Most people that visit Thailand assume that taking busses, trains and boats are the easiest ways to get around Thailand. But in fact the best, fastest and easiest way is by finding domestic flights in Thailand. But isn't that expensive? Nope! Don't worry backpackers even domestic flights in Thailand are cheap! In this blog I will show you how to find these flight deals, where to book them and everything else you need to know: luggage allowance, airlines, safety issues, etc.
Over the last 10 years I have lived, partied and traveled in Thailand uncountable times from North to South. That is why you will find more than 50 different Thailand travel blogs on my website. From how to travel around Thailand in 2 weeks to is it safe to travel to Thailand, a Thailand packing list and everything in and between.
The main goal of this blog post is to help you save money traveling/backpacking in Thailand. There are amazing Thailand flight deals for the grab, but sometimes you just have to dig a little deeper to find them and I am gonna help you.
Why take domestic flights in Thailand
You probably have no idea how big Thailand actually is and that is understandable. I didn't know either that a flight from Chiang Mai (North) to Hat Yai (South) is about 3 hours. Backpacking in Thailand has always been very popular and therefore the need for domestic flights was high. However, I always assumed that taking trains, busses and ferries where the best way to get around Thailand until I found how convenient domestic flights in Thailand are.
For long distance travel in Thailand a Thai domestic flight search can do wonders. There are more than 50 domestic flight routes in Thailand and you will be amazed by the cheap prices you can find. Booking in advance will obviously get you the cheapest flights deals, but even last minute domestic flight deals are pretty good. The network is very extensive with multiple airports and several airliners. More about that later.
The main hubs for domestic flights in Thailand are: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Krabi, Koh Samui, Surat Thani and Hat Yai. Most of the amazing places to visit are very well connected with one of these airports. There are shuttle busses waiting at the airport that take you straight to ferry terminals if you go island hopping in Thailand.
How to find cheap domestic flights
No need to tell you that booking Thai domestic flights in advance will save you money. Planning your trip to Thailand is worth it when you are on a budget, but the real charm of traveling to Thailand is actually to go with the flow and not make too many travel plans.
Let's simply start with Skyscanner, we all know about this flight search engine of course. It is very international and big chance you found your international flight to Thailand through this platform. It also works for finding domestic flight deals in Thailand. However Skyscanner will not include all domestic airlines. Skyscanner is a good options but not the best.
The same counts for Google Flights: good but not complete. I am a fan of this platform and this is how I mostly find my international flights, but for finding cheap domestic flights in Thailand there are better options. Same as for Skyscanner, when search for domestic flights in Thailand, not all domestic airlines are included in the search engine.
This is the first platform that does include all the low-budget airlines in one flight search engine. What I like about using 12Go Asia is that you can book your ticket directly and are not redirected to another website, like all the other mentioned flight search engines in this article.
Another great thing about 12Go Asia is that while searching for domestic flights in Thailand they also give you the options to travel by train, bus, ferry and even taxi, including prices, up to date timetables and company reviews. Try it below yourself.
Tripadvisor Flight Search
Yes even Tripadvisor has a flight search engine these days and a pretty good one as well. Tripadvisor Flight Search is not a booking platform itself but it redirects you to the best flight deals available on other websites. Their search engine includes all the cheap domestic airlines in Thailand and therefore you can find great deals on Tripadvisor.
Where do I book my Thai domestic flights?
My prefered choice when looking for domestic flights in Thailand are: 12Go Asia and Tripadvisor Flight Search. The difference between them is that you can book directly at 12Go Asia and you are not redirected to another website again. Therefore personally I prefer to book my flight tickets for Thailand with 12Go Asia.
However that said I always cross check to make sure I get the best flight deal possible. Must say though that if I find a flight deal for less than $20 I simply take it. May be you can save $3 or $4 extra, but for a couple bucks I don't want to waste my time online looking for an even better flight deal.
Domestic Airports in Thailand
As I told you before there are a lot of Thai domestic flight routes and the network is very extensive. A downside of traveling by plane in Thailand is that there are two major flight hubs only: Bangkok and Phuket. Most domestic flights pass through Bangkok or Phuket and flights from Chiang Mai to Krabi for example are limited.
