There are some things that the locals take for granted, but is very difficult for visitors, especially if it is the first time for you in a city. As expected I had to encounter a few trial-and-error situations before I got the lay of the streets, the transportation systems, the shopping destinations and the food in Bangkok. Fortunately, Google Map helped a lot and being from Bhutan helped even more (our King is very popular there) in navigating around Bangkok.
So here I compile a list to help navigate the streets of Bangkok via the numerous transportation options available there, whether you want to go to the shopping malls, or the night markets, or the airport or the numerous tourist destinations around Bangkok. Remember to know the name of the street or the station where you need to be or use Google Maps to check it out.
1. Motorbike Taxi
Number one on my list is the dreaded motorcycles, the Motorbike Taxi. Indeed, one of the fastest ways to get around town when you’re a solitary traveler is to jump on a motorbike taxi. By being able to dodge the almost constant gridlock and dart in and out between cars and buses, motorbikes are a quick way to get around, especially during rush hours.
Considering Bangkok’s notorious traffic conditions, it is probably also the most dangerous! Despite the immediate hazards – fearless motorbike taxi drivers will do anything to get you to your destination quickly, even if it means driving on sidewalks or in the opposing traffic lane! – many brave passengers opt for the two-wheeled vehicles to take them all over town.
Motorbike taxi drivers are easily recognized. Wearing numbered orange vests, groups of motorbike drivers can be spotted congregating in groups near street corners of office or shopping buildings, busy roads, smaller ‘sois’ (streets), and near Skytrain and underground stations.
Tip: Always wear a safety helmet and always negotiate fare prior to the journey.
2. Tuk Tuks
The loud Tuk Tuks take second place. Tuk-tuks or ‘sam lor’ (three-wheeled) used to be everyone’s favorite way of getting around Bangkok before the BTS, MRT and colorful taxis took over. A tuk-tuk is essentially a rickshaw with a small engine fitted in.
Tuk-tuks have become one of Bangkok’s most recognizable transportation features and are still popular among tourists and visitors. Riding a tuk-tuk is more of an experience rather than a practical way to get around.
BTS or Skytrain is another convenient way to travel around Bangkok. There are two BTS lines which are color coded on the map.
A new train arrives every 3 – 6 minutes or so between 06:30 and midnight. The last train leaves between 23:30 and 23:50. Fares start at 15 baht for one stop, so is conveniently cheaper.
But also note that trains can get pretty full during peak hours (07:00 – 09:00 and 16:00 – 19:00), as the BTS has also become the choice mode of transport for people living and working in Bangkok.
Besides the BTS and MRT, the easiest and most convenient way to get around Bangkok is by taxi. Most taxis are new, spacious and, in addition to the traditional green-yellow and red-blue, they also come in funky colors like bright orange, red and even pink.
Finding a taxi is not a hassle, especially around hotels, shopping malls and other tourist attractions. However, you’re in for a long wait when it rains, and during rush hours. The fare starts at 35 baht and stays there for the first two kilometers. Thereafter, the fare gradually works its way up with 2 baht at a time (roughly per kilometer). A surcharge applies in traffic jams (1.25 baht per meter when moving under 6 km per hour).
Typical taxi fares for going a few kilometers are around 50 baht. Communication can be a problem with most of Bangkok’s taxi drivers as they often speak little English. Overall, there’s never a shortage of taxis in a city that never sleeps, except when it starts raining of course.
They’re cheap and available virtually 24 hours a day. Meter taxis now predominate, but sometimes you may have to politely (but firmly) ask them to switch the meter on to save negotiating later. Since taxis are cheap and the drivers work all hours in traffic that is legendary, a small tip is often appreciated.
5. Airport Rail Link
The Bangkok Airport Rail Link (06:00-midnight) that connects downtown Bangkok with Suvarnabhumi International Airport is a smart alternative to the airport’s express buses or taxis.
The City Line makes six stops between downtown (Phayathai Station) and the airport, completing each run in 30 minutes, making this a quick and convenient transport option for getting in and out of Bangkok. From Bangkok International Airport (Suvarnabhumi), the entrance to the Airport Rail Link service is on the First Floor.
The above are the five transportation services I used during my visits to Bangkok City in the past few years.
At the airport, keep your luggage in any of the two Left Luggage counters (2nd and 4th floor), where for around 180 Baht you can keep your trolley-bag overnight.
From the 1st floor one can take the Airport Rail Link to Phaya Thai station (the end of the line). You will have to pay 45 Baht for a one-way token, which you can buy via a ticket machine. At Phaya Thai, you can change to a BTS skytrain and travel to National Stadium station (opposite MBK shopping Centre) for around 48 Baht. But mind you, you must change trains at Siam station.
White Lodge and Pranee Building are two popular budget hotels for Bhutanese shoppers and travelers. Rooms cost from 700 to 950 Baht a night but are clean with friendly staff. Both are located just 5 mins walk from MBK. If you do want to get to Pantip Plaza, a Motorbike Taxi will cost you around 30 to 40 Baht from MBK.
To get back to the airport, simply board BTS from anywhere but aim to get to Phaya Thai station. From there you can board the Airport Rail Link directly to Suvarnabhumi Airport.
Besides them there are other forms of transportation to get around Bangkok, though I have not tried them.
Exploring Bangkok by boat is a fantastic way to get a glimpse into the timeless charm of the city, as well as witness the role Bangkok’s many waterways have played in its past right up to the present day. With the wind in your hair and majestic sites and attractions lined up on both banks of the mighty Chao Phraya, most people fall for the charm of getting around Bangkok by boat.
Fast and efficient, the Mass Rapid Transit network (MRT) underground train serves 18 stations and stretches for 20 km in a horseshoe shape from Hua Lamphong in the South (near Chinatown) to Bang Sue in the north. Trains arrive every 5-7 minutes and connect to the BTS Skytrain at Sukhumvit and Silom stations.
Trains connect major destinations outside Bangkok like Chiang Mai, major regional hubs, regional destinations, outskirts of Bangkok and rural provinces. They have a variety of seats and fares starting from fast Super Express to slow Commuter local trains. Hua Lamphong, or Bangkok Train Station, is the main terminal to northern, eastern, northeastern and southern Thailand.
City Buses operate around the clock and are pretty tricky for first timers, but they do connect to every part of Bangkok. Mo Chit Bus Terminal is the biggest bus station in Bangkok connecting the Northern, Central, Eastern and North-Eastern provinces of the city, as well as linking the city to neighboring countries.
Information and most photographs from http://www.bangkok.com