Under no circumstances should anyone use the Thai Touristbuses from Southern Thailand to Bangkok. I made this mistake and paid a very heavy price. Being a relatively seasoned traveller, Iensured all valuables were with me on the bus (locked in a small rucksack -although the key was in one of the side pockets) and the rucksack was on my lapat all times.
When the night bus arrived in Bangkok (5.00am) we were wokenby the driver and hurried out of the bus onto the side of the road (all out baggagehad already been unloaded). At the timeI felt extremely groggy, but put this down to the fact I'd just woken up. As soon as we were all out of the bus, itdrove off immediately. A few friends andI staggered to a coffee shop thinking a quick cuppa would wake us up. When we went to pay, we realised our walletshad been emptied (in total, 40,000 Bart had been taken from us). They took nothing other than cash - mypassport, camera, laptop, phone, credit cards etc were also in the bag (Thereis no question this is highly organised crime and a practice that has beengoing on for years!).
Still feeling extremely strange (essentially drugged out ofour minds) two of us made our way to the Bangkok police station. The Police were completely useless and youcan draw your own conclusions as to their motivation to investigate thison-going practice. While in the police station, I even managed to find out thedetails of the bus company (by going through the agent who issued the ticket)using my own phone. When I handed thisinformation to the Police, they still did not make any effort to arrest andinterview the driver etc. They evenlaughed at us when we informed them we'd clearly been drugged.
If you ever find yourself on one of these buses, suggestedpractice as follows:
1. Take photos of the bus and driver - tell him you'veemailed them to friends.
2. Inform the entire bus (ideally in front of the driver) tocheck their wallets before they get off the bus.
3. If anything has gone missing, refuse to leave the bus andcontact the police (Their response to crimes of this type seems to be strangelyrelaxed, so inform them you are going to inform your embassy and a Thai legal representative.)
I would advise anyone traveling by bus in Thailand to usethe government buses which run from the bus stations. Do not buy tickets fromtravel agents - if you have any problems, the tickets seller will simply sayit's not their problem and continue to sell tickets for the offending buscompany.
Shame on the Thai Authorities for allowing this outrageous practiceto continue. It could so easily bestamped out, but interestingly is allowed to continue.
#1 Hollis22 has been a member since 29/5/2012. Posts: 3
"I even managed to find out the details of the bus company (by going through the agent who issued the ticket) using my own phone."
I'm sorry you had to go through this, but if you know the details of the bus company, why would you not clue everyone in on which company it is???
I know for a fact that not all Thai tourist buses are doing this, which is what you blatantly imply in your post. If you got drugged in a London bar and had your cash stolen, would you tell the world "DO NOT GO TO BARS IN LONDON"?
In general, you're right that government/public buses are safer than tourist ones, but by mentioning the name of the company you could potentially save someone from going through the same experience, and at least hit them back, albeit in a small way, chai mai?
In this instance, the bus company was Toung Neng Tong. However, becuase most people are booking tickets via travel agents, they don't know the name of the company. Having spoken to a number of agentsin Bangkok, I've been informed the practice is rife (most often from busesleaving Saratani to Bangkok and from buses heading south from Khao SanRoad). While I fully appreciate yourpoint that not all tourist buses are doing this, how do you find out which ones are honest until it's too late? In my view, it's better (where possible) to use the government bussesuntil this on-going practice is stamped out.
#3 Hollis22 has been a member since 29/5/2012. Posts: 3
Fair enough, but when people book through agents they can still ask the agents what the name of the bus company is.
For the record, I recently used Lomprayah tourist bus, which left from Khao San Rd, and their high-speed catamaran from Chumphon to Ko Tao, and they were absolutely professional and efficient in all aspects.
Another argument might be; if you know an area in a city is bad you take an alternative route even though not all the people in that area are bad. In this case the alternative route would be train or government bus.I have to agree with the OP you can't be expected to remember which company is bad and which is good it's up to the Thai authorites to sort it out or not.
Another mention of KaoSan Rd. It seems to me from reading and meeting people who have booked anything in this street they have had a bad or poor experience or certainly the deal they got has not lived up to expectations.The answer would be go somewhere else.
I am also curious as to how you were drugged. Agree with DLuek above, have also used the Lompraya bus in the past, which was indeed very professional and comfortable.
On a side note: Why do a seasoned traveler and a few friends carry 40.000 THB on a bus trip?
The general consensus is Lomprayah is a class act. I have used them a few times although not right thru to Bangkok and they were very good. Plenty of posts on the user forums have suggested their bus service to/from Bangkok is good too.
