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Bus Travel in Thailand

  • Deliamcnama-
    ra

    Joined Travelfish
    12th February, 2013
    Posts: 1

    Please can I urge all of you travellers who are considering travelling by bus, especially overnight bus, not to do so.
    There have been many horrendous accidents, I have been looking at the statistics whilst in a Bangkok hospital with my 21 year old son and his friends. Two of them are in intensive care and one has an amputation as a result of an overnight bus accident in Chumphon last week. They were on their way to Koh Samui. PLEASE TAKE CARE ALL OF YOU

    #1 Posted: 13/2/2013 - 10:21

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  • tezza

    Joined Travelfish
    13th April, 2006
    Posts: 1291
    Total reviews: 61

    Our thoughts are with your son and friends, Delia.
    And thanks for the reminder that road travel in Thailand is considerably more dangerous than in western countries. Something to consider when weighing the option of flights vs long distance buses.

    #2 Posted: 14/2/2013 - 18:47

  • exacto

    Joined Travelfish
    12th February, 2006
    Location United States
    Posts: 2394
    Total reviews: 47
    Places visited:
    At least 98

    Sorry to hear this. I've never been a fan of the long-haul, overnight buses either. Considering how many buses are on the road at any given time in Thailand, the number of crashes is relatively infrequent. But when they do crash, it is often pretty severe, particularly with the overnight buses.

    As tezza says, this is really something to consider when planning your trip. Flights are often a good alternative, as are the overnight sleeper trains, if the train goes to your destination. Another choice is to travel by bus during the day and break up your trip with an overnight stopover or two and get to see a few off-the-beaten-path places.

    Travel smart. Be safe. Best wishes.

    #3 Posted: 14/2/2013 - 21:07

  • LeonardCohe-
    n1

    Joined Travelfish
    24th July, 2012
    Posts: 2148
    Total reviews: 11

    Yes o/n buses are terrible. For a lousy $20-30 extra you can fly and planes over 20 years have very few crashes, especially the bigger airlines.

    #4 Posted: 16/2/2013 - 23:59

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6269
    Total reviews: 10

    The top end VIP busses are definitely better. There are usually two people in the cab (to minimize the risk of the driver falling asleep) and the drivers are higher quality as well. They're paid better. There is less time pressure because there is less traffic, so less incentive to drive crazy. I took the bus from Mukdahan to Khon Kaen - a nightmare with an insane driver. We got off at Kalasin after we'd had all we could take and took a van the rest of the way. But if you are going to a long haul destination that has no air hub, it's bus or nothing.

    #5 Posted: 17/2/2013 - 05:45

  • squaretheci-
    rcle

    Joined Travelfish
    19th October, 2011
    Posts: 132
    Total reviews: 5

    I had a scary ride from North Thailand to Udon Thani on the top deck of one of these buses. The drivers are freaking nuts, passing trucks on blind curves in the mountains, and the like. For the north of Thailand the bus company Nakhonchai Air has a very good safety record and is like flying business class, except in a bus, and costs a mere 20% more than the "shady" bus companies. They follow the speed limit, have a free meal stop included in the price, have good new buses, etc. For the south of Thailand, the train works well.

    Good luck to you and your son. Hope the recovery is quick and smooth.

    #6 Posted: 17/2/2013 - 05:46

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6269
    Total reviews: 10

    Oh and you might consider wearing your seatbelt when you ride the bus in Thailand. I usually have to dig mine out from under the seat because it hasn't been used, but it's buried in there. No seatbelt and you're flying all that thing until you fly out of it - and usually then die.

    #7 Posted: 17/2/2013 - 05:51

  • Xircal

    Joined Travelfish
    24th December, 2012
    Posts: 95

    Even the VIP buses which Madmac mentioned are inherently dangerous. One of those en route to Phangan was involved in a tragic accident which killed 10 and injured another 17 in July last year. The news report with an image of the mangled wreck of the bus can be seen here: http://phuketwan.com/tourism/phangan-full-moon-party-bus-crash-killed-hurt-16263/

    I only travel by bus in Thailand if there's no airport close to where I'm proposing to go. Flying adds to the cost of your vacation and you also miss some beautiful scenery, but it's infinitely safer than going by road, especially at night.

