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Travelling: Driving Up North to Malaysia and Thailand: Thai Highways PDF Print E-mail
Driving Up North: Thai Highways

Thai highways, with the exception of some built-up areas are mostly single carriageways. Well surfaced, the roads are good with the biggest obstacle being slower moving traffic. Moving through the country side you will frequently come across trucks and local town traffic.

Thailand was in the midst of constructing a dual carriageway from its border to Bangkok – see Future Plans - before the Asian crisis hit. Some of the work was done but a lot is still being worked on. Near the border you will find dual carriageways and the Hat Yai bypass. Further towards Bangkok the road again becomes dual carriageway. Beyond Bangkok conditions again deteriorate.

Driving habits of the Thais

The Thais are fairly relaxed drivers and are considerate of other road users. Traffic is slower than Malaysia and the highways are mostly single lane roads. Most traffic in the country consists of pick-ups, motor bikes and large trucks. Truck drivers do try to help those stuck behind them by using their indicators to signal when it is safe to pass. This is a widely used system which, works 9 times out of 10. I just wouldn’t want to be the 10th time when it doesn’t work. You should satisfy yourself that it is clear to overtake rather than take the word (or indicator) of someone else.

Sharing the road

Even where there are dual carriageways these are not always viewed in the same light as a freeway elsewhere. Some of these highways still go through towns and it is common to see people, chickens, buffalos, etc waiting to cross. Bikes drive along both shoulders in the wrong direction and Local farmers often graze their cattle on the medium strip. The cattle seem totally unfazed but drive with caution – hitting a water buffalo at 110kmh will cause massive damage to your car and you will have to compensate the farmer for the loss of his stock.

Under Construction

Despite the economic setbacks the Thais are slowly improving their highway network. This means you will see roadworks. Do be careful as often times these works are not well signposted. Quite often a freeway will turn into a track and you will be directed onto the otherside of the road to share with oncoming traffic. There is significant activity on Phuket Island and on the road north of Hat Yai. Be particularly careful at night as these works are not well lit.

Police Road Blocks

The Thai police post roadblocks at regular intervals. The main purpose I understand is to check for illegal immigrants. Slow down when approaching but do not stop unless signalled as often they are unmanned. If you are driving late at night they will probably want you to stop. Have your passports ready. Most of these guys do not speak English so just smile and be sure to mention your destination.

Future Plans

There are plans for Thailand to link the Malaysian Expressway to the Friendship Bridge, (which joins Thailand with Laos across the Mekong River at Nong Kai) with a country length expressway. The Asian crisis has however put this on hold.

Next: Border Crossings

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