’ll be honked at for making somebody else slow down because you had to quickly merge into the lane. In fact, it’s expected and you are more likely to create fuss by hesitating or trying too hard to be polite.
That said, tourists in Pattayaor elsewhere should be mindful about the crosswalks. Many intersections do not have flashing lights for pedestrian crossing, and cars sometimes come out of nowhere. It’s best to remain cautious, but also be quick to seize the opportunity to cross as soon as the coast is clear.
Both large cities like Pattayaand more rural areas like Chantaburi contain vast amounts of cars intermixed with motorbikes, and the busier metropolitan areas are often packed bumper-to-bumper during “rush hour”. But, after observing Thai streets, most visitors will be amazed at how skilled Thai motorists really are.
Because of the hectic nature of Thai driving, locals quickly develop pristine reflexes, so that accidents on the road are less common than you might think. Most Thai drivers are adept at avoiding collisions—and so it may be the farangs (foreigners) with rented cars or motorbikes are a potentially more dangerous type of driver, as they may not be quite as skilled at navigating local traffic.
Taxis and buses in Pattayaand the rest of Thailand are a unique experience. It’s important for travellers to be aware of the different options, and to also understand some of the unwritten rules of Thai transportation services.
One of the more common methods of transportation is the Baht Buses. These may appear as long, open-carriage buses or pickup trucks with improvised wagon transport systems that are packed with pedestrians. They typically charge 10-30 baht per person, and the bus has a fixed route around a section of the city. These buses are also known as an excellent way to interact with other tourists and locals alike.
However, locals warn against taking a Baht Bus to a specific destination without any other passengers in tow. It’s true the bus will likely get you to where you need to go, but expect a massive—even tenfold—price increase if you use one in this way. You don’t want this to happen.
If you need to go to a specific destination, don’t ask the Baht Bus, but instead find a motorcycle taxi. These guys are slightly awkward to the uninitiated, as you must get on the back of a cycle where you are snuggled against the driver. However, the motorcycle taxis are affordable, often charging only around 50 baht (U.S. $1.20), and the passenger experiences an exhilarating race around the unseen streets of Thailand as the motorcyclist weaves through traffic.
In addition, any city in Thailand also has traditional metered taxis and buses. As with many cities, it’s usually a good idea to discuss the price if it’s a fixed rate before getting on board. In addition, foreigners should be aware that a taxi is likely to charge a lot more to transport passengers in a major tourist area versus if the taxi is found somewhere closer to the city’s underbelly. Always remember that where there are more farangs, there is always a deeper impact on the pocketbook.
Don’t be intimidated by the Thai transportation system, or the seemingly chaotic nature of the streets. There is a method interlaced with the kinetic madness of the environment, and this method is advanced enough that it’s not hard to get from place to place in Pattaya. However, always remain smart and vigilant, whether crossing the street or seeking the best rate from a local cab.