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bus or train better?

Posted by upstateNYlauren on 30/11/2012 at 10:05

am wondering if the bus or train is better for travel between hat yai - bangkok, then bangkok - chiang mai. i see various options for both, and so am curious for folks' advice - is bus or train better? which companies do you prefer?
thank you!!

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Posted by exacto on 30/11/2012 at 10:38

i'd usually recommend the overnight sleeper trains for long-haul trips like from down south to bangkok or bangkok to chiang mai. the advantage is better comfort and safety. i also recommend splurging on a first-class compartment if you can possibly afford it. it is a great experience. don't forget to tip the conductors and waitstaff!

the disadvantage of train over bus is that there are fewer departures and the sleeper cars often book up full well in advance. also, the train doesn't go everywhere in the same way the bus does, so you have to get to where the train departs. also, while the trains leave on time from their initial station, they rarely arrive on time due to overcrowded tracks.

for shorter point to point trips, the bus is usually a better option because of convenience. the government bus service gets the best reviews and fewest complaints of onboard theft. ta.

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Posted by altmtl on 30/11/2012 at 11:38

I prefer the train myself.

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Posted by Saphir on 30/11/2012 at 19:08

There are also aeroplanes.

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Posted by captainbkk on 1/12/2012 at 03:32

SRT=the train ''company''-in fact a state-moloch- thus its is in fact forbidden to tip staff-its corruption. Just the same as tipping for someone selling stamps in the postoffice. 1st cl. has same beds as 2nd-but in enclosed -often icy cold-cabins. ONLY available on some premium crack trains. IF some high Thai official turns up-you will have to clear your cabin for them.
Both have their pro and cons-and with AirAsia and the many other very low-priced flites, these also have their pro+cons.
This site is very much pro-train, and the propagandists of those iron monsters do anything to put them in a good sight. Read for one sided info on that.
The cons of trains are:
always delays, very old stock, must organise your trip (not really needed for bus) very expensive and bad food on board-though those promotors always rave about ''cold beer''-as if Thailand has not enough of drunks and trouble from them.
The pro of long-distance bus are:
choice of type of bus, much quicker and much more on time as trains, cheaper too and on most days no need to prebook-simply go to busstation and find office/buy ticket. On the 1st cl bus food+drink included. No nasty extra sales on board anyway. Choice of about 10 (HY-BK or >25 BK-CM) companies. As you cannot read thai anyway and will be unable to see the comps. name-this is superfluous.
CON; yes too-many accidents (trains also have) and seats only. We do not have those VNese/Chinese sleeperbuses here.
Ignorant newbee farang often book the KhaoSarn buses-then you are in for trouble, but yes, its cheap.

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Posted by DLuek on 1/12/2012 at 05:22 TF writer

I prefer riding in trains any day but it's not fun waiting for a train that's five hours late, which happens regularly if, like exacto says, you catch it somewhere other than the initial departure station - usually on time at Hualamphong for instance, at least in the mornings, but somewhere in the middle of the line like Phitsanulok can be a long wait. I also agree with Captianbkk about train food - I've found it to be tasteless and it usually makes me a bit queasy.

Solid points by Captianbkk on the pros and cons of both, although generally speaking trains are a little cheaper (i.e. the cheapest bus ticket will be a little more than the cheapest train ticket and VIP bus tickets more than sleeper train tickets)... There are exceptions, but generally buses are a bit more money.

If you go bus for long distances try to get a VIP bus with ample leg room (i.e 24 or 32-seater) and on-board toilet. Being on a cramped local bus for a 14-hour trip is trying.

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Posted by exacto on 1/12/2012 at 09:32

the first class sleeper cabins have those adjustable air conditioning nozzles just like on airplanes. you can twist them to allow as much or as little air con into your cabin as you wish. they also have two beds that are both the size of the lower berth in the second class sleeper section, which is a real bonus. you can turn out the lights, which you can't do in second class, and people going up and down the halls all night are on the other side of a secured door, not behind just a thin curtain. first class has more space for your pack, which is also behind a secure door while you sleep, and the cabins even have a small sink for washing up (not for drinking water). there are fewer people using the bathrooms too. it is a real treat if you can arrange it.

we've got the same quality sleeper cabins on trains in the states, but they cost far more than flying and 10 times what a sleeper cabin costs in Thailand, so if you ever want to experience this type of travel, Thailand is the best place i've found to do it. it is part of the adventure.

i still take buses all the time, but for those long-haul overnight trips, you can't beat the train. i've done it about 35 times now. but that's just me, an ignorant farang.

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Posted by MADMAC on 1/12/2012 at 10:16

One big difference is safety though. Bus crashes are not uncommon. They're in the news often, and I've personally seen the wreck of one when I was riding my bike. Bus tride to overtake a truck on a curve. Bad call - oncoming traffick with another truck and head on collision (last mistake that driver made).

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Posted by Rukus on 1/12/2012 at 21:59

aswell with those busses running in the southern regions with more tourists on the bus they will go through your bags so make sure all your valubles are on your person, I had my ipod and buck knife stolen just a few weeks ago :( train is slower and maybe more expensive aswell unless you ride third class but completley different atmosphere, not so much stop and go and turns in a train and you can get up and walk around a bit.

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Posted by squarethecircle on 7/12/2012 at 01:27

I use train for HY-BKK and Nakhonchai Air for BKK-CM. The latter is roughly the same price as the train for what NCA calls Gold Class (657 Baht), but it's much faster, has safe drivers (none of the crazy over-taking in a double-decker bus on a curvy mountain road drivers), and personal TV's with good western movie selection. It feels high class.

If there were a comparable bus company on the southern route I'd use that, but there's none that I'm aware of so I use the second-class aircon train for 775 Baht (always a few hours late). Usually you can meet some interesting people on the train, as well.

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Posted by stoneman on 14/12/2012 at 05:33

Between BKK & CM I prefer the overnight sleeper train. I have my dinner before I board so just take my drink and something to snack on before bed. If I was to travel from BKK to HY it would be the overnight sleeper for me.

As alluded to, I prefer train over bus solely on the safety factor. I couldn't care less if the train runs late as I know I will wake up in one piece.

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Posted by achtung on 14/12/2012 at 08:51

Which is cheaper going to Cambodia, Siem Reap / Phnom Penh, from Bangkok? Appreciate your help!

I will be traveling on February 2013.. :)

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Posted by exacto on 14/12/2012 at 13:04

Unless there has been a dramatic change recently, to get to Siem Reap , the train from Bangkok stops at Aranyaprathet , about 8 to 10 km on the Thai side of the Cambodian border. From there you can take a tuk tuk to the border and then transfer to share taxi or bus once you enter Cambodia. As far as I know, there is no train from Bangkok that heads towards Phnom Penh either.

You could do a train to Aranyaprathet and the continue by bus, or bus it all the way. Most folks on this website recommend making your own way and NOT using the all-in-one Bangkok to Siem Reap services offered out of Khao San Road. They are cheap but really slow and use other tactics to get extra money from you, so you wind up losing in the end.

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