An extensive network of comfortable bus services is available for travel within Thailand. All the inter-city buses are air-conditioned, advance booking is possible, seat numbers are allotted at the time of booking and the buses operate on time. That is ideal from a tourist’s point of view. Prices are reasonable too. Thinking of prices, it may be one’s general perception that travelling by bus would be cheaper as compared to travelling by air. But is that always true when we are travelling within Thailand? Consider this – I need to travel from Bangkok to Phuket. Going by my first preference of saving time while travelling, I searched for flights using a flight fare comparison engine and this is what I found: Air tickets by ‘Thai Lion Air’ are available for my travel dates for a mere 790 THB one way from Bangkok (DMK) to Phuket. The air travel time for this sector is 1 hour 25 minutes. And Thai Lion tickets include a free baggage allowance of 15kg. The travel date I am searching for is four months away. So is the air ticket price cheap because of advance booking? To ascertain that, I did the same search for a travel within a week from now. ‘Thai Lion Air’ again quoted the price of 790 THB. Next I search for a bus for the same trip and it is an eye opener.
Bus Ticket Price From Bangkok To Phuket
The Transport Company Limited operates buses between Bangkok and Phuket. There will be other services too. It is a 867km journey that takes 12 hours to cover by bus. I did the search on ThaiTickerMajor which is one of the sources in Thailand where online booking for bus services can be done. ThaiTicketMajor’s website opens in Thai language and their language buttons seem to be messed up, so try going to their English language page from Google.
Anyway, for travel within a week from now, ThaiTicketMajor is quoting a price of 913 THB for a bus ride from Bangkok to Phuket City I am searching at the same time for the same travel date and get a price of 790 THB for travel by air (1 hour 25 minutes) and 913 THB for travel by bus (12 hours).
Budget Airlines Operating in Thailand
Usually for travel within Thailand or for travelling between India-Thailand-Cambodia, I first search Air Asia. Sometimes, Air Asia tickets are the cheapest. But for travel within Thailand, there are other options like Thai Smile, Thai Lion Air, Nok Air, and sometimes even Bangkok Airways. Usually Bangkok Airways is just too expensive but sometimes they run discount offers. If one does not want to search all budget airlines individually, it helps to use a fare compare service like skyscanner. Just know that sometimes skyscanner will show fares that are actually not available but usually it does the job correctly. For my Bangkok to Phuket search, I see the cheapest fares offered by these airlines in this order:
1. Thai Lion Air
2. Air Asia
3. Nok Air
4. Thai Smile
5. Bangkok Airways
All these airlines accept online payment via international credit cards. Thai Lion Air offers a bonus in this department too because there is no payment fee. So, the 790 THB ticket will cost just 790 THB and nothing else. A free 15kg baggage allowance for checked baggage included in addition to a 7kg hand baggage allowance. Air Asia can startle you with a 180 THB payment fee while Bangkok Airways and Thai Smile first quote basic fares and then add so many taxes and charges. Just one bit of warning here. If you carry checked bags over 15kg on Thai Lion, their charges will be high so do not think of misusing the free baggage facility. Quality-wise, I have flown Thai Lion on the Chiang Mai sector and it was a good experience. There are a few articles online about service issues in that airline but such articles are there about other budget airlines too. And when I compare 913 THB by bus and 790 THB by flight, I will choose Thai Lion or any other budget airline at that price. Both money and time matter.