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Guide to Transportation in Bangkok

girl on Skytrain

Girl on Bangkok’s monorail system, the BTS Skytrain

In Bangkok,  all roads may not lead to Rome, but you’ll at least, have many avenues to get there; and each conveyance presents a unique face of Thai urban life! I’ll be frank- one of my absolute loves of Bangkok is it’s transportation.  As a female solo traveler, it’ my magic city of easy independence and I’ve made it my adventure theme park mission, to sample as many of its rides as I can.

Read my Guide about 20 Ways to Get Around Thailand | Transportation Guide

10 Amazing Ways to Get Around Bangkok:

 

bangkok traffic

Bangkok traffic can be bad

1. Walking

Sound obvious? There’s more to this than meets the eye! Beware, Bangkok’s pedestrian aisles will seduce the baht right out of you! Bangkok’s two favorite pedestrian diversions are eating and shopping.  Explore Bangkok’s backstreets, while grinding on fried mochi balls and fresh spring rolls from a morning line of food hawker stalls. Slurp piping hot pho on an outdoor table in an alley or buy random trinkets from the street vendors.  The best time to take to foot is in the evening, when the streets unfold into a crazy sidewalk shopping culture.

But a word of advice: at night, foot traffic will also be at its worst as locals come out to shop.

Best sidewalks and streets to walk: Khao San Road area and off the BTS Skytrain : Sala Deng, Siam and  Victory Monument.

bkk walking

Bangkok walking

Sidewalk shopper's traffic

bangkok eyes

The things you find sold on the sidewalks of Bangkok. Color contacts are the rage here.

2. City bus

Bangkok by