Bangkok to Krabi: Government Buses vs. Tourist VIP Buses

Recently faced with the daunting overland journey from Bangkok to Krabi I was armed with three options. Having had a bad experience on the ‘VIP’ tourist buses that run between Surat Thani and Bangkok involving seats that barely reclined, had no legroom and a blocked toilet, the smell of which wafted throughout the entire cabin, I was reluctant to give the bus another go. The journey by train however would take an additional 2 – 3 hours and have me arrive in Surat Thani (at 4am) where I would need to find a minivan to take me across coast on the 3 – 4 hour journey to Krabi. Also not ideal. Lastly, there was the option of a government bus which operated from the Bangkok southern bus terminal which would make the 11 hour journey throughout the night. I weighed up the options and took the risk with the government bus, which turned out to be an excellent decision.

The Bangkok southern bus terminal isn’t the most accessible of terminals in the city. From what I understand, the best way (and the way I went) to get there is to take the train to the National Stadium and then a taxi across the river which ended up costing 100 baht. The terminal itself feels like more of a shopping mall than a bus station, with each of the three levels filled with restaurants, market stalls and even massage parlors. On the first floor you are confronted with what looks to be around 100 windows/booths offering tickets to different locations. I went between the three that operated the Krabi trip and was disappointed to find that I just missed a seat on the 24 seater bus. Instead, I opted for the 36 seater (for 590 baht) as there was no way I would be catching the 48 seater. A note to anyone looking into catching long haul buses in Thailand – always find out how many seats are on the bus, and if you can pay more for a bus with fewer seats.

The bus itself didn’t have the colorful paint job and neon lights that all of the tourist VIP buses in Khao San Rd have, however the quality of service was certainly more impressive. Each person on the bus was given a blanket and glass of coke upon entering the bus and as we left the terminal a woman took to the isles handing out milk, water and a taro bun to snack on throughout the night. Much to my surprise the seat also reclined a substantial, and comfortable amount, whilst maintaining plenty of legroom for my 6ft tall figure. After a quick chat to the lovely Thai woman sitting next to me I rugged up with my snacks and got stuck into watching some TV shows I had procured on my laptop before the bus came to a halt at around 10.00.

Typical tourist VIP bus

Stepping out of the bus, I was a little bit confused to see a team of wait staff rush out into a large dining hall with bowls of rice, various Thai dishes and some water that they were placing on each table. I look over to the man with the microphone who seemed to be in charge and he directs me in, telling me that the food is free. Another pleasant surprise of traveling with the government bus service. Stomach topped up and bladder released I pile back onto the bus, pop my sleeping tablets and manage to get a few hours of sleep before arriving in Krabi at 6.30. As we depart, the woman sitting next to me was nice enough to explain to the ute/taxi driver where I was headed before saying goodbye and going her own way.

I was joined in the back of the ute by another Thai woman whom I briefly chatted to as we made our way through Krabi town and out to the beaches. After about 10 minutes the ute came to a halt outside of a 7/11 where a group of moto taxi’s were waiting. My first thoughts were that I was about to get kicked out of the bus and told to pay an exorbitant amount for a moto taxi as that’s what happened in Sam Roi Yod. Fortunately, this fear didn’t come to fruition. Instead, the woman and driver went into 7/11 with the woman returning with two bags of goodies, one of which she handed to me as breakfast. Not used to this sort of kindness I froze for a second and then thanked her before scoffing down my pork bun and orange juice.

The rest of my time in Krabi was quite dull and uneventful. I had gone there with one thing in mind – rock-climbing, however instead I arrived in some of the worst flooding southern Thailand experienced in 20 years. Turned off by the rain, and the fact that I appeared to be the only person staying in my hostel, I decided to leave after one night, heading south to Langkawi in pursuit of sunlight. As it turns out I was lucky to have left when I did because if I stayed another day longer I may have been trapped in the landslides, some of which took the lives of a few local villagers.

Didn't get a photo of Krabi, but this is Langkawi after the rain.

One thought on “Bangkok to Krabi: Government Buses vs. Tourist VIP Buses

  1. Hello, I am doing some research about traveling to Ko Lanta, I was wondering if you have taken the train from Bangkok to Krabi? Specifically what dishes food vendors sell on the trains. I want you to know I am writing copy for a travel site and if you don’t wish to share your hard won information with me, I understand. I enjoyed my visit to your blog. Thank you, Abby

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