If you’re looking for a truly adventurous way to experience Thai culture, try this self-guided Thailand cycle tour. In this post, we review our 10 days cycling Thailand and help you decide if this bike tour is right for you.
“Follow us!” Two serious-looking men in military uniforms beckoned us from their open-topped golf cart. We’d been cycling the spectacular coastline of southern Thailand all day and were taking a short cut along the road through the regional military base.
Now, after stopping for a quick rest, we were being summoned by soldiers.
Climbing back on our bikes, we followed obediently, wondering what was in store. About 200 metres down the road, the soldiers pulled up in front of a tree and pointed.
A hundred innocent round eyes gazed at us from their leafy hiding place.
The local family of mischievous binocular monkeys had come to gawk at us humans and a few other stray tourists who were gathered. They are a tourist attraction on the base, and people come by to feed them while snap thousands of photos. Watch the video below to see the monkeys and more!
While we didn’t feed them, we did take the chance to watch them as they played in the tree — and to watch the brave few dart forward to snatch bits of bananas and potato chips from the other humans.
We were only a couple of days into our self-guided cycle tour of Thailand, and were enjoying every minute.
Though we’ve had the chance to bike Thailand before — through northern, central, and eastern Thailand — we’ve never cycled the southern peninsula. Our only trip in the region was on an overnight train, which shot us from Bangkok to the Malaysian border without us seeing a thing.
This time, we wanted to explore the area properly, experiencing the vibrand Thai nature and culture up close.
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Check out our big guide to cycle touring before you head out!
On the Grasshopper Adventures self-guided Thailand cycle tour, we got to cycle from Bangkok to Phuket. We visited pristine beaches with no one on them, cycled through dense jungles with the sound of cicadas drilling into our earholes, and pedalled through local villages, where every kid for miles around yelled “Hello” and “How are you?” as we rolled past.
Note: We received a discount on this tour from Grasshopper but, of course, we would never recommend anything or any company we didn’t love.
Read on to discover…
What to Expect from a Thailand Cycle Tour
Watch our video to see the day-to-day highlights of this bike tour.
Day 1–2: Getting our bike legs back
On paper, Bangkok to Phuket sounds like an exciting bike ride. However, on seeing the Bangkok traffic, any sane person might have second thoughts.
Luckily, this bike tour starts with a train ride. Early on day one, we met our guide Kan at Bangkok’s busy main train station. By the time we got there, he had already gotten our two bikes and gear on the train and was ready and waiting with our tickets.
Last time we were at this station, we had our own fully loaded bikes with us. This time, instead of wrangling with station staff and lugging our heavy gear around, we just had to hop on the train and take a seat.
During the short ride to Hua Hin, Kan went over the complete 10-day bike route with us, giving us all the little details that only someone who had ridden the route several times could give.
On arrival in Hua Hin, we were shuttled to our seaside resort and told to relax until the next morning, when we’d hit the road.
The next morning was all about working the kinks out. Kan helped us set up our bikes to the right height and made sure we understood the Wahoo bike computers and the iPhone app that Grasshopper had provided. And then it was time to hit the road.
With the route mapped for us on the computer, all we had to do was pedal the bikes and watch the scenery go by. We watched exotic birds soar overhead, fishing boats bob in the sea, and smelled the fragrant scent of Thai foliage baking in the heat.
But the highlight of the day, clearly marked in our Grasshopper app, was the pineapple farm stand. As soon as we cycled up, the attendant thrust two spears of fresh pineapple in our hands. It was by far the best pineapple we’ve ever tasted – and we bought two big bags (for less than $2) for the road.
Fast bikes and easy roads made the first day go by quickly, and before we knew it, we had arrived at the designated resort for the night and were cooling off in the villa-front pool.
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Day 3-7: Beaches and coastline
For the next three days, we would bike Thailand’s extraordinary east coast. Though the beaches here draw tourists from every corner of the world, travelling by bike it often felt as though we were the only foreigners in the country.
