While most Thais refer to it simply as Sai Tai, meaning “southern direction,” the Mai (“new”) differentiates it from the old Southern bus station, Sai Tai Gao, which is located further east and now serves only a handful of local minibuses.
Sai Tai Mai is located way out in the Bang Khae area of Bangkok on Borrommaratchachonani Road (try saying that five times fast), just west of Soi 85. A meter taxi to or from Khao San Road, Silom or Sukhumvit will cost 200 to 350 baht. The closest metro station is Bang Wa on the BTS Silom Line, but it’s located 10 kilometres and a solid 100-baht cab ride to the south.
Leaving the terminal, you can grab a taxi out front or try your luck with the cheap city buses—take the pedestrian bridge across the highway to catch a bus heading into Bangkok. Bus numbers 19, 30, 124, 201, 507 and 524 run to Sanam Luang; 19, 79, 159, 174, 183, 201, 511 and 556 run to Democracy Monument near Khao San Road; 28, 159, 164, 183, 201 and 515 run to Victory Monument; 40, 159 and 507 run to Hualamphong Railway Station; and 40, 79, 164, 177 and 511 run to Siam Square. A minibus runs direct from Sai Tai Mai to Morchit (Northern) Bus Terminal every 20 minutes from 04:30 to 22:00; tickets are sold for 35 baht on the east side of the complex near the other minibus ticket desks.
The terminal oddly doubles as a shopping centre, SC Plaza, so you can stock up on 80-baht collared shirts and Hello Kitty smartphone cases while you’re here. You’ll also find plenty of banks, restaurants, nail salons, massage shops, a food court on the top floor, a health clinic and police office. There’s even an arcade. Open from 05:00 to 21:00, a “Left Luggage” office near the regular bus ticket booths charges 60 baht per day to store a large bag.
To find the regular bus ticket booths, head in through the front entrance, walk to your right and take the escalator up to “Floor 1,” which is actually the third floor up. A good option here is the government-run Transport Company marked by an orange facade and the “999” logo. Minibus (van) tickets are sold outdoors on the east side of the main building—these are faster than regular buses but also more cramped and dangerous. Most destinations are posted in English.
Apart from the minibuses, nearly all buses departing from Sai Tai Mai are first-class or VIP with air-con and toilets on board. Fares include:
Amphawa and Damnoen Saduak (floating markets): Minibuses depart hourly from 06:00 to 18:00 for 70 to 80 baht and take two hours, with a stop in Mae Khlong.
Bang Saphan: Buses depart hourly from 07:00 to 17:00 and at 20:00, 22:30 and 24:00 for 260 baht and take six hours.
Chumphon (Ko Tao piers): Buses depart at 09:00, 10:50, 11:30, 12:00, 12:30, 14:00 and several times from 20:00 to 21:40 for 320 to 510 baht and take seven hours.
Dannok / Sadao (Malaysia border): Buses depart at 17:30 and 18:50 for 790 baht and take 16 hours.
Hat Yai: Buses depart at 06:30 and 10 times from 16:30 to 20:00 for 850 to 1,100 baht and take 15 hours. Some of these continue to Songkhla and others to Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat.
Hua Hin: Regular buses depart at 11:30, 14:00 and 16:00 for 155 baht and take three hours. Minibuses depart every half-hour from 05:00 to 22:00 for 180 baht. Most of these stop in Phetchaburi and Cha-am, and some continue to Pranburi.
Kanchanaburi: Buses depart every 20 minutes from 04:00 to 20:00 for 110 baht and take three hours, with a stop in Nakhon Pathom. Minibuses depart hourly from 05:00 to 21:00 for 100 baht.
Ko Samui: A couple of buses depart from 07:00 to 07:30 and a bunch more from 19:00 to 20:30 for 700 to 900 baht and take 14 hours, including the car ferry.
Ko Pha Ngan: Buses depart at 19:30 and 20:00 for around 900 baht and take 15 hours, including the car ferry.
Krabi (Ko Phi Phi, Ko Lanta and Ko Jum piers): Two first-class buses depart at 07:00 and then a bunch from 17:00 to 20:40 for around 550 baht. VIP buses depart at 19:20 and 20:20 for 710 to 870 baht. The trip takes 12 hours.
Mae Khlong (Samut Songkhram): Minibuses depart hourly from 05:00 to 19:00 for 75 baht and take two hours, with a stop at Mahachai (Samut Sakhon).
Nakhon Pathom: Minibuses depart every 40 minutes from 04:00 to 18:40 for 50 baht and take an hour.
Nakhon Ratchasima (Khorat): Buses depart every 40 minutes from 08:00 to 18:00 for 191 baht and take five hours.
Nakhon Si Thammarat: Buses depart every hour from 17:00 to 20:50 for 450 to 550 baht and take 13 hours.
Pattaya: Regular buses depart every two hours from 08:00 to 16:00 for 108 baht and take three hours. Minibuses depart hourly from 05:00 to 18:00 for 145 baht.
Phuket: First-class buses depart five times from 06:00 to 10:00, again at 15:30 and several times from 15:30 to 20:00 for 540 to 790 baht. VIP buses depart hourly from 17:30 to 20:30 for 900 to 1,050 baht. The trip takes 13 hours and many of these buses stop in Khuraburi, Takua Pa, Khao Lak and Phang Nga.
Prachuap Khiri Khan: Buses depart at 11:00 and 15:30 for 200 baht and take five hours. Minibuses depart hourly from 05:00 to 20:00 for the same price.
Ranong (Ko Phayam and Ko Chang Noi piers): Buses depart at 08:00, 09:00 and six times from 19:00 to 21:00 for 400 to 630 baht and take 11 hours.
Ratchaburi: Minibuses depart hourly from 05:00 to 21:00 for 80 baht and take two hours.
Rayong: Minibuses depart hourly from 06:00 to 18:00 for 200 baht and take four hours.
Satun: One bus departs at 07:00 and then several from 16:30 to 19:30 for 580 to 800 baht and takes 16 hours, with a stop in Phatthalung or Trang.
Sri Racha (Ko Si Chang pier): Minibuses depart hourly from 06:00 to 20:00 for 130 baht and take three hours.
Sungai Kolok (Malaysia border): Buses depart six times from 14:30 to 17:20 for 800 to 1,220 baht and take 16 hours.
Suphanburi: Minibuses depart hourly from 05:00 to 18:00 for 100 baht and take two hours.
Surat Thani (Ko Samui and Ko Pha Ngan piers): A few buses depart from 08:00 to 09:00 and many more from 17:00 to 20:20 for 450 to 850 baht and take 10 hours.
Trang (Ko Muk, Ko Kradan and Ko Ngai piers): A bus departs at 07:00 and then six times from16:30 to 19:30 for 680 to 1,060 baht and take 13 hours.
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.