No Public Transportation For You. NEXT!

“Can you help me? I seem to have gotten lost in southwest Thailand and am trying to find my way back onto the backpacking trail.”

Bangkok signs - Thailand bus station
Most bus stations in Thailand have numerous buses heading to Bangkok

These are the types of thoughts that Carrie and I have had lately after our visit to the Andaman coast.

It started in Krabi, where we headed to after Bangkok to check out some beaches, the stunning limestone crags that line the sea and to do some diving.

 

Good Luck Finding a Local Boat

Upon arriving in Krabi, we quickly found that our ideas of finding a cheap local boat to take us around to the crags and beaches would not work.

Long boat, Krabi Thailand
Longtail boats are the most common and cheapest way to travel through the waters of Thailand

The system in place makes it very difficult to do anything yourself unless you know the right people or have a large group to split the costs. If you are traveling solo, or with one other person, there is little other choice than to go through a tourist agent to book a tour.

For two days we shopped around, comparing tour options and prices while trying to coordinate with our friend Sean that we met in Bangkok. In the end, we found a few we liked but first had to head to Kho Lak to see about scuba diving.

 

An Overpriced Air Conditioned Mini Van

Though only two hours away, everyone we talked to said the only way to get there was an overpriced AC minivan.

Tourist waiting area - Restaurant - Krabi, Thailand
The waiting area for tourist AC busses between Krabi and other places in Thailand

Even the locals we talked to said that it was the way to go, so we booked it and hopped onto the van that picked us up at our hotel … can’t complain about that. However, a mere five minutes later we pulled into a restaurant parking lot and were told to grab our bags and get off.

We soon learned that tour agencies sell tourists these rides without coordinating with the actual van company. Upon arriving at the restaurant everyone gets off the van and is given a little sticker with the name of their destination.

The staff then has to figure out how many people are going where…and how to get them all onto the few vans that they have. For more popular destinations there is no problem, but some people had to go out of their way to drop off others first: no problem in a bus, but they paid for a direct shuttle!

 

AC tourist buses in the Doi Inthanon National Park parking lot
AC tourist buses in Thailand

Good luck being dropped off at your hotel

Everyone was also told that they could be dropped off at their hotel if they had one, and if not the company had to book them a hotel or they would be left at the edge of town. This was just a ploy to get hotel commission, as in the end everyone was dropped off at the same place in Kho Lak and the driver refused to take people to their hotels. Thankfully, we knew better…but some in our van did not.