The route winds its way on and off the shore, so we had plenty of variation throughout the day. One hour, we were peddling past miles of empty golden beaches and the next, winding past shrimp farms and swamplands where our passing would roust huge flocks of birds from the tall grasses.
We stopped in the grounds of spectacular wats to watch families of monkeys play in the trees. We wound our way on concrete paths through palm groves, coconut groves, and rubber plantations. We stripped off on deserted beaches to jump into the cool sea, with only God to see us.
Depending on when you go, cycle touring Thailand can be hot work. In early December, we sweated so much it felt as though we were springing tiny leaks all over our bodies.
Each morning, I worried about not being strong enough to complete the day’s ride. Each afternoon, we arrived at the next comfy resort, surprisingly energetic, ready for a swim and a huge cyclist’s dinner. Each evening, we reflected on the day past, thankful that had chosen to ride our bikes through such a diverse region.
By Day 6, we felt we had truly earned our rest day. And, as if to enforce the rest, we saw our first rain of the trip.
Our seaside resort bore the brunt of a storm so huge that rain water flowed freely into our room as the staff scurried in and out, bringing fresh towels to soak up the mess. There was nothing we could do but wonder at the power of nature and rest.
Day 7–8: Cycling into the Jungle
Early on day 7, the rain was still pounding down around us. Lucky for us, the tail-end of the storm coincided with a planned transfer by van. Our driver arrived first thing in the morning with his young son to load us and all our gear in the van for a 200 km drive to get past a boring and busy stretch of road.
We watched the rain come down and the traffic speed past from the dry comfort of the van, grateful to not be off the bikes for a while.
Skies were blue again by the time we were dropped off, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, to begin our climb inland. For the next two days, we’d be exploring the centre of the peninsula, and slowly rolling towards the Andaman coast.
Even with a bit of climbing, we had an amazingly fast ride. Grasshopper’s Lynskey titanium road bikes made easy what would have been a huge chore on our regular rides — fully loaded steel Surly Long-Haul Trucker touring bikes.
For us, the novelty of lightly loaded light bikes meant we were moving much faster than we’d anticipated.
I reached our top speed of the trip on a short stretch of downhill, hitting 59.4kph right before completely freaking out that I was going so fast on this tiny piece of equipment!
After leaving the coastline, we met with huge smiles and waves from kids and adults as we ventured where tourists rarely go.
We got to see a Buddhist temple from the Ayutthaya period, Wat Tham Singkhom, carved into the inside of a mountain. The trail led us up and up inside the cave, which was lined with hundreds of Buddha statues and home to thousands of squeaking bats.
We visited Ratchaprapha Dam, a beautiful, but also depressing, testament to man’s dominance over our natural landscape. We crossed a suspension bridge, which was jammed with Thai tourists, but complete absent of any other foreigners.
When we arrived at Anurak Community Lodge, in the heart of Khao Sok National Park, we were happy to find an eco-resort, with guest rooms in small stilt huts dotted through the jungle. The lodge attracts lots of European tourists who want to get off the beaches and spend some time trekking and boating through the jungle. It was so homey and welcoming, I wanted to stay for days.
Day 9–10: To the Andaman Coast
Descending out of the jungle and back into the land of fast cars came as a bit of a shock. The last couple of days on this tour were mostly about the road, with wide highways making up much of the route. That is the nature of long-distance cycling though — sometimes the only road available is not the one you’d choose.
There were a few interesting diversions along the way. We passed through a Muslim village on a side road, unusual in this land of Buddhism.
We explored the countryside too, marvelling at how quickly you can leave behind a busy rumbling highway and find yourself in a silent landscape.
Finally, we were crossing the Sarasin bridge that links the island of Phuket to the mainland. Ten days of travelling slowly had sped by like lightning!
We pulled into our final resort of the trip and in minutes were bidding a sad goodbye to our bicycles as our driver loaded them securely into his van.
Suddenly, and regretfully, we were back to being “regular” tourists, stuck on the schedule and routes of busses, ferries, trains and planes, completely reliant on someone else to get us where we wanted to go.
What is the Cycling Like on this Bike Tour?
