5 survival tips for an all-night bus ride in Thailand

A tall and skinny country, Thailand’s hubs, such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket, are separated by long distances. Though budget airlines and comfortable trains are popular modes of transport, the long-distance bus remains the cheapest option. All-night bus rides are common in Thailand, especially for budget travelers who not only take the cheapest transport available but also save on a night’s accommodation.

Thankfully, Thailand has decent roads as well as drivers who don’t treat the horn as though they’re in a parade, trying to make the most noise. Still, spending all night on a bus can be trying. Here are five tips to make your ride a restful night.

It’s worth the extra $5-10USD to have a seat that reclines to horizontal, an attendant that brings passengers food and drinks, as well as blankets and pillows. Remember, you’re saving a night’s accommodation, so make sure you arrive at your destination rested!

Do NOT take the 1st class, VIP buses that travel to and from Bangkok’s Khao San Road.

They’re often very cheap and convenient, especially since you don’t have to travel to a bus station, but they are notorious for theft. Luggage is stored in a large hold, giving thieves all night to razor every bag. We’ve also heard several accounts of passengers being drugged and awaking to find their carry-on luggage has been rifled through.

Keep a warm(er) shirt with you.

Often the buses are air-conditioned to the point of freezing, and even if you’re on one of the nicer buses with blankets, you can still feel quite cold. If are warm enough, the extra shirt can double as a pillow or back support.

It sounds kind of funny, but wet wipes come in handy in countless situations. They’re great for toilet paper, especially if you’ve been having some problems adjusting to the local food. They’re great for sanitizing your hands after said bathroom trip. They can act as a sponge bath – remember, you’re in Thailand, where citizens bathe up to a half-dozen times a day. Their noses are more attuned to body odors than ours, and it pays to keep yourself as clean as possible while you’re there. Finally, wet wipes act as a nice morning pick-me-up; use one to wipe your face and rejuvenate in the early a.m.

Book your first night’s accommodation ahead of time.

While this tip isn’t exactly related to your bus ride, it does relate to your early-morning arrival. Often buses will roll in at dawn, leaving you to stumble groggily around a bus station, looking for a taxi or tuk-tuk to take you to a guesthouse or neighborhood to inquire after rooms. Save yourself the hazy trouble of sleepwalking through looking for a room – book your first night ahead of time. That way, you’ll be guaranteed a room, and you might even be able to arrange a pick-up from the bus station. At the least, you can confirm the price of transportation to your hotel, which will save you trying to sleepily bargain for a ride.

Catherine Bodry is the writer at WhyGo Thailand, where you can find information on cheap flights to Thailand, book hostels on Khao San Road, and learn more about bus travel in Thailand. She spent last winter living in Chiang Mai, and is addicted to curry.