After 8 weeks of volunteering in Malaysia we were ready to move on. It was beginning of February. On 13th of February we needed to be in Bangkok, from where we were planning to start our 2 week overland backpacking group trip to Singapore (we invited 6 of you to join us for 2 weeks). But until that date we had no commitments.
And so we decided to go and spend some more time in Thailand on our own. To make this visit to the land of smiles different from others we decided to try hitchhiking in Thailand. It’s a paradise for hitchhikers is what we had heard quite a few times, when people were telling us about budget traveling in Thailand.
Now was the time for us to try it out. 3 years ago we together with my brother and Una successfully hitchhiked from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore and back.
Hitchhiking from Satun to Krabi
Satun is a small town in Southern Thailand, a short ferry ride away from Langkawi island (Malaysia). If you like us need to apply for visa on arrival, when traveling to Thailand, then this is the place, where you can get it.
All the ferries coming from Langkawi to Satun stop at the port of Tammalang. And so this is where our journey to Krabi started. You can try and start hitchhiking already from the port, we chose to get to the town first. Easiest and also cheapest way is by a public taxi – songthaew. You can get one already at the entrance.
And the ride costs only 30 baht (under 1 EUR/USD).
Next we needed to get out of Satun, to start hitchhiking. Looking on a map it looked like an easy task, but in reality it felt like our walk will never end. It was very hot and there was no shadow. What a surprise, haha? It’s hot in Thailand during the dry season.
Let’s try to get a lift in the city? OK! Let’s try! 5 minutes passes. No one stops. 10 minutes. No one. We go a little bit further and try again. But one one stops. No one even slows down. And then, when we are just standing on the side of the road, almost ready to give up because of the heat, a car pulls up.
Where do you want to go? – asks a guy sitting next to the driver. To Trang (half way to Krabi). Or to the next junction, which is just 7-8 kilometers away from here, where a highway to Trang and Krabi starts. I know where it is. Get in! We will take you to that junction.
At the place, where they leave us, we are again in a village, and so again we need to get out of it first. But this time everything happens very fast.
We stop. I raise a hand for a minute. Then I take out my camera, because I want to make some photos. I take 2 photos. Then I raise my hand again, while putting camera back in the bag. And one car stops. Silver car, the one you see in this photo. It stops. Yeah!
We are lucky today. Shai is driving all the way to Krabi!
As soon as we get in the car he offers us bananas. And then – banana chips. And water. At the end Shai insists on taking us all the way to our hotel. Even though it’s only about 250 kilometer long ride, it still takes more than 4 and a half hours. At first we all chat for a while, but then we with Una fall asleep.
Wow, what a first hitchhiking experience in Thailand!
Problem with hotel booking in Krabi, Thailand
Not everything goes the same as smooth after we arrive to Krabi.
I don’t see your booking – says man at the reception of our hotel. Oh, but why… I connect to WiFi of the hotel. I open Agoda app on my phone. This should be the right hotel. There it is, my booking. I’m showing my reservation to elderly man. Yes, but it’s for the next month.
Oops! Oh, really! I have made a mistake and booked a room not for February but for March. It’s fully paid for 4 nights. And it’s non refundable.
We book another room for one night. Actually owner of this place recommends us to do so. Because this way it will be cheaper for us. He has only triple room left. We agree that on the next day he will contact Agoda customer service to try and solve this problem. I send a message to Agoda on Facebook as well.
Agoda reacted very fast. Less than 12 hours later problem was solved. And we could move to the hotel, where we wanted to stay at no extra cost.
Hitchhiking from Krabi to Bangkok
We wake up at 9 AM. It’s a bit too late for what we are planning to do. We know it. But that’s only because I was working on website design for my friend until 2 AM (our Latvian readers, you might be interested in this blog). And, well, is it really a problem? We don’t think so. And we aren’t in rush either. We will just try to do our best, and at the end of the day we will see, where it will take us.
Distance from Krabi to Bangkok is almost 800 kilometers. It’s 3 times more than the distance from Satun to Krabi. I have looked it up on Google Maps, and now I know few possible routes.
On a map it looks that it shouldn’t be too difficult once you get past Surat Thani. Because from there there is one road leading all the way to Bangkok.
At 7-Eleven opposite our hotel we buy sandwiches and yogurt. This is our breakfast today. And 15 minutes later we are ready to go. We catch a songthaew to bus station. 3 kilometers from the bus station starts a highway, where we plan to start hitchhiking.
Sun, highway and helpful taxi driver – Hitchhiking in Thailand
It’s super hot day again. And again there is no shadow to hide from the sun. After seeing few songthaew passing us we decide to take one for these couple of kilometers. In less than 5 minutes next one is coming, I rise my hand and it stops. While we are driving I prepare 40 baht. I want to pay less than usual 30 baht. This ride is very short and that could be the right price.
At the right junction driver stops the car, and goes out. It’s something unusual. Because normally you just pay through the window, and that’s it. Turns out he wants to be sure, that we will take the right road. He will continue in another direction.
And when I’m giving him 40 baht (2 x 20), he discreetly gives 20 back. Oh, thanks! And then again he points to the right road. This time he also adds in Russian, that that’s the road we need to take to get to Surat Thani and Bangkok.
