Travel around Thailand gets easier as low-cost airline boom continues

A night on a sleeper train used to be a mark of prestige for travelers in backpacking paradise Thailand, but all that could be about to change thanks to the rapid growth of low-cost airlines.

Thai Airways, the country's main airline, confirmed this week that it is to launch another low-cost carrier in July next year, operating from Bangkok to allow travelers to travel easily within the country.

The flight times of the new 'Thai Smile' will be co-ordinated with those of Thai Airways, a statement said, allowing vacationers to fly in and transfer to another destination without needing to transit Bangkok.

A total of 11 aircraft will be operating from Suvarnabhumi Airport, the capital's main hub, to popular tourism destinations such as Ubon Ratchathani, Khon Kaen, Chiang Rai, and Surat Thani.

Thai's booming tourism trade and economic development have made it into a popular target for low-cost airlines - Thai Tiger Airways, a partnership with Singapore carrier Tiger Airways, is also slated to take off soon.

Less popular with tourists, but still useful ways of getting around, are Thai Nok and Thai Wings, which also offer internal flights at fairly low prices.

All this could mean even lower prices from AirAsia, Malaysia's famous red carrier, which has made a name for itself with travelers to the country by rapidly expanding and flying to some 25 destinations from Suvarnabhumi, including many outside of the country.

The multitude of low-cost airlines in Thailand is sure to please budget-concious travelers - but it could mean the end of a night on a Thai train as a quintessential backpacking experience.

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