UPDATE: Jan 2012: Please note that Puduraya is renovated and now have bus going north and to Hatyai.
Read my related article on Puduraya’s new makeover– the new place is impressive.
Puduraya is the bus station located near Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur. As you go into Puduraya and approached the bus ticket counters, you will see many people coming to you asking where you wanna go, etc. You can get to Puduraya via the Star LRT to Plaza Rakyat station. Alternatively, if you take the Putra LRT, you can stop at Pasar Seni or Masjek Jamek station and walk there.
I went to Puduraya to purchase a pair of bus tickets to Hat Yai and I was approached by many ticket sellers. Initially I was confused as I am not familiar with buying tickets up to Hat Yai. After going around a few booths to ask with the Indonesian ladies telling me that the buses are super good, etc but could not answer some questions that I’ve had, I decided to stick to Konsortium.
In case you do not know, Konsortium Bas Express Semenanjung (M) SB consists of the signature red buses. No doubt, in Jan 08, Konsortium came under the headlines after one of its bus drivers had 13 outstanding summonses and caused 3 passengers to be killed. However, a check with a seasonal traveller friend of mine said that the buses are ok.
One thing when you buy bus tickets in Puduraya, look out for counters selling computerised and not manual tickets. Bus counters such as Transnational, Plusliner (Plusliner buses are known to be punctual) and Konsortium will issue computerised tickets with valid platform and they use their own buses. They are also not concerned if their tickets are sold out or not- they will stick to the journey using their own buses. Konsortium have their special 18 Snoozer seater (instead of the normal 21 Super VIP seater) which are very comfortable- ask for these buses if you are travelling overnight- it’s only slightly expensive (Super VIP= RM40, Snoozer= RM50).
If you buy manual issued tickets (ie the seller just wrote the tickets out of a coupon instead of giving you a computerised printout), you may encounter the following bad experience (that I’ve encountered before when I was a student):
- the seat is double booked, ie 2 tickets were sold for one seat (that seldom happens now but stick to computerised system in order to be on the safe side).
- the bus is not punctual and leaves late (sometimes few hours late) because the ticket sellers are still trying to get more customers to make the bus seats full
- you buy ticket for a certain bus A but are asked to take bus B because bus A did not have full booking (so it was decided to merge 2 buses into one and you may end up taking a more uncomfortable bus).
- all the buses need to make stops- but these buses may detour off the highway and go to some kinda dirty looking restaurants instead of stopping at the stops along the Plus highway.
Going to Puduraya reminds me of years back when I was still a student studying in Penang. To save time, my KL friends and I will normally take the midnight night bus from Penang back to KL, arriving at Puduraya at about 4 or 5am in the morning (the journey from Penang to Kuala Lumpur only takes about 4.5 hours via bus). I usually travel alone and during that time, my tummy is always unwell and almost each time, it ‘masuk angin‘ (‘wind’ gets in) causing very severe stomach spasms and pain by the time I reach KL in the wees hours of the morning. And I have to wait till 6am before I could walk out to Bangkok bank to take the first morning bus back home. For seasonal travellers, if you will need to look after your food intake if you constantly suffer from stomach ailments. Check out my article series on Stomach Cures.
Note: Previously, I’ve been to Hat Yai but this will be my first time going to Northern Thailand via the bus route. This means Kuala Lumpur -> Hat Yai -> Bangkok -> Lampang (on the way to Chiang Mai where my Thai friend stays). When I come back, I will be sharing more photos and tips for future use of budget travellers 🙂
How to know the current rates
This article is published when the rate was RM50. However, the rate may have increase since petrol price seemed to be always going up. If the tickets are sold out in the company that you want to buy from, and you are offered by another bus company, compare the rates with Transnational, Plusliner or Konsortium (of course, if you are buying a 24 seater, then you have to compare the rate of the same seater). Especially Transnational who is generally not interested to rip people- you will know the going rate. The fare should not vary more than RM5 except if you are buying during major festival like Raya or Chinese New Year (then I wish you good luck because all bus & train tickets are generally sold out months before).
