Do You Want To Drive In Thailand? Part 4 – School & Baht Buses in Bangkok
Driving. It’s what we do as men. It’s an expression of our masculinity. No doubt your girl is probably a fine driver, yet, she defers to you. We expect to drive for our girls. It’s a role we eagerly fulfill. But wait until you see the traffic in Thailand, especially in Bangkok.
Are You Afraid Of Buses In Bangkok?
Driving in Bangkok is a quagmire of honking horns, unregulated intersections, motorcycles appearing from every direction like pesky gnats, and a nearly complete disregard for rules of the road and personal safety. Truthfully? It’s scary, real scary upon first glance. Will your girl see your fear?
Don’t Sweat it. I’ve provided this guide to familiarize you with the nuances of driving you and your Thai girl around The Land of Smiles. This edition will deal with buses in Thailand.
Buses in Bangkok meander along methodically and on schedule, picking people up, letting them off and proceeding at a reasonable pace dictated by the posted schedule. You have to give them more room than the average vehicle but by and large they follow the same traffic rules as you do in your two-passenger Honda car. Right? Actually, that’s the description for passenger buses in your home country. The Thai experience is NOTHING like that.
Buses in Bangkok Come In Different Shapes And Sizes.
In Thailand it’s important to recognize not only what constitutes a bus but also the the habits its likely to display as you encounter it. The structural integrity of your car and the well being of it’s passengers just may depend on it. Fasten your seat-belt and ride along as we look at Thai buses.
Buses in Bangkok 1 – The Thai School Bus
The Thai school bus isn’t a bus the way we think of school buses. We think of buses as long yellow vehicles with rows of seats on either side and warning lights and a stop sign that reaches out to politely stop any vehicles in the vicinity.
In Thailand most school buses in Bangkok are modified pick-up trucks with a raised cover over the bed so people can sit inside. Once inside the bed they’ve made two opposing benches along each side for people to sit on. You reach up and push a button, which rings in the cab, to let the driver know you’re at your destination.
There’s No Such Thing As An Over-loaded Bus.
You enter the bus at the back. Instead of a tailgate there’s a standing platform low enough to allow you to step on it and then step up again to enter the bus. There are metal rails attaching the step to the cover of the cab. When the bus seats reach capacity children simply stand on the platform and hang on to the railings. There is no maximum capacity enforced.
The typical school bus is a small modified Toyota pick-up but they do come in bigger configurations. I’ve seen one built behind a transport truck which could easily hold 30 people. As you might expect seat-belts are non-existent.
What You Need To Know For Your Own Safety.
What should you know about these buses in Bangkok for safety purposes? You have to be alert because they will stop suddenly. If you are in the far left lane along the curb and you are following one of these don’t be surprised if it suddenly edges to the curb and stops. They do this repeatedly to let passengers disembark.
Don’t expect any flashing lights or extended stop arms because there aren’t any. The children just run on and off the bus. Be leery because these buses also will stop in the second lane of traffic if there are already stopped vehicles in the curbside lane. This results in two lanes of traffic being blocked while passengers get on and off.
Buses In Bangkok For Public Transportation Stop In Any Lane For Passengers.
This behavior isn’t specific to Thai school buses, all the buses in Thailand operate this way. Always be ready to slow down and stop. There’s no sense trying to rush through Bangkok traffic so just relax and go with it.
The Baht Buses in bangkok
The baht bus is really the same animal as the school bus we’ve been talking about. They’re called baht buses because they are inexpensive. Rides are usually 5-10 baht. You won’t be able to tell the difference from the school buses except the baht buses carry regular passengers on specified runs. The baht buses just become school buses when the children on their routes come out of school. Interestingly, students pay the fare just like everyone else.
In the West we’re trained to exercise caution when we see a school bus in Bangkok. You should act the same way around the baht buses. Baht buses stop frequently. They change lanes suddenly and they often carry children. Take your time, expect the unexpected and relax. Use your good judgment and you’ll soon be navigating the roads of Bangkok like a pro.
Do you want to read more on driving in Thailand? Read the other parts of this series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7
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.