How to Get Around Bangkok
Bangkok can be, at times, a rather intense city. In 2010, the city had a population of about 8.2 million people –– this doesn’t take into account the number of tourists/backpackers in the city –– all of whom need to, somehow, get around Bangkok. Thankfully, the city’s transportation infrastructure is pretty solid and easy to navigate.
Most first-time travellers to Bangkok will gravitate towards using a taxi or the BTS (if they are staying close to Sukhumvit Road), and budget backpackers generally go for Tuk Tuks. Three of the easiest modes of transportation. There are, however, other ways to get around Bangkok; while some may be cheaper, others are definitely more of an adventure.
Note: Prices in this post are subject to change. Current exchange rate of the Thai Baht (THB).
I’m not going to lie, I have come to love riding in a taxi, even though it is not always the most practical way to get around Bangkok. My main reason is that it allows me to have some quiet time. I am completely serious. If I’m staying at a hostel, a taxi ride is my version of heaven. It is just me, the driver and some air conditioning. I don’t even care how bad the traffic is, I just sit back and mellow out.
One of the best tips I can give for using a taxi in Bangkok is to always make sure the driver turns on the meter. If he doesn’t turn it on when you ask, get out and find another taxi. This is the best way to ensure you are not getting scammed. Taxi fares in Bangkok start at 35 THB ($1.05 USD/ $1.34 CAD) for the first two kilometres, and then it is about 2 THB per kilometre thereafter. If you’re stuck in traffic there is an additional 1.25 THB per meter surcharged if the taxi is going less than 6 km/hr.
As Bangkok is a massive city you will often encounter drivers who will refuse to take you. This can be due to a number of reasons, the main one being that they don’t know where it is you want to go. Most drivers are not born and raised in Bangkok but move to the city for work. Be patient and try another taxi. If you have a map that shows where you want to go, this can sometimes help. I have, at times, picked a popular landmark near where I want to go and walked the rest of the way.
Tip: Never take a taxi that is waiting outside your hotel or hostel as they often try to get more money from you. Always walk up the street and hail a taxi.
Tuk Tuks can be seen throughout Bangkok, especially in areas that have hostels. This is because backpackers tend to think they are cheaper (which is a myth) and the best way to get around Bangkok. It feels more hardcore for some reason.
Believe it or not, there is such a thing as a Tuk Tuk mafia in Bangkok and they do run a vast majority of the Tuk Tuks in the city. Prices are often inflated, and even when you negotiate you are still paying more than you should. For example, I often travelled between two hostels in Bangkok. One was in Silom and the other in Siam (near MBK Centre). The ride in a taxi was about 50 THB if the traffic was normal. Tuk Tuk drivers wouldn’t make the trip for less than 100 THB.
If you’re looking to have a fun experience, take a Tuk Tuk, but be aware of some of the scams before you climb into one. As an alternative, you can always take a Tuk Tuk tour of Bangkok, which is quite fun. This one is excellent!
While snagging alone time in a taxi is one of my guilty pleasures in Bangkok, I tend to travel mostly by BTS, as I often stay somewhere in the city centre. Bangkok’s BTS (or Skytrain) has two lines, Sukhumvit and Silom. The Sukhumvit line runs from Mo Chit to Samrong and the Silom line runs from National Stadium to Bang Wa; the two lines have an interchange at Siam station.
Fares range from 16 THB to 44 THB, depending on distance. You can purchase tickets from vending machines at every station. If you need change, line-up at the ticket window (this is where locals buy and top-up their passes).
The BTS operates daily from 6 am – 12 am with the last trains leaving around 11:30 pm. Peak transportation times are 7 am – 9 am and 4 pm – 7 pm.
The MRT is Bangkok’s underground train system (subway). The MRT has two lines. The blue line runs from Hua Lamphong (Bangkok’s main train station) to Tao Poon, crossing both BTS lines as well as the Airport Link (SA City Line).
- MRT and Silom BTS line have an interchange at Sala Daeng
- MRT and Sukhumvit line have interchanges at Asok and Mo Chit
- MRT and Airport Link (SA City Line) have an interchange at Phetchaburi
The purple line runs from Tao Poon to Khlong Bang Phai.
Fares range from 15 THB – 40 THB depending on distance. Similar to the BTS, you can buy your tickets from a vending machine at all stations. Most machines will take coins and bills, but if you need to break down a large bill, visit the ticket window.
The MRT operates daily from 6 am – 12 am with the last trains leaving around 11:30 pm. Peak transportation times are 6 am – 9 am and 4:30 pm – 7:30 pm.
