Navigating Bangkok Bus Stations: Long-Distance Travel in Thailand

If you are a budget traveller visiting Thailand, chances are at some point you will find yourself at one of Bangkok’s busy bus stations. For a first time traveller, these can be pretty overwhelming. In this beginner’s guide to long-distance bus travel from Bangkok we will look at the three major Bangkok bus stations, some of the most popular routes and which are the most reliable bus companies to travel with. 

This page contains affiliate links. Please see our disclosure policy for more details.

One of the reasons I moved to Thailand is to travel domestically. I have a goal of visiting all 77 provinces, and I’m about 1/3 done. Before I got married and bought a car, I used a lot of public transport, including trains, planes, minivans, and long-distance buses. The latter is my preferred mode of transport — I’ll cover why that is a bit later.

Long-distance buses are mostly convenient and, if chosen wisely, surprisingly comfortable ways to travel from Bangkok to the outermost provinces and other major tourist destinations.

So here’s my ultimate guide on the primary bus terminals in Bangkok, the most popular routes, which bus companies I prefer and some tips and tricks for having a more comfortable journey.

Ok, there’s a lot to cover, let’s get started.

Getting Acquainted with Bangkok’s Central Bus Terminals

Long-distance bus travel is big business in Thailand, and there are pop-up and satellite bus terminals everywhere. However, for most visitors, you only need to know about the four major ones.

Mo Chit Bus Terminal – AKA Northern Bus Terminal

Bangkok’s primary hub for long-distance bus travel is the Mo Chit Bus Terminal. It’s the most prominent and busiest terminal in the city, servicing routes to Northern, Central, and Northeastern Thailand. It has amenities like food stalls, shops, and ticket offices as far as the eye can see.

Mo Chit bus station waiting room

Across the road is the New Mo Chit Minivan terminal. The last few times that I tried to get a bus , I was told to go and catch a minivan. Sure, they weren’t the major destinations like Chiang Mai or Khon Kaen, they were smaller cities. So the bus terminal might be phasing out long-distance bus travel to many places in favour of minivans. Although I hope not.  

The most popular destinations from Mo Chit are 

  • North- Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Lampang, and Sukhothai.
  • Central – Ayutthaya, Kanchanaburi, and Hua Hin.
  • Northeast (Isan)  – Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat), Khon Kaen and Udon Thani
  • East –  Pattaya, Rayong, and Trat (for Koh Chang)
  • South – Phuket, Krabi, Surat Thani (for Koh Samui and Koh Phangan), Hat Yai, and Surat Thani 

Let me say, right off the bat, it’s not the easiest terminal to get to. It’s set back, behind Chatachuk Park, and there’s no direct MRT or BTS station there. However, If you are staying near the Blue MRT Line, you can board a train heading to Tao Poon station and alight at Chatachak Park station. If you are staying near a BTS, then take the Sukhumvit Line to Mo Chit Station.

From here, you can either take a local bus (no. 3) to the bus station or jump in a taxi or motorbike taxi. A stack of signs outside the station on the main road shows you where to pick up the motorcycle taxi to the depot.

Mo Chit BTS Station

Ekkamai Bus Terminal – AKA Eastern Bus Terminal

The Ekkamai Bus Terminal is smaller and caters to routes towards Eastern Thailand, including popular tourist destinations like Pattaya and Koh Chang. 

Ekamai Bus Station offers bus and minivan to service Eastern Provinces of Thailand.

Main routes that depart from the Eastern Bus Terminal are: 

  • East – Pattaya, Rayong Chanthaburi, Trat (for Koh Chang)
  • South – Hua Hin, Surat Thani (for Koh Samui, Koh Phangan), Chumphon (for ferry to Koh Tao)
  • North – Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai
Eastern Bus Terminal waiting room

One thing here is that both buses and minivans leave from here and I’ve been sold minivan tickets instead, so be sure to ask what vehicle is servicing the trip.

Ekkamai is by far the easiest of all Bangkok’s bus terminals to reach. Take a Sukhumvit BTS line train in the direction of Bang Na or Bearing and get off at Ekkamai. The bus station is located right by the Ekkamai BTS Station. 

Sai Tai Mai – AKA Southern Bus Terminal

The Southern Bus Terminal, or Sai Tai Mai, is another key terminal. It primarily services routes to Western and Southern Thailand. This terminal is in the SC Plaza, not far from Central Pinklao. It’s less crowded than the others and offers a variety of services, including restaurants, shops, and a booking office.

SC Plaza “Sai Tai Mai

I’m yet to use this one though as I’ve never travelled south by bus, but once I do, I’ll update it here.

The nearest train station is Taling Chan Station on the Red (SRT) Train line. You will still need to take a taxi for the 10-15-minute ride from here. 

