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Downtown by bus


Having visited 5 South-East Asian capitals I though to share our experience with the different transport systems in Indochina. By far, the most common way of moving are mototaxi and tuk tuk. While these are the more traditional and the faster, we consistently try to avoid them. The main reason is that the drivers always try to overcharge tourists and we find the negotiating process exhausting. Another reason is that this constant cloud of people driving around empty chasing for clients, summed up with the army heading somewhere to unload one or two people is detrimental to traffic and environment. So we usually went for the mass transit. Here they go:

Bangkok: Much bigger in size and population compared to the sister cities it, is the only one to have both a metro and a skytrain system. All quite new and of world class level. Unfortunately, so are the prices. A short ride on a skytrain costs as much as to cover by ordinary train the 80 km to Ayutthaya (15 Bath/0.38$). They are the best way to avoid the traffic but have two main drawbacks: first of all they still cover just a portion of the city; the second point is that, belonging to different companies, there’s no integrated ticket, making it more uncomfortable and costly.

The bus system is branched and spreads nearly everywhere. The basic it’s very cheap (7 Bath/0.18$), but it doesn’t have air con; that’s why you may see it often going with open doors. Those with air con are a little more expensive. It’s not easy to understand which bus you want to get in. On our experience asking a couple of locals makes you on the safe side. Drawback: with the traffic jam of this city reaching your destination may take a while. Bring a book along with yourself!

Vientiane: The tourist area fits in a nutshell. The main sites, beside the golden stupa (getting there renting a bike or grapping a Tuk Tuk may serve you well enough), are at a walking distance. The Bus system comes handy to reach the Bhudda Park or the north or the south bus stations, from where intercity bus depart, or the airport. The Ticket is cheap but the service is not that frequent and it stops quite early. After 5 pm you may not have buses any longer.

Hanoi: best bus system so far. The routes are marked in city map easy to get on your arrival. Without it may get a little tricky. The bus costs 6/7000 Dong (0.30$) and usually have air con or a fan system. As mentioned in an earlier post, the city doesn’t suffer of massive jam so the run is reasonably short. Sometimes, the bus just stop somewhere or enter an unmarked bus station finishing the ride. That was a bit tedious but we observed it in nearly every country.

Similar situation can be found in Ho Chi Min City. We didn’t have a map but we sort it out easily by asking locals. In the main stops there is always an officer you can bank on.

Phnom Penh: The bus system is new (not the buses). The 3 lines started in late 2014 so the Phnom Penhers are not accustomed with it. To make it more appealing the government bought 100 second-hand buses from Korea and Japan so as to increase the number of routes and the frequency. Taking the bus is user friendly also for foreigner as every stop has a map of the route. Worth would be to see the interception with other lines. Also little information can be found on the net. The buses are old but cozy and the ride is cheap (1500 riel/0.38$).

Kuala Lumpur: This city definitely wins the gold medal. Thanks to the relatively young age and because of the plain surface of Kang valley, Kuala Lumpur has a train web covering pretty much the all city. The main gateways, such as intercity stations and airports, are well connected and a couple of decently organized hubs (kl sentral and BTS) make the tourist life way easier. The fares are rather cheap, although, even in this case, tickets are not integrated. KLcitybus recently introduced a 7days card allowing for discounted fare rates. However we didn’t find it convenient. Outstandingly, the city centre is served by four bus routes free of charge!

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