The Best Road Trips in Thailand You Need to Take This Year

Highway, Night | © Courtesy of niekverlaan/Pixabay
Highway, Night | © Courtesy of niekverlaan/Pixabay
Photo of Kelly Iverson
26 July 2017

Driving a vehicle in Thailand has its obstacles. Many drivers are not used to driving on the left, while others will be unable to comprehend why so many drivers do not abide by normal traffic rules and regulations. However, the Kingdom is still often best explored by vehicle so start your engines as we reveal the best road trips in Thailand you need to take this year.

Ayutthaya to Chiang Mai

This seven-hour drive or so is sure to impress all passengers. Visitors will bid farewell to the ancient city of Ayutthaya and take to the streets to reach the northern capital of Chiang Mai. The journey is a relatively easy one in comparison to leaving from the capital. Visitors will pass through a number of national parks, including the Doi Khun Tan National Park, Wiang Kosai National Park, and the Si Satchanalai National Park. Be aware that in order to rent a car in Thailand, visitors will need an international driver’s license.

Wat Phra Mahathat, Ayutthaya Courtesy of aotaro/Flickr

Bangkok to Phetchabun

The five-hour drive from Bangkok to Phetchabun offers explorers amazing views of the Kingdom’s countryside. Visitors will leave the bustling capital behind them as they head to this rural city, with nothing but mountains, farms, and a few gas stations here and there between them and their final destination. The journey is not a windy or steep one, so drivers do not have to fear treacherous stretches of road along the way. Instead, the mountains sit on either side and simply make for a beautiful backdrop. Once arriving, visitors will need to make their way to Wat Pha Sorn Kaew, a temple made almost entirely of vibrant and colorful mosaic tiles.

Courtesy of Tawan Sangsue/Flickr

Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai

The journey from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai is a must for all visitors to the north of Thailand. Instead of opting for a cramped minibus to explore the city for the day, visitors can instead take to their rental and make the four-hour journey themselves. The mountainous region has a few noteworthy stops along the way, including some hot springs where visitors can go and dip their feet or cook their very own egg in the boiling water. One of the most popular destinations in Chiang Rai is Wat Rong Khun, otherwise known as the White Temple. Visitors can opt to spend the day here or stay overnight to give them ample time to explore the city.

White Temple, Chiang Rai, Thailand-8.jpg Courtesy of ryan harvey/Flickr

Chiang Mai to Pai

This journey is one of the most treacherous of them all. The drive is only about four hours in length, but the road seemingly twists and turns throughout its entirety. Because of this, it is suggested that visitors only make this journey during the day and if they are comfortable driving on hilly and narrow roads. The end destination seems well worth the trek, however. Pai has become one of the most coveted cities in the country, offering visitors a laidback vibe, plenty of things to see and do, and amazing eats along the way.

Pai Courtesy of Maksim Million/Flickr

Rayong to Pattaya, Bangkok, and Hua Hin

Visitors will start their journey on the island of Koh Samet. Because it is an island, the road trip does not actually begin until visitors have taken the ferry to Rayong, and it is here they will start their journey. The drive from Rayong to Pattaya only takes about an hour, and passengers can spend a night on Walking Street before making their way to the capital, the next city on our road trip. After a little over two hours, visitors will have arrived in Bangkok from Pattaya, where they can stay for the day and explore the city’s ancient capitals, markets, red light district, and more. Travelers will then end their journey in the beachy city of Hua Hin, which is about three hours southwest of Bangkok.

Central Festival Pattaya Beach Courtesy of Sini Fong/Flickr

Bangkok to Kanchanaburi

This road trip is ideal for those with little time on their hands. The drive from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi should only take a few hours, and there is plenty to see and do in the city once visitors have arrived. The city sits just west of the capital, and it is a picturesque and quaint one with surprisingly many things to see and do. Visitors can make their way to the city center to see the Khwae Yai River Bridge and the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery. About 40 minutes outside the city is the Erawan National Park, which is home to one of the most famous and stunning waterfalls in Thailand. Roadtrippers can also make a pit stop at the Thailand-Burma Railway Centre located outside of the city. Having a car makes it incredibly easy to visit all of these places.

Erawan Waterfalls -- 7 Steps to Heaven Courtesy of Todd Huffman/Flickr

Bangkok to Mae Sot, Sukhothai, Phetchabun, and Lopburi

Roadtrippers will start their journey in the capital and make the six to seven-hour drive to the western city of Mae Sot. This is one of the least visited cities in the country, making it a great expedition for those hoping to travel off the beaten path. After spending some time in the Burmese-influenced city and doing everything from swimming in waterfalls to visiting hot springs, travelers should then make their way to the historic city of Sukhothai, which is a little over two hours away.

From there, visitors head southeast to Phetchabun and continue on their way to Lopburi, the monkey city of the Kingdom. Lopburi is made up of amazing ruins, including Wat Phra Sri Rattana Mahathat and the King Narai’s Lopburi Palace. Among these amazing finds are thousands of monkeys, and tourists should try to visit on the last Sunday of November if possible to catch the Lopburi Monkey Festival. Lopburi is only two hours away from Bangkok.

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