Titanium Road Bikes
As touring cyclists, we are used to riding our heavy steel Surly Long-Haul truckers, equipped with wide tires and fully loaded gear racks. Our full set-up when we’re touring is around 40–50kg!
For most of their self-guided tours, Grasshopper provides an all-purpose hybrid or mountain bike. For their Thailand bike tours, you can choose to upgrade to Lynskey Cooper titanium road bikes.
We highly recommend the upgrade if you can get it. Compared to our steel touring bikes, or to a hybrid, these Lynskey bikes are a dream.
We found ourselves easily coasting along at 20kph with little effort and when on highways or flat roads, we’d easily maintain 40kph. Unlike so many rental bikes we have had, these bikes were very well cared for, in perfect condition, and set up properly too.
E-bikes with pedal assist are also available if you’re worried that your legs can’t quite take it!
Wahoo Bike Computers
Grasshopper provides each rider with a Wahoo bike computer, with each day’s route pre-loaded. When we tour long-term, we usually don’t ride with a bike computer, so this was also new to us.
We loved how simple it was to navigate with the Wahoo — we only missed a couple of turns in 10 days of cycling (and that was down to human error).
Since Grasshopper takes care of luggage transfer on this tour, you don’t need to carry much on the bike.
They gave us each a small top-mounted back rack pannier to carry our day-to-day gear. Grasshopper also provided a little kit for bike first aid — including tire leavers and patch kit, a bike multi-tool, a few spare tubes, and a spare chain link. We never had to use any of it but it was good to know it was available, just in case.
Small bike fixes are up to you on this self-guided tour but for any bigger emergencies the Grasshopper support team is just a phone call away.
Roads and Hills
This tour takes you on all kinds of roads, from busy four-lane highways to narrow winding paths through coconut farms.
The highway riding only happens when there is no plausible way around. Although Thai traffic is fast and furious, highways tend to have wide, well-paved shoulders, so you can keep well out of the way.
The country roads ranged from perfect, smooth asphalt, to slightly bumpy concrete slabs, to pot-holed roads in need of an upgrade. The rough sections were rare though, as Thailand puts a lot of effort and money into maintaining roads.
The range of surfaces means you get a great variety in your rides, from head-down fast pedalling on the highways, to leisurely meandering through the countryside.
Having not been on a bike in quite a while before this tour, I was worried about climbing the hills up over the middle of the peninsula. Though there are a couple of good climbs on the tour, there is nothing hellish or unmanageable — especially on the lightweight Lynskey bikes!
What’s the Food Like?
As you may know, bike tours are fuelled by food, so availability and quality of food is the most important aspect of any cycle tour. On a Thailand bike tour, food is easy to find and almost always tasty.
Every hotel on the tour offers included breakfast, which usually consisted of a large buffet of Western and Thai foods. Even as vegans, we managed to get a good breakfast most morning, which is not always easy when we travel!
Our dinners were almost always great. The Grasshopper app recommends places to eat almost every night and we never had a problem getting fed. Most nights we ate Thai food but we also had some excellent Indian and Italian food.
Lunch was the trickiest meal and we didn’t always find something great to eat. The app does provide a few good suggestions, but some days, we were stuck eating at 7-11 or at a questionable roadside restaurant. Of course, for omnivores, it’s much easier to find food on the road, since you can grab a bite at any roadside stall.
If you have any special dietary requirements and you plan to cycle Thailand, brush up on your Thai before you go!
(Don’t miss: If you’re vegan or vegetarian, use our guide to being vegan in Thailand to help you on the tour) →
Part of the great convenience of this bike tour is that Grasshopper arranges all accommodation ahead of time, so you just have to go where the bike computer tells you. I can’t even begin to calculate how many hours this saved us — we usually spend ages doing research online or trawling city streets looking for a decent hotel.
Most of the accommodation is in 3-star resorts with big rooms, tempting swimming pools, and often right at the beach too. Breakfast was included every morning.
Only one night was seriously disappointing, in a “resort” that had seen much better days. We’ve since heard from Grasshopper than they are looking at a much better property for that night.
