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Public Transport in Thailand (Part 1)

This page is the first page of a set about Public Transport in Thailand. These pages are mainly meant to given a visual impression, but some of them also give some detailed information. There also are some practical hints.

General means of public transport

The simplest and cheapest means of Public Transport in Thailand is the "Samlor". It is a tricycle (literally "three wheels").

Samlor View from inside a Samlor

You will find "Samlors" everywhere in Thailand, except in the center of Bangkok. The traffic there is too busy there. But even in quiet parts of Bangkok and in the suburbs you will find them. Don't expect to go fast in a <">Samlor<">. And please don't ask the driver to take two persons in one "Samlor" tricycle.


A modern version of the "Samlor" is the motorcycle taxi.

Motorcycle taxi's

You see then everywhere in Thailand and they are quite popular with Thais, because they are cheaper than "Tuk-Tuk's" (see below), but a bit more expensive than Samlors. Mostly the drivers wear colored overshirts.

You go with them at your own risk, as with every means of public transport, so if I were you, the least I would ask for is a helmet! I am always amazed how many of these motorcycle taxi's take their passengers without supplying a helmet for them and how many passengers accept this!


The next stage in Thai Public Transport are the "Tuk-Tuk's".

A Tuk-Tuk in Bangkok View from inside a Tuk-Tuk

They will only be cheaper than a taxi if you bargain (hard) about he price!. Tuk-Tuk's start - in principle - at 20 Baht, whereas taxi's start at 35 Baht. So the Tuk-Tuk should be cheaper, shouldn't it? Yes, if you know quite well how far you have to go and what the normal rate for that distance is. Normally we, foreigners pay more for a Tuk-Tuk than for a taxi.

Once I lost my way in Bangkok and I finally decided to take a Tuk-Tuk to find my hotel again. So I showed the driver the card of the hotel. He looked very concentrated at it and said that the rate was 70 Baht. I was able to reduce it to 50 Baht but ... he drove into the first street on the right, then the first street on the left and there I was at my hotel! Less than five minutes driving! So, the normal rate would have been the minimum (20 Baht) but as a foreigner, who does not know the way, I paid 50 Baht (and if I hadn't bargained 70 Baht). But it is fun to drive in a Tuk-Tuk. I must admit that!


Now we come to means of public transport, specific for Bangkok.

City buses

Standard bus in Bangkok View inside a standard bus

There are several types of buses in Thailand, and in Bangkok in particular! On the left hand side you see a "normal" bus in Bangkok. It doesn't have air-conditioning and is extremely cheap. Nevertheless it is comfortable enough, if you take them outside the rush hours. "Normal" buses come in several colors, but red ones are sinnce ages the most common ones.

The right hand side picture is made inside a "normal" red bus. If there are monks in the bus, they will sit on the back seat (from where the right hand side picture was taken). If you are sitting on the back seat and a monk enters, please be so polite to rise and to find another seat. And if there are no seats left, be so polite to stand for the rest of your ride. The back seat is (in the first) place for monks. That is the rule. You are supposed to know this.

Bus destination...

A problem with Thai City buses in general, illustrated here at a "normal" bus in Bangkok, is that the destinations are only written on it in Thai. So try to find out in advance which one you need. But there is a second problem here: Normal buses and air-conditioned buses (see below) may have the same number, but that does not mean they drive the same route! So if somebody advises you to take a certain bus, always ask if he or she means the normal or air-conditioned bus!
Some buses in Bangkok have Thai as well as English destination plates, but they are exceptions.

Green bus in Bangkok

To make this page more complete, I also add a picture of a green Bangkok bus. These green buses are also "normal" buses, but they are smaller and - hence - more often filled up completely. You pay the same fare as in the larger "normal" buses. Although they should be disappearing, I still saw them well into the 21st century.

Old airconditioned bus New airconditioned bus
Inside an airconditioned bus

The air-conditioned buses have been blue for many years (see the top left hand side picture), but since 1998 they are being replaced gradually by orange colored buses (top right hand side picture). This seems to take a very long time, because them too I saw still far into the 21st century! They are also quite cheap and more comfortable than the "normal" buses, as can be seen from the picture of the interior.

Microbus in Bangkok

Then there is the Microbus in Bangkok. This is a bus with guaranteed seats (the driver will not stop if all the seats are occupied) and newspapers plus video (V.D.O. in Thai!) are available for the travelers. They are relatively expensive (20 Baht or even more). Here also the destinations often are only written on the bus in Thai, so you need to know which one you need!
There have been plans to stop this service, many years ago. These plans have never been realized, as far as I know, because I still see them every year, far into the 21st century. I must admit, however, that I hardly saw them in 2010.

Since June 2000 Bangkok has the Lady Bus. It is operated on 10 Bangkok bus lines. The idea is to keep the ladies free from pickpockets and other robbers, especially around pay-day. The Thais have the custom to withdraw large sums of money as soon as their salary arrives. Ladies seem to have been an easy target for pickpockets and robbers around that day.
Furthermore the ladies should now be free from sexual harassment in buses. Thailand may be the first country in the World with this lady-friendly transport!

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