Driving around Bangkok will pretty much be a necessity if you’re going to live in Thailand. But are you ready for the hazards waiting for you on the roads of Bangkok?
You may be anxious to drive her around the streets of Bangkok, but thinking in terms of how it used to be at home may fall short on what you should expect. For Thais the frenetic maze of Bangkok’s streets is a normal way of life. That’s why I created this Bangkok driving guide to help you out.
What Is The Biggest Hazard On The Road In Bangkok?
If you’re going to drive in Thailand then you need to know the biggest hazard on the road is not what you would think. It’s not the ever-present motorcycles or the constant stream of pedestrians dashing through traffic. It’s not the frequent rain storms in the wet season or the feral dogs wandering aimlessly in the road. No, the biggest hazards on the roads are the public transit buses in Bangkok. Why? Read On.
Public Transit Buses in Bangkok Are The Biggest Hazard On The Streets.
No doubt you’re wondering why a transit buses in Bangkok, designed for the benign purposes of helping local citizens and taking cars off the road would qualify as the biggest hazard on the street. There are many reasons why this is so but the biggest overall reason is the drivers.
Bus drivers think they are in the Indy 500. They treat their buses like race cars. They make moves on the road I wouldn’t make in my tiny Honda Jazz. Because of that they make their buses a danger to every other motorist on the road.
What Is The Bus Driver’s Job? And What Is The Difference About Buses In Bangkok?
Let’s look at the obvious things a Bus driver has to do for his job. He’s expected to go from one destination to another within a certain time frame. Along the way he has to make regular stops to pick up and drop off passengers. That should be a pretty straight forward job in the driving industry right? Why should he be a danger to other drivers?
Buses In Bangkok Do Their Job In A Small Space
Bangkok’s streets are usually clogged with traffic. That means big buses in Bangkok have very little space to maneuver. That isn’t the fault of the bus driver. However, the steps they take to make-up for that absence of space creates danger for the motorists who share the road with them.
First of all you need to understand that transit buses in Bangkok can not stay in the far left lane of traffic. Even though the left lane is the slow lane in this left-side driving country there is far too much action happening in the left lane for a motorist to drive any distance in that lane.
What’s Happening In The Left Lane?
The left lane has other buses and taxis and baht buses stopping all the time. On top of that there are street vendors moving their carts slowly along and delivery trucks stopped for extended periods along the curb. It’s also the lane where cars are frequently slowing down to make left hand turns. You certainly wouldn’t get anywhere quickly using the left lane exclusively.
Because of the slow travel in the left lane buses in Bangkok are forced to move over to the middle lane of traffic to proceed. That’s where the main problem lies. A big bus in the middle lane clogs traffic.
What’s Worse Than Clogging Traffic?
Even worse than clogging traffic is the fact these buses need to move to the left lane again at some point to pick up passengers. God help you if you happen to be driving in that lane when the bus needs to move over because he’s not going to switch lanes gently.
The bus driver is going to take that left lane when he needs it. He ‘s not going to adjust his driving for you so you will have to adjust your driving for him. If you are driving anywhere near one of the public transit buses in Bangkok you need to be ready to give way in a hurry when he begins to move. If you don’t you’ll be in big trouble and let’s face it: The Law of Gross Tonnage says you’re going to lose in a battle with a transit bus.
The Transit Buses In Bangkok Win The Law Of Gross Tonnage
This Law of Gross Tonnage reappears when the the bus needs to re-enter traffic. It needs to get in the middle lane, remember? Bangkok traffic is busy enough there will rarely be enough room for a bus to move into an open spot. So what will the driver do?
Why, he’s just going to move over! The amount of room available isn’t a big issue for him. He knows traffic will adjust around him. Unfortunately this sometimes catches other drivers by surprise and it’s not unusual to see buses have accidents with motorcycles and cars. Why? Because the cars and bikers get squished between the bus and other traffic.
I’ve Been Caught Between Traffic And One Of The Buses In Bangkok!
It’s happened to me. I was driving along and had a bus suddenly decide to move over. I wanted to move and let him in but there were cars on my right and no room to adjust forward or backward. What did I do?
I just eased to the right as the bus pushed over and prayed the other vehicles would make space for me. I was fortunate they did.
The Second Time Was Scarier!
Another time I had a bus steer me into oncoming traffic! I was lucky no cars were coming at me in that lane. I was able to slow down and drop in behind the bus. I learned the hard way to give buses a wide berth!
There Are More Hazards Than You Think
What else will buses do that creates a hazard? They’ll stop in the middle lane to pick up passengers if there’s no room along the curb. Think of the traffic congestion that causes!
They’ll also take wide u-turns on occasion. Be wary of these. Buses in Bangkok will go right from the middle lane because there’s no way he can u-turn from the far right lane, he’s too big. So that cuts off two lanes of traffic from proceeding and can pinch the cars and bikes on his right into small spaces.
The Bus Will Cut In Front Of Oncoming Traffic
Then, of course, the bus needs to cut in front of all the oncoming lanes of traffic to complete his u-turn. That will bring traffic to a screeching halt and it’s why you need to be prepared to make a sudden stop no matter which lane you’re in while driving in Bangkok.
Are there other risks transit buses impose upon motorists? There certainly are but they’re too numerous to mention. I’ve tried to address the most common ones in this blog and I hope you’ll be astute enough to adjust your driving to account for any surprise transit buses might throw your way.
Thailand Is Not Going To Change For You
Now you know the drivers of transit buses in Bangkok pose incredible hazards to other motorists as they zip around like they’re driving sports cars. Any bus driver driving like that in a Western country would be looking for employment the next day! But this is Thailand my friend and it’s not going to change. It’s up to you to adjust. Best of luck to you.
Marc Lewis is a 50-year-old Canadian who has traveled the world extensively both on his own and leading student tours. He’s worked as a high school teacher, business executive and photojournalist. Two years ago Marc met a lovely Thai girl online and moved to Thailand. He currently makes his residence in Bangkok.