Bus Stations

The how's and where's of bus travel
by Somchai


Bangkok has 3 main bus stations, the eastern bus terminal (Ekkami) out near Sukhumwit soi 63, the northern bus terminal (Morchit), and the bugger-to-get-to southern bus terminal (Sai-Thai), located on the other side of the Chao Prya river in the Thonburi area. The eastern bus terminal serves the towns and cities on the eastern side of the Gulf of Thailand, such as Pattaya and Rayong. Itís a very accessible place now that the sky-train is up and running. You can get to the Ekkami bus station within 20 mins from the downtown area. Get off at Ekkami sky-train station, and you are right on the doorstep.

The Eastern Bus Terminal is located on Sukhumvit Road at Soi 40 opposite Soi 63 (Ekamai). Destinations in the East include Pattaya and Rayong. Telephone: 02 391 2504, 02 391 8097.

The northern bus terminal used to be an awful place to get to, but yet again, the sky-train and subway have taken all the strain, and both networks stretch as far as Morchit (the last station on the line). This is an extremely busy bus station with buses going to all manner of cities and towns dotted around northern Thailand. At certain times of the year such as just before the beginning of the Songkran festival, Morchit can be hell on earth, as ten's of thousands of passengers clamber for tickets to exotic outposts such as Kalasin and Mukdahan.

The Northern & Northeastern Bus Terminal is on Kamphaeng Phet 2 Road, not far from Chatuchak Market. Destinations are for all places in the North and Northeast of Thailand.

This includes. Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Sukhothai, Korat, Khon Kaen, Udorn Thani, Si Saket and Ubon Rachathani. Telephone: 02 936 2852-66, 02 936 3666.

The southern bus terminal is an absolute b*stard to get to, and you would be well advised to allow extra time for the journey to the station, especially if you are going through the grid-locked Chinatown area. Newly-constructed expressways have made getting there a little less troublesome, but it’s still a fair way out. The southern terminal serves the western side of Thailand’s gulf (Hua Hin, and Surat Thani), and the extensive southern regions (Songkhla, and Hat Yai). Again it can be an extremely busy place.

The Southern Bus Terminal is located on Borommarat Chonnani Road, approximately 2 km. from the Pinklao Bridge. In addition to the Southern buses (Hua Hin, Phuket), buses bound for Western provinces like Nakhon Pathom and Kanchanaburi leave from here. Telephone: Call 02 391 2504, 02 391 8097.

The stations are a little bit grotty (show me a bus station in the world that isn ’t), but with the new Morchit bus station open and the new southern bus station due to open later this year, things seem to be improving. Buses themselves are pretty easy to book, with a ticket window allocated to each destination and clearly marked. There’s the usual use-if-desperate toilet facilities, and plenty of kiosks where you can buy a paper and some snacks (you should see the amount of food Thais buy before they embark on a long journey). The choice of bus services can also be quite mesmerizing, especially at Morchit, where you have the choice of state-run buses, non-aircon charabangs ( which stop at every village and then some), and luxury VIP buses, which actually cost little more than the state-run ones. Although the cost of country-wide bus travel has risen steadily over the past few years, it’s still quite a bargain.

There are three main types of buses leaving from and returning to Bangkok.

The cheapest and slowest are the orange colored government buses with no air-conditioning. They stop at every village as well as pick up and drop off people anywhere they would like. This is a great way to see some local color but it is neither speedy nor comfortable.

The blue buses are run by private companies as well as the government. They are air-conditioned, don’t stop as often and are more comfortable. They go to bigger cities. First class blue buses have toilets while the others don’t.

Finally, there are “VIP” buses. They are recommended for longer trips – for example Chiang Mai or Phuket. They are air-conditioned and have more legroom.

The prices are quite reasonable by western standards. Very roughly, you can figure it is about 1 baht per kilometer for a one-way ticket on a VIP bus and about half that for a standard air-conditioned bus.

Q: Have you used the bus stations? What do you think?

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