Of course, we of all people don’t want to make you more worried than you should be about traveling to Thailand. We know what a warm, welcoming, fun place it can be. But we also want to give you as much information as we can to ensure you stay safe on your travels. Staying safe on overnight transport in Thailand – buses, trains and boats – can be a worry for first-time travelers but avoiding them can cause huge delays in your travel, or mean you spend days missing out on experiences while you’re stuck on a bus. As with most backpacker worries, these can easily be avoided with a bit of common sense. Plus, once you’ve done one journey you’ll be wondering what all the fuss was about!
We’ve put together our top tips for staying safe on overnight transport in Thailand so you don’t have to worry.
Booking Reputable Transport
The main thing to consider when thinking about transport safety is who you book with in the first place. If you end up booking a fake ticket it’s likely that said transport won’t even exist, but you’ll want to ensure you choose a legitimate company just to avoid any unnecessary dangers. As a general rule of thumb, don’t buy any bus, train or boat tickets on the street. This may seem obvious but some Thai ticket touts can be very persuasive! Head to a local travel agent and take the hit of a few Baht commission in their pocket so you know you are buying a real ticket. VIP buses are likely to be full of tourists so you’ll know when you’re hovering around a bus surrounded by people with backpacks that you’re in the right place.
Keep Your Valuables Close
As much as you don’t want to spend your time in any country being wary of the locals, it’s worth keeping your wits about your when travelling on overnight transport. It is likely your main backpack will go under the bus when travelling long distances (as much as you’d rather it not be out of your sight) so make sure you have taken all your valuables out and keep them in a smaller bag on your person. When travelling on an overnight bus with small bed sections for each person, it’s a good idea to put your bag in the footwell area or use it as a pillow so you know it’s as close to you as possible. This may also be the case when travelling by train or ferry but use your common sense as to where to keep your belongings.
Secondly, always remember to take your possessions with you when getting off the bus/train/boat. Even if you’re just nipping to the bathroom for a few minutes or going to buy a bottle of water, if you leave your bag or valuables in sight the opportunity for theft is there. It’s better to be safe than sorry: always keep it with you.
Lock Up Your Backpack/Suitcase
While you won’t be able to keep your eyes on your luggage at all times during your journey (as it will probably be under the bus) it’s worth using some sort of lock so you know you’ve done all you can to prevent your stuff being stolen. Overnight buses are likely to make a few regular stops along the way but may also make some seemingly irregular stops too and these are the ones you have to watch out for. If you have a window seat, keep an eye out for anyone opening the luggage compartments during stops, check that all the luggage goes back on the bus and make sure no-one is rummaging through people’s belongings mid-journey!
Get Off at the Right Stop
If you’ve booked an overnight bus to a popular destination it’s likely that this will be the final stop on the journey. If you can, it’s worth having a vague idea of what your destination looks like before you arrive so you’ll know if you’re in the right place. Keep an eye out for signs as you come into your final location or check your Lonely Planet/Google Maps to make sure you’re where you’re meant to be. Some drivers or passengers may try to tell you that you need to get off “NOW” before the final stop which may be part of a scam in line with their tuk-tuk-driving friends outside who will charge you an inflated rate to reach your actual destination. If you have an idea of where you’re meant to be you’re much less likely to be ripped off or scammed.
Despite the few scams we’ve mentioned above, it’s actually quite unlikely that you’ll run into any problems when travelling in Thailand. Pack plenty of drinks and snacks, take a mix of both long clothing and a hand-held fan for every temperature eventuality and be friendly and polite to everyone on board and you should be all good!