Travel agents will obfuscate abt who owns a bus/ferry. They don't care - all they want to do is sell you a ticket.
Until the OP gives the answer I can see that it wouldn't be so difficult to drug someone as the buses usually hand out a drink and snack on the journey.
I don't know this route very well but one company I would always reccommend is Chatchai.Usually dependent and safe.Otherwise stick to BorKorSor (government bus)
Should add that,unfortunately the govt. buses are often the slowest and are not the cleanest but as Madmac says they are safe.
I wanted to add that there is no reason to book a bus in Thailand anyway. In all the years I've travelled there I've turned up at any bus station and got a ticket at the ticket office.There is no shortage of buses in Thailand and they run frequently.
I've never been offered free drinks on a bus. They make stops and you buy your own. It's also common for tourists to carry $1000 around. Put in into your undies though for night buses.
#14 longbeach has been a member since 28/3/2012. Posts: 307
The private companies usually supply a drink (almost always that green peppermint soda) and a cake when the bus starts. A moneybelt is a safer option for carrying large amounts of dollars.I only keep a small float in my wallet.
Well the VIP buses all offer a bottle of water and a snack. That's standard. Of course, the bottle is sealed. If it ain't sealed, don't drink it.
I don't use money belts and keep my money in my wallet, but you would have to remove that by force and here in Thailand being robbed at gunpoint is pretty rare.
Are you saying you'd carry $1000 in a wallet because that's asking for trouble, too many people watching when you take a wallet out. Of course we are more used to armed robbery in Cambodia, I think it's less frequent in Thailand.
I recall the plastic cup full of ice and the attendant pouring the green stuff into it, maybe they've stopped this practice?
I never let someone even hand me an opened can of beer in S.E.Asia- too many stories of druggings.
have I been travelling VIP all these years? because I always seem to get either a soda or water and the ubiquitous cake in plastic wrapper.
Don't know which buses you are talking about. I've caught several VIPS and no drinks or food was offered that I was aware of. If they had a water container at the front i wouldnt drink it anyway. Not that tight.
If you can't afford your own 7 baht water bottle you shouldn't even be travelling.
#19 longbeach has been a member since 28/3/2012. Posts: 307
Sorry for late reply guys. OK, no drinks/water was handed out on the bus, so it's not possible forthem to have drugged us this way. Thedriver was sealed from the passenger compartment (unlike gov buses) so I canonly assume they pumped the anaesthetic through the air con system. Unless I'd experienced this myself, I wouldnever have believed this could have happened. Interestingly enough, I bumped into a fellow passenger (in Bangkok)later that day and asked them if they'd had any money stolen while traveling onthe bus. They informed me that thatnothing had gone missing, but they did confirm that they'd felt truly awful allday and couldn’t understand why. When Iexplained to them what I believed had happened, they immediately confirmed thatmade complete sense and explained everything. This makes me wonder how often thishappens without people realising it.
Completely agree, with hindsight, I should not have carriedso much cash with me. However, I didthis for a specific reason - to enable me to spend 2 months living in NorthernLaos where there are no ATM facilities. Please note, I did ensure the cash I had was at no time visible toanyone - i.e. they got lucky when they found my wallet (which was inside a drybag which was inside a locked rucksack.
#20 Hollis22 has been a member since 29/5/2012. Posts: 3
I've never seen a bus with such a compartment and wouldn't it take 2 or 3 to complete the scam?
The story is not believable. You may have been robbed but it's due to stupidity not some mysterious drugging. Travellers always feel tired after night bus trips where they lose a lot of sleep. Put your money on your body or under it as you sleep next time.
Have you never experienced jet lag?
I always feel terrible after long flights or bus trips.
Must be the gas they are using on the planes.
#21 longbeach has been a member since 28/3/2012. Posts: 307
Small caprtment on a bus? I've never seen that either. Also a gas as a drugging agent to induce unconciousness? They exist, but are not easy to obtain and very dangerous to use. If this were common practice, we would already have dead people unless it's a very new method being used (in which case we will have dead people soon). Even with trained physicians people die from this. I don't know what happened to you, but it doesn't make much sense as constructed. Also, money NEVER goes in any bag for any reason. It always goes on your person. You just learned a hard lesson.
Good point by Sayadian in #5. I didn't mean to be the one sticking up for Khao San tourist buses -- in fact I've hardly ever taken one until Lomprayah recently due to all the warnings about theft. Always govt. buses (or the private ones leaving from bus stations that cater mainly to Thais) are the way to go. And true, never a need to book a bus in Thailand from a travel agent, unless perhaps it's a minibus that only runs tourist routes.