Alternatively, take the Silom line BTS To Bang Wa BTS Station (15 mins in a taxi)  

Suvarnabhumi Airport Bus Terminal

Lastly, there’s the Suvarnabhumi Airport Bus Terminal at the airport. It offers routes to various parts of Thailand, making it a convenient option for those arriving in or departing from the country via Suvarnabhumi Airport. 

Suvarnabhumi Airport Bus Ticket counter
Ticket counter at Suvarnabhumi Airport

I used to catch the airport train from Phaya Thai Station to the airport, then jump on this bus to Pattaya. It leaves every two hours and goes right to Jomtien, which my fellow gay travellers will know is the best destination for LGBTQI people outside of Bangkok.

How to choose a reliable bus company

How comfortable and safe you feel on your long journey comes down to choosing a reliable bus company.

Consider companies that are:

  • Are known for their safety standards
  • Have a good record of on-time departure
  • Offer the most modern and comfortable buses

Three that we think stand out from the crowd are:

Transport Co Ltd

Transport Co Ltd is a government-owned and operated service. It has the most routes and the lowest fares (in almost all cases) the buses are clean, and the drivers are professional. I’ve caught them many times and have had no issues.

One of the smaller buses used by Transport Co. Bus

Tickets can be purchased 60 days in advance, and the date changed one time in 30 days.

 The following two services, however, have more luxurious coaches.

Nakonchai Air

My favourite bus service in Bangkok is provided by Nakhonchai Air. This private company is known for its high-quality service and operates 49 routes to the north and northeast from Mo Chit terminal. 

The buses are luxurious, with leather seats and a tray table—it’s almost like being on an aeroplane. They even have ‘coach attendants’ handing out drinks. Snacks, tea, coffee, juice, soda, and desserts are all on offer. 

If I’m in the position to choose the company to use, it’s always Nakonchai Air. 

Sombat Tour

Sombat Tour is another private company known for its comfortable buses. They operate 29 services in total including the most popular routes that travel to and from Bangkok, Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen, my new home in Hua Hin, Phuket, Surat Thani and Ranong.

Sombat Tours buses are very comfortable

Their express first class VIP services include massage chairs, leg rests and some have seat back screens. All services come with some snacks and drinks.

I’m planning a trip to Phuket with them shortly and will update this article with further impressions once that trip is complete. 

You can get a bus from Bangkok to anywhere in Thailand you want. Naturally, the more popular the destination, the more services available. Here are the five of the destinations most commonly travelled.

Pattaya – 2-3 hours

Another sought-after route is from Bangkok to Pattaya. This coastal city is a tourist favourite for its lively nightlife and sandy beaches. Buses to Pattaya depart from the Eastern, Mo Chit and Suvarnhabumi Airport Bus Terminals and the journey usually takes 2-3 hours.

Najomtien Beach Pattaya

Hua Hin 3-4 hours

The journey from Bangkok to Hua Hin is very popular and one of the nicest seaside options to Bangkok. Famous for its long, tranquil beaches and bustling night markets, Hua Hin presents an idyllic coastal retreat from city life.

The ride to Hua Hin typically takes around 3-4 hours from the Southern Bus Terminal. 

Kanchanaburi – 3.5 hours

With interesting history and stunning landscapes, Kanchanaburi is a very good choice for a few days out of Bangkok. Buses bound for Kanchanaburi from Bangkok’s Northern Bus Terminal ‘Mo Chit’.

The journey to Kanchanaburi varies between 2 to 3 hours depending on traffic.

Notably, regular buses are available from morning till evening, giving you the flexibility to plan your journey accordingly. This is one journey that is much faster by train but the train station, but there are not that many trains a day, so sometimes a bus is a good choice. 

Phuket – 12-14 hours

Finally, the route from Bangkok to Phuket is extremely popular among tourists. Phuket is an island province known for its beautiful beaches and vibrant nightlife.

Buses to Phuket depart from the Southern Bus Terminal and take 12-14 hours.

Chiang Mai – 10 hours

One of the most popular long-distance bus routes from Bangkok for tourists is Chiang Mai. This northern city is known for its beautiful temples and vibrant night markets.

The journey to Chiang Mai takes 10 hours, several companies offer daily services from Mo Chit.

A ticket to Chiang Mai on a first class type bus will cost you between 700 and 1000 Baht – There is no difference between day or overnight bus prices.  

Tips and Tricks: How to Make the Most Out of Long-Distance Bus Travel

Being prepared will make your trip more enjoyable. Some trips, as you saw in the destinations above, can be 12+ hours, so here’s my list of what to know before you go:

Tickets and Prices

You may wonder if there is any real advantage in making a booking in advance. While it’s unlikely to save you much money booking your tickets in advance is crucial during peak travel seasons. This will allow you to get a seat on your preferred bus company and route.

Another benefit is you can often choose your seat, so if you have a strong preference for window or aisle it’s well worth doing. 

