I hitchhiked in Thailand in 2014 and 2015 personally. Meanwhile I have countless hitchhiker friends who hitchhiked in Thailand. As a responsible nomad who wants to spread the good energy and the spirit of ‘travelers help travelers’, I am writing this guide in my University Library in the Netherlands right now to help those wonderful souls seeking adventure in this beautiful land.
Is it easy to hitchhike in Thailand?
In general, YES! It is easy to hitchhike in Thailand. As a country of commendable hospitality, kind people and relatively good roads, especially compared to neighboring Cambodia and Laos, Thailand is a great country to hitchhike.
Is it common to hitchhike in Thailand?
Nope! Hitchhiking is not a common thing in most places in Thailand and those who hitchhike are almost exclusively travelers from western countries.
Is it safe to hitchhike in Thailand?
YES! Although it is a major tourist hub, Thai people, especially those outside the tourist zones surprisingly still managed to preserve their kindness. When you come into contact with real local people (not your tour guide or tuk-tuk driver), you will find them most genuine, gentle and kindhearted. The minor crimes against tourists are mostly happening in tourist cities, like Bangkok and Pattaya, other places are generally fine. It is always necessary to be careful, but to be always strung like you are going to get killed the next moment is far from necessary. After all, you are on a trip and you should enjoy it! According to the most recent data, Thailand has a murder rate of 3.51/100 000 inhabitants, ranking 114 in the world, a bit higher than India and Estonia, but a bit lower than Latvia and Turkey, so you get the general idea. Maybe you watched movies like The Beach (2000) too much, but hey, it is just a movie, not reality. Thailand is safe in general and nobody will chase after you with machine guns.
The safety issue during traveling is always ‘there are bad people out there, so how can I avoid them?’ instead of ‘there are bad people out there, so I guess I will just stay at home and never come out of my room anymore.’
How to hitchhike in Thailand?
As there is no local hitchhiking culture like in Pakistani Kashmir, the thumbing up pose is not generally accepted. If you thumb up on the road side, drivers would just think: ‘Look! That guy/girl is saying I am awesome! He gave me a thumb! Yeah!’ Nope, that won’t work.
There are 3 ways you can do this right.
- You write a sign. Find a piece of cardboard or just a piece of A4 paper, which can be asked for in almost any shop or gas station. Then use a big marker pen to write your destination on it. Then you stand on the road side holding your sign with a positive smile until somebody stops.
- You wave to cars, like many middle eastern countries. You stretch your arm horizontally and wave it mildly, as to wave down a taxi in your own country. The only difference is that once cars do stop, you go up to the driver and tell him you are hitchhiking and do not have money. What? You don’t speak Thai? Hopeless…… Just kidding, we will come back to that later. 😀 This can be combined with using a sign.
- You ask around in gas stations or parking lots. This can work pretty well as long as the driver speaks basic English or you speak basic Thai. Of course, it can only be done if you are not too introvert or shy. The Thai gas stations are not really big and sometimes they look rather shabby but in general the staff there would not mind you asking around. If you are nice enough and try to make friends with the staff there, they will even help you around.
When should I go hitchhiking in Thailand?
As most SEA (South East Asia) countries, it is hot all year round. Officially Thailand has 3 seasons, hot, cool and wet.
Hot season: March-June, April and May are the hottest month of the year
Cool season: Nov- Feb. December is the coldest month, with an average temperature of 26°C (79°F) in Bangkok. I know, you are thinking: ‘WOWO! 26 degree! That is just perfect!’ NO! That is the average. I was there in December 2014 and the daily high of the temperature easily reached 34°C and can make you sweat like a pig! So be prepared!
Wet season: generally known as the MONSOON season, notorious for its unbearable heat and humidity, generally runs from July to Oct.
The cool season, especially December is the best month for hitchhiking in Thailand. Hot season is the second best for hitchhiking and the monsoon season is the WORST. Of course, if you happen to be fond of heat and humidity like a tropical mushroom, monsoon is your season! 🙂 It has happened that my traveler friends happened to be hitchhiking in Thailand during the monsoon season. It was difficult but they all survived. Some of them even made full use of the weather and went totally naked on the road to take natural showers during tropical storms. Nudity? Not recommended…… They will either think you are a prostitute or a lunatic and the police might even arrest you. It is a Buddhist country after all, so let’s be respectable. 🙂
What are the major challenges of hitchhiking in Thailand?