Here is a list of the main domestic airports in Thailand:
- Bangkok - Suvaranabhumi - BKK
- Bangkok - Don Mueang - DMK
- Chiang Mai - CNX
- Chiang Rai - CEI
- Phuket - HKT
- Samui - USM
- Krabi - KBV
- Surat Thani - URT
- Hat Yai - HDY
- Udon Thani - UTH
- Chumphon - CJM
- Hua Hin - HNQ
Main routes for flying domestic in Thailand
Domestic flights from Bangkok
There are two airports in Bangkok: Suvaranabhumi and Don Mueang. Both are pretty conveniently located just outside the city center and within a $10 taxi ride. Suvaranabhumi Airport (BKK Airport) is the main International Airport but also serves domestic flights. Don Mueang Airport (DMK Airport) is much smaller and serves some international flights to other Southeast Asia destination but mostly domestic flights in Thailand.
Make sure you go to the right airport when flying from Bangok. Double check the airport name before ordering a taxi!
Below you can find the prices of thai domestic flights for a random weekend in August 2023:
Cheap flights from Bangkok:
- From Bangkok to Chiang Mai: 1 hour 20 minutes - 7 airlines - $15-40
- From Bangkok to Phuket: 1 hour 30 minutes - 7 airlines - $15-50
- From Bangkok to Krabi: 1 hour 25 minutes - 7 airlines - $15-50
Prices for domestic flights in Thailand are often similar to tickets for busses. Trains in Thailand are often even more expensive, but can be an amazing experience. Check my story about taking a train from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur. It all on your budget and how much time you have, but domestic flights are real winners in Thailand.
Flights from Bangkok to Koh Samui
Unfortunately Bangkok Airways holds the exclusive right to fly to Koh Samui airport. Therefore no low-cost airlines in Thailand offer the route Bangkok to Koh Samui. Prices for tickets flying to Koh Samui are set to around $150 one-way. For people backpacking in Thailand I don't recommend to book a flight from Bangkok to Koh Samui.
Alternative routes to fly to Koh Samui
There are many ways to get to Koh Samui and low-cost airlines in Thailand came up with a great alternative. You will often see low-budget airlines offering flights to Koh Samui but in facts these are NO direct flights, but a flight, bus, ferry combination. You will fly to either to Surat Thani or Nakhon Si Thammarat Airport, then a short bus ride to a ferry terminal to continue your journey to Koh Samui.
Some airlines even include a complimentary shuttle bus from the Koh Samui pier to your Koh Samui hotel to attract costumers. A direct flight to Koh Samui is only 1 hour, but cost $150. Joint tickets (flight, bus, boat) start from $30 up to $70 and take around 5-7 hours.
Flights from Chiang Mai to Phuket
One of the most convenient domestic flights in Thailand is the one from Chiang Mai to Phuket. If you travel this route overland it will take 2 days, with a domestic flight it will only take 2 hours. When you have limited days on your Thailand holiday this is one of the best travel tips. Unfortunately there are only 2 airlines that operate direct flights on this route and they charge between $60 and $100 one-way. Click on the link to get you the best price available.
Flights from Chiang Mai to Krabi
Unfortunately direct flights on this route are even more limited. Flights from Chiang Mai to Krabi are only served by Air Asia and they charge between $80 USD and $120 USD. Find the best flight deals in the link.
Secret Thailand travel tip: FLY FROM SOUTH TO NORTH AND SAVE MONEY!
No jokes! Flying from Phuket or Krabi to Chiang Mai on a direct flight is much cheaper than the other way around! Try it out yourself below.
Domestic airlines in Thailand
As said before there are 8 different domestic airlines in Thailand that potentially could show up on a Thai domestic flight search. Most of the below listed airlines are low-cost airlines. With some airlines there are additional costs for your bags and service on board and there is no free seat allocation. You basically pay for all extras, but that is the price you pay for cheap domestic flights in Thailand.
Thai Air Asia
The most well known and biggest low-cost airline in Asia. This Malaysia based airline has an affiliate operating in Thailand: Thai Air Asia. It operates all its international and domestic flights in Thailand from DMK Airport in Bangkok and serves a wide array of destinations in Thailand. In total they have 62 A320 aircrafts. Baggage is not included and these are the fees that apply for domestic flights in Thailand with Air Asia.
There have no severe accidents reported about Thai Air Asia.
Definitely not the cheapest airliner in Thailand. It is a small company with only 22 A320’s in their fleet on some propeller planes. They own the airport in Koh Samui and therefore hold the exclusive right to fly to the island. They serve 12 domestic destinations in Thailand. 20KG baggage is included in the ticket price.
In the last 20 years two Bangkok Airways flights skidded off the runway, killing 1 pilot. No other severe accidents occurred.
The main airliner in Thailand that flies to 84 destinations in 37 countries around the world and has a fleet of over 90 aircrafts. Thai Airways is not a low-cost airliner but has a 22% stake in NOK Air Thailand and also launched its own low-cost airline in Thailand: Thai Smile. The main hub of Thai Airways is BKK Airport in Bangkok and Phuket Airport. Domestic flights with Thai Airways are mostly a little more expensive, though 23KG luggage is included. Thai airways only operates domestic flights in Thailand from Bangkok to Krabi, Phuket and Chiang Mai.
