Bus Travel in Thailand
Smooth roads, speedy highways, reserved seats, and a relative lack of honking make bus travel in Thailand a very mellow experience compared with its neighbors. Varying classes mean that you can shop for your budget and comfort level. The Thai government runs Transport Company – “Baw Khaw Saw” or simply “BKS “- which has some form of a bus station in every town in Thailand. It’s best to use the bus companies that run from these stations, as they’re far more reliable and safe than ones that run out of tourist centers.
Here’s a rundown of what your options will look like for long-distance buses in Thailand:
First-class, VIP, and Super VIP: These buses travel long-distances, and are usually air-conditioned (sometimes too much – be sure to put a long-sleeved shirt into your carry-on!). First class buses will have a toilet on board, and the VIP buses will have that and more: these are the top notch buses, with lots of leg room, seats that recline, foot rests, and an attendant that brings you snacks and water. They’re almost always worth the extra cost for long-haul trips.
Warning: the fancy buses that depart and travel to the Khao San Road area seem to be a good deal, but are notorious for theft. It’s happened to us; it’s happened to our friends. Even a luggage lock won’t keep a thief away. It’s always safer to travel with the bus companies that run from the actual bus stations.
Second class air-con: These are slower and make more stops than first class and VIP, but are still perfectly adequate for long-distance travel. They have air-conditioning as well.
Ordinary bus: You’ll still see these fan buses in rural locations; wave your hand and they’ll stop for you. These are good for going from small town to small town; you can’t make a reservation and they’ll stop for anyone on the side of the road.
Making reservations: All buses but ordinary ones can be booked at any BKS station. Purchasing tickets can seem a bit daunting in the bigger stations, as several companies will run buses to popular destinations. What that means is that the bus station will have several different windows for your destination. You can shop around for prices, times, and bus classes.
Occasionally bus companies will have offices both at the station and somewhere in town; these satellite offices are fine to book through.
Using a travel agent is slightly risky, if only because you’re counting on a third party to honestly relay times and prices.
[Photo credit: Nicolas Esposito, Flickr]