You can plan to go to all the fantastic and wonderful places you can dream of (or find in the pages of Travelfish) but without the language to get there you’re going to be a bit stuck – particularly if you want to go beyond tourist centres like Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Samui and along lesser trod paths to enjoy the fabulousness of Thailand beyond the obvious.
So, to help you along the way, we bring you a concise guide to transportation in the Land of Smiles.
As long as you don’t mind a rather liberal attitude to punctuality, Thailand has a very good transportation infrastructure. Bus stations are always bustling with people, trains regularly leave Bangkok for the provinces, and once at your destination you can always find a minibus, tuk tuk, or song teaw (those peculiarly Thai covered pick-up trucks with two benches in the back for passengers) to get you where you want to be.
Let’s start with the types of vehicle you’ll find here.
Train: รถไฟ rót fai
Bus: รถ เมล์ rót may/รถบัส rót bàt
Airplane: เครื่องบิน krêuang bin
Boat: เรือ reua
Long tail boat: เรือ หาง ยาว reua hăang yaao
Speedboat: เรือเร็ว reua réaw / สปีดโบ้ท sa-peed boat
Minibus: รถ ตู้ rót dtôo
Tuk Tuk: ตุ๊กตุ๊ก dtúk-dtúk
Bus taxi thing: สอง แถว sŏng tăew
Rickshaw: รถลาก rót lâak or สาม ล้อ săam lór
Motorbike: มอเตอร์ไซค์ mor-dtêr-sai
Taxi: แท็กซี่ táek-sêe
Have a look at one of our previous lessons ‘Taxi Thai Plus’ for some help in saying where you want to go.
Once you know what kind of transport you’ll be taking you need to know where to get it. The main kinds of terminal are listed below.
Terminals and Stations
Train station: สถานีรถไฟ sà-tăa-nee rót fai
Bus station: บขส bor kŏr sŏr. These are the initials of bor-rí-sàt kŏn sòng or Transport Company, and is the colloquial (and therefore universally used) term for bus station. If you want you can use the literal สถานี รถโดยสาร sà-tăa-nee rót doi săan.
Airport: สนามบิน sà-năam bin
International terminal: อาคาร ระหว่าง ประเทศ aa-kaan rá-wàang bprà-tâyt
Domestic terminal: อาคาร ภายใน ประเทศ aa-kaan pai-nai bprà-tâyt
Boat pier: ท่า เรือ tâa reua
Bus stop: ป้าย รถ เมล์ bpâai rót may
Minibus pick-up point: คิว รถตู้ kiw rót dtôo
Again, use these with the language in our ‘Taxi Thai’ post to tell your taxi/tuk tuk/motorcycle driver that you want to go to one of them.
Once you’re at the station you’ll want to buy your ticket.
Ticket: ตั๋ว dtŭa
Return ticket: ตั๋วไปกลับ dtŭa bpai glàp
Single ticket: ฅั๋วเที่ยวเดียว dtŭa tîeow dieow
1st class: ชั้นหนึ่ง chán nèung
2nd class: ชั้นสอง chán sŏng
Air-conditioned: แอร์ air
Fan: พัดลม pát lom
Standard: ธรรมดา tam-má-daa
Here are some phrases to help you:
One single ticket to Nan: ฅั๋วเที่ยวเดียว dtŭaไป น่าน tîeow dieow bpai Nâan.
Second class air con: แอร์ ชั้น สอง air chán sŏng
Now, once you have your ticket you will probably have to navigate your way around the station and get on to bus/boat/train that will take you off to paradise lost – or possibly some full moon party somewhere. It is very wise to check with the driver/pilot/guard that your vehicle is going where you think it is.
A couple of these phrases should do the trick:
This vehicle is going to [place] isn’t it?: รถ คัน นี้ ไป [place] ใช่ไหม rót kan née bpai [place] châi măi
Where is this vehicle going?: รถ คัน นี้ ไป ไหน rót kan née bpai năi
Where is the vehicle going to [place]?: รถ ไป [place] อยู่ ไหน rót bpai [place] yòo năi
And a few extra little phrases that will help you along your way:
What time does the train to [place] go?
รถไฟไป [place] ออกกี่โมง rót fai bpai [place] awk gee mohng
What time does the bus from [place] arrive?
รถที่มาจาก [place] จะมาถึงกี่โมง rót têe maa jaak [place] ja maa teung gee mohng
How much does a ticket to [place] cost?
ค่าตั๋วไป [place] ราคาเท่าไหร่ kâa dtŭa bpai [place] raa-kaa tâo rài
How long is the journey to [place]?
ใช้เวลาเดินทางไป [place] กี่ชั่วโมง chai way-lah dern taang bpai [place] gee chua mohng?
So, I hope this little lot will help you while you discover the Land of Smiles in all its glory. After all, as Buddhist Thailand knows better than most: life isn’t about the destination it’s all about the journey.
Free Anki flashcards for this lesson available at our site, check out below...
If you liked this, you'll love our blog. Check out short, timely lessons in Thai (including this one in glorious technicolour) at www.tweetyourselfthai.wordpress.com and follow us on Twitter @AjarnPasa
If you have any questions or suggestions for topics for future lessons on Travelfish, feel free to leave a comment.
See you next time
Hi Ajarn Pasa,
Could you please explain when it is proper to use the terms "bpai laew" and "mah laew"? I often find out, too late, that I used one of these phrases, when the other would have been more appropriate.
where were you back in 1984 during my first day in Bangkok when i needed to get to the bus station? i knew that sa-naam bin was airport, so i figured that sa-naam rot may must be bus station. the poor taxi guy was completely confused and the thai-speaking westerner with me almost wet his pants laughing.
in any case, great stuff above. thanks for sharing.
Hi Tilapia and Exacto
Tilapia, bpai leaw ไปแล้ว literally means 'go already' or 'gone'. Mah leaw มาแล้ว literally means 'come already' or 'arrived', and is used to refer to things or people moving towards the speaker (not usually used by the speaker to refer to her/himself).
Some examples (excuse the lack of tone marks):
Q: Fred yaang yoo mai? Is Fred still here?
A: Mai yoo, Fred bpai leaw? No, Fred's gone (already).
Q: Rot may bpai Trang awk gee mohng? The bus to Trang leaves at what time?
A: Man bpai leaw!? It's already gone!
Chai yo! Peuan pom mah leaw. Hooray! My friends have arrived.
Reaw reaw si, taxi mah leaw: Quickly, the taxi has arrived.
Bpai leaw can also be used to indicate that you are in the process of leaving.
Bpai leaw, jer gan proong nee. I'm off, see you tomorrow.
To say that you have arrived somewhere you say teung leaw ถึงแล้ว Literally 'reached already'. e.g. just as you step out of the taxi, your mate phones you to find out where you are because he's been waiting for you at the pub for ages. You reply Jai yen yen, teung leaw. Chill out, I've just arrived.
Hope this helps.
Exacto, I know the feeling. But I am convinced that the times when I have made the biggest fool of myself are the times that have taught me the most unforgettable lessons.
Example: I was at Villa getting the weekly groceries in and as the cashier reached for a plastic bag I held my hand up and said: Mai bpen rai, mee paa toong ไม่เป็นไร มีผ้าถุง which means "No worries, I have a sarong." I of course meant 'toong pa' ถุงผ้า which means cloth bag. The laughter of the cashiers is still ringing in my ears ... but I have never made the same mistake.