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An overnight bus from Krabi to Bangkok doesn’t sound like the best experience in the world, but it was much better than I could have imagined. Here’s why.
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Although Bangkok holds no end of exciting adventures for first-time travelers to Thailand, it's also the country's gateway to other destinations, with numerous transport links to the jungles of the north and beaches of the south.
Overland travel, by train or by bus, is a great way to experience every inch of Thailand as well as offering more time to rest, make friends and enjoy the ride. One such journey that lots of travelers opt for when leaving Bangkok is the 10 hour overnight bus ride to Suratthani in southeast Thailand. Suratthani is a well known port city with regular ferries leading to fun-filled islands like Koh Samui and Koh Pha Ngan and protected nature reserves, such as the Mu Ko Ang Thong National Marine Park.
Making the 641 kilometer (398 mile) trip from Bangkok to Suratthani by bus not only offers an efficient and affordable mode of transport but also saves on overnight accommodation costs. Bus classes are rated as Express, Tourist and VIP, but be aware that seats will only recline 60% so don't expect to be fully horizontal no matter which class you go for. All buses feature air conditioning, bathroom facilities and most will have a small choice of snacks and drinks to buy during the journey.
A slightly longer alternative to traveling from Bangkok to Suratthani by bus is making the journey by train (approximately 12 hours). Most train carriages in Thailand are air conditioned and include onboard bathroom facilities. You'll also have a choice of Sleeper, Express and Second Class seating. Train travel in Thailand gives you more freedom to stretch your legs and meet local people. Sleeper berths and seating areas often become communal hubs, but Thai passengers will often use the time to sleep! So don't think it's going to be 'all night party central'. The best advice is to do as the locals do and catch up on some rest before the next stage of your journey.
Overnight travel by bus or train from Bangkok to Suratthani saves you money on booking somewhere to stay. Depending on whether you have a seat that turns into a bed on a train or a reclining seat on a bus will depend on how much rest it's possible to get. The best advice is to take ear plugs, neck support and a black-out mask if you're planning on sleeping for the whole journey. Of course, traveling overland is also a good way to make a few new friends, listen to some traveling tunes or practice your Thai on friendly local passengers.
It will be dark for the majority of your journey as most buses and trains travel overnight from the capital. However, you might be lucky enough to catch the sunrise as you approach the shimmering shores of southern Thailand. Often the lush green countryside, complete with rice terraces and sleepy mountain villages, make a complete contrast to the bright lights and busy streets of Bangkok. It's really exciting to experience your first glimpse of rural Thailand as dawn breaks and fellow passengers start to wake from their slumber.
The fastest way to get from Bangkok to Suratthani is with Sri Suthep's VIP Bus. The bus ride takes approximately 10 hours and costs from $33.
The cheapest way to get from Bangkok to Suratthani is with Thai Sriram's Tourist Bus which costs just $18 and takes approximately 10 hours in total.
The most popular way to get from Bangkok to Suratthani is with Choke Anan Tour’s VIP Bus. The journey takes approximately 10 hours and costs $26.
A relatively luxurious way to travel from Bangkok to Suratthani is by VIP sleeper bus which can comfortably accommodate up to 32 passengers. Air conditioning (blankets are provided), reclining seats and onboard bathroom facilities make for an easy going ride down south, and what’s more there is an extended meal break included in the price. Hot and cold drinks and snacks are also available onboard.
Express and Tourist buses include the same onboard amenities as VIP buses but are slightly slower, and a bit more old fashioned. However, as they don't make an extended meal break, you'll still arrive in Suratthani at the same time as the VIP bus (approximately 10 hours from Bangkok). There are three different departure points for buses heading from Bangkok to Suratthani and you'll be expected to arrive with pre-booked tickets at least 30 minutes before departure.
Bus rides, no matter which class you choose, are a great way to get to know fellow travelers before trying to get some shut eye in readiness for the next step of your journey. Lights, TV and the roar of the engine can often make for a disruptive night's sleep. Good advice is to pack ear plugs, eye mask and comfy cushion or neck support to give yourself the best chance of at least a few moments sleep.
Train rides from Bangkok to Suratthani are really straightforward and, depending on the class of sleeper berth (seat that converts into a bed) or reclining seat, you can expect to make the 12 hour journey in relative comfort. All trains depart from Bangkok train station and it's worth arriving at least 30 minutes before departure, just so you can find the correct platform without having to make a mad dash. Air conditioning and onboard bathroom facilities feature throughout most Thai train carriages however, don't expect food and drink kiosks. The best advice is to stock up on supplies for the journey before clambering aboard.
There are around 17 total buses leaving from Bangkok to Suratthani each day, and about 10 direct trains.