First car stops very soon. They could take us for some 20 kilometers. How much will you pay me? – ask a man, when we are ready to get in. Oh, no money? Not possible! And he leaves.
Traffic is very active here. But no one wants to stop. Until 30 minutes later, similar like with our first car on the way from Satun to Krabi, when we are just standing on the side of the road, thinking about going further, a car pulling out of a side road stops and driver asks us – where do you want to go?
He speaks very little English. But that’s enough to agree, that we will say when we will need to get out. I will follow on a Google Maps where we are going. We have bought a local SIM card from 7-Eleven. Later on we got to know, that he is going to Phuket. It’s in the opposite direction to where we want to go. So some 20 kilometers further he leaves us at the junction. He also shows where there is a bus stop.
In the back of the pickup truck – Hitchhiking in Thailand
We buy fresh cut pineapple. Eeek! It’s with salt and chilly. We walk for some 20 minutes under hot sun to get out of the town, looking for shadow. There are 2 roads leading to Surat Thani. We choose the one that looks better. On Google Maps they both look similar.
Traffic here is almost nonexistent.
But after some 20 minutes a car stops. Driver, Thai men in his sixties or seventies, asks us something. We say Surat Thani. It’s the nearest big city. Then I show him, that we need to go in the same direction like he is going. Next thing – I show to the back of his pickup truck.
And we have agreed. We are going… somewhere. In the right direction. And in the back of a pickup truck. Yeah! Just as I wanted.
As soon as we get in, we both take out camera and phone, to make photos of each other. Haha!
This is just so cool! Sun. Wind. And picturesque Southern Thailand.
Our ride isn’t long. Some 30 kilometers later driver stops in front of a shop. And we need to get out. 15 minutes of walking to leave the town, and we are on the side of the road again, waiting for the next car.
In this place we wait for yet another half an hour. One car stops. These young Thais really want to help us. Looks like they think, that we are planning to walk all the way to Bangkok if we can’t get a ride. But they don’t have space in the car. We chat for a while. Until we reassure them, that everything will be fine and they don’t need to worry about us.
After they leave we decide to walk further as well.
Again there is no shadow. So I send Una to stand by abandoned as it looks shop, while I’m trying to get a lift for us.
Skinny Thai man and two backpackers on one scooter – Hitchhiking in Thailand
A ride comes very unexpected. Again. This time elderly man on a scooter, driving in the opposite direction and seeing me on the side of the road, turns around to ask me something in Thai. Again I just say Surat Thani. I say to him, that we are fine. No problem!
A moment later without speaking each others’ language we have agreed – he is taking us to the next junction, 10 kilometers further, where Surat Thani highway starts. Ok! It took me a while to understand, that he isn’t just trying to make a conversation. But that he actually was offering us two to get on his bike.
We put Una’s bag in front of the bike, in the basket. Una sits in the middle. I sit at the back. Only thing I’m worried about is that I have a backpack on my back, and I don’t really have where to hold on. So I put one hand on the side of the seat, behind me, with second hand I grab driver’s shirt.
Next 15 minutes are a bit nerve-wracking. It’s not as relaxing as sitting in the back of the pickup truck. But everything is OK.
And here I learned, that I was wrong, thinking that all Thais are bad scooter drivers. Yes, Malays, especially ones living in Langkawi, are born stunt performers, when we speak about motorbikes and scooters. But this man wasn’t any worse – for some part of the ride he was driving with one hand holding Una’s backpack with other hand. All the while driving with us (120 extra kilos) on his bike.
He takes us some 12 kilometers, in the opposite direction for him. Leaving us he shows where we can have a lunch. Thank you, friendly man!
We walk a little bit, until we get to shadow, and stop on the side of the road again.
Another unexpected lift and night bus to Bangkok
It’s late afternoon already. We have made a decision to go to Surat Thani and, if possible, to take a night train or bus to Bangkok. This way saving money, that we would pay for hotel on our way to Bangkok, and earning extra time to explore capital of Thailand.
Couple of minutes later young guy on a scooter stops near us. I’m not sure if he did it on purpose to help us. Or was it all a coincidence. Because we didn’t talk with him. He only asked us where we want to go. But shortly later he started a conversation with one family, who were about to leave a restaurant. We were standing in front of that restaurant. And he asked them if they could take us to Surat Thani.
Just like that. Shortly after that everything was sorted out. These nice people were taking us to Surat Thani bus station, 70 kilometers away from where we met. They were going to the city anyway, but they made a detour to leave us just in front of the bus station.
During the ride I tried to book bus tickets to Bangkok, but there weren’t any left. However, at the bus station they were still available and cost less than online. So we got our tickets. As there was enough time we went to the nearby night market, which was just starting, to have a dinner. Shortly before boarding a bus we booked a hotel for our stay in Bangkok. Technologies can be so helpful at times!
Next morning, at 5 AM, we arrived to Bangkok.
Turns out it really is that interesting to hitchhike in Thailand. Only it can take quite a time to get from one place to another. Have you tried it? What was your experience?
Author: Kaspars Misins
Kaspars is a long term traveler and travel blogger from Latvia. He loves going on long walks, reading non fiction books and spending time outdoors. Together with his girlfriend Una they are traveling – volunteering – working abroad since 2013. On WeAreFromLatvia.com they share their experience and things learned along the way.