Q: We are a family of three–two adults and a 10-year-old–planning a trip to Thailand in April-May 2018. We wanted to take a road trip from Bangkok to Koh Samui. We have two weeks and would like to allot one week to Koh Samui and the rest between Bangkok and the road trip. The suggested route is primarily along the coast: Bangkok—Samut Sakhon—Samut Songkhram—Phetchaburi—Prachaup Khiri Khan—Koh Samui. My queries are: 1. How safe is it to drive ourselves? 2. How are the roads? 3. Is there a better route? 4. Which operators would you recommend? 5. Prices range across Â£114—140 for 8 days. Your thoughts? 6. How about eateries along the route? 7. Suggest an ideal stopover? 8. Are there any scenic stretches on this route? 9. Would a regular international driving license be sufficient? 10.Is it right- or left-hand driving? 11. I see a lot of National Parks and Reserves along the route. Your recommendations? 12. How do we reach the island? What are the rates?
Marco Says: 1. A self-drive road trip in Thailand is not for the fainthearted. Visitors are frequently alarmed by the driving they encounter there. Having said that though, you’re used to Indian driving conditions and should be okay with some defensive and careful driving. Do try a driver-plus-car if you’re not confident, however–asking for directions in a country where English is not very common can get tiresome really fast. 2. The roads are rather good. 3. That’s the road to take to get from Bangkok to Samui. However, getting out of Bangkok will be highly irksome, and perhaps you should consider making your way (by train or bus) to the coastal town of Hua Hin and pick up a car rental there. This would mean doing Samut Sakhon, Samut Songkhram and Phetchaburi as day trips from Bangkok. If you do take this option, then you drive via Prachuap Khiri Khan and Chumphon before arriving at Surat Thani. 4. Avis, Hertz and Budget have car rentals with pick-up and drop-off at various locations–they’ll tend to have standardised prices too. 5. The car rental should cost you about 1,500-2,500 THB per day depending on whether you’re dropping off at the same location that you picked it up from. This usually does not include fuel. 6. Hua Hin has some excellent restaurants. Try the sea-facing You Yen Hua Hin Balcony that’s set in a lovely, restored wooden Thai house. Along the way, there are nice eateries along the shore in Prachuap Khiri Khan. If you’ve had your fill of Thai food by then, try Farang Bar at Chumphon that caters western food to expats and travellers. 7. There’s plenty to see along the way. Your stops should include Sam Roi Yot National Park and the Kui Buri Elephant Reserve in Prachuap Khiri Khan. You can also carve out some time for the beaches at Ban Krut and Bang Saphan. From Bang Saphan, take a boat out to Koh Talu for a spot of snorkelling or sea kayaking. You’ll want to break journey, and you should do that at Chumphon, which has several stay options. 8. You’re driving along the coast, though a few kilometres inland for the most part. A few diversions to the seafront should make your road trip quite scenic indeed. 9. To be able to drive in Thailand, you’ll need an International Driving Permit along with your original license, which should be valid for a minimum of one year. 10. Left hand. 11. You should visit Kaeng Krachan from Phetchaburi or Hua Hin if possible, and Kui Buri Elephant Reserve, of course, is a must. 12. From Surat Thani, you’ll need to make your way to Don Sak, about 60km south. There are two companies offering car ferries: SeaTran Discovery (seatrandiscovery.com) and Raja Ferry Port (rajaferryport.com). A one-way crossing should cost you 400-450 THB.