Oct 27 2011

Planning around the Bangkok floods

Published by at 11:26 am under Floods

The situation in and around Bangkok has deteriorated further with Friday night and Saturday morning suggested as the latest “mega-flood” days. At the same time The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has now advised “against all but essential travel to the city of Bangkok and the 26 provinces in Thailand affected by flooding.” So while, at least for now, Bangkok remains a viable hub to transit through, and while reports on the ground are saying, repeatedly, that most of downtown is bone dry, if you’ve decided to heed the warnings and steer clear, here is some planning advice.

There's a storm coming.

There's a storm coming.

The following is aimed at people booked to arrive in Bangkok in the next week to ten days. We’ll revise this post as matters develop.

If you have not arrived in Thailand yet
If you’re booked on a long-haul international flight into Bangkok, our advice is to reroute your ticket to either the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur (KL) or to Singapore.

KL is preferable because it is the hub for low cost carrier AirAsia, which has the most comprehensive network of flights into not only Thailand, but Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos and Vietnam as well. It’s also a far cheaper place to base yourself in for a few days than Singapore.

A second option would be to reroute into Phuket in Thailand’s south or reroute to Chiang Mai in the north, but these two airports are not served by the range of carriers that KL and Singapore are. Of course you can connect to these through Bangkok, but that assumes the airport remains open (the government insists it will but they aren’t proving awfully reliable).

Once you have landed in Bangkok you can then transfer into southern Thailand by bus, train or regional flight, or into northern Thailand by flight.

If you’d prefer to put your trip to Thailand off entirely, you can use KL or Singapore for flights into regional countries, as mentioned above. There is no need to completely cancel your holiday.

Most nationalities are able to arrive in Malaysia and Singapore without a visa.

Floods have helped the traffic.

Floods have helped the traffic.

If you’re already in Bangkok and want to get out

In summary, the situation is very changeable.

Last we’ve heard inter-provincial buses are still operating (though sometimes taking circuitous routes), especially heading north. Services to the south, east and northeast are largely unhindered. If the bus stations are hit by flooding then this would change quickly. The northern bus station is arguably the most at risk.

The southern train line is now terminating at Nakhon Pathom (about 60km west of Bangkok), so you will need to get there by bus first. The northern trainline to Chiang Mai is no longer operating. The trains to the northeast for Khon Kaen, Nong Khai and Ubon Ratchathani are still operating.

Thai low cost carrier Nok Air cancelled all flights till November 1 after Don Muang Airport closed, but we’ve now heard this morning they are operating out of Bangkok’s main international gateway, Suvarnabhumi Airport.

Your best best for domestic flights out is, in this order: AirAsia, Bangkok Airways, THAI. Flights are filling very quickly. The smart cookies at Adioso have put together some pages to check flight availability out of Bangkok. They are a good starting point.

Bangkok to anywhere October 27
Bangkok to anywhere October 28
Bangkok to anywhere October 29
Bangkok to anywhere this week

Travelling within Thailand
Unfortunately it is little reported that the vast majority of Thailand has been unaffected by the flooding. The problem is that in most cases, all roads lead to Bangkok so if you’re on Ko Pha Ngan for example and want to get to Chiang Mai, you’ve got your work cut out for you.

Flood or no flood, the food is still great!

Flood or no flood, the food is still great!

Ideally, as long as Bangkok’s main airport remains open and it fits your budget, long north south transfers are best done by flight. In most cases though, we’d lean towards trying to avoid travelling through Bangkok, so spending more time in the south, or the north.

If you’re in Bangkok, the islands to the east are your closest bet and we’ve been advised the roads are fine heading out that way. Ko Samet and the Ko Chang group of islands are unaffected. If you’re on Twitter, IamKoChang is good for updates in that area.

Transitting in Bangkok
If, due to your flight arrangement, you must overnight in Bangkok, Agoda has a list of hotels near Bangkok’s airport. The jury is out regarding if you’re better to stay out near the airport (where you may get stranded if the airport is closed) or in town (where you’re further from the airport, but have mass transit options like the Skytrain to get out and about). There’s no right answer.

Transitting in Kuala Lumpur
If you reroute your flight to take you through Kuala Lumpur, take a look at the list of our favourite guesthouses and hotels in Kuala Lumpur.

Check with your airline
Each airline is treating the flooding differently and some may still levy fees for changing your flights. Here are a few of the policies we’ve actually been able to find:

Bangkok Airways
Nok Air (in Thai only, Google Translate does an ok job on it)
Singapore Airlines

Check with your travel insurance provider
Before making any flight changes and/or cancellations, be sure to check with your travel insurer provider to establish just what you are and are not covered for.

Life before Twitter.

Life before Twitter.

On Twitter
The main English language hashtag remains #ThaiFloodEng. Individual accounts well worth following include: RichardBarrow, Vanalli, thai101, seacorro and newley.