- Language. Do you speak Thai? Eh…… I don’t. Not all Thai people speak English. Although when I was hitchhiking there, I did find many people who did speak some English, but never fluently. In big cities and with young students, you will have a better chance of finding English speaking locals.
- Bangkok. It is a big difficult to get out of Bangkok and public transport is a good idea. You see, Thailand is not a big country, but Bangkok is a mega city. Thailand has a similar area and size of population as Spain but Bangkok. While the Spanish capital has a population of 3.2 million, Bangkok boasts a population of 8.3 million, not including the tens of thousands tourists everyday! So, yes, it is recommended to find the public transport to first get out of the capital and then start hitchhiking. As every experienced hitchhiker knows, hitchhiking out of mega cities are the biggest difficulty in hitchhiking travels. Luckily, Bangkok does have a basic metro/subway system and the train service is generally OK and very cheap, so you can use them to exit the city.
- Mosquitoes. It can be humid even in the so-called dry season and it is hot all year round, so Thailand is the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. Carry mosquito spray or a mosquito net if you want to have a good sleep.
- Sunburn. I am not a person easily getting sun burnt, but during my stay in Thailand my neck skin fell off more than once…… Sun cream is recommended but of course, you also do without it, like I did. I am still perfectly alive by the way.
- This is not Europe, North America or Australia, so the living condition and the hygiene level is not as high, expect it to be dirty, flies flying around, chicken and pigs walking around in the countryside. However, it is far cleaner than India or Nepal, so no worries. 🙂
- They drive on the left, like in England. If you are not familiar with that, it might take a little while to get used to it, but this is just some minor detail.
Will the police harass me when I hitchhike?
In general nope! Thailand is a country generally very lenient with tourists as tourism is a major industry there and the Thai is a gentle people. As long as you don’t hitchhike naked or do drugs in the middle of the road (or other over-the-top crazy shit), the police will not harass you. If you are nice enough, the police will even help you to get a ride, which happened to me. So no worries about the police. It is the US after all.
How can I sleep?
What? You are already an adult and still don’t know how to sleep? Oh…… brush your teeth, lie down and then.. well, fall asleep. 😉
Just kidding. 😀 I know what you mean.
It is recommended to take a tent with you, even just a one-person tent can keep you away from mosquitoes. Where to camp? You can find wild lands, deserted buildings, construction sites and best of all, Buddhist monasteries and camp there.
Buddhist monasteries are perhaps the best choice for sleeping. Almost in every village you can find one, then asking politely they can give you a piece of floor, a bed or even or a room. You can always thank them by your own means, such as cleaning the hallway, or help cooking the meal. It is great fun to interact with them and then you also feel you are not just a begpacker. However, if you are a solo female, be careful they might refuse you refugee in the monasteries as letting a solo female lodging there might be against the Buddhist discipline.
I personally slept in Buddhist monasteries more than once. They were all very kind to me and even invited me for breakfast in the sacred main hall of the monastery.
Other information about hitchhiking in Thailand
The Thai are generally hospitable people, so if they can communicate with you, they might invite you to their homes and cook big meals for you, which happened to my friends more than once. Some of them were even invited to big parties in some schools. WOWO!
Recently there has been a crackdown on begpackers in SEA, so try to be respectful and not leave terrible impression about hitchhikers there. After all, not just you, those after you also want to hitchhike there. Let’s make it sustainable.
Compared to Vietnam and Laos, there are significantly more
Useful phrases for hitchhiking in Thailand
You see, like Chinese, Thai is a tonal language.Yes, there are tones. You might have heard of the joke about Chinese tones such as ‘You asked for your mom but they brought a horse as mom and horse have similar pronunciation in Chinese’, Thai has similar quirks. 🙂 Actually its tones are even more complex than mandarin Chinese, so learning to speak it perhaps is not that easy. In this case, it is better to have things written down.
How to explain that you are hitchhiking:
How to explain that you want to sleep or camp there