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Cheapest way to get around Thailand?

Posted by shazhippychild on 6/7/2009 at 21:57

I am backpacking through Thailand for a month and want to know what the best way to get around is. I heard that the Thai transport system is very good~but which mode is the best to use in terms of long distance and money~bus, train, air, etc.?
I will be travelling between places like Krabi, Phetburi, Ko Samui, and other small islands.

Any advice will be much appreciated!

Peace, Shaz

#1 shazhippychild has been a member since 20/6/2009. Location: South Africa. Posts: 12

Posted by MADMAC on 6/7/2009 at 22:31

Well, obviously the islands not withstanding, it generally breaks down like this:

Bus is slow, but cheap. Can be hot and uncomfortable, depending on the type of bus. This is the most dangerous form of transportation.

Train is slower, and slightly more expensive, but more comfortable and safer.

Plane is fast, safe but the most expensive.

I don't know about boats. I don't like the beach and I don't go to Islands.

#2 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957


Posted by Jen2412 on 7/7/2009 at 01:42

When you say bus travel is dangerous what do you mean?
xx

#3 Jen2412 has been a member since 5/7/2009. Posts: 3

Posted by MADMAC on 7/7/2009 at 02:04

I mean they have a lot of accidents where people die.

In general traveling on Thailands roads isn't the safest way to get around...

#4 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by SBE on 7/7/2009 at 05:27

There are all sorts of buses in Thailand ranging from falling apart rattletraps to luxury express coaches. The former can indeed be hot and uncomfortable.

The latter however are very comfortable except that they are often very COLD because the A/C is generally set to "arctic blast". They have large reclining seats and hostesses on board who bring you complimentary food, drink and blankets.

VIP buses are classed according to the number of seats. The most expensive are first class VIP buses which have 24 seats,and loads of legroom.
32 seat VIP buses have a little less leg room but are also very comfortable and cheaper.
Then you get cheaper less comfortable buses with more seats ... they go up to 48 seats.

Always check how many seats when you buy a long-distance bus ticket and I try to avoid 48 seater buses with orange stripes on them because they often take much longer than other buses to get anywhere.

Best to get on your bus at the govt bus stations in BKK too. Many complaints about luggage theft in the hold on overnight VIP buses that leave from or go to khao San Road.

Here's a site you might find useful.

http://thaitransit.blogspot.com/2008/04/summary-bus-guide-to-bangkoks-mass.html

And this site gives some very detailed info about Thai trains that you might find helpful too.

http://www.seat61.com/Thailand.htm

You'll probably mostly be travelling by bus or train but it's worth keeping an eye out for special offers on airlines like Air Asia. Sometimes they have free seats offers. You pay the airport taxes and checked in baggage charges though.

#5 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,002
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Posted by exacto on 7/7/2009 at 06:45

awesome detail SBE. thanks!

i think the bus is reasonably (or at least relatively) safe during daylight travel, but become particularly dangerous on the long haul overnight trips. sometimes taking the bus is your only choice to get from point A to point B.

i tend to take buses for shorter, daylight trips. i take the train when i can (bangkok to kanchanaburi, for example), using the second-class (or first class even sometimes) sleeper trains for the longer overnight trips, like from bangkok to chiang mai or bangkok to southern thailand. flying can be good, and surprisingly cheap too, and can save you quite a bit of time.

given the places you've mentioned, i'd probably fly to krabi or somewhere nearby, take the bus across to samui, then work my way back up to BKK by train. hope that helps. cheers.

#6 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,630
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Posted by BruceMoon on 7/7/2009 at 07:30

shazhippychild

The info above sorts out the bus situation for you.

There are some legs to places where bus is the only reasonable option: eg. BKK to Sukhothai.

Others, where train is more desirable: eg. BKK to Chiang Mai overnight.

But, I wouldn't discount plane travel entirely.

On some legs, the roads are over-used and bus travel thus becomes slow (and possibly riskier).

