GPS for Thailand
We love our gadgets and have used Garmin GPS for Thailand for a few years now. If you’re planning a Thai road trip, or driving any distance either across Thailand or in its big cities, we recommend Garmin’s GPS maps for Thailand. Not because the product is fantastic, but because it’s the best available. Although Amazon reviews aren’t terribly favourable, it’s all there is. You’re better off with it than without. Having tried and tested (and hated) the other options (including Google Maps – see why, below), we recommend Garmin as the best GPS for Thailand, especially while in Bangkok and other big-ish cities like Chiang Mai, Pattaya and heading cross-country.
[Nearly as east as you can go in Thailand: coastal road Chanthaburi Province, between Rayong and Trat]
Garmin GPS for Thailand
- Maps: Garmin City Navigator Southeast Asia NT (+ UK version)
- Device: Garmin nüvi 3490LMT (or newer model, Garmin Nuvi 57LM)
- Accessories: suction mount + travel case
GPS for Thailand: Top X FAQs
#1. Is GPS necessary in Thailand?
You only need GPS in Thailand if you’re planning on doing any driving (A) between two points in Thailand (say heading up north from Bangkok, or taking a road trip from Koh Samui to Phuket, etc) or (B) driving in and around major cities. In these cases, GPS will be useful at some points in your journey. We’ve used it to (successfully) drive between Bangkok and Koh Samui on a number of occasions.
[Coastal road in Phuket]
TIP! When don’t you need GPS for Thailand? Are you just coming to play regular beach tourist? If so, GPS isn’t necessary. For day-to-day tourist navigation and getting around on foot or by taxi/songthaew – you won’t need it at all.
#2. Is Garmin GPS for Thailand in English?
Yes, don’t worry! Garmin’s maps for Thailand are in English, not Thai. All roads and place names are transposed in English. Now, whether you can pronounce something like ‘Suvarnabhumi’ (BKK Airport), that’s another matter.
#3. What is Garmin Thailand’s of detail?
Garmin Thailand’s GPS detail throughout the country is quite reasonable, except for Koh Samui (see below). While it lacks the detail we’re accustomed to seeing for European, North American or Australian roads, it’s a good asset in cities (trying to drive out of Bangkok to Pattaya, for instance).
[Garmin City Navigator Southeast Asia NT has good coverage of Bangkok and other big-ish Thai cities like Pattaya]
#4. What do Garmin City Navigator Southeast Asia road maps include?
Several Southeast Asian countries are included in the map set, so if you enjoy your first road trip in Thailand, you can quickly plan the next.
The best way to use GPS in Thailand
First tip – stick to main roads. While Garmin Thailand will get you from Bangkok to Koh Samui, we wouldn’t recommend it for exploring byways along the route. You will swear at it at some point but, on arrival, you’ll kiss and make up.
Our very cleverest tip
Use Garmin’s GPS for Thailand together with a paper road map. The paper map will have more detail, but the GPS has your back for the journey in macro – greatly improving your chances of making crucial turns and exits. Also consider who will be assisting your navigation. Does your co-pilot have a good sense of direction, or will they probably fall asleep in the car on a nice, hot, sunny day?
[If you’re really lucky, you might spot wild elephants on your drive, especially in northern Thailand]
Google Maps in Thailand (what not to do)
For driving directions in Thailand, don’t bother with Google Maps on your phone! Unlike Garmin, Google’s maps want to default into Thai, meaning an ongoing techno-battle (lots of swearing and road rage). We’ve tried it. Never again. If you can’t read Thai, don’t bother using Google Maps to navigate in Thailand. Additionally, unless you have very attractive data roaming rates, it’s not a possibility. Detail on Google Maps is no better than on a GPS, and what happens if your phone loses coverage?
Garmin maps for Koh Samui?
Is GPS useful for Koh Samui? No. Once you’ve used your Garmind to drive to Koh Samui from elsewhere, stick it in your luggage and forget it’s there. Koh Samui has just one ring road, and that’s about as much detail as the Garmin maps have available.
When first creating The Koh Samui Guide, we had the clever idea to “include some maps”. This after-thought ending up taking over the whole project, as no detailed English maps exist for Koh Samui whatsoever. As such, we’re very aware of what’s required (and what’s available) to navigate both Koh Samui, and around Thailand generally.
Many of Koh Samui’s smaller roads don’t appear on the Garmin map. For tourist purposes, a free map available at any hotel would be far more useful. (The Koh Samui Guide now has a number of detailed maps – painstakingly made!). Despite just one ring road, and a handful of secondary roads, it can be hard to find restaurants and attractions – or require fraught U-Turns. Major landmarks tend to have road signs leading the way.
[Only Koh Samui’s major roads exist on Garmin’s GPS Maps for Thailand – but we don’t recommend exploring dirt tracks and small side roads, anyway – tourists often get lost in Samui’s massive jungle and require rescue]
GPS for Thailand – our thumbs-up conclusion
While Garmin’s Thailand GPS maps (or UK version) are by no means required packing, they’ll be a useful part of a vacation or business trip that will include some cross-Thailand or Bangkok driving. Happy travels!