Don’t Ever Trust a Thai Travel Agent

Lesson learned: do not ever book multi-bus trips throught a travel agency in Thailand!

In the interest of saving 200 Baht ($8) we booked an all-in-one bus trip to Khao Sok National Park via Surat Thani, leaving Bangkok on February 21 and arriving in the morning on February 22. Having already researched the route, I knew this was ill-advised by the travel guides, but we decided to give it a go anyway, as the price was attractive and the thought of having pre-booked transfers sounded appealing (we’ve been doing it ourselves ever since). Well, never again would we use this “attractive” option. Although we didn’t encounter any of the blackout periods or extra surcharges the Lonely Planet warned us about, we did have cramped transportation at times, and long waits for buses and transfers.

Here’s the story:

We planned to go to a travel agency in Bangkok to book an overnight train or bus to Surat Thani, where we could then catch a bus bound for Khao Sok National Park. This is where we were cajoled into purchasing a combo ticket for 600 Baht ($20) which would include transportation to Khao Sok, as well as pick up and transfer from our hotel to the bus station (which we were told was far from our hotel), and between bus stations in Surat Thani (the “bus station” we were actually dropped off at wasn’t a bus station at all, but a rest stop for our bus, which was going further south).

We were told to be at the travel office (beside our hotel) at 5.30PM for transfer to the bus. The “transfer” was actually a 5-minute walk around the corner to another guesthouse, and the “pick up” time was actually 6.30PM, when someone finally came and rescued us from the stoop of the travel agency.

After waiting on the sidewalk for over an hour, the bus finally pulled in and we got on our way around 8.30PM. We were told the bus would arrive in Surat Thani around 6AM, which, according to Asian time, I suppose it did (actual arrival = 6.30AM). We then got a quick breakfast before our “transfer” (read: 8 people squashed in a tuk tuk) arrived to take us to the Khao Sok bus. It was only when we dropped people off at the government (read: safe and reliable) bus station and were told NOT to get on, that I realized we had made the mistake we were warned about. Had we not paid for the combo ticket, we could have simply paid the ticket agent on the bus (all buses in Thailand have a driver and someone who sells tickets) and gone straight to Khao Sok.

We were then taken to another pick up spot (the fourth in 12 hours) and told to wait for the minibus to Khao Sok. As I had heard the stories about the Travel Agency minibuses, I had my doubts it would arrive at the appointed 8.30AM arrival time. Well, it didn’t disappoint me! At 9.30AM it finally showed up and we got underway for what we hoped would be the final leg of what should have been a 12-hour trip, but actually took 19 hours, including wait times. But wait, the fun doesn’t stop there: during the two hours it took to get to Khao Sok, our driver made SEVEN stops to let local people on and off the minibus!

We finally arrived in Khao Sok on February 22 just before noon, tired and cranky, but happy to be in one place for a few days.

So let that be a lesson to you – don’t ever trust a Thai Travel Agent and their bogus combo-tickets!


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