Long-Distance Buses in Thailand are Dangerous: Two More Bus Crashes and Deaths in 3 Days

night bus thailand
Night bus in Thailand – copyright Flying Pharmacist, Creative Commons License


Two long-distance bus crashes in Thailand in three days

Travelling in long-distance buses in Thailand can be dangerous, as most expats who have lived here for more than a few months will tell you. News reports appear in local newspapers several times a month of bus crashes in Thailand, buses driving off roads or falling into ditches, or hitting or rear-ending other vehicles and sometimes bursting into flames. So it’s no surprise Thai TV news is reporting two major bus crashes in Thailand in the last three days right at the start of the New Year travel season.

The first killed 29 people and the second accident injured 18 passengers.

The first bus crash in Thailand occurred late Thursday evening when a bus travelling from Chiang Rai to Khon Kaen plunged into a ravine killing 29 passengers on board and seriously injuring four others. The driver survived.

The second bus crash in Thailand occurred this morning, when a bus going from Bangkok to Songkhla plummeted into a ditch near Buri Ram after the driver allegedly fell asleep at the wheel. In that accident, 18 passengers were injured with both minor and more serious injuries.

So why are long-distance buses in Thailand so dangerous? Why is Thailand ranked as having some of the world’s most dangerous roads by the US State Department? And why do I avoid using them, particularly at night unless I absolutely have to?

Bus drivers are not properly trained and drive too fast

In many cases, bus drivers in Thailand are not properly trained and so are not skilled at avoiding accidents. They also drive far too fast, especially in poor road conditions, and will sometimes even overtake slower moving vehicles on dangerous stretches of roads.

The last time I took a long-distance bus to Cambodia early in the morning and the half-asleep bus driver overtook a car coming up to the crest of a hill with zero visibility, I swore I would never ride a long-distance bus in the dawn hours in Thailand again.

Travelling at night is particularly dangerous

Travelling by long-distance bus in Thailand at night can be particularly dangerous. That’s because the drivers are sometimes too tired to drive long stretches and do occasionally fall asleep.

They also drive too fast for the poor visibility and have been known to even hit cars parked at the side of the road, either due to cars being illegally parked or the bus driver driving too fast to see them in time.

Drunk drivers in Thailand

Thailand has a big problem with drunk drivers who, of course, are more prevalent at night when the bars close. Out on country roads on a long-distance bus in Thailand, and your bus driver is more likely to come across, and have to avoid, a drunk driver than he is during the day.

That’s why many expats will recommend you take long-distance buses in Thailand during the day and not throughout the night. Yes, it might take you longer to get to your destination due to the increase in traffic, but you are more likely to arrive there in one piece.

Foreign tourists, as well as Thais, are killed in bus crashes in Thailand every year – particularly on night buses. That’s why I always recommend, if you plan on travelling long-distance in Thailand, planes are much safer and, if you don’t have a choice but to take a bus on a trip across country, try to do so during the day if at all possible.