Friday, 11 April 2014

Public transport in Thailand (outside Bangkok and Pattaya)

Public transport in Thailand (outside Bangkok and Pattaya)

The following might be obvious to my readers, but it took me months of traveling on public transport in Thailand to combine all parts of the puzzle, finally in Chanthaburi it all fell into place and now I can share the information I gathered with my readers.

Buses have about 50 seats, VIP buses fewer seats with more space for each passenger. They stop only at designated places, usually a bus terminal, in some cases on the road (Siratcha in front of Robinson). For long distance travel (out of province).

Minibus = van has 15 seats. These are narrower than in an airplane, I don't want to travel longer than 3 hours, and it's not recommended if you are overweight. Sometimes I can get the front seat, which has a bit more space and is a better viewpoint (you can't see much from the back seats). They have more stops than buses and often take you to your final destination (can cause delays if you are at the end of the trip, I had van to Pattaya where we had 10 minutes detour in side sois in Siratcha, but it can save a change to another mode of transport). Usually there is a sign with destinations in Thai and an office and a waiting area (seats, roof) along the road or in front of shopping centers. "Minivan" is a misnomer, a van is a minibus, there is no "minivan"! For long distance travel (out of province).

Song theo (สองแถว sŏng tăe, literally: two rows) are pick-up trucks with two passenger benches and a roof on the passenger area. (Following numbers for size used in Pattaya, which seems to be the most common size in all of Thailand.) About ten people can sit, and many more can stand (maximum number of passengers I counted on one I was on is 21, but I saw song theo driving past with estimated 30 passengers). Service stops about 5 pm (Chanthaburi, Chiang Rai). For short distance travel (within province).

Which mode of transport to chose depends on your destination, asking locals is the best way to find out. Some exaples:

Chanthaburi has a bus station in town center, and Pornnipa tour has their own bus station opposite the hospital which has buses to/from Bangkok (Mor Chit and Ekkamai, no other destinations) day and night. Vans leave from a van station with office near the clock tower east of the park and stop on multiple other offices in and out of town. This is the only way to get from Chanthaburi to Pattaya. Song theos leave from the main road in front of the bus terminal and from the market. That makes five places (two bus stations, one van station, two song theo stations) you have to consider!

Chiang Rai has an old bus station in town center and a new bus station out of town, connected by song theo (20 Baht, stops about 5 pm).

Pattaya has three bus stations I know of: north Pattaya (buses from/to Bangkok), Jomtien (near Foodmart, only bus to/from airport), Nakhonchai (on Sukhumvit road, buses to/from Esan and Northern Thailand).

Bangkok has various undocumented song theo lines, that will be subject of another post.

The bottom line is: there is no single place from where to get public transport, you have to ask locals. 


  1. Its far more complicated-but also organised, as you think. Thailand even has a nation wide bus-route-numbering system (BKK-city is out of that).
    The BMA area=BKK big city, has about 200 proper citybus routes and another 200 or so songhthaew/red minibus routes.
    On Ch. Wattana is also bus 356, which is in the nationwide system (3=central TH) and runs Pak Kred-Laksi-Don MUang-Rangsit/and or Sapan Mai (with green and red shields for the other way). Its has old style buses, some new style yellow AC-buses, vans.
    But you are right in that there is NO comprehensive info on them and very little is even online. In a country where car-ownership is still very limited, you can be sure that about any village/hamlet has some transportation-mostly to the closest by larger town with schools/hospital etc. Thats thus often the muang amphoe. BUSstations are for out of the chiangwat=province routes, local lines often end at/near the giant local market. Same for Chanthaburi.
    Und keine ueber kompliziertes Verbunds Tarif System, wie die Deutsche er so gerne haben moechten. Just pay for every ride apart.

  2. A nation wide bus-route-numbering system? Please elaborate.


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