The (discount) airlines servicing within Thailand include:

AirAsia
Bangkok Airlines
NokAir
One-Two-Go

To see which airline/s service a route, go to www.AirNinja.com. Type in the links, and it will list the discount airlines servicing that link. Then go to the webpage and check out price.

Sometimes, the airfare can be about the same price as a (half decent) bus.

- - - -

So far, the focus on travel advice in this thread has been towards getting from place A to place B. There is another aspect of travel that is often overlooked: the fun of the journey.

Few will probably admit it, but... "that 3 hour journey in a saamlaw/tuk-tuk (or sawngtheaw) with a couple of others I met along the way was something that'll stay in my mind forever."

Point being? The journey can also be about the adventure.

Hope this helps.

Cheers

#7 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by MADMAC on 7/7/2009 at 14:18

"that 3 hour journey in a saamlaw/tuk-tuk (or sawngtheaw) with a couple of others I met along the way was something that'll stay in my mind forever."

There is a lot of truth in this. When I was staying in Saimun, an Ampeur of Yasothon, my wife and I used to take the Sawng Theu to Yaso and back to shop or whatever. I remember one occassion in particular where we were in the back and it was packed - a bunch of old ladies heading to Kut Chum had filled the thing, and I was hanging off the back when a few more old ladies boarded and me and the other younger men had to climb to the roof. Because I was a "Falang" I was told I could stay below by one of the old ladies who said she would go to the roof. No way... I sat up there and enjoyed the view. I did get somewhat sunburned and if that thing had had an accident I was toast. But my wife was really happy as everyone waxed eloquent about what a nice falang husband she had. I reaped benefits from that for days and still look back fondly on the moment.

Another time I was taking the slow bus to china from Mukdahan to Saimun (after my first trip to Muk to check it out) and a HUGE man of obviously mixed racial origin got on board. The vehicle sank under his weight as he boarded. He must have been six foot eight or nine and weighed somewhere around 275. My wife started talking to him - his father had been French and his mother Laotian. He never knew his father and he had to flee Laos with his mother in 75 after the Pathet Lao took over. He was a poor guy with tattered clothes and he'd obviously had a tough life. It made me reflect on my son, who I also did not get to grow up with, but also made me glad I paid my child support and stayed involved in his life. It made me appreciate how close we are now.

Ahhh Bruce, you brought back some memories.

#8 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by tezza on 7/7/2009 at 17:28

For a budget traveller, one of the good things abt bus and train travel to more distant places is that many the buses/trains go overnight, thus saving the cost of a room or bungalow.

There was a really good timetable/prices site for ALL buses out of Bangkok to regional towns - about a year ago they ditched the English language version. Has anyone come across a new English version?

#9 tezza has been a member since 13/4/2006. Posts: 1,338
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Posted by somtam2000 on 7/7/2009 at 18:12 admin

tezza, if you mean Transport Co, it still works in English (sort of) they've got rid of the English navigation, but it's not too difficult to figure out - even for non-Thai speakers.

For example:
{url=http://www.transport.co.th/999_timebuseast48.asp]Buses to east and some central destinations

I may go through and make an English version - will keep you posted.

#10 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,498
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Posted by thailand_asia on 7/7/2009 at 22:44

i prefere to travel by bus in thailand, cheap, good and more or less on time... for long distance traveling in southeast asia i mostly choose the plane, take a look for the cheap airline air asia, very cheap and good.
many whishes from chiang mai and enjoy

#11 thailand_asia has been a member since 7/7/2009. Location: Germany. Posts: 37
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Posted by shazhippychild on 8/7/2009 at 03:30

Thank you all so much for your input~I'm sure it will help a great deal when I need to get from one place to the next....

Peace, Shaz

#12 shazhippychild has been a member since 20/6/2009. Location: South Africa. Posts: 12

Posted by BruceMoon on 12/7/2009 at 14:43

Somtam

The bus link you provided [www.transport.co.th/999_timebuseast48.asp] isn't working.

The base site has an English button, but only navigates in Thai.

Maybe you can check your link again.

Ta.

