When thinking of backpacking, one automatically thinks about traveling by bus. No matter where in the world, busses are often the number one transportation – especially for budget backpackers.
In Thailand, it is completely… the same! Although there are other transportation possibilities like a train (prices range from quite expensive to cheap, cheaper and very cheap – but therefore very uncomfortable) or plane (quite ok, but compared to busses very expensive). “Busses usually are pretty affordable and – despite all prejudices – quite convenient.” – told my friend James of the Best Arny, a blogger and an experienced auto mechanic.
Highway to Autobahn
Despite common prejudices, Thai Highways are pretty good. Especially compared to countries outside western Europe or the US. There is, for example, the so-called Super Highway. This, mostly 4-laned, the highway connects the South with the North (Bangkok to Nongkhai) and is one of the most used transit routes in Thailand.
From V.I.P. to the everyday normal guy
Everybody uses buses in Thailand. That’s why there are so many different types of busses. One of the most famous bus lines is ‘VIP’ (comparable to Greyhound in Australia, the US or Canada). It usually offers different classes (1st and 2nd) and is equipped with high-end double-decker buses.
Despite those very convenient busses, there are ‘normal’ ones too. They are usually divided into ‘air-conditioned’ and ‘non-air-conditioned’ busses. Some cities even have different bus terminals (air and non-air) for those different kinds of busses. But this is the only difference. Usually, there are no different classes so that you only pay one price.
While bargaining is ok on markets, you should not try this on ticket counters. The only thing that happens is that your fellow travelers have to wait and your bus driver gets annoyed. So don’t do it.
Where to buy tickets differs from time to time, from the bus station to bus station and from staff member to staff member. In big cities, there are bus terminals with ticket offices. Sometimes there are only small camping tables where people sell tickets and sometimes you only can buy them on board.
So if you do not see a ticket counter, but you are in the need for a bus. Simply hop on. Usually, staff members walk through the bus and sell tickets there. And unlike other transportation possibilities, you do not pay a fine if you buy your ticket on board.
Me no speak Thai / Americano
While you might be lucky enough to find an English speaking staff member at the ticket counter, you have to be Lucky Luke yourself in order to find an English speaking bus driver or staff member on the road. Nevertheless, you don’t need to worry to miss your stop or your bus station to change.
If you manage to tell somebody at the ticket counter where you want to go (e.g. by pointing at yourself and saying the name of the city) they will tell the bus staff and they will take care of you.
You might not see them during the complete travel, but as soon as you arrive in your designated destination, they will look for you (e.g. ‘farang-farang. out-out-out. change-change’).
So sabai-sabai, don’t worry and enjoy your ride.o