But still, I think it's going a bit far to implicate every single Thai tourist bus in a complex thievery scam that involves gassing customers through the air-con system, no?
'think it's going a bit far to implicate every single Thai tourist bus in a complex thievery scam'
Agreed, but I think a little bit of paranoia is better than complacency :-)
As for gas; it's more likely the exhaust was leaking a small amount of carbon monoxide into the bus because of poor maintenance.I agree with Mac, the gases exist but they are hard to control, the russians tried it to rescue hostages and managed to kill people.
Sayadian, no I don't carry one thousand dollars in my wallet. That would be a thick wad of baht and not comfortable to carry. But I routinely carry 12,000. Never had a problem. An Army buddy of mine, however, who came here to visit told me I give off a "don't screw with me" vibe. But honestly, I don't believe it. I just think this is a low risk environment for being jacked.
"I have seen the type of separate compartment that he described for the driver."
show us a photo
#27 longbeach has been a member since 28/3/2012. Posts: 307
"all valuables were with me on the bus (locked in a small rucksack -although the key was in one of the side pockets)"
On a bus, train, taxi or plane my money (and passport) is always with me in a pocket not in a bag separate from me. I have velcro flaps on my pants pockets. Any cheap street tailor can add velcro to a pocket for you if you want. If I cannot feel someone in my pants pocket it will probably be because I am dead!
I have been on buses that handed out snacks along with free water in sealed containers. Bus from Pattaya to Korat is one of the bus rides. Pattaya bus from Ekamai bus terminal used to have free drinks at the ticket window.
It is also possible that there was a slight carbon monoxide leak making some passengers lightheaded.
Even a fellow tourist could have stolen the money!
I think it was MadMac who once suggested that if you're going to leave valuables in a pack that is stowed on a bus, be sure to pack a viper snake along with them! That'll deal to anybody tempted to break into your pack.
I don't have zips or velcros on my pockts, but my wallet is so jammed in, I have a hard time getting it out when I am stanging and awake. Forget about getting it out from the sitting position. Without me noticing? Only if I were literally dead.
I was willing to believe that some kind of sleeping pill had been put in the cup of the cola they often give out with that cake but gas pumped through the air con system?!
Lack of sleep and dehydration makes you feel terrible. A resilient friend of mine fell suddenly ill after we got up early for a ferry and didn't reach our destination until the afternoon. His thumping headache and nausea was cured by drinking a litre and a half of water and a two hour nap!
It seems strange that only cash and not electronics was taken. Were your companions friends from home or people you had met in Thailand. Did one of them help themselves knowing that everyone had a lot of cash on them and knowing that those buses have a reputation for theft?
A group I was with in Mexico had their rooms gone through by one of the party who had suggested everyone go out and then said he felt sick and was going back to the hotel. Fortunately, I'd not gone out but was woken at 4am but everyone having returned to find their cash, CDs (we are going back a few years!) even hiking boots missing along with the thief. The keys had been taken from the front desk as the receptionist was asleep. One guy was gutted as he and the thief had been travelling together for 3 weeks.
A girl told me how she had travelled in India with another girl she met for three whole months. Up until that point they had done all their sightseeing together but one day her travel buddy said she was tired and would stay at the hotel. The girl returned to find her mate checked out along with her passport and cash.
You just never know about the people you meet along the way and the oportunism their depleted funds and your full wallet present. Ironically, enough the guy in Mexico had been generously buying everyone drinks in the days leading up to the theft; pre-theft guilty conscience?
Anyway, assuming the bus driver or crew did manage to find the pocket in your bag that contained the key and managed to open the bag on your lap without disturbing you, I do wonder why people still take these buses: there are warnings in the guide books and on any Thai travel related site. Theft issues aside, they are usually more costly than the government buses when you take into account all the delaying tactics so that you end up buying food and drink at their en-route restaurant and then miss your connection so have to spend hours waiting at their other restaurant!
I've had to travel from Phnom Penh to Bangkok many times and I usually take the government bus at Aran to the Thai capital. I've always found Thai people to be both polite and respectful. The one time I took a KSR minibus I was astonished how rude and peremptory the driver and his assistant were. We were also overcrowded.
I would say that anything that comes and goes from KSR is not a reflection of the Thai people. KSR itself seems to be populated by the lowest strata of Thai society-thugs, gangsters and thieves so do yourselves a favour and don't get your impression of Thailand there and certainly don't book anything there if you value being treated properly.
KSR area is controlled by Thai mafia basically. Lots of rorting and crooks selling fake ids and scamming people. Just avoid this place altogether.