You can buy tickets on the day of travel but the day before is better

Now, there have been times when I haven’t been this organised, and I’ve just rocked up on the day. This has worked ok for me during non-peak times, but at other times, I’ve had to wait for 3–4 departures before there’s an available seat. 

You can book tickets online with the bus companies or via sites like 12go or directly at the bus terminal or in some cases on their websites. 

What to Take with you

Prepare for the journey by bringing snacks, drinks (non alcoholic), and entertainment. Some bus journeys can be long, and while some companies provide them, it’s always good to have your own. Double-check that the company allows you to eat on board. I’ve never been told I can’t, but sadly, the rules have changed since the pandemic.

Some companies, like Nakonchai Air, have USB plugs in the seats (on some of their buses — I did get caught out once) so you can charge your devices while using them.  But, some don’t so do take your portable battery charger with you.

Also, consider bringing a neck pillow for added comfort. The luxury coaches are really comfortable and I’ve slept well, but the other companies, yeah, byo. 

Luggage and Carry-On

Most buses have limited storage space, and large bags may not be allowed on board. This is 100% the case with minivans (see below). The two companies I mentioned above, Nakonchai Air and Sombat, have large storage cabins under the bus. 

For your carry-on stuff, pack light and only carry essential items. There’s little to no storage space in the cabin, except maybe on the floor between your legs.

It’s sad that I need to say this, but please keep your valuables close to you at all times, as theft can sometimes occur on long bus journeys when passengers are sleeping.

Timetables – Arrival and Departure

Be aware of the departure and arrival times. It’s advisable to arrive at the bus terminal at least 30 minutes before departure. Buses in Thailand often leave on time, but roadwork, weather, and accidents can cause delays.

It’s more common than not that they arrive late, so be very careful if you’re booking a connecting bus, train, or flight, allow a couple of hours leeway.

I’ve learned from my mistakes never to book a connection within 3 hours of arriving; it just isn’t worth the heartache.

Food and Comfort Stops

Lastly, it’s important to note that long-distance buses in Thailand often make several stops along the way for meals and restroom breaks.

Red pork rice, at a quick food stop

However, these stops can sometimes be brief, so be sure to return to the bus promptly to avoid being left behind. It’s never happened to me, nor have I seen it happen, but I have heard horror stories, so stay with the group as much as you can. 

Why I Favour Long-Distance Buses

As I mentioned in my intro, I’ve travelled around Thailand by many forms of transport, and I found that long-distance buses were the best. Here’s a brief look at the downsides of the other options:


Since the pandemic, flight prices have stayed high; they’re nowhere near as competitive as before. So they’re an expensive option. Also, the airports are quite far from the cities (in many cases), so even though it might only be a 2-hour flight, by the time you leave home to get to the airport, check in in advance (an AOT requirement) and then do the same at the other end, the whole day is wasted. 

For bus rides of 4 hours or less the bus often takes around the same time, but there’s less travel and waiting time at both ends.


Minivans go to many places that buses may not. They probably take less time, but they’re smaller, and even at 157cm, I still feel cramped. They are licenced to carry 13 passengers (that’s how many seats there are), but I was once in one with 17 people! Also, there’s zero storage space, so if you’re travelling with anything larger than a sports-size backpack, you can forget it.

My number one concern is the safety aspect. A source that Thailand Awaits highly recommends, Richard Barrow, wrote an article on his website about this very thing. 

According to a report from the Department of Land Transport, between 2016 and 2020, Thailand noted over 8,000 mini-van accidents, resulting in approximately 4,000 injuries and, regrettably, around 1,000 fatalities. Driver fatigue is the most common explanation for these occurrences. 

Comments like ‘this is Thailand‘ do nothing to alleviate my fears about this form of transport, and while I’ve done it in the past, I’m extremely hesitant to do it again.


Some train trips are absolutely worth doing, like the overnight ones in a first-class sleeper. If you’ve never done one, it should be on your bucket list.

The rest of the train trips I’ve taken were very meh. The worst was one from Bangkok to Pattaya. It was really cheap, like 40 baht, but it took over 3 hours; it was in a very old cabin with wooden seats — my butt still hasn’t forgiven me — and for some reason, no vendors got on the train at any stop to sell drinks and snacks. 

Head Out Into the Provinces by Long-Distance Bus

If you’re exploring Thailand on a budget or are looking for an alternative to flying, long-distance buses are an excellent option.

Once you’ve decided where you’re going, locate the terminal that best services that area, get online and book a ticket, then on the day, sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery.

About the author: Stephen left Australia in 2016 with a one-way ticket to Thailand
and hasn’t been back since. Seven years later, he’s “living the ex-pat dream”, married and settled down; he and his partner travel across Thailand competing in half-marathon running events and sampling coffee at cafes.