While having my lunch in the beachfront town of Hua Hin I saw a peculiar sight, five touring cyclists pedaling through a small back street barely wide enough to accommodate the bulging panniers slung to their bikes. Spotting touring cyclists enjoying the warm February weather and beautiful roads of Thailand isn’t peculiar in itself, but seeing such a large group of touring cyclists riding together is rare indeed. Knowing that the species tends to favor solitary or, at most, paired migration I ventured forth with the intent to meet these intrepid travelers, ask them why they had chosen to cycle in such a large group, and to learn their story. What ensued was a long and enjoyable Q & A session with a friendly group of people who I am thankful to for taking the time to share their experience and knowledge. Their honest and insightful answers are to the benefit of other touring cyclists who are considering a trip in Thailand.
Where are the members of your group originally from?
Three of us are originally from Germany and two of us are from Switzerland.
Where are you cycling from?
Some of us have cycled from Vienna. Others started their trip in Mongolia. We have just recently met up, in person, here in Thailand after being in communication with one another over email.
Where are you going? What is the final destination of your trip?
For some it will be Singapore, by way of Malaysia. Some of us will continue on to Indonesia and perhaps even further. Australia and New Zealand are in the plan for those of us going beyond Singapore. Then maybe South America.
What preparations did you make for coming to Thailand?
We believe you cannot plan for everything. That would not be in the spirit of bicycle touring. We enjoy spontaneity and think it is a big part of travel. But, you do need to stay ready for anything on a bicycle tour; bad weather or somebody getting sick can change your plans very quickly and you must be able to adapt to that.
Also, all of us purchased paper maps from the Reise Company, Lonely Planet guidebooks (for Thailand and the other countries we have cycled through to get here), and made sure that we got the two-month (60 Day) tourist visa to allow for adequate time to cycle through Thailand to the Malaysian border.
**Read more about costs, visas, and medical preparations here – http://bicyclethailand.com/thailand-bicycle-touring-information-costs-visas-communications-medical/
How are you deciding your route?
We use paper maps mostly. These maps are quite reliable and durable for cycle touring, although they do not have very much detail for finding smaller roads. They are plastic and therefore can withstand the wear and tear associated with cycle touring. We have also used Google Maps online as a reference to get an idea of where we are and where we would like to go. It is a good resource, but you must have Internet access to be able to use it. Sometimes it has been difficult to find Internet access or the connectivity is not so good in places we have been during our trip.
**Read more about maps, accommodation, and food here – http://bicyclethailand.com/thailand-bicycle-touring-information-maps-accomodation-transport-food/
What do you find easy about cycle touring in Thailand?
The Thai drivers seem very tolerant of cyclists, more so than in other Asian countries we have traveled. Many of the roads in Thailand have good quality shoulders that can accommodate cyclists, even though they are not specifically bicycle lanes. Also, riding in Thailand feels more like we are on holiday than the tough cycling we have experienced in other countries. Finding accommodation, food and water is very easy here in Thailand. It seems like there is a petrol station along the road every 10 kilometers with bathrooms, water, and many other things we need. Finding these basic needs while cycling in other countries can be very time consuming and frustrating.
Compared to many other countries, Thailand seems to have Internet access in many places. Most days we are able to find Wi-Fi spots along our route where we can check email and such, even if it is not always available at the guesthouse where we end up staying for the night.
What do you find difficult about cycle touring in Thailand?
Riding through Bangkok! Even though we rode through on a weekend day, Sunday, which we thought would be less busy; we still had a nerve-wracking and tough day of cycling, as a group, on the roads out of Thailand’s capital.
Did you bring your own bikes on this trip? Is it difficult to find spare parts for your bikes?
All of us did bring our own bicycles from our home countries. And we have had good success in having spare parts and other things we need along our trip shipped out to us from companies that we order from online. So far, we have not needed anything for our trip here in Thailand. Getting things mailed to a destination where you know you will be going is always a good idea, but sometimes, in emergencies, you have to order something and then wait in a place for a couple of days while it is delivered. This is ok, because you have a little rest in a place where maybe you would not have planned to stay very long. Always be flexible with your schedule.
What is your daily budget for cycling in Thailand?
We don’t have a daily budget for Thailand, per se. But while we are here we have been looking for guesthouses in the range of 200-400 Baht. We just ate lunch for less than 60 Baht each but the meal portion of Phad Thai was very small in our opinion. We don’t mind spending a little extra for more food. We love Thai food and it seems like we are always stopping to eat. Food is an important part of bicycle touring for us.
**Read more about determining a daily budget for cycling in Thailand here – http://bicyclethailand.com/price-per-day-touring-in-thailand/
Have any of you traveled to Thailand prior to this cycle touring trip?
All of us have very little to no experience with Thailand. Even though two in our group did spend a very short holiday here some time ago, we all feel that we are really seeing Thailand for the first time on this cycling trip.
Why did you choose the month of February to cycle in Thailand?
We knew that this time of year is good weather in Thailand. Also, since we are all coming to Thailand from other countries that we have cycled through it just so happened that we are here at this time. We know that this is a good time for weather in Southeast Asia in general.
**Read more about times, roads, and hazards here – http://bicyclethailand.com/thailand-bicycle-touring-information-times-roads-hazards-safety/
What advice would you give to other cyclists thinking about coming to tour in Thailand?
Don’t bring a tent and sleeping bag. You will not need it, the guesthouses can be found very easily and the price is very good. We did camp in many other countries we have cycled through, but we will not need to while we are here in Thailand. Try all of the food, it is wonderful. Don’t worry about having to carry a lot of water, you can find water in many places along the road. Always be flexible with your plans. I think we all agree that being flexible is a big part of enjoying bicycle touring in any country.
**Read more about how to have a comfortable cycle touring experience in Thailand here – http://bicyclethailand.com/tips-for-comfortable-cycle-touring-in-thailand/
**Read these 5 tips for a successful bike tour here – http://bicyclethailand.com/tips-for-a-successful-bicycle-tour/
How does Thailand compare to other countries you have done cycle touring in?
We can give you the Pros and Cons of what we have experienced so far during this part of our trip in Thailand. We will spend a few more weeks cycling through Thailand so maybe these will change, but so far:
- The Pros – great food, inexpensive accommodations, good roads, and easy to find maps & route information.
- The Cons – cycling through Bangkok. It is not impossible, but it is not very enjoyable.
If one was to be produced, what would you like to see detailed in a cycle touring guide for Thailand?
Approximate distances between accommodations (hotels and guesthouses) so that cyclists know their options. Routes that get cyclists off of highways and on to scenic back roads. Some type of membership or discount style program for touring cyclists at hotels and guesthouses. Also, hotels and guesthouses that have safe, secure location for bicycles to park overnight. Paper maps and route details that give information that help cyclists to have an easier trip.
Big thanks go out to Jens & Sabine, Susanne & Rene’, and Ralph for taking the time out of their cycling holiday to sit and answer these questions about their cycle touring experience in Thailand. Visit the websites of these travelers at the following links to view photos of their trip:
Planning a cycling trip in Thailand? Want to remove some of the guesswork when it comes to routes and information? BicycleThailand.com offers GPS route data for touring cyclists that can be used on a GPS device, smartphone, or tablet. These routes can be viewed on your device regardless of internet access during your Thailand cycling adventure. Learn more about our Thailand GPS cycle touring routes.