Background Simulation-Based Medical Education (SBME) is a teaching method commonly used in undergraduate medical education. Although Thai medical schools have developed a system that incorporates SBME, various aspects of that system require improvement. We surveyed medical school administrators, instructors, and students about SBME in their institutions and the obstacles involved in its implementation, as well as their experiences, expectations, and attitudes regarding the current system. Methods We conducted a cross-sectional online survey between August 2019 and July 2020 among administrators, instructors, and 6th-year medical students. A structured questionnaire was developed and distributed to volunteers as an online survey. We recorded details about the SBME system as well as participant characteristics, obstacles, experiences, expectations, and attitudes. We used descriptive statistics as appropriate. Results We received responses from 15 (68.2%) administrators, 186 instructors, and 371 (13.7%) sixth-year medical students. SBME was commonly used in teaching and evaluation but less so in research. It was mainly used to improve psychomotor tasks, knowledge, patient care, and communication skills. The expected outcomes were improvements in students’ performance, knowledge, and practice. The clinical courses were longer and had fewer participants than the pre-clinical courses. Obstacles encountered included shortages of faculty and simulators, time and space limitations, inadequate faculty training, and insufficient financial support. The administrators surveyed had positive attitudes toward SBME. Medical students reported having experience with SBME and strongly agreed that it was beneficial; however, they expected fewer students per class and more learning time to be devoted to these methods. Conclusions SBME in Thailand is focused on teaching and assessment. The system could be improved through better-trained faculty, greater available space, more simulators, and sufficient funding. There were also some aspects that failed to meet students’ expectations and need to be addressed. However, participants expressed positive attitudes toward SBME. Trial Registration TCTR20210524003 (Thai Clinical Trials Registry). Supplementary Information The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1186/s12909-022-03369-9.