Self Drive in Thailand is pretty straightforward and manageable. We have done a self-drive for 10 days in Thailand. We planned our route from Bangkok to Khaoyai – Sukhothai – Chiang Rai.
Our flight arrived at Bangkok international airport and we go pick up our car at the airport. After picking up the car, we immediately drive out to outskirt to Khaoyai. We didn’t drive into the city of Bangkok.
The drive from Bangkok to Khaoyai is about 2-3 hours. We reached Bangkok airport at around 11 am, drove the car outskirt of Bangkok, and had our late lunch at one of the service areas. The service area is one of the best places to have a meal or take a break. You can fill up your gas for the car, use the washroom and have your coffee, snacks, and meals here. The service area in Thailand is similar to the service area in Japan, it has a lot of things to look at. My favorite is to check out the local snacks.
There are several petrol stations PTT is one of my favorites where you find coffee, a restaurant, and a 7-Eleven. Shell and Esso petrol station does not have shops and restaurants.
Thai cities generally have extremely congested traffic, especially in Bangkok city so when you want to do a self-drive, it is best if you are driving outskirts. This allows you to enjoy more flexibility and get off the beaten track to explore other areas of the country.
Things you should know
1. Thailand follows left-hand traffic on right-handed vehicles (same as Singapore and the rest of the commonwealth countries).
2. The Fuel prices are a lot cheaper than in Singapore.
3. For a Singapore driving license, you don’t have to apply for an international driving license to rent a car in Thailand.
4. All signboards are written both in English and Thai. There are also numbers indicated, even if you don’t read, you can follow the number along the highway. Most of the highways are not charged.
5. Choose the right season to visit Thailand. Stay away from raining season as the roads can be flooded and dangerous. Raining seasons usually start from Jul to October.
What kind of car should you rent?
We rent an SUV because there aren’t any more sedan cars available. Luckily, it turns out to be perfect. We travel to Thailand in the month of October so it is still in the rainy season period so it is still quite wet, with SUV it is quite safe as our car passes through water easily. Due to the rain, many of the roads have holes so do watch out as it can be very dangerous to have a hole in the middle of the highway.
Suv is more expensive than a normal sedan car but if you have more people to share with, you can certainly go for SUV. Most of the roads in Thailand are smooth except for a few holes here and there that you have to pay extra attention to.
Refer to the blog for top places to visit.
Where we stay in Khaoyai : Lacol Khaoyai Hotel
From Khaoyai to Sukhothai it takes about 6 hours drive. So we spent almost a day on the road driving. Departing at around 9 am and reached Sukhothai at around 5 pm as we took a few stops in the middle for lunch and toilet break and snacks.
Please refer to the blog for places to visit in Sukhothai and where we stay.
Where we stay in Sukhothai: Sriwilai Sukhothai
From Sukhothai to Chiang Rai is about 6 hours, and it also took almost a whole day to drive up north. We took frequent stops in the service area for coffee, break, washroom, shopping, and lunch.
Please click on the link about to check out the places we visit in Chiang Rai. We spent 4 days in Chiang Rai and one day was spent on the road. You can also add in Chiang Mai as it is only 2 hour drive from Chiang Rai. We didn’t include Chiang Mai this time because we just did a similar self-drive including Chiang Mai a few years back. We prefer the city of Chiang Rai more than Chiang Mai as things are cheaper in Chiang Rai and more countryside and the city has lesser tourists compared to Chiang Mai.
Well, if you have not been to Chiang Mai, please include it also.
Where we stay in Chiang Rai : The Legend Chiang Rai Boutique River Resort & Spa
We rent the car from Bangkok Airport and return the car to Chiang Rai airport and took a flight from Chiang Rai to Bangkok. The flight takes only an hour. There is an international airport both in Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai. There is an additional fee to charge as the original point is not Bangkok.
There are several car rentals and we choose DRIVE Car rental, the counter is at Bangkok international airport. However, the return point in Chiang Rai is not really in the Chiang Rai airport, the office counter is located a few km away from the airport. What we do is we contact the counter staff one day before we return the car, so they standby at the airport to get the car from us in the airport. Do give them a call before you fly out from Chiang Rai.
Our final stop is Bangkok before we fly back to Singapore. We spent a day in Bangkok, reaching Bangkok at around noon and taking a rest at the hotel. At around 4 pm we went IconSiam and take a night cruise with Chao Praya Princess Dinner cruise. Please click on the link for further details.
Where we stay in Bangkok : Centre Point Silom River View Hotel
This is our 3rd-time self-drive in Thailand. We did a similar self-drive about 5 years ago which include stops at Ayutthaya, Lampang, and Chiang Mai. This time we just focus on Khaoyai, Sukhothai, and Chiang Rai and spend more time on just 3 cities. Our first self-drive was done more10 years ago to Phuket and Ko Samui region, At that time we only used maps to navigate as there was still do not have wifi or google map.
Driving in Thailand – The driver’s seat is on the right-hand side, just like any other commonwealth country. As long as you don’t go into the major big cities such as Bangkok downtown, it is pretty easy to navigate. The road trip outside Bangkok is wide and well-paved. I am quite impressed at how well and easy to drive in Thailand. (Well, I mean the outskirt and their highway). There are plenty of rest areas, just like on the Malaysia highway. Well, if you can drive in Malaysia, I see no reason you cannot do it in Thailand. Nothing like Vietnam which has hundreds of bikes. Always plan and reach your destination before the sky turns dark. It is very important as some places may not have road lights. We usually reach our hotel before 6.30 pm.
Parking – All parking overnight in the hotel is free. Other sightseeing parking is mostly free too.
Food – Southern Thai food is inspired by Malaysia and Java, where the chilli pepper takes the lead in giving dishes a spicy kick. Northern food, on the other hand, has elements of Laos, Burma and China, and the cool climate means that you’ll find a lot of different kinds of vegetables and herbs to elsewhere in the country.