BRT (BUS RAPID TRANSIT)
Bangkok’s public bus network is quite extensive (which I will address a little below). The BRT is a rapid bus line that runs from Sathorn (near Chong Nonsi BTS) to Ratchapruek. The advantage of taking the BRT vs a regular bus is that the BRT has dedicated traffic lanes which allows them to get around traffic. In general, BRT buses are newer and more comfortable.
Fares range from 12 THB – 20 THB depending on distance. Gus generally run every 5 minutes during peak times, otherwise, they are every 10 minutes.
The bus makes eleven stops and runs from 6 am – 12 am. Peak transportation times are 6:30 am – 9:30 am and 4 pm – 8 pm.
Public buses are used mostly by Thai people. Most tourists/backpackers don’t bother using them as English is not as common as on other modes of transportation and you’ll need to be aware of where you’re going, how many stops before your stop, etc. Fares range depending on the colour of the bus and distance; Orange 11 THB – 24 THB, Yellow 10 THB – 12 THB (flat rate), Red 7 THB, all other non-air-conditioned buses are 8 THB. Tickets can be bought onboard, and drivers usually have change. Be smart, don’t try to buy tickets with large bills, carry 20 THB bills instead.
Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when taking a public bus in Bangkok.
- Orange and Yellow buses are air-conditioned, however, the Red ones are not.
- The colour of the bus does not coordinate with the route, routes can have several different bus colours.
- Some of the red buses are FREE.
- To get on a bus you need to wave at the driver so he knows to stop.
- When you want to get off, stand up and approach the door.
- If there is a blue sign in the bus window it will operate on the normal route, buses with a yellow sign in the window use the expressway and not all stops are made.
Daytime buses operate from 5 am – 11 pm, while night buses run 24 hours. Visit this site for up-to-date information on bus routes –you can also view bus route maps that display a few different routes to get a better idea of where you need to do.
One of the fastest and more dangerous ways to get around Bangkok is by motorbike taxi. Drivers tend to drive very quickly and weave in and out of traffic. Many of them think themselves to be fearless and have been known to drive against traffic to get to where they want to go. While it is relatively cheap (you can negotiate a rate with the driver, short trips usually start at 10 THB), there are better ways to get around Bangkok that won’t risk your life.
CANAL (KHLONG) TAXI
It is easy to forget that there are several canals (khlongs) that crawl through Bangkok in every direction. You can explore the khlongs by longtail (I rented one for a day to visit Lat Mayom Floating Market) boat or a khlong taxi. Mostly used by locals, there are two khlong taxi lines, Golden Mount runs from Pratunam Pier (near Central World) to Phan Fa Lilat and NIDA line from Pratunam Pier to Wat Sriboonruang.
The khlong taxi operates from 5:30 am – 8: 30 pm (or 7 pm on weekends). Fares range from 10 THB – 20 THB depending on distance and can be purchased on the boat. Similar to taking the public bus, please use small bills (20 THB) to pay. Do not expect them to accept large bills.
CHAO PHRAYA EXPRESS BOAT
Another relatively unknown way to get around Bangkok is by boat along the Chao Phraya River. Take the Silom BTS line to Saphan Taksin and you’ll find yourself nearSathorn pier on the Chao Phraya River. Once you’re at the pier there are a couple of options available.
You can purchase a ticket for the tourist boat (180 THB) which stops at the major piers and allows you to travel up and down as much as you want on a single day between 9 am – 5:30 pm. The great thing about the tourist boat is that it stops at Chinatown (N5 Rachawongse), Wat Arun and Wat Pho (N8 Tha Tien), Grand Palace (N9 Tha Chang) and Khao San Road (N13 Phra Arthit), as well as a few other places. A fabulous way to visit these popular sites which can be a pain to get to via other modes of transportation. **Urban Adventures does a really good food tour of Chinatown.
Or you can ride on one of the boats used by locals. There are three lines to choose from
- Orange: Stops at all stations along the Chao Phraya River. Fare is 15 THB.
- Yellow: Stops at Bang Po, Thewet, Phra Pinklao Bridge, Wang Lang, Rachawongse (Chinatown), Si Phraya and Sathorn. Fares range from 20 THB – 29 THB.
- Green: Stops at Krung Thon Bridge, Thewet, Phra Pinklao Bridge, Wang Lang, Tha Chang (Grand Palace & Wat Pho), Rachawongse (Chinatown), Si Phraya and Sathorn. Fares range from 13 THB – 32 THB.