The majority of Thailand’s roads are in good condition, renting a vehicle or motorcycle is affordable, and there is so much to see that even a short road trip becomes an exciting experience. There are however, some challenges when driving in Thailand, not the least of which is the fact that many people disregard traffic laws. Renting a car in a smaller town outside the hustle and bustle of Bangkok – the Thai capital, is the wisest way to begin a road trip. With a home driver’s licence, you can rent automobiles, motorbikes, and scooters. To embark on one of these best road trips in Thailand, be sure to purchase the maximum amount of insurance and carry copies of your passport and licence for use in case of police checks.
The scenic road trips in Thailand offer travelers a kaleidoscope of breathtaking vistas and diverse landscapes. There is the iconic Mae Hong Son Loop, with tracing misty mountains and lush valleys in the north, and the coastal charms of the Southern Route from Bangkok to Phuket, where azure waters and palm-fringed beaches line the way. The Northern Thailand route through Chiang Rai to the Golden Triangle boasts serene rivers and emerald jungles, while the Eastern Seaboard road trip unveils pristine beaches and charming fishing villages. Whether winding through historic sites like Ayutthaya or exploring the lesser-known paths of Isaan, these best road trips in Thailand not only showcase its natural beauty but also immerse travelers in its rich cultural tapestry, making every mile an adventure to cherish.
Tips for Thailand Road Trips
- A successful road trip requires careful planning and preparation.
- Invest in the appropriate maps and GPS; a reliable backup map is quite useful.
- Steer clear of the Burning Season (December and January), when visibility is severely obstructed by air pollution (smog), making it impossible to drive and enjoy the amazing beauty. The pollution begins to clear in April thanks to persistent showers.
- As you visit temples, wear proper clothing. Wear clothing that covers your shoulders and knees since this is an area where the people do religious activities and prayers.
- Day Trips and Tours: Viator, GetYourGuide, and TripAdvisor are excellent resources for finding things to do in Thailand.
Scenic Road Trips in Thailand
The super popular Mae Hong Son Loop from Chiang Mai back to Chiang Mai, is a roughly circular route of about 600 km (375 miles), through Northern Thailand. The route offers a kaleidoscope of experiences, from lush valleys to misty mountains, cascading waterfalls, and serene villages brimming with cultural charm. Each pit stop along this winding adventure presents an opportunity to savor local delicacies, engage with hill tribes, and witness breathtaking vistas that defy imagination. It takes from 3 days or more, depending on the stops and detours you plan ahead.
The most excellent road trip for first-timers is from Chiang Mai to the Mae Sa Valley, and back to Chiang Mai. Allow one day for this 80km (50 miles) circuit route, which offers a manageable, scenic drive, perfect for those new to road trips. This journey makes it a comfortable introduction to driving in the region. The road winds through picturesque countryside, offering glimpses of lush greenery, small villages, and local life. Along the way, you’ll encounter attractions like the Mae Sa Waterfall, Elephant PooPooPaper Park (which showcases eco-friendly paper making), the Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden, and adventure parks offering activities like ziplining and ATV rides.
One of the best road trips in Thailand for island adventures is from Phuket to Satun and back, a distance of about 1100km (690 miles) round trip, allowing one week for this exhilarating journey. Starting from the vibrant shores of Phuket, the road winds along coastal highways with stunning vistas of azure waters and golden beaches. Explore the hidden gems of Koh Yao Yai and Koh Lanta, where serene beaches meet lush jungles, perfect for snorkeling or unwinding in secluded spots. Continuing southward, the journey unveils the breathtaking beauty of Trang’s emerald waters and limestone cliffs. Upon reaching Satun, discover the untouched allure of Koh Lipe, with its pristine beaches and vibrant marine life. The return journey offers a chance to relish the scenic coastal routes once more.
Embarking on a historic road trip from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and back ( about 583 km (362 miles), allowing three to four days. This is a captivating journey through Thailand’s rich cultural history. Departing from the bustling capital, the road winds its way through ancient kingdoms and breathtaking landscapes. Stop at Ayutthaya, a UNESCO World Heritage site, where centuries-old temples and ruins offer a glimpse into the country’s royal history. Further north, Sukhothai Historical Park unfolds with its well-preserved archaeological wonders. Continue the journey to explore Lampang, known for its enchanting Lanna architecture, before reaching the cultural jewel of Chiang Mai. The city’s old town is a trove of ancient temples, such as Wat Phra Singh and Wat Chedi Luang, resonating with the echoes of Siam’s past. This road trip is a captivating exploration of Thailand’s historical legacy.
A road trip from Chiang Rai to Phayao, about 250km (155 miles), allowing three days, unveils an awe-inspiring canvas of panoramic vistas. Departing from Chiang Rai’s vibrant cultural hub, the journey traverses through Northern Thailand’s picturesque countryside, with emerald-green hills and lush valleys as the backdrop. En route, the stunning Phu Chi Fah viewpoint offers a breathtaking panorama of mist-covered mountains and rolling landscapes. As the road winds southward, the route reveals the tranquil beauty of Phayao Lake, a serene expanse reflecting the surrounding mountains. With every turn, the journey offers striking views, creating an unforgettable scenery of natural splendor.
An off-the-beaten-track road trip from Bangkok through Isaan presents a tapestry of authentic Thai experiences. Departing from the busy capital, the journey ventures into the heart of Isaan, the lesser-explored northeastern region of Thailand. Passing through rustic rural villages and lush countryside, discover hidden gems like Khao Yai National Park, with its dense forests and cascading waterfalls. The road leads to Khon Kaen, a bustling town boasting a rich cultural heritage reflected in its temples and local markets. Further east, the ancient ruins of Phimai Historical Park stand testament to Khmer architecture. Continuing the loop back towards Bangkok, stop at Udon Thani and Nakhon Ratchasima, each offering a unique blend of heritage, local cuisine, and warm hospitality. Keep in mind that Isaan, mainly an agricultural region, is the poorer, rural area of Thailand, and English is not widely spoken.