Our favourite stop was at the Anurak Community Lodge in the middle of Khao Sok National Park. We met a more intrepid kind of tourist there, rather than just beach lovers on a week-long break from work. We also loved the eco-friendly vibe and the open-air restaurants, set in the middle of the jungle.
If you can spare the time, arrange with Grasshopper to spend an extra night here, so you get a chance to explore the park.
Practical Tour Details
Best time to cycle tour Thailand
The best time to go is during the relatively cool months of November, December and January. We started in the first week of December which was hot but almost perfect weather.
If you can’t go then, Grasshopper also recommends July and August, when the rains come and fields are vibrant green.
Days and distance
The tour is 11 days total, with 10 days on the bike. You’ll cycle about 585 km, with very little overall elevation change.
$1990 USD per person, for a minimum of two people. Includes bikes and equipment, all accommodation, daily breakfast, plus luggage transport and support if needed. There is a single supplement if you want to go it alone or need to have your own room.
Tour start and end
The tour starts in Bangkok but you don’t cycle from there. Instead, you’ll take the train to Hua Hin on the first day and cycle from there on day 2. The tour ends in Phuket, where you can stay for a few days of recovery. Or, hop on a ferry to Koh Lanta or Koh Kradan for some laid-back island time. If you need to get straight home, plenty of flights leave from Phuket airport.
What should you bring on this Thailand cycle tour?
When cycling Thailand, you really don’t need much! Make sure you pack (or buy) these key items:
- Coral-friendly sunscreen
- Deet-based mosquito repellent
- Cycling shorts
- Chamois cream
- Moisture wicking t-shirt
- Bathing suit / swimming costume
- Camera / GoPro
Grasshopper will give you a complimentary cycling jersey, so leave room for that in your luggage.
Who should do the tour?
You don’t have to be a cycling nut to do this tour but you should probably have experienced one or two long-distance rides and have a good level of fitness. Since you are on your own, you can take each day as slowly or as quickly as you like.
At least one member of your group should know how to change a flat tire on a bike. You can learn online or at your local bike shop before you go.
This type of tour is a perfect way to incorporate some cycling into your longer Thailand holiday. You can also arrange a shorter tour by contacting Grasshopper Adventures.
A self-guided tour is also perfect for cycling enthusiasts who just don’t have the time or patience to gather together all their gear and ship it to Thailand for an independent cycle tour.
How to book this bike tour
Click for more details of the Grasshopper Cycle Thailand Coast to Coast self-guided tour. You can book on the website and contact Grasshopper if you have any questions.
Other Recommended Cycle Tours in Thailand
If you don’t think a self-guided tour is quite right for you but you still like the idea of a cycling adventure in Thailand, take a look at some of the other tours Grasshopper Adventures offers. They have multi-day and one-day tours to suit most interests.
Cruising the Coast to Samui, 5 Days
If want to cycle Thailand’s southern peninsula but don’t really want to spend 10 whole days on a bike, this cycle tour from Bangkok to Koh Samui could be ideal. You’ll get the full experience of cycling Thailand’s backroads and beautiful coastlines before landing in paradise on Ko Tao, Ko Phangan or Ko Samui — your choice!
Thailand Bike, Boat & Beach, 8 Days
This tour combines a classic river cruise with cycling and beach time to make one perfectly rounded Thailand adventure. You can cycle as much or as little as you wish, taking in spectacular river views and relaxing on the boat on non-cycling days. At the end, you’ll spend a few days on the peaceful island of Koh Yao.
Chiang Mai Kingdoms of the North, 9 Days
If you’d rather climb hills than lie on the beach, this tour is for you. Explore the best of northern Thailand by bike, including visiting the incredible White Temple (Wat Rong Khun), riding a long tail boat, exploring coffee and tea plantations, trekking bamboo forests, and of course, cycling the breathtaking northern Thai hills! Don’t worry, there’s always a support vehicle on hand if you want to just relax and enjoy the scenery.
♥ Happy transformational travels, Jane & Stephen
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