There have no major accidents occurred with Thai Airways flights.
Thai Lion Air
Lion Air is an Indonesia low-cost airline based in Jakarta and the second largest low-cost airline in Southeast Asia after Air Asia. Although it is one of the world fastest growing airlines it does not have the best reputation worldwide. Lion Air was banned into European airspace for several years and only after major improvements the European Union lifted the ban in June 2018. There is a long list of reported accidents, and unfortunately on October 29th 2018 a tragic accident occurred in Indonesia when a Lion Air flight crashed and all 189 people on board died. When choosing the best domestic airline in Thailand, Lion Air won’t make it to the top 3.
Thai Lion Air flies to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Pattaya, Phuket, Krabi, Surat Thani, Hat Yai, Udon Thani and Ubon Ratchathani.
Thai Lion Air offers passengers 10KG free checked baggage allowance. Additional baggage fees apply.
Nok Air Thailand
If you are looking for cheap domestic flights in Thailand Nok Air can be a great option for you. Nok Air mostly operates domestic flights from DMK Airport in Bangkok and has 28 domestic flights in Thailand. Nok Air also offers joint tickets (boat tickets included) to islands like Koh Samui, Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta and Koh Lipe. Their fleet consists of 17 B737’s and a bunch of propeller aircrafts.
They also fly international to China, Myanmar, Singapore and Vietnam. No major accidents occurred with Nok Air Thailand flights.
These are the baggage fees for domestic flights in Thailand with Nok Air.
Thai Vietjet Air
One of the smaller low-cost airlines in Thailand with only 7 A320’s. Its main hubs are Phuket Airport and BKK Airport in Bangkok. They serve flights to and from Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Krabi and Phuket. Hand luggage is allowed up to 7KG. There are additional checked baggage fees.
They also fly to Vietnam, Taiwan and India.
This low-cost airline in Thailand is the little brother of Thai Airways. They operate from a hub at Suvaranabhumi BKK Airport and the domestic airport DMK. Since 2012 they are part of the Thai Airways family. Thai Smile flies to 13 domestic destinations in Thailand and 19 international destinations in Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, China, and India. The fleet of Thai Smile consists of 20 Airbus A320’s. Thai Smile offer its passengers free 20 KG baggage allowance.
There have no severe accidents reported about Thai Smile.
Orient Thai Airlines*
After a long history of accidents and sanctions as of July 2018 Orient Thai Airlines suspended all operations. In 2008 a crash with One-Two-Go Airlines (also part of Orient Thai Airlines) killed 89 people on a flight from Bangkok to Phuket. May Orient Thai Airlines start operating again it surely is not one of the best domestic airlines in Thailand and I would not recommend it.
Luggage allowance on domestic flights in Thailand
As you have read above some domestic flights include a piece of luggage, but mostly you will have to pay extra.
- Thai Lion Air --> 10 KG baggage allowance
- Thai Smile --> 20 KG baggage allowance
- NOK Air --> 20 KG = $15 fee
- Thai VietJet Air --> 20KG = $10
- Thai Airways --> 23 KG baggage allowance
- Thai Air Asia --> 20 KG = $15 fee
- Bangkok Airways --> 20 KG baggage allowance
Is you bag ready to fly? Most people traveling to Thailand bring more than cabin baggage only. Backpacking in Thailand doesn't necessarily mean you have to bring a backpack, you can easily bring a suitcase. The advantage of traveling by train and busses through Thailand is that luggage is always included, unfortunately not when taking domestic flights.
Are your bags ready to fly? The picture below is a good way of checking if you can bring your bag on board.
These are the rules for cabin baggage with Air Asia, but other airlines mostly use the same size restrictions. When booking a domestic flight in Thailand don’t be lured by cheap tickets, always check the additional baggage fees!
Best domestic airlines in Thailand in 2023
From my experiences I found Thai Air Asia, Nok Air and Thai Smile ok airlines. I have had no problems flying across the country with these low-cost airlines in Thailand. Bangkok Airways and Thai Lion Air do not have my preference and I would only fly domestic with Thai Airways if the price difference would not be too bad. Good thing about flying domestic with Thai Airlines is that they have a 23KG luggage allowance.
Low-cost airlines mostly operate flights at inconvenient times so be prepared to get up early!
