If you are visiting Malaysia, chances are you may also make a stop in Bangkok or vice versa.
If you are planning to travel to Bangkok and/or visit its surrounding areas like Ayuthaya and wish to seek out a reliable and honest van driver, I have a good driver to recommend for you. This is from my 10 years of travelling to Bangkok and what I have learnt.
Reason I write this article is because sometimes my friends would ask me to recommend a good driver to them when they intend to visit Bangkok. I have travelled with a number of drivers and from what I learnt, the cheapest may not (and often is not) the best or most honest.
Standard van driver rate in Bangkok:
- 2000 baht for one day (start about 8am or 9am till 6pm)
- After 6pm, there would be surcharge between 200 to 250 baht per hour until before midnight
- From midnight onwards, it would be counted as one more extra day. For example, if you are engaging the van driver for the day till it pass midnight, the van driver would count as 2 days fare
- There would be surcharge when visiting highlands (where the van needs to travel uphill because the travelling does some damage to the vehicle)
- All the charges above EXCLUDE petrol, toll, parking in which you would need to pay separately
- If you need the driver to take you to another province- let’s say you travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and make pit stops along the way. As the driver is with you after 12 midnite (even though he does nothing but sleep in his hotel room), you still need to pay the after midnite rate.
- You are expected to tip the driver after the trip
Why the cheapest may not be the best:
When you search online, you may find sometimes the driver is able to quote you a lower rate or a rate that is too good to be true. Sometimes their experience is okay but I do hear of horror stories such as:
- charge quoted only cover the driver fees. The driver has conveniently omitted to mention other surcharges such as petrol or the other rates….ended up the customers need to pay much more
- the driver knows your location better than you. You may be taken to go in traffic jams and later told that some of the places that you planned to travel cannot be covered.
- the driver takes you to business/establishments that they have tie up such as gem stone factories whereby you may be asked to buy something (this happens to me when I visited Sri Lanka as well)
- you do not feel safe travelling with the driver
- the driver takes you to somewhere else which is not what you intended to go
Actually it is sad to see the image of a beautiful country being ruined by some unscrupulous people that tourists had the misfortune to hire. Thailand is really a beautiful country and I’ve met so many friendly, helpful and honest people.
That is why I wish to recommend to you a driver whom I have personally known for about 10 years (almost from the time I started travelling to Thailand frequently). His name is Suraca and you may contact him via his Facebook page (updated in August 2018): https://www.facebook.com/sjira.Suracha
Why I recommend this driver:
Without his help, I would not be able to visit so many places in Thailand including the places less travelled and not so commercized. So much so that I am able to start a blog just to talk about my travels to Thailand 🙂
He may not charge the cheapest rate around but he offers quality value safety above all else. It is very important especially if you are travelling with your loved ones. And he is honest and reliable.
He is also very familiar with the ins and outs of Bangkok and other surrounding towns having travelled extensively all over Thailand. Often, I find he could even estimate how long it takes to reach the next toilet stop for long haul trips.
Also, my friends who often wanted to go shopping at a few places would be able to place all items in the van while they go to one destination after another. In Bangkok due to its infamous jam, please forget it if you think you would go shopping, then go back to the hotel to put your stuff, and then out again unless the places that you wish to travel are all within walking distance (for example if you stay in Pratunam and is only visiting nearby areas such as Platinum Mall, Pratunam market, Siam Paragon….but you would get exhausted walking from the hotel back and forth under the hot weather).
Most of the time, for those planning to visit Thailand, they would google and look at the pictures or reviews about the places. Then they shortlist the places they wishes to go. Now, you may plan based on bits and pieces of info that you gathered from the web (I know because I have done that a few times before) but you would not be familiar with the logistics or familiarity of travelling like how a local would.
For example, a friend had indicated in her itinerary that she wanted to visit Chocolate Ville after lunch (among the other listing). However, Suraca being a local would know that Chocolate Ville is a beautiful place but only at night so he would recommend either swapping with some other locations or a new location based on the objectives of the persons travelling (is it for shopping, eating, theme parks, nature, highlands or a combination).
Due to his experience driving in Bangkok (as well as travelling to outer provinces), he would try to plan so that the closer places are grouped together instead of going to north, then south and back to north again.
Other drivers in my experience would not say much. They would just follow your itinerary accordingly even though they know very well based on the traffic jam, it is not possible to cover those places. They would then tell you there and then only.
Or they know for example if you wish to visit Khao Yai, it involves hours of drive from Bangkok. In the Thai dry season (example in March-April), the highlands are not as beautiful as what you see in the photos. So if they are only interested to earn the wages, OT and the extra allowance for travelling uphill, they may not warn you upfront that at a certain time of the month, there is nothing much to see in Khao Yai (except you would see drying trees and leaves and possibly dangers of forest fires). So you may waste one day or more for nothing (and a lot of money).
When he was given with itinerary that he knows would affect the customers’ experience, he would caution because he does not wish to waste their time and their experience. Sometimes he could recommend other less commercialised or other alternatives as being a local, he is familiar with the operations, sightseeing and experiences of many places where the tourists wish to visit.
One thing though, he could speak only simple English but usually friends from Singapore who arranged tours with him would have provided their itinerary. He would then check and provide back feedback.
Passengers who travel in his van are insured as he makes sure he buys insurance for his customers. Once arrangements have been made, he would be able to pick up the customers either at the airport, hotel or their preferred location in Bangkok.
Note: This is not a paid review as till today, I have not done a single paid review across all my blogs. I decided to write this article because I know many people are looking for drivers and they are concerned about safety, honesty and reliability. Since I personally know of a good driver, hopefully by recommending it would help you when you travel to Thailand and wished to engage a van.