Hiring a Van and Driver in Thailand

Seven family and friends visited Thailand for a fortnight for our wedding. To get to the wedding in Khon Kaen and our other destinations after the wedding (Kanchanaburi, Hua Hin/Pranburi) we hired a van with driver for 10 days. Passenger vans are very common in Thailand, especially for taking employees to work, and acting as public transport in Bangkok and between provinces. There are many companies and individuals making them available for hire for private trips like ours. After speaking with several companies, we finally chose Man Van, a small outfit with a couple of vans. The most common van is a Toyota Commuter with two different layouts: 15 seater or 10 seater. The 15 seater, with four rows of seats, is commonly used for public transport. The 10 seater is what I wanted: 9 seats in the back, 1 in the front, as well as room at the back for luggage. Having enough space for luggage was my main concern, and hence I wanted to look at a van before hiring it. A couple of companies didn't have any to look at (all out on the road). Eventually we tried Man Van, and they drove to us that afternoon to show us (it turned they drove from about 3 hours away just to show us, then drove back afterwards; they were keen for business!). We booked them for 10 days. The van had most things you need: wide plush seats (see the maroon/red seats on the website); plenty of leg room; TV/DVD and sound system that plays MP3 CDs; and enough space at the back for luggage. Between the 9 of us we had 4 medium sized suitcases, 2 large bags, several small backpacks and other odds and ends. They all piled in the back. We also put an esky and few boxes on the front seat when not in use. There was not much more room for large suitcases, but room on the floor for more small bags. If we had 10 people we would have just been ok with space. The driver was young, friendly, well-mannered and spoke almost no English (we didn't need him to). He was an excellent driver; we felt safe all the time. He drove around 100km/h on most main roads. The only time he drove fast was when one of us needed the toilet urgently: he started flashing his lights and got to a petrol station as quick as possible. That was great service. He knew were to go (e.g. how to get to hotels and tourist attractions) and stopped regularly finding nice places for us to eat and use the bathroom. The cost per day is 1800 Baht (its about the same everywhere in Thailand, as can be seen on the rates page of their website on columns labelled 2 and 3). In addition, there was 400 Baht per day for the drivers accommodation. And of course we paid for the fuel. There are probably set hours (e.g. 8am to 8pm), but since we were out of Bangkok all the time he was happy to drive us at anytime. On a number of occasions he took us to a restaurant at night, waited, and drove us home. The total cost for 10 days was 30590 Baht, which is about 340 Baht or $AU10 per person per day. Hiring a van, especially through Man Van, is a great way to travel in a group in Thailand, especially if going out of Bangkok.