Buses Between Provinces
The buses go everywhere, are economical and comfortable. However, the schedules seem to change often.
Veterans of Thailand and ambitious tourists can get around all over by bus once they learn the ropes, but newcomers should start by sticking to the main bus terminals and government buses, as discussed first.
There are large government run buses from the main terminals of the larger cities, and privately operated buses all over. The main terminals have busses coming and going all day and nite. People usually just go down to get a ticket at the time they want to travel. You can carry baggage, which is loaded into the baggage area outside and underneath the bus.
You can usually book a ticket at the last minute at the bus station for a bus leaving soon to/from Bangkok ... but not always, e.g., Friday evening on a three day weekend might pose a problem. I've usually been able to get a bus ticket and get onto a bus within an hour from/to Bangkok. Travel late at night and travel going between smaller cities is a different story.
In Bangkok, there are three bus terminals:
It's suggest you call the bus station with your intended destination to make sure that you are going to the correct bus station, and to check for the day's bus schedule.
The english at the government run, large bus terminals is adequate. However, the buses often have no roman writing on them, only sanskrit.
Most of these buses are air conditioned and cheap. Going several hundred kilometers will cost you just a few hundred baht, including the VIP buses with leg room and reclining seats (similar to airline seats).
There are many places where privately run, small minivan buses serve relatively short hops between cities. These minivan buses usually serve people who have long commutes to and from work rather than tourists, so don't bring anything more than a small backpack. No tickets, of course, first-come-first-serve, and you have to know where to pick them up.
Along the main highways, you'll see a lot of open air buses. If you learn to read the Thai sanskrit and to recognize the name of the destination you're going to, then you can wave down these buses and hop in. It's best if you go to what looks like a bus stop area on the highway, e.g., a bunch of people standing around waiting for the bus ... but not absolutely necessary.
At small towns, you can grab small van buses and various other transportation to reach practically any small village, especially if you arrive in the daytime. The friendly Thais will usually be able to get you on the right bus.
When waving down a bus on the highway, turn your palm down and wave them in with your fingers, as shown in our photo of requesting someone's presence.
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