Thailand Country Guide

Getting Around


By Bus

Buses travel throughout the country and the government's bus company BKS ("Baw Kaw Saw" or Transport Company in English) has a terminal in every province of Thailand. BKS buses are the best option for both price and comfort. There are also private buses sanctioned by BKS operating on the same routes from the same terminals with the same fares. Some buses may have TVs and sound systems blaring, so earplugs are well worth having (just in case). On long-haul buses, if your ticket allocates you a front seat, you may have to switch seats if a monk boards.

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Southern Bus Terminal in Bangkok by Sry85
The basic BKS bus types are:
  • Local - These buses are relatively slow and can be cramped when full (nevertheless there's always room for one more). The local buses stop at every stop and not suitable for long-distance travel. However, they may be the only cheap way to get around locally.
  • Express (rot duan) - Identifiable by their orange colour, these buses skip some stops but offer no other frills. The size of the buses vary with the largest having around 65 seats as well as an open space at the back of the bus for you to sling your backpack, bicycle, sack of rice, live chickens, etc. 
  • Second class (chan song) - These buses skip more stops but often take a less direct route. Blue and white buses with an orange stripe usually have 45-48 seats and are air-conditioned. Most have no on-board toilet though the frequent stops mean this isn't a problem. 
  • First class (chan neung) - These blue and white buses generally take the most direct routes and with very few stops. The buses are air-conditioned and typically have 40 seats but double-decker buses often seat more than 60. Snacks and drinking water is usually included and there are toilets on board except for the shortest services. 
  • "VIP" - These are 1st class buses but with only 32-34 seats, offering more leg room and seats recline further. Basic meal included and freshly laundered shrink-wrapped blanket provided. These buses are also coloured blue and white (sometimes blue and silver) but usually signed "VIP". 
  • "S-VIP" - Super-VIP is similar to VIP except there are only 24 seats. The seats are wider with each row having a pair of seats on the right and only a single seat on the left. The buses are primarily used on overnight services.

Inside a Thai rural bus by Ilya Plekhanov

The ones to watch out for are the illegal bus companies, often operating from the tourist areas. Amenities may be lacking, schedules unreliable and safety questionable. In particular, beware of non-government "VIP" buses, which often turn out to be cramped minivans - and you'll only find this out after paying in advance.

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