With its central location in the upper heart of the country, Sukhothai remains a perennial favourite among travellers to Thailand. Buses regularly ply the route from other major cities such as Bangkok and Chiang Mai, and although the train doesn’t run directly into Sukhothai, it is possible to combine a train and bus trip from Bangkok. Sukhothai’s small airport is the exclusive domain of Bangkok Airways, who runs a daily flight from the capital.
Usually visitors combine Sukhothai with a visit to Chiang Mai, stopping en-route by bus or train. It’s mid-way between Chiang Mai and Bangkok, around four or six hours drive respectively.
Sukhothai’s airport is part of the growing network of privately-operated runways owned by the boutique carrier Bangkok Airways. It’s small but wonderfully designed with the tropics in mind, and if you want to get to Sukhothai fast this is the best option.
Bangkok Airways runs daily flights from Bangkok, taking 70 minutes, as well as daily flights from Chiang Mai, taking less than an hour.
The private airport is located 27kms from Sukhothai along Route 1195. Buses are waiting to ferry passengers into the city for a reasonable fee.
Sukhothai car transportation
Sukhothai is located along one of the two major highways which run north-south through Thailand from Bangkok to the Myanmar border. The fastest way is to take Route 11 north from Bangkok on a six hour journey. At Phitsanulok, Route 105 veers off to the west heading straight into Sukhothai. Alternatively, drivers can use Route 1 which follows a more westerly path, before hitting Route 101, which runs directly into Sukhothai. From Chiang Mai, take Route 11 until it intersects with Route 101 which will lead into Sukhothai.
There are, of course, dozens of smaller country roads which provide a slower but more scenic way to reach Sukhothai. However, these smaller roads contain their own special hazards such as livestock, inept village drivers and other unnatural obstacles. Always remember, if you drive in Thailand, exercise extreme caution and be alert for reckless drivers.
Buses depart from most major Thai cities to Sukhothai several times each day, usually in three different classes (ordinary, air-con, first class). From Bangkok, buses leave every 30 minutes from 07:00 until 23:00 taking up to seven hours to make the trip. Chiang Mai is another busy departure point, with buses leaving frequently between 07:00 and 02:00 via Tak.
Train transportation to Sukhothai
Although the train doesn’t pass directly through Sukhothai, it stops at the large city of Phitsanulok, one hour to the east. From Phitsanulok, travellers can take a quick and cheap bus ride to Sukhothai which departs every 30 minutes. There are five trains a day departing from Bangkok and Chiang Mai, although the evening trains are less practical since they arrive in Phitsanoluk at unreasonable hours. See our train timetable.
Like most Thai cities, there are plenty of cheap tuk-tuks and songtheaws (minibuses) waiting to take passengers around Sukhothai and the surrounding areas. The new city can be walked without much trouble, but visitors will need transportation to the old city ruins. Songtheaws run constantly from Jarot Withithong Road, near the river in the new city, to the old city, costing 10 baht and taking around 20 minutes to reach the Historical Park. A tuk-tuk ride anywhere in the new city should not cost more than 30 baht, but be prepared to haggle. A tuk-tuk trip to the Old City and back should be no more than 600 baht for the day.
Bike and car hire in Sukhothai
Once at the old city, the best way to get around is to rent a bicycle out front of the entrance to the park. At 20 baht a day (40 baht at the park), it’s hard to beat, but with so many to choose from make sure you pick one that feels new and sturdy.
Bikes can also be rented from virtually every guesthouse in the new city if you feel like transporting yourself out to the old city. There is a tram service within the Historical Park which runs around the old city for 40 baht a ride.
Renting scooters is a very popular way to get around in Thailand. These lightweight motorbikes are easy to ride and better value than cars, but carry all the inherent dangers of riding on two wheels. Most guesthouses rent their own motorcycles for 150-200 baht a day. There are several private car hire companies in Sukhothai, but quality is always an issue in Thailand and we recommend online booking in advance. You won’t be permitted to take your motorbike into the main park complex, however.
Getting to and from Si Satchanalai Historic Park
Your best bet is to hire a car or motorbike and take HWY 101 north for 50kms to new Sri Satchanalai and follow the signs that direct you to the west side of the river. However, there are frequent buses between the two, if you enquire at the local bus station. Upon arrival you will need to catch a songtheaw to the site. Once there you can rent a bike to cover the extensive area.
There is also a train service from Bangkok to Sawankholok (30kms south of Si Satchanalai) once a day. It’s not usually advertised to foreigners and isn’t too practical, but enquiries at the train station will reveal times.