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Thailand is a wonderful hitchhiking country - but you have to be persistent. People are not familiar with the concept of hitchhiking and they always want to drop you off at a bus station. The Thai phrasebook can give you a few starting words, please add more if you learn more!
Hitchhiking in Thailand
Hitchhiking in Thailand is relatively simple and safe, contrary to what some people might tell you. Using the usual protocol of standing with your thumb out, where traffic is slow and leaving enough room for drivers to pull over is all you need to do. Prepare to spend a lot of time in the back of pick up trucks. By this I mean; bring a rain coat, some warm clothes (especially if hitching at night), a waterproof cover for your rucksack, even in the summer! There are wonderful experiences to be had hitchhiking in Thailand. In several cases, user haggismn was asked if he wanted a ride when simply walking on the path to a place to hitch from. Some people will also invite you to stay at their homes. Whilst people do not recommend it, sleeping outdoors is safe, especially where people do not often walk. Another way of spending the night and sampling authentic Thai culture is by stopping at a temple (which are plentiful everywhere except maybe in the Muslim provinces in the far south) for the night where you will usually be at the very least received with a bit of floor space to sleep on and a place to wash.
There are lots of motorbikes in Thailand, who are happy to pick up hitchikers. Remember it can be difficult if you're wearing a backpack and always ask/signal/mime if they have a spare helmet. Hitching you don't have to freeze in the buses and you can get acquainted with locals and some foreigners too. They don't ask money for the rides but if a someone not so rich offers you a long ride, it would be polite to offer him a lunch if you can afford it.
The nature of the Thai people makes Thailand a really good country to use a hitchhiking letter if you can't speak thai. You will often find yourself surrounded by locals who are willing to help you, but who are not familiarized with hitchhiking and cannot speak any English, which may lead to you being dropped at police offices or bus stations. The letter makes these situations much easier, and the hitchhiking in Thailand drastically faster.
Many Thai people do not know that hitchhiking exist, but many others understand very well the concept and call it "bow" in thai or "wave" when traslated to english. Last ones will always drop you in petrol station or another proper places to continue hitchiking.
z-z-z88 (talk) used plate with explanation what he was doing on the road and it helped him a lot. Other people report that they are being constantly driven to the bus stations. Text is written by Thai person, so it is correct. z-z-z88 (talk) tried to used these plates in Laos, but Lao people had a lot of difficulties with reading Thai, although they understand spoken Thai.
Here are plates:
ผมเดินทางด้วยเงินจำนวนเล็กน้อยเพื่อเป็นค่าอาหารและที่พักราคาถูก ผมจึงโบกรถเพื่อเดินทาง ขอผมติดรถไปทางเดียวกับคุณด้วยได้ไหมครับ คุณจะส่งผมข้างหน้าที่ไหนก็ได้ที่สะดวก แล้วผมจะโบกรถต่อไปเอง I am hitchhiking. I travel with small money only for food and cheap hostel. When your car turn off the road, drop me off and I find another car.
ไม่เป็นไรครับ ผมไม่ต้องการความช่วยเหลืออะไรตอนนี้ ขอบคุณครับ I'm fine, do not need help, thank you.
ไปใกล้ๆ ก็ได้ครับ ระยะทางสั้นๆ ก็จะช่วยได้มาก Small ride for few kilometers is ok
ส่งผมลงตรงนี้ด้วยครับ Drop me off here please.
ผมขอตั้งเต้นท์พักค้างคืนที่นี่ได้ไหม Can I put my tent here?
Thai people may not understand the meaning of a hitchhiker with their thumb out. An American ex-pat told MolotovMocktail to use the motion that Thais use to hail taxis when hitchhiking. To do this, hold your hand out with your palm facing the ground and make a downward-patting motion.
Exception: the taxi mafia in the tourist areas such as Phuket
In some tourist areas like Phuket the taxi maffia is in charge. You have to specify at least 3 times that you are not going to pay. "No money", "no taxi", "free ride", rinse and repeat. guaka (talk) had a nasty experience with a guy who suddenly wanted 500 baht for a short ride. He then actually called the police. The corrupt police was actually ready to go to the police station so guaka (talk) settled with paying 400 baht (100 baht was not enough). (This was after 4 very nice rides across the island, including a free veggy dinner in a restaurant.)
Entering & Leaving Malaysia is swift and easy. Because of traffic volume choose Bukit Ayer Hitam over Padang Besar for the western Side. There are two more border crossings at Betong and Sungai Kolok in the center and on the eastern side respectively. On the Malaysian side of Bukit Ayer Hitam border Craig found it easy to get a lift near immigration and parking .
- Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Chon Buri
- Khon Kaen
- Nakhon Ratchasima
- Pattaya, Phuket
- Nong Khai
- Hat Yai
In Thailand, 1st & second class buses often have air conditioning - way too cold and you have to watch B-class movies on the video screen. On the other hand, local buses are often great value in order to exit big cities - and exciting if you're packed in with animals, bags & anything that will fit. In some instances, you may as a white person be denied access to local transit when there are more tourist-oriented buses available.
Another good option are 3rd class trains, which are really cheap (48 THB from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet, which is 6 km from the Cambodian border). They might also be convenient to get to a good hitching spot when you're leaving Bangkok.
In addition, there are certain trains in Thailand that are free for Thai passengers (for example, the trains going from Udon Thani to Bangkok, and from Surat Thani to Hat Yai), and it is also possible to get onto them for free as a tourist. If you attract the attention of the train station officers, they might insist that you pay the tourist price for the ticket, but if you just get into the train no-one should bother you there. The hardest part is finding out which are these trains exactly and when they come without asking the train station officers, but the locals can probably help you with that.
Thai is a language with 6 tones. Check out the Thai phrasebook
- The Rich-Mike HitchHike - A recent blog about hitchhiking from Bali to Jakarta and then on through Asia to England (20'000 km through 20 countries in 100 days) -Thailand is ranked number 1 country to hitchhike in out of 20 (Day 21: Michael for sale)
- User Craig hitched along the Silk Road from Istanbul to Malaysia and wrote about his experiences here: Thumbing Asia From West to East getting out of Bangkok isn't easy ... but the rest of Thailand is endless fun to hitch-hike. Sometimes you'll get a lift with a police car yay!
- User Airyk Hitchhiked across the world in 1 year, he started in Thailand and wrote about his first Hitchhiking experience here