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Cycling in Thailand


Royal Palace, BangkokCycling in Thailand is nowadays easier than ever. Thailand is one of the most assessable countries in Asia with Bangkok as one of the main hubs with international connections.

Many people speak English, there's plenty to see for everyone's liking, accommodation is available in every price range, food is great and it's still cheap.

In other words, Thailand has everything to start your cycling adventure right here.

For more than 20 years I come in Thailand. The first time was with a backpack. After that I visited the country countless times, mostly on my bicycle.

In these pages I want to give you a glimpse of what you can expect from cycling in Thailand. It's just a glimpse (despite the 2 dozen or so pages because there is much to explore in the country!)

Preparation: Visa

It all starts with preparation and the first need to know is the visa situation.

When flying in to one of the international airports like Bangkok, Chiang Mai or Phuket, you will get a visa (stamp) valid for 30 days. Any border crossing overland gives you only 15 days.

Sukhothai

Sukhothai, one of Thailand's UNESCO World Heritage Cities

Should you want to stay longer in the country, you will have to organize a visa via an embassy, a 2 months visa is easily available though it is single entry.

Far south of Thailand, the beach of Pak Barra

Far south of Thailand, the beach of Pak Barra

Planning

With the limitation of a 15 days visa when you come overland, planning is essential. Obviously if you have a 2 months visa, you have more space.

Many cyclists however either fly in (30 days visa) or cross a overland border (15 days). So how to deal with that? Here's a few ideas:

  1. Crossing from Malaysia: cycle to Bangkok, go to Cambodia and come back to Thailand via Laos.
  2. Coming from Laos via Huay Xai, cycle to Chiang Mai, do the Chiang Mai - Mae Hong Son loop and cycle further to Vientiane, cross into Laos, cycle to Pakse and come back to Thailand for cycling to Bangkok ...
  3. ...or cycle from Pakse to Cambodia and come back to Thailand via Aranyaphratet and cycle south (maybe skipping the first part to Chumphon to save time)

Check my cycling in Laos and Cambodia pages about cycling there. Both countries absolute fantastic for cycling adventures.

There are no overland options available with Myanmar. Visas for Laos and Cambodia are available at the border (30 days) while for Malaysia you only get an entry stamp valid for 3 months.

Storks in the trees, here on the way from Nakhon Sawan to Sing Buri
Storks in the trees, here on the way from Nakhon Sawan to Sing Buri

What to see?

Thailand has it all. Mountains, beaches, diving, culture, food, ancient architecture ... you name it. So what you want to see depends totally on your interest.

  • The North: mountains, minority people, culture, forests
  • The South: beaches, national parks
  • Bangkok: everything except beaches (although Pataya is not far away)
  • The North East: flat lands, culture, architecture, amazing people

Most of Thailands' cultural history is to be found in the Bangkok area and everything north of it (Sukhothai, Ayutthaya, Kamphaeng Pet, Lop Buri, Phi Mai, Phanom Rung etc.).

Food in Thailand is seldom boring
Food in Thailand is seldom boring

The south has wonderful beaches and excellent diving possibilities around Phuket/Krabi, Koh Tao, Koh Samui and south of Ranong.

But why go to the "boring" north east with it's flatlands and " only minor" interesting things to see? I like the north east, the ride to Ubon is great, several ancient Khmer sites and Surin with the elephant roundup make it worth to go.

On a bridge in downtown Chiang Mai
On a bridge in downtown Chiang Mai

The ride from Ubon to Mukdahan is flat and great too with a few days cycling through flat lands with nothing to see and plenty of time for inner reflection.

The north offers mountains, national parks and minority people around Chiang Mai and the Mae Hong Son loop.

There is more than plenty to keep you cycling in Thailand for a month or 2 if not more. To get an idea of what to expect, I have written several pages about my own experiences in Thailand. There are sections about:

Thailand - Malaysia
Border Area

Buddha statue in Betong, south Thailand

Bicycle shops

The Thais discover the pleasures of cycling too.

The good news is that in many larger cities you are able to find very good bicycle shops with knowledgeable people and proper materials which makes cycling in Thailand a lot easier in terms of getting repairs done.

Bangkok has several excellent bike shops but you will find great shops in Chiang Mai, Phuket, Ubon Ratchathani, Sukhothai, heck even Hat Yai and Betong have great little shops where the people are more than happy to help you out (they did for me some amazing jobs).

See my Bicycle shops in Thailand page for more details

The Mountain Bike Betong staff and me
Bicycle shop in Betong, minor repairs necessary

Maps useful for cycling in Thailand

Many travelers nowadays use GPS. I don't. I don't like it all much. Too small, too much depending on electricity etc.. Call me old school, if you like but I prefer a nice map. Here is more about maps in Thailand.

Maps of ThailandMaps of ThailandMaps of ThailandMaps of Thailand
These are the maps for Thailand I have been using over the years.

Organized Tours

I have also sorted out several organized tours in case you don't want to go on your own. These tours do reflect perfect what Thailand has to offer. Check them out!

Phanom Rung complex
Phanom Rung complex

A popular start in Asia is the journey from Bangkok to Singapore and Bali, check it out here.

Regardless if you go independent or organized, I can guarantee you, cycling in Thailand is a fantastic experience. Once you are away from the crowds, you will meet some of the nicest people on earth, see some of the most amazing unnamed sights and cycle roads where only cyclists (and locals) come. Cycling in Thailand is a Big YES!

Bicycle tours in Thailand

Accommodation in Thailand

In general accommodation can be as cheap or expensive as you want it. In the very popular tourist areas it can be hard to find rock bottom guesthouses but outside the tourist areas you might find a room for as little as US $3, admitting the room might be no more than a bed and a shower with cold water.

Here are some links to sort out your hotels and guesthouses in Thailand:

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North East Thailand

Lesser visited by travelers doesn't mean less interesting. North East Thailand is especially interesting to cycle. Areas around Surin, Ubon and Mukdahan get travelers, here's why:

Cycling North East Thailand

North east Thailand


Doi Tao

Doi Tao, about 150km south to south west of Chiang Mai is a little known but beautiful lake side. You will enjoy the peace and quietness after the busy Chiang Mai city. Wonderful place.

Doi Tao

Doi Tao lake, north Thailand


Cycling in South Thailand

Many regard South Thailand as less interesting for cycling. I do not. There's plenty to see and experience. Check out my South Thailand section:

Cycling in South Thailand

Southern Thailand


Kamphaeng Phet

Central Thailand offers more UNESCO World Heritage: on a day's cycling you will find Kamphaeng Phet. It's lesser known but offers another beautiful insight into Thailand's turbulent past.

Kamphaeng Phet

Kamphaeng Phet art


Phimai

One of the must visit sites in north east Thailand is Phimai Historical Park where you can see one of the best preserved and largest Khmer complexes in the country.

Phimai

Phimai, Thailand


Nakhon Sawan to Ayutthaya

It's a pleasant though for the most uninspiring bicycle journey which starts getting interesting in Ayutthaya.

Nakhon Sawan to Ayutthaya


Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya is UNESCO World Heritage City since 1991 and not for nothing. Millions of tourists visit every year one of the most important archaeological sites in Thailand. Here is why:

Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya is UNESCO World Heritage City