One of the frequent questions we get asked here at BicycleThailand.com is whether or not it is possible to transport a bicycle on Thailand buses. We addressed the query briefly in our Bicycle Touring Information series of articles, but felt the need to provide additional guidance since the question keeps popping up in emails and in our online Forum.
In short, the answer is yes. Getting a bicycle stowed away in the luggage compartment of a bus in Thailand is quite easy to do if you are willing to accept the fact that there are no definite (printed and practiced) rules with regards to transporting bicycles on buses. Every bus company, and, at times, every individual bus, handles ‘oversize luggage’ on a case by case basis (regardless of what their website and/or the nice lady on the phone tells you). Remembering that you are in Thailand, where a smile gets you further than a well-argued point, will help any cyclist negotiate the subtle intricacies of smuggling a two-wheeled companion on nearly any bus in the country.
There are fundamentally two types of long-distance buses in Thailand:
- First type – Those run by The Transport Company, Ltd., (TCL), the state-owned bus company. Known to Thais by the initials บขส (pronounced baw-kaw-saw), this 80-year-old company was formed by the government to ensure that citizens in even the most far-flung localities had access to the capital city, Bangkok. TCL buses are easily identified by their blue & white color scheme and the large coat of arms on each side of the bus.
- Second type – Those operated by private bus companies. These are too numerous to list and offer hundreds of routes in various service categories (express, VIP, local, air conditioned, etc.)
There are also city (short-distance) buses – Bangkok city buses come in various sizes, types, and prices, from half size, full size, double length, open window, fan, and air conditioned. You should not expect to be allowed to bring a bicycle on Bangkok city buses. However, getting a bicycle on a city bus in ANY other city outside of Bangkok is totally possible, with a bit of negotiating… and smiling.
Here is my best advice on how to get your bicycle on a long-distance bus in Thailand:
– Go to the bus station and ask the ticket window person about bringing a bicycle on the specific bus you intend to take. Certain bus schedule times/destinations are more active and therefore more full of luggage. Many bus companies rent their luggage space at reasonable rates to businesses, individuals, and even the Thai Post Office. Asking the ticket window person for a general rule with regards to bicycles will get you nowhere. Asking if you can take 1 bicycle on the 2:15pm bus from Bangkok to Nong Khai will get you a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. Remember to smile, especially if they say No.
– Some companies will ask that you ensure the bicycle is wrapped/boxed. This measure is for the sole purpose of ensuring that your greasy chain will not mess up the luggage of other passengers. Showing that your bicycle chain/gears have been covered with a rag or even a bit of cardboard immediately defuses the demand to have the entire bicycle boxed.
– Be prepared to remove the front wheel and loosen the handlebars, so that they can be turned sideways, for easier stowage. Carry the necessary tools, such as an Allen key set and a pedal wrench, so that you can make your bike fit more easily in the luggage compartment of the bus. Having a bungy cord or a bit of string can also come in handy when attempting to store your bicycle upright in the luggage compartment.
– The fee is rarely set. Some companies have listed fees for oversize items like flat screen televisions and Golf bags, usually in the 100-200 Thai Baht price range. In my many years of traveling in Thailand, I have only seen two bus companies list a bicycle and give a fee rate of 200 Thai Baht. And, when I showed up I paid only 100 Thai Baht, directly to the baggage loader.
– The baggage loader/driver assistant guy is your friend. He is the young guy who shows up about 10-15 minutes before your bus departs and assists people with getting their big luggage loaded into the lower compartment of the bus. There is no real reason to be the first person in line for luggage loading but, it does help to make your presence (and that of your bicycle) known to this guy. Simply showing your bus ticket and pointing to your bicycle sitting off to the side is enough. Sometimes they will ask that you wait until they have assisted all of the other passengers before loading your bicycle. If you have avoided paying any fee for bike transport to the bus company up to the point when the baggage loader/driver assistant guy puts your bicycle in the bus you should compensate him personally with a small token of your appreciation.
Thanks go out to BKK Biker for allowing us the use of his photos for this article.
Want to know:
Planning a cycling trip in Thailand? Want to remove some of the guesswork when it comes to routes and information? BicycleThailand.com offers GPS route data for touring cyclists that can be used on a GPS device, smartphone, or tablet. These routes can be viewed on your device regardless of internet access during your Thailand cycling adventure. Learn more about our Thailand GPS cycle touring routes.