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Bangkok Bus 101: Survival Guide on Riding Buses in Bangkok

Author : Ivy Lee (November 12, 2016)

Best way to take the bus in Bangkok? Don’t. But in all seriousness, there is probably a reason why foreigners on a bus is a rare sight in this city. Even Thais themselves are extremely confused and uncertain with the way buses in Bangkok work unless they were trained for it. However, if you are on a tight budget or are simply feeling extremely adventurous, look no further. We have compiled an experts’ guide on mastering the art of bus taking in Bangkok!

1. Bus Stops

Rule# 1: Although all bus stops were created equal, some appear to be more equal than others. Just because you are at a bus stop, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the bus will actually stop there.

As a rule of thumb, if you are in a busy/crowded area like the Victory Monument or big malls, the bus will most likely stop. Depending on the type of the bus (distinguished by color), you might be able to just get on even if the bus hasn’t fully reached the stop or you might have to wait until the bus gets there first. State-owned buses tend to be more strict, while private buses are the complete opposite.

However, if you happen to be in a quiet neighborhood, just know that the driver might not bother to stop at all even if they see you waiting. You could still try waving and letting them know you want to get on, but just be warned that there is no guarantee.

Rule# 2: The auntie waiting next to you is probably more trustworthy than the bus stop signs.

Although most stops are labelled with bus routes, numbers, or directions, they are not always accurate. Certain routes were cancelled years prior, yet the signs were never changed. It’s probably in your best interest to ask someone nearby instead of reading the signs, and also confirm this information with the bus fare collector (yes, there is such a thing and no, not the driver) once you get on.

2. Getting Off the Bus

Rule# 3: Too much (or too little) is never enough.

Simply ringing the bell does not mean the driver will stop and drop you off. Word has it that if you ring the bell too gently, they might just ignore your request and if you accidentally ring it more than once, you might be rewarded with a few extra complementary stops.

It is best to tell the bus fare collector (your best friend on the bus) where you are heading, and ask them to let you know once you’re almost there. This way, they are most likely to let the driver know to stop for you.

3. Seats on the Bus

Rule# 4: Forget about it. It’s never opened anyway.

If you DO manage to get one, good job! If not, just remember to hold on for dear life. Know that there is a Thai movie parody of Fast & Furious, but with Bangkok buses. I wish I was kidding.

4. Bus Fares

Rule# 5: Again, the fare collector is your best friend.

Generally, Bangkok buses cost around 7-12 THB depending on the type of the bus and the routes. Some air-conditioned ones are based on distance, so the fares might be different on your way there and back. If you aren’t sure how much it will cost, give them a 20 note and expect change. However, if the fare collector (referred to as Ka-pao-rod-may in Thai, literally translated to Bus’s Wallet) likes you, you might not even have to spend a dime. All in all, always be nice and courteous and you will be a bus-riding expert in no time!


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