Cycling in Thailand
Cycling 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!)
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.).
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.
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:
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).
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.
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!
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!
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
Nakhon Sawan to Ayutthaya
It's a pleasant though for the most uninspiring bicycle journey which starts getting interesting in 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: