Bangkok can certainly be an intimidating city. For those unfamiliar with the forms of public transportation, however, the capital goes from being daunting to simply impossible to explore. Fret not, as we are here with the top transportation tips for getting around the city of Bangkok.
One of the easiest, fastest, and most luxurious forms of public transportation in Bangkok is the BTS Skytrain. The train opened on December 5, 1999. Its construction has aided in decongesting Bangkok’s busy street ever since. The Skytrain continues to expand today with the construction of new stations around the capital.
The Skytrain has two lines: Sukhumvit and Silom. These lines connect at the Siam station, which is where some of the most luxurious shopping malls in the city are. The Sukhumvit line connects to the Airport Link, as well, making it easy for passengers to get to and from the Suvarnabhumi Airport.
A ticket on the Skytrain ranges in price depending on where it is visitors want to go. Expect to pay anywhere from ฿15-52 (about US$.45-150) to travel around the city. You can also purchase a one-day unlimited BTS Skytrain pass for ฿150 (about US$4.50). The BTS Skytrain operates from about 6 a.m. to midnight.
The MRT subway is the slightly less trendy form of public transportation in Bangkok. Maybe it is because it lacks the city views the BTS provides passengers with because it is underground. Regardless, it reaches some unique destinations around the city, like the second Rod Fai Night Market found off the Thailand Cultural Centre station.
Fewer people travel via subway than they do the Skytrain, leaving many of passenger with many gaudy, yellow bucket seats to choose from. Finally, the subway is equipped with air conditioning, turning something as simple as a ride into an icy oasis from Bangkok’s unbearable heat. Ticket prices range from ฿15-40 (about US$.45-1.20). The MRT subway operates from about 6 a.m. to midnight, as well.
Those looking for an adrenalin rush need to explore the city on the back of a motorbike at least once before departing the City of Angels. Motorbike taxis can be found on almost every major street corner; the drivers’ neon orange vests acting as a clear indicator of their occupation. This is one of the fastest types of public transportation in the city. Motorbike taxi drivers are adept at weaving in and out of rush hour to get visitors where it is they need to go … and quickly.
It is for this reason that many visitors and locals avoid taking them altogether, however. These drivers seem to have a need for speed, and zipping around without a helmet oftentimes scares prospective riders from hopping on the back. Regardless, this form of public transportation remains one of the most popular amongst locals and expats alike. Certain destinations in the city have set prices, while other times you will have to barter with a driver to get the price you want.
As seemingly lame as the contraptions look, every visitor to Bangkok needs to ride in a tuk-tuk. A tuk-tuk, literally translating to ‘cheap cheap,’ is a miniature car of sorts, consisting of three small wheels, no siding, and a curved overhang to keep passengers covered overhead. Tuk-tuks have no seatbelts, no leg room, and seemingly no horse power, as the vehicles always seem to struggle to keep up with the other cars on Bangkok’s busy streets. The contraption is seemingly pointless, save for the excitement and smile it brings to first-time visitors of Bangkok. Be prepared to barter with drivers, especially if you are visiting popular tourist destinations via a tuk-tuk.
Chao Phraya River Express Boat
The Chao Phraya River Express Boat reaches some of the top destinations in the city. Visitors can eat their way through Chinatown from the Ratchawong Pier. Tourists can meander the stunning grounds of Wat Pho off the Tha Thien Pier. The Chao Phraya River Express Boat is the coolest (and quite possibly the fastest) way to get to these places, for example.
There is a set fee of ฿15 (about US$.45) for a ticket on this boat, regardless of the pier visitors wish to go to. Those who do opt for this form of transportation must be agile and quick on their feet. Oftentimes the boats barely stop at a pier before making their way down the river again. This leaves visitors with only a handful of seconds to jump from the boat to the shore.
Previously known as the ‘Venice of the East,’ Bangkok was once a city laced with waterways. By the late 19th century, however, these canals were filled in and replaced with roads. Some of the canals remain and provide Bangkokians and tourists alike a cheap and traffic-free alternative to getting around town. These canals reach some of the most popular destinations in the city. The infamous Khao San Road and Thonglor, a hipster neighborhood located in Sukhumvit, are both found off these canals, for example.
Sometimes the only way to get around Bangkok is via taxi. The taxi meter should start at 35, and the end price depends on how much traffic there is as well as how far a driver goes. Visitors will notice that all of the taxis in the capital are different colors. We have yet to figure out why this is, so feel free to get in any color taxi.
Taxi drivers should always use a meter. If they tell you they do not, simply thank them and opt for a different one. You can tell if a taxi is available if the red light at the front of the car is turned on. Visitors are not required to tip taxi drivers, and be sure to check a taxi cab before ever closing the door behind you. I found this out the hard way with my lovely iPhone six.
Taking the public bus in Bangkok is one of the cheapest ways to get around the capital. Many people avoid taking this form of publication because of how seemingly confusing hopping on and off the bus can be. Drivers sometimes speak little English, making passengers even more fearful that they may not make it to their end destination. That being said, one of the best ways in which to get to know the capital is to simply hop on a bus and see where it takes you. Getting lost is all part of the fun of exploring a new city, especially the city of Bangkok.