Surviving Bangkok by Public Bus

Bangkok traffic is notoriously bad, but you’ll likely need to brave it to get to your destination. Fortunately, the city’s spider web of a bus network will get you there for cheap and with a story to tell.

Overall, our experience of the buses was positive. Employees were helpful, honest and understood enough English to make sure we got to our destination. We also found other passengers were happy to help translate and offer advice.

DMK Airport by bus
Our first experience of the bus was after arriving at Don Mueang International Airport. Signage is somewhat confusing. There are two sets of buses that depart from the airport. One are the regular buses and the other are the express buses, which offer convenient one-seat trips to destinations near where most hotels are located.

The express buses are:
  • A1 to Mo Chit BTS station
  • A2 to Victory Monument
  • A3 to Lumpini Park
  • A4 to Khao San Road
Our hotel was near Lumpini Park. For only ฿50 A3 express bus was our best bet. It runs every 15-20 minutes, but felt like it took longer in Bangkok humidity. There was a perpetual crowd at the stop. It seemed most people were waiting on the A1, which inevitably always arrived packed. We were worried how crowded the A3 would be, but fortunately it arrived with plenty of seats for us. The bus itself was reminiscent of a bygone era. It had curtains that looked part of the original design. Most of the bus was finished with metal instead of plastic. Our driver expertly handled the manual transmission that seemed to groan with each shift.

Fares are paid on board. Unlike most buses, there is no fare box. Instead you pay an on-board fare collector directly. He or she can make change with most larger bills although ฿500 and ฿1000 are frowned upon.

I spent a considerable amount of time researching the bus route to avoid an issues. I knew exactly where we wanted to get off, but our fare collector was very helpful and was willing to help if needed.

Thankfully, we didn’t encounter much traffic and we arrived quickly near Lumpini Park. From there it was a short walk to our hotel.

In hindsight, the A3 gave us a good opportunity to get a pulse of how Bangkok buses work.

Regular buses
The MRT and BRT are the preferable mode of transportation, but buses are almost a necessity to get to your final destination.

Bus stops are becoming more obvious. In some areas outside of the city the stops are marked by large groups of people with no formal signage. In most tourist areas there are large, formal (and obvious) stops. A list of lines servicing the stop is often provided.

Some routes cost more than others. You can tell the fare based on the color of the bus. We stuck to the red and white buses, which cost ฿7 each. I highly recommend sitting down if you can. The video we shot shows our jerky experience on board one bus. I will note, we never felt unsafe on these buses. The drivers expertly navigated traffic. Some brought back memories of New York aggressiveness.

Google Maps accurately maps the bus routes and found the quickest way to our destinations. The schedules can be inaccurate. Instead, it seemed the buses came when they wanted. I recommend avoiding transfers if you can because you could find yourself with a lengthy wait.

Surviving Bangkok by Public Bus Surviving Bangkok by Public Bus Reviewed by Brandon on January 24, 2018 Rating: 5

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