    With a basic wage of only $10 a day and no driving test to pass before getting behind the wheel of such a large vehicle, accidents are inevitable. Drivers often use the drug Yaba which is a mixture of methamphetamine and caffeine to keep themselves awake and the drug is easy to come by for Thais. But it's highly addictive and can impair judgement which is a recipe for disaster. It's probably the main reason most drivers who escape injury in a crash run off leaving the victims to fend for themselves.

    #8 Posted: 18/2/2013 - 02:41

  • LeonardCohe-
    n1

    Joined Travelfish
    24th July, 2012
    Posts: 2148
    Total reviews: 11

    Thais do have driving tests now but older drivers may well have never done a test or just paid a bribe.

    #9 Posted: 18/2/2013 - 05:10

  • squaretheci-
    rcle

    Joined Travelfish
    19th October, 2011
    Posts: 132
    Total reviews: 5

    "Even the VIP buses which Madmac mentioned are inherently dangerous. One of those en route to Phangan was involved in a tragic accident which killed 10 and injured another 17 in July last year. The news report with an image of the mangled wreck of the bus can be seen here: http://phuketwan.com/tourism/phangan-full-moon-party-bus-crash-killed-hurt-16263/"

    The VIP buses can be okay, some companies such as Nakhonchai Air and the government-operated Transport Company have good records and reputations. Their primary customer base is middle class Thais (the poor might take less costly buses, the rich fly, presumably).

    The reason this is crucial is they have to maintain their reputation to keep people buying their slightly more expensive tickets - maybe 2-300 baht more than the basic buses, but 100% worth it. The bus companies that specialize in taking foreign tourists to popular destinations such as Koh Phangan or Koh Samui or Phuket, or between Khao San Road and Chiang Mai, on the other hand, don't have to maintain their reputation since their primary customer base is one-off tourists. Theft and accidents are far more likely to happen on these buses.

    I don't know of a reputable southern bus company, so the train is the best option IMO for long-distance travel around the south. Around long-distance routes in between Bangkok and the north and northeast I use Nakhonchai Air, which is worth it IMO, if nothing else, simply for the experience of traveling like a rockstar. Of course there's always the chance of another bus flying around the corner, but it seems like part of the reason the country is still fun is that it is less regulated than, say, the UK.

    #10 Posted: 18/2/2013 - 13:32

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  • destidations

    Joined Travelfish
    7th February, 2013
    Posts: 5

    Sorry to hear about that.

    Accident happens all the time. But I avoid it by traveling by train. The night train is not bad though and there are many classes and types as well. I am not saying we are going to be safe 100% by train.

    Travel safe
    --
    Destidations

    #11 Posted: 18/2/2013 - 22:38

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6269
    Total reviews: 10

    The VIP buses can be okay, some companies such as Nakhonchai Air and the government-operated Transport Company have good records and reputations. Their primary customer base is middle class Thais (the poor might take less costly buses, the rich fly, presumably).""

    I second this. God knows I hate the bus, but we have no airport here and if I want to fly out of Ubon then I have a four hour bus ride or can take the van for two and a half hours at 300 baht. Air travel is another 2,400 last time I checked (although NKP might be looking good). So that's some three times the price to fly. I do ride sometimes, but I doubt riding my motorcycle in Bangkok is any safer than taking the bus.

    #12 Posted: 19/2/2013 - 02:30

  • Xircal

    Joined Travelfish
    24th December, 2012
    Posts: 95

    I think this may be the same accident that the OP mentioned: http://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/s/2129139_appeal_launched_for_victim_of_thai_bus_crash

    #13 Posted: 19/2/2013 - 07:19

  • sayadian

    Joined Travelfish
    15th January, 2008
    Posts: 1557

    Without intentionally making light of this terrible tragedy I would have thought taking amphetamines actually improves concentration so making for better driving. If they made a habit of smoking ganja or smack I think I' d be a lot more worried. I find after my experiences on Cambodian and Vietnamese buses the Thai level of driving is much better.

    #14 Posted: 19/2/2013 - 07:34

  • squaretheci-
    rcle

    Joined Travelfish
    19th October, 2011
    Posts: 132
    Total reviews: 5

    "Without intentionally making light of this terrible tragedy I would have thought taking amphetamines actually improves concentration so making for better driving. If they made a habit of smoking ganja or smack I think I' d be a lot more worried. I find after my experiences on Cambodian and Vietnamese buses the Thai level of driving is much better."

