How To Drive In Thailand And Get Around Safely.
So you are going to be driving around Bangkok and you don’t want to get lost. That’s easier said than done. You may have somebody local along for the ride but that doesn’t mean they’re good with directions. And even if they have an innate sense of direction you still might still find yourself adrift in a bobbling sea of cars and unmarked streets. Guess what? You need a GPS.
Why Use A GPS When You Drive In Thailand?
Having a GPS provides a security blanket for your driving anxiety in Bangkok. No matter where you end up, you can always find your way home…eventually. If you have a GPS you’ll never be lost. Without doubt you can experience long moments of confusion, but you’ll never be lost.
Now keep in mind using a GPS when you drive in Thailand is a whole different ball of wax than using one in a Western country. Why? Let’s have a look at the challenges and advantages of using a GPS when you drive in Thailand.
Is It Accurate?
The first challenge of using a GPS when you drive in Thailand is that the GPS map and what you see in front of you often don’t match. I’ve been on the highway when the GPS tells me to exit in 100 meters. When I get there, there’s no exit. I look back and see I passed the exit before the place the GPS indicated. What happened? They redesigned that exit ramp a couple years back and it still doesn’t show in an up-dated GPS.
That happens frequently as I use my GPS to get around when I drive in Thailand. I’ve been on whole stretches of highway which aren’t indicated in the GPS map despite the fact they’ve obviously been built years ago.
Can I Make A U-turn Or Not?
Another thing I run into are non-existent u-turns. As you know if you drive in Thailand, it’s a country of u-turns. All drivers depend on regular opportunities to u-turn. So does your GPS. The problem is the GPS will frequently deliver you to an inoperable u-turn. For whatever reason, the u-turn has been closed, or it’s only available at certain times of the day. It can make for an exasperating experience especially if you’re on a time line.
So Many Exits, So Little Time!
The other interesting feature of trying to use the GPS is really no fault of the GPS. There are so many highway exits in Thailand which are really three exits in one. You take the original exit off the highway and within a couple seconds you’re presented with three forks to choose from. If you’re relying solely on your GPS for directions it won’t be able to respond fast enough to set you on the right path.
I’ve actually taken the wrong fork a few times because I only had seconds to make my guess while waiting for the GPS to issue it’s directions. It’s a sinking feeling to be veering left when your GPS suddenly says veer right. But, to it’s credit, the GPS re-calculates and puts you back on course after your detour.
Will The GPS Find My Thai Girl’s Village In Isaan?
Finally, many many Thai addresses won’t be recognizable to your GPS when you drive in Thailand. In the city the numbering system for the side-roads may confuse your GPS and in the countryside the villages can be a confusing enough tangle of houses and dirt roads to crash any global satellite.
If my GPS doesn’t recognize the address I want I usually try to direct it to a nearby landmark I know will be in it’s databank. That way I at least end up in the right area.
Why Should You Have A GPS When I Drive In Thailand?
So you may be wondering why you should bother to have a GPS in Thailand. That’s a legitimate enough question given the pitfalls I’ve described. Let’s look at the advantages.
You’ll Get There, Eventually.
First of all, as I’ve mentioned, if you make a mistake it re-routes and puts you back on a course to get to your destination. You may end up going the long way but at least you end up at your destination. You have to be prepared to use more time than you thought. It’s never a good idea to be in a hurry when you drive in Thailand.
Take The Long Way Home!
Secondly, you can always find your way home. Set your home address in the GPS and you’ll always be able to get back no matter how disoriented you become on the roads. On occasion I’ve intentionally drove around aimlessly for the sake of exploring the area. I can do that without worry because I have the GPS. I just tell it “Go home!” and I’m on my way.
Find The Nearest Gas!
Finally, and this is the big one, it provides peace of mind. Not only will it take you home but it can find gas and food for you. It can find accommodations if you suddenly decide you need to stop for the night. Are you visiting a new city and want to go out for entertainment? It can show you options for that too.
Don’t Be Too Dependent On Your Thai Girl.
It may be a challenge to use a GPS when you drive in Thailand but it’s worth it to have one. There will be times when your Thai girl has no idea which way to go. There will be times when your Thai girl isn’t with you while you’re driving. Save yourself the embarrassing trouble of having to find a place to pull over and call your Thai girl for directions. Get yourself a GPS for your drive in Thailand.
Marc Lewis is a 50-year-old Canadian who has traveled the world extensively both on his own and leading student tours. He’s worked as a high school teacher, business executive and photojournalist. Two years ago Marc met a lovely Thai girl online and moved to Thailand. He currently makes his residence in Bangkok.