#35 longbeach has been a member since 28/3/2012. Posts: 307
I can understand the attraction of KSR, it's a place to party 24/7 and meet other travellers but I think people drop their guard when they go there thinking it's a friendly haven when in fact some of the most unscrupulous people in Thailand are hanging out there.I've heard about people getting drugged there, having their valuables stolen and booking rip off tours.Being a place where a lot of Westerners with money congregate it's bound to be a magnet for the unsavoury element. If you keep this in mind you CAN have a good time.
Westerners going to Thailand to meet other westerners? Doesn't make sense at all. The whole point of going to the east is to experience that culture.
#39 longbeach has been a member since 28/3/2012. Posts: 307
98% of people who go to KSR may not be scammed or ripped off but it seems like 90% of the bus/tour scams are connected with KSR businesses which tells you the place is dodgy.
#40 longbeach has been a member since 28/3/2012. Posts: 307
Not everyone has the same perspective. I guess I can understand people hanging out with similar types, it's a sociological norm and if you're only in a country for 4 weeks or less it doesn't give you time to learn the language or the culture.The odd thing about KSR is the Thais have become the tourists as you see many of them there to gawp at the 'weirdos' and party because it has a 24 hr scene unlike the 'Thai' areas. So in a way it IS a good place to meet the locals. The rest of KSR is populated with Burmese who do the selling and hustlers from India etc and of course Thai Nak Leng.
If you only have 2-4 weeks makes more sense to not waste time hanging out with westerners. You don't have to speak fluent thai to visit ruins, villages, local markets or go to beaches.
If you live there for years I can understand people wanting to talk to other westerners about worldly matters that Thais aren't into.
#43 longbeach has been a member since 28/3/2012. Posts: 307
Absolutely agree but I was trying to analyse why people hang around rip-off KSR.The occasional night I have to stay in Bangok I'v stayed near there and the only time I visit KSR is to buy fresh orange juice or mango/sticky rice.It seems very expensive for drinking but people DO come to Thailand in order to party rather than visit sites of interest. The problem is the sheer volume of Westerners (who still have an aura about them to Asians as most people in Asia don't have vacations let alone months to travel) bring the sharks.
I met a Polish couple who had a similar experience in KSR, they believed they had been drugged and had lost cash a credit cards from their guesthouse. They got a report back from their bank, and eventually went to the store where the CC's had been used, got video of the owner of the guesthouse using the cards and took this to the police.
The police refused to do anything (very common), but I bet you they were off down the road to the GH to get their cut.
Lots of my Thai friends like KSR because they can escape aspects of their culture that tie them down.
#45 somtamguy has been a member since 12/6/2012. Posts: 7
"The police refused to do anything (very common), but I bet you they were off down the road to the GH to get their cut."
I hear this here over and over, but whenever I have gone to the police they have done backflips to help me out. I have had a MUCH more positive experience with the police here than I ever did in the US or Germany. Much more positive.
I have had both positive and negative experiences. Mostly the positive experiences have come from country cops, and the negative from city cops. I don't drive in Bangkok anymore as I get sick of the tea money scams.
Used to live in Boston, and MA state troopers are real goose steppers.
#47 somtamguy has been a member since 12/6/2012. Posts: 7
Country people are normally better than city people. That's the norm around the world.
#48 longbeach has been a member since 28/3/2012. Posts: 307
I wouldn't say they are "better". They are operating under a different set of rules. I live in a city in Thailand. A provincial city to be sure, but still a city. I can honestly say I have NEVER paid "tea money" and only been fined one time (because my wife was mouthing off). My experiences with Thai police have been universally good. That was not true in Arizona, that was not true in Boston, that was not true in Germany, that was not true in Ethiopia and that was definitely not true in Saudi Arabia. Maybe it's different in tourist areas though.
It seems plausible that policemen might generally extend more courtesy to well-behaved farangs that have adapted than they usually do to fellow Thais, never mind members of the full moon party crowd blundering their way through.
#50 enigmatic has been a member since 14/4/2011. Posts: 84
I had a similar problem today with the popular "Holiday" bus company, driving from the Southern Islands to BKK.
In my case it was from Koh Samui to BKK.
When you arrive at the pier, thinking we had to walk to the boat with our backpacks (like we did when we came to the island), they said we had to drop our bags in a bus, and we took of with that bus to another harbor to take a big ferry. I wasn't prepared, so I still had my laptop and some money in my backpack.
We didn't have any time to waste, so we had to hurry, and I didn't take it out at that point, knowing I would do it when we were on the boat.