FAQ about domestic flights in Thailand
1. Booking in advanced or last minute
When traveling to Thailand in the high season December to March it is best to book your domestic flights in advanced. However, I have flown last minute in these months in Thailand and prices weren't that bad. Just don't expect to find $15 flights when searching for a last minute flight in the high season.
Overall I wouldn't recommend to book your Thailand holiday in advance and leave some space for last minute decisions in your schedule. Even last minute flight deals will sometimes get you $15 flights. You just have to be a little more flexible and ready to fly very early in the morning.
2. How to get to the airport
My preferred way to get to the airport in Thailand is by taxi. Let your hotel/hostel get you a metered taxi is always a good idea, but the best way is to order one through an app. Get the Grab Taxi app when traveling to Thailand, it will make your trip much more convenient.
3. Be on time
Needless to say of course, but you don't want to know how many travelers show up last minute on the airport. The fact that you only pay $20 USD for your flight doesn't mean you can show up 30 minutes before departure. Even for domestic flights I recommend you to get to the airport 1,5 hours before your flight. Thai Airports are pretty nice and there is mostly free WiFi. I would recommend you to get a Thailand sim card with unlimited data though.
4. Do I need a credit card to book a domestic flight in Thailand?
No, it is not mandatory to have a credit card when booking a flight online, however it will make your life so much easier. I recommend you to get yourself a credit card when traveling internationally. Most taxi apps or food ordering apps require you to have a credit card as well, so why not get one when you go abroad.
Air Asia and NOK Air offer its costumers to pay flights booked directly through their website at some bigger convenient stores like 7 Eleven.
It is NOT recommended to use someone else's credit card for booking a domestic flight in Thailand. When you look closely at the terms & conditions when booking a flight you will see that you will have to show the original credit card that is used for booking when traveling.
NOTE: I have probably taken around 30 domestic flights in Thailand in the last 10 years and no one ever asked me to verify the credit card I made the booking with.
5. Using a travel agent
There is always the option of using a travel agent, which of course is more expensive as these people also need to make money. Travel agents can be useful for booking domestic flights when you don't want to search for the best flight yourself or when you don't own a credit card. You can pay with cash for your flight ticket when booking through a travel agent. You can find travel agents in all the popular tourist destinations in Thailand, but big chance your hotel/hostel also has a travel service.
Other transportation in Thailand?
Just like any other country is traveling in Thailand pretty straight forward. On the streets there are uncountable busses, motorbikes, mini busses and taxi’s to use for your convenience. Tuk Tuks are an iconic way to go around Thailand in the big cities, but often they are much more expensive for tourists than they should be, so be aware to bargain when taking a Tuk Tuk.
Is there Uber in Thailand?
There is no Uber in Thailand, there was Uber in Thailand! Nowadays Uber is replaced by Grab Taxi. It works exactly the same. You can download the app, register yourself and use it. You can pay cash or through your credit card in the app.
Long distance busses
There are loads of different companies that offer long term busses. Popular routes are busses from Chiang Mai to Bangkok and Bangkok to Koh Tao. From Bangkok you can basically go everywhere around the country by bus. Here are some examples of bus routes in Thailand including their prices.
- From Bangkok to Chiang Mai: 10-12 hours - $16-27.
- From Bangkok to Phuket: 15 hours - $19-34.
- From Bangkok to Krabi: 13-18 hours - $22-37.
Long distance busses in Thailand are pretty convenient. I have taken them multiple times mostly from Bangkok to Koh Tao and from Surat Thani to Krabi. There are different classes available, but all long haul tourist busses in Thailand have AC, toilet facilities, complimentary snack/drink, reclining seats and some provide you with blankets during the night. Night busses can get pretty cold add a hoodie to your Thailand packing list.
There are international bus connections as well:
- From Bangkok to Siem Reap, Cambodia: 8-9 hours - $22-30.
- From Bangkok to Vientiane, Laos: 19 hours - $35.
(Overnight) trains in Thailand
Traveling by overnight trains in Thailand can be very convenient, but this comes mainly down to which class you book. There are a different classes and prices available. Thai trains are never on time and travel pretty slow, but if you book one of the upper class tickets they can be a very chill way to travel around Thailand.
There are 4 different train lines in Thailand: Northern Line, Southern Line, Eastern Line and the Northeastern Line. There are also international trains that connect Thailand with Malaysia and Cambodia.
- From Bangkok to Chiang Mai: 11-13 hours - $25-50.
- From Bangkok to Chumpon: 7-9 hours - $17-30.
- From Bangkok to Surat Thani: 11 hours - $24-38.
Book your Thailand train tickets through 12Go Asia. Through the search engine you will see all the prices, times and you don't have to hassle with paper tickets. Try it out below!
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