Further reading
Richard Barrow’s ThaiTravelNews is packed with developments. The Bangkok Post and Nation newspapers have also been quite active in keeping matters up to date.

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14 Responses to “Planning around the Bangkok floods” ...

  1. […] completely cancel your planned holiday to Thailand.  You might want to reroute your trip and this site offers you some handy […]

  2. Dominicon 27 Oct 2011 at 8:34 pm

    We’ve purchased tickets for the 85 Express train from Bangkok to Surat Thani for Oct. 31. We’ll be coming into Bangkok from Siem Reap via bus (I guess that will be the Eastern Bus Terminal?) and then I’m a little bit confused about how to make my connection to head south…? Help?

  3. adminon 28 Oct 2011 at 7:18 am

    Hi Dominic,

    Yes your bus should bring you into Ekamai (Eastern bus station). From there you’ll need to get across to the southern bus station (on the other side of the Chao Phraya) You can get there by city bus (sorry can’t remember which bus number/combo) off the top of my head, but I’d be inclined to get a taxi, just because they’ll be able to better deal with flooding if there is any.

    Once at the southern bus station you’ll need to get a bus to Nakhon Pathom (a town about 60km west of Bangkok) which as of yesterday is where the southbound trains are now running from.

    The flooding over the next two days could potentially be very bad, so the above is subject to change. We’ll continue running daily posts to try to keep travellers updated.


  4. Junaid Rabbanion 28 Oct 2011 at 7:04 pm


    We arrive in BKK on Nov 12, 2011 from Hong Kong.

    We are 4 in a group and intend to stay at a Hostel in downtown Bangkok (Siam Square). Reading above, I am kindda reassured that downtown is dry “now”, so I can only hope that it will still be dry by the 12th Nov.

    We intend to take Taxi from Airport to Siam Square and same route back on the 17th Nov.

    Any further advice from you will be MUCH appreciated.

    Awaiting a reply.

    Thank you.
    Junaid Rabbani

  5. mickon 28 Oct 2011 at 2:02 pm

    I will be arriving in Bkk on the 10th nov and was planning a 3 day break around Sukhumvit before flying to HK on the 13th . I’m already thinking of flyin strait to HK but seems like the worst will be over this weekend. Any tips ?

  6. Tubson 28 Oct 2011 at 10:49 pm

    Even if the worst is over in terms of rains/ high tide contributing to the floods, is BKK still a place one would like to be in come November? We have planned to arrive 23 November and much may change between then and now but in terms of seeing attractions etc etc does it still make sense to be there by end November?

  7. jan kon 29 Oct 2011 at 4:16 am

    Hey there,

    I was thinking bout doing some trekking around Thailand and Vietnam for about 6 weeks.
    I would be arriving beginning of january..
    Maybe it sounds a bit stupid already asking u this but what do u think?
    Would Thailand be a bit at ease again by then?

    I would be arriving in Bangkok.


  8. adminon 29 Oct 2011 at 7:22 am

    @mick: If you can wait till Monday to make a decision, that would be prudent. What happens today and tomorrow should be illustrative of how Bangkok will be further in the future.

    @Junnaid: I saw some photos last night of sandbags two metres high in the Siam Square area, so there is a good chance it will see some flooding, but any waters should be well gone by your arrival date.

    @Tubs: People were still visiting the Grand Palace yesterday, so a lot of sights are still open. How many remain open will probably depend on the flooding (if any) over this weekend. I wouldn’t be changing plans based on an arrival date in late November.

    @jan_k: Thailand should be fine in January!

  9. sonalion 29 Oct 2011 at 12:12 pm

    We planned a holiday arriving with 70yr old parents and 9 year old son on 3rd Nov. Package is booked thru Akbar travels for 3nights Pataya and 3 nights Bangkok. With dreamworld and bangkok city tour. Wondering whether to continue with plan

  10. adminon 29 Oct 2011 at 3:50 pm

    Hi Sonali,

    I’d watch what happens in the next day or so — if matters worsen you could probably reorganise to spend more time in Pattaya and just transit through Bangkok (the road from Bangkok to Pattaya is fine).

  11. Romanon 30 Oct 2011 at 6:21 pm

    Fantastic Post – Very Informative.

    I was supposed to give a talk at a conference but its been called off. I am heading off the Laos on the 12th of November so I now have 3 empty days in Bangkok. What is the likelihood of getting to and from Ko Samet by bus around the 9th-12th of november?

    Thanks in advance.

  12. adminon 30 Oct 2011 at 9:20 pm

    Thanks Roman,

    Roads east to Rayong and Ko Samet are all clear at the moment and with the worst of the risk (for now) seemingly passing today, you should be fine.


  13. DHEERAJ KUMARon 31 Oct 2011 at 7:12 am




  14. adminon 31 Oct 2011 at 8:49 pm

    Hi Dheeraj,

    At this stage looks like you should be fine.