A Guide To South-East Asia: Part Two – How to Get Around Southeast Asia

A Guide to South-East Asia: Part Two

Worrying about getting around a new place can be stressful. Read this guide to alleviate your transportation anxiety and learn some tips.

Local Transportation:

Depending on where you are there are endless options to get around. I found Bangkok, Thailand to be a transit friendly city. The bus, ferry, BTS Skyline, and MRT Subway all have set fares while other cities may take a little bit more negotiating.   

Taxi vs. Tuk Tuk vs. Songthaew

Take a taxi or a scooter taxi over a Tuk Tuk whenever possible. Taxi costs should be set and if in doubt make sure to confirm that they are charging you by the meter. Most taxi drivers will know “meter price” in English. Download the Grab App if possible it might even be less than an Uber. [Fun fact: Uber is illegal in Thailand. They operate anyways.]Though it is possible to get overcharged in a cab a Tuk Tuk driver will almost always start off negotiations with double or even in some cases quadruple what the rate for a local would be. Just walk away. If that doesn’t result in an immediate drop in price chances are there’s another Tuk Tuk down the street.

Songthaew’s which are basically shared taxis are a favorite transportation. They are excellent for group outings to excursions outside of town. Again some drivers will ask you for more than a local. Even when you know the local price they might refuse to lower it but it will still usually be cheaper than a personal taxi ride or a Tuk Tuk.

Long Distance Transportation:

Depending on where you are there are often many busses, trains, and ferries. In major cities there are overnight options so you don’t have to sacrifice a day to travel. Keep in mind that some countries are still developing railways. Before you buy anything check how much a flight would cost on skyscanner. Many new visitors are pleasantly surprised when they visit SEA for the first time and find out how cheap it is to fly. An overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai may be $15 when flying may cost you $30.00 through Ryanair. Though it’s tempting to go the frugal route if you’re short on time that’s $15.00 for 6 additional hours of your time.

Thai overnight train. The seats become the bottom bunk and the top can be seen folded above.


There are many vehicles that can be rented. It may take some time to adjust to driving if you are from a country where cars are driven on the right side of the road. Scooters are inexpensive,  widely available, and easy to learn how to drive for the unfamiliar.  They are also the largest cause of tourist fatalities so don’t drink and drive.

The majority of scams travelers come across every year revolve around transportation. If you haven’t already, check out A Guide To South-East Asia: Part One – Etiquette, Safety, and Scams in Southeast Asia for more information on common Tuk Tuk and Rental Scams.

Have something to add? Want to share your opinion? Feel free to leave your feedback in the comments section.

Want to learn more? Check out A Guide to South-east Asia: Part Three – Common Health Concerns & Advice

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