This story needs to be told as I have never been so scared and pissed off !!!
Our group of fifteen went to Hakuba Valley in Nagano Prefecture, Japan in February 2019 for skiing. We decided to charter a bus from a Thailand tour agent which we found out later that it is an illegal bus operations by Thais who work illegally in Japan !
The ride from Nagoya to Hakuba was bad as although we told them that we had 15 people with 15 luggage, they got us a mini bus that seats only 22 and very littlle luggage space so we had to essentially had to put the luggage on the seats and barely had fifteen seats left. We had to ride like that for more than 5 hours. But at least it had a professional Japanese driver.
On the way back, we asked for an extra van (for extra fees) to transport the luggage separately. With the luggage gone, we had more room to sit. We thought our trouble was over. In fact, it just got started.
First, the bus and van were supposed to pick us up at 8:30. We got a call that the “just got the bus out” and will arrive at 10:30, which they ended up arriving around 11.
They were driven by two Thais, one man and a woman. So the man packed up the van with our luggage to took off directly to the hotel in Nagoya while the woman drove our mini bus.
One friend looked at the tires of the bus and commented that they were essentially bald with very little threads left. At this point, there was nothing we can do except to pray that it does not snow along the way.
We all got into the bus and right away the driver took the wrong turn out of the apartment complex and then took another wrong turn a few minutes later !!!! Took us over 10 minutes just to be heading in the right direction.
As we drove along the main road, I thought we were going a bit fast (I knew that speed limit was just 50 Km/hour since I drove this road the day before), but I did not say anything as I thought the bus driver knew better.
About 30 minutes into the trip, the bus was stopped by a flashing police car. After lots of loud yelling in Japanese by the policeman, he finally let the bus go. We knew that the bus was speeding because after the policeman realized that our driver cannot really speak Japanese, he started screaming something like “speed-to, 70, 50 ….”. He said that our bus was going 70 Km/hour. For some odd reason, he let us go without issuing a ticket.
At this point, we found out that we were actually riding on an illegal bus as the driver was not license to carry tourists. We were told that should the police asked, we were to say that we “are friends of the bus driver” and not to say that we are just tourists.
The bus took off and 2 minutes later, we were stopped by the same police car again. Our driver was driving at 70 Km/hour again. The policeman banged on the windows really hard and raised his voice a few more notches !! I think our driver started to cry or something like that. At that point, we were all sure she would be arrested and we would have to find our way home another way. For another odd reason, after more yelling and scolding, he let the bus go again.
The ironic thing was that our driver was complaining why the policeman was following her and that the first time she thought the police car who overtook us with the lights flashing was just “stopping to let the bus pass” so she sped past him again !!!!
I then decided to downloaded a SPEEDOMETER app on my phone and monitored the bus speed. Our driver starting to drive up to 60 Km/hour again and when I told her to slow down, she argued that it was “downhill” !!!
The last straw was when we were going through a tollbooth that we needed to stop to pay cash, she sped through without stopping. The booth attendant yelled and she finally put on a really hard brake. She claimed that she has ETC pass but that toll booth did not have ETC channel !!
She also was not even a good driver as she was weaving around and sometimes even looked at her phone. That was dangerous enough at 50 Km/hour and we thought it would have been deadly at 100 Km/hour on the highway.
At that point, we had enough and told her to drop us off at Nagano Train Station and we took a safe, stress free train to Nagoya. One of the best decision of our lives.
EXTREME WARNING : There seems to be many illegal Thai bus agents that engage in this illegal and dangerous practice. Do a Facebook search with the words “รถเช่าญี่ปุ่นพร้อมคนขับไทย “ and you will get a long list of these agents. These Facebook post all claim to to have “professional Thai driver” !!!
So I suggest that if you are booking transportation with Thai agents, please get all the information regarding the car and the driver and insist that you get the name and license of the driver. Or better yet, rent the bus from reputable Japanese agents.