Update after the trip to Hat Yai (Oct 08):
First and foremost, if you are travelling from KL to Hat Yai, please change the Thai notes in Hat Yai. Don’t change in KL. The rates are definitely better at Hat Yai compared if you change it in KL. For instance, I changed in KL: RM1 = 10 baht. I changed in Hat Yai: RM1= 10.25 baht.
If you take Konsortium bus, you take the bus in front of a hotel (sorry, I can’t remember the name)- but the hotel is directly facing Puduraya. Still, please confirm with the ticketing staff after you buy the ticket.
The bus is really comfortable- the Snoozer seat had the proper leg supporter that you can raise up. You also get to listen to a large selection of music or watch movies (in different languagues)- each seat gets a headset that you can put on. Then the seat can go all the way backward. Geez, Konsortium should really be paying me for promoting them- but I write this from personal experience 🙂
Then the bus will drop you at a eating place near the border about 6am, I think. It’s only a short break- don’t take your sweet time and try to sit near the bus else it may just run off without you 😉
If your stomach is not killing you, perhaps you may want to wait another hour or two (the line up at the custom factored in) to eat at Hat Yai- the food is more tasty there.
Then, a short distance later, it will arrive at the Customs. If you go during weekend/public holidays, the queues are normally long. You need to bring down your luggage from the bus for inspection. Then you will go to the Thai immigration. And memorise the bus’s plate number and few faces of the people who travel with you on the same bus.
The bus will go to a parking place at the back, which you will probably see the seasoned passengers go to after getting their passport chopped. You will see a sea of buses and therefore you need to be able to look for the bus.
After clearance, the bus will travel for about 20 to 30 minutes and reached the Konsortium shop- then all passengers will get down there.
Back to changing notes- that Konsortium bus express has a money changer there also. You can go around to a few shops to compare rates. I changed at Konsortium, then I realised that the rates from another shop was cheaper.
Tip: If you are buying a return ticket or another ticket to Bangkok or somewhere, don’t buy from these shops because the price of the ticket is inflated (sometimes up to extra 300 baht). Buy from the bus station itself- it is much cheaper. But again, my apologies- I don’t know where is the bus station because a friend gave us a lift there- I only know it is not within walking distance from the shop.
I took the bus below from Hat Yai to Bangkok- it was a 24 seater bus. The ticket cost 850 baht. It’s expensive because it is 24 seater.
OK, the experience was not pleasant- because the place where you put your lower legs (calves) cannot come up-it’s permanently stuck there. So you can lower the seat all the way back, but you will be lying down with your calves bent (as in the body lying down but the calves bending) for 11 hours or 12 hours. Very uncomfortable- I find many of the Thailand wide seater buses are like that. After the experience, I would rather travel on a 30 something or a 48 seater overnight bus- the seats are smaller but at least, the seater comes up (ok, maybe some don’t). And the price is much much cheaper- probably about less than 500 baht. I wished I heed the advise of my Thai friend and had not insisted for the cut-throat-expensive pain-in-the-legs super VIP bus.
The bus leaves at 6 or 7pm from Hat Yai bus station (always check with the counter where to take the bus) and arrive Bangkok about 7am. The bus is a double decker- there is a stairs in the middle and the toilet is downstairs while you are seated upstairs. And yeah, I forget- avoid getting the seats at the middle for this bus because sometimes the ‘aroma’ from people who don’t know how to use the toilet can drive you nuts. Either get at the front or at the back (I sat on the second roll from the back and it was not bumpy). But this does not apply if you are travelling on a non double decker- for those cases, avoid getting the seat at the back. Sometimes the toilet actually works and the smell can also make you wanna faint.
And also, if you take overnight buses in Thailand, you normally get a souvenior (consisting of a bottle of mineral water, a piece of bread, a packet drink and a few cookies). AND, you also get a free meal coupon to eat at the places the bus stops. If you don’t redeem the coupon for a meal, you can redeem it for a packet of box drink. Even the inexpensive 48 seater overnight buses also provide these.