When we arrived at the ferry pier, we had to leave the bus and walk to the boat, and go to the upper deck with other tourists and locals as well. We didn't really have a chance to go back to the bus. If I really wanted I could go to the bus to take my stuff, but my backpack was the first one they've put in the bus, so I would have to take all the others out before I could reach mine.
I thought it would be safe...
But arriving in BKK an hour ago I realize that the 56$ which I kept in my laptop bag in the main compartment of my big bag was gone. It's only 56 ******* $, they didn't steel my laptop or anything else...
But because I lost my creditcard debit cards in a robbery in Cambodia I can't take money from an ATM.
And believe me, paying Western Union a big fee for my last day traveling is hard :)
So I would like to say! Be extremely careful! I know I made a big mistake not taking everything with me, don't make the same mistake ever!
And avoid to travel with that "Holiday" bus organization, because they treat you like ****, let you wait for 3 hours in there ******* expensive restaurant were you have to pay for everything, also to charge your computer/phone (20BTH).
The Koh Samui - BKK trip took me over 20 hours :)
#51 Jelle has been a member since 6/5/2012. Posts: 4
I had the exact same experience. Bus from Surat Thani to BKK. For some reason the driver kept the lights on in the bus (impossible to sleep) until like 1 am when we got to the stop for snacks/bathroom. I had gone up twice to ask him to turn them off and he said after the stop. I don't know if that means anything. I just assumed he wanted to keep us all up so we would buy things at the stop. I'm also a seasoned traveller and had all my valuables in the backpack on the floor that I had my leg through the strap on. And money/cards in my wallet in buttoned shorts pocket. I had heard about this kind of theft so I thought I was prepared for it ( I mostly was). We arrived at 5am abruptly. We are kicked off the bus and I am very groggy. Luggage is already out. As soon as we are off the bus is gone. All that is missing from my large luggage pack is my only pair of jeans I bought - at least that's all I could tell. I'm not sure if I was drugged (no water/food offered by them) and the gas idea seems like a bit crazy/dangerous. 5AM wake up ...well I'm sure I was naturally groggy. As soon as I was up though I was up and feeling fine.
I just lost some jeans. It didn't occur to me that they would steal my clothes. I sort of assumed that someone was going to go through my luggage after all I read. I don't travel with anything too expensive anyway. But I know a guy was complaining about his expensive camera that he stupidly left of the bus.
I agree with the main poster's advice. If I ever take one of these buses, I will announce to everyone on the bus about this and make sure the driver and baggage handler know that we all know about this. I might also wrap my luggage back in plastic wrap like they do at airports.
Keep in mind that a zippered piece of luggage that is "locked" is super easy to open and reseal. You just pop the zipper open with something and then run the zipper tabs back over to seal it.
#52 vidaisgood has been a member since 7/1/2013. Posts: 3
Just posted but had a few more thoughts after doing some reading. I'm thinking they play the movie for the first part of the journey really loud so you can't hear any pilfering going on in the luggage area below.
And playing a movie late at night sort of insures you will be tired and sleepy when he actually turns the lights out and allows us to sleep.
I didn't even think about it but it's a double decker bus and the entire bottom floor was blackened out and used for storage which doesn't seem normal. Nice and roomy for theives to patiently go through luggage.
I'm very weary of the gassing idea but reading about hexane gas.. it has been used in Swedish RV robberies...it doesn't knock you out but it will sort of help sleeping people sleep more deeply. I do remember on the bus that I kept feeling weird throbbing sensations in my legs...I chalked it up to sitting for a long time...but that has never happened before...according to the Wikipedia article on hexane gas that sensations/tingling in legs and arms is a common side affect of hexane gas poisoning. I also had a sore throat for a week after that trip - something I chalked up to the AC...another common side effect of gassing. AC vents were just holes...you couldn't close the vents also.
One more weird idea - the driver passed around a sign up sheet of sorts where everyone had to write down their name, address and nationality - I thought this was odd. Never had to do that before. In retrospect maybe they wanted info for possible credit card fraud if they were to find some. Actually it just occured to me that my luggage tag was removed from my luggage too after that trip...I figured it was torn off somehow. I'm guessing now that they use that for credit card fraud - which luckily I didn't have any in my luggage.
The more I read the sketchier these bus companies seem. I kept thinking how cheap the bus ride was compared to the train. Not so cheap after all.
#53 vidaisgood has been a member since 7/1/2013. Posts: 3
yet another story: http://keentotravel.co.uk/2011/07/05/gassed-and-robbed-in-thailand/
#54 vidaisgood has been a member since 7/1/2013. Posts: 3