Cheers

#13 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by BruceMoon on 13/7/2009 at 05:36

As SBE indicates there "are all sorts of buses in Thailand ranging from falling apart rattletraps to luxury express coaches".

At the same time, there are also color=purple]are all sorts of bus drivers... ranging from competant to outright dangerous.

I saw a YouTube vid of bus travel in Sumatra (here). I laughed as I watched as it also demonstrates bus travel in Vietnam, in the rural areas of China, and in some of the less travelled areas of Thailand. Cheerfully, you won't see the example in Malaysia, and traffic is generally too sparse to see in Laos.

Cheers

#14 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by amazon_blonde on 13/7/2009 at 05:52

Sometimes the choice of transport is dictated or at least heavily influenced by what the most direct (in terms of number of tranfers) transportation is. I'd prefer to take a slow boat/truck or whatever and not have to change 3 times than take a super-comfy, super-safe train that requires a lot of organizing to get to/from the station etc.
I did a trip for Ko Phan Ngan to Krabi that required a songthew, a ferry, a bus, then a mini-bus, then another mini-bus and finally a taxi. It was cheap and fast, but it was an exhausting day.

#15 amazon_blonde has been a member since 20/12/2008. Posts: 116

Posted by HoangDJ on 15/7/2009 at 16:41

If someone's interested in going by train (yes, safe and expensive), don't forget this link:

http://www.railway.co.th/English/Time_HTML.asp

Default line is "NORTHERN LINE", so go where should check that. Price's also attached.

#16 HoangDJ has been a member since 10/7/2009. Location: Vietnam. Posts: 19

Posted by MADMAC on 6/12/2009 at 08:34

Shazz
How did your food situation in Thailand work out? Were you able to get consistently vegan food?

#17 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by Canudigit on 9/12/2009 at 10:43

If anybody in charge of busses in Thailand ever reads this:
How about outlawing the practise of busses dumping people on the outskirts of cities? I don't know how many times this happened to me and fellow unfortunates last winter, let's see, Phetchburi, Auythaya, Krabi, and more too numerous to mention. A simple, fair rule would be if you catch the bus at a 'station', you're not allowed to be dumped off on a highway at edge of city. Fair?

#18 Canudigit has been a member since 17/11/2008. Posts: 13

Posted by idreamofdurian on 9/12/2009 at 12:36 TF writer

Canudigit -- I think that's typically a communication problem. You ask if a bus is going to Ayuthaya and the ticket seller says "Yes" when the bus actually isn't going to Ayuthaya, just passing by it. For most Thai travelers this is good enough 'cuz they're meeting someone in the town who can pick them up or they can negotiate a cheap ride into town cuz they speak Thai. The bus drivers/ticket sellers don't foresee why this would be a problem for falang tourists.

Just confirm that the bus goes *into* the town or town station when you buy your ticket.

#19 idreamofdurian has been a member since 5/9/2008. Location: Singapore. Posts: 576
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Posted by MADMAC on 9/12/2009 at 22:02

Idream is correct. This is a communications problem. The solution to this problem is to get the bus that is going specifically to the place you want - then it will go to that cities bus station (and every provincial city has one). Since most tourists coming here can't speak Thai, and therefore can't communicate adequately, trying to get a bus that might be going sooner or is cheaper but actually doesn't have the city in question as the actual destination is asking to end up on the outskirts somewhere. You have to be specific that you want to go to the bus station of city "X".

Great thing about Thai busses, however, is they will drop you off enroute, not just at pre-arranged stops.

#20 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by Canudigit on 9/12/2009 at 23:22

OK. If that's what you guys want, I take full responsibility for being left off on the outskirts of towns. (Me and a bunch of other disoriented tourists!) It was my fault for not ascertaining, as the first writer said, that the bus "goes *into* the town." As the second writer said, I failed to be "specific that I wanted to go to the bus station of city X".

I completely absolve the bus companies, even though they took my money on the understanding that I would be taken to Auythaya, for example, and not dropped off alongside the freeway.

#21 Canudigit has been a member since 17/11/2008. Posts: 13


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