    Studies have shown that amphetamine users tend to be quite aggressive as drivers...though whether they are simply aggressive to begin with (and thus enjoy taking speed) or whether the speed actually makes them aggressive, I don't know. For that matter, even coffee has been correlated with aggressive behavior.

    I've given thought to start a website helping people to travel safely, avoid scams, etc., in SE Asia - but perhaps Travelfish and the Lonely Planet/Rough Guide/etc already offer that information. Good luck to the OP's child.

    #15 Posted: 19/2/2013 - 08:02

  • sayadian

    Joined Travelfish
    15th January, 2008
    Posts: 1557

    Squarethecircle
    Don't get me wrong I don't think drivers should be taking ANY drugs but various studies have shown amphetamines improve concentration. You are right though if a driver is using this stuff on a regular basis it can certainly lead to aggresion and unpredictable behaviour.
    This drug is used a lot in Thailand by taxi drivers not for recreation but to put in the long hours in order to make a living.
    The fact that vehicles aren't properly maintained is also a massive factor in causing vehicle crashes particularly bald tyres. Check the condition of the tyres next time you travel.
    Go ahead with the web site idea, sounds a good idea and hopefully would save lives and injury.
    Question is how can we get through to these companies that these bad practices are causing loss of life. A black list?

    #16 Posted: 19/2/2013 - 23:46

  • squaretheci-
    rcle

    Joined Travelfish
    19th October, 2011
    Posts: 132
    Total reviews: 5

    "Don't get me wrong I don't think drivers should be taking ANY drugs but various studies have shown amphetamines improve concentration."

    As well as reaction time, manual dexterity, etc. They do have side effects, though, such as aggressiveness and irritability. I'm surprised you say it is still used by taxi drivers to help work long hours. I read on wikipedia that one yaba pill (I assume that's what you're referring to, rather than say a pharmaceutically obtained amphetamine) costs 250-450 baht. It seems that, at that price, taxi drivers or bus drivers would prefer a stimulant that doesn't cost the entirety of the day's salary.

    "The fact that vehicles aren't properly maintained is also a massive factor in causing vehicle crashes particularly bald tyres. Check the condition of the tyres next time you travel."

    Also, for shorter distance bus trips, check out the driver. Ask them some question (just basic Thai would be sufficient) and get a sense of whether they're "with it" and "professional". Sometimes it's really worth it to wait for the next bus.

    "Go ahead with the web site idea, sounds a good idea and hopefully would save lives and injury.
    Question is how can we get through to these companies that these bad practices are causing loss of life. A black list?"

    I don't know about the legality of publicizing specific bus companies - unless their company is clearly named in accident reports.

    #17 Posted: 20/2/2013 - 00:17

  • sayadian

    Joined Travelfish
    15th January, 2008
    Posts: 1557

    Well, I don't really know how much they (yaba or ice) cost but I have seen the eyes of some taxi drivers.
    :-)
    Are they really that expensive?
    I can remember a time when this stuff was sold in pharmacies. The Thai version (Acta) or the more expensive German ones (Captagon).
    I'll have to ask around, just hope I don't get arrested.
    As far as naming companies I can't see any legal problems with making statements such as
    Company A had X number of crashes per Y number of journeys last year with Z number of fatalities. This is perfectly legal although it might not make you any friends in the passenger transport industry.

    #18 Posted: 20/2/2013 - 06:35

  • bluntmadbla-
    de

    Joined Travelfish
    20th February, 2013
    Posts: 1

    I heard about the tragic death of the British cyclists in Bangkok and was shocked. Travelers sure need to be careful about the rampant Thai motorists. I read a very good article here http://www.pombai.com/blog/travel/traffic-issues-thailand/. The government should discipline the drivers by implying strict license regulations and curb the corruption. Usually motorists in Thailand get away in few hundred Bhats if they happen to break the traffic rules.

    #19 Posted: 20/2/2013 - 07:24

  • chopin

    Joined Travelfish
    28th April, 2007
    Posts: 154
    Total reviews: 2

    Accident rates on long-haul buses are almost equal in Thailand as well as in Malaysia, and, when they happen, they are usually fatal. However, situations in both countries are improving as the authorities seem to be giving more attention to safety measures. There are hundreds of thousands of people taking long-haul overnight bus trips in this region, and accidents like that do not happen as frequently as we think. So, I'd say, do take bus trips, and better still, buy tickets from reputable operators with proper offices or booths, they usually have better drivers and better vehicles.

    #20 Posted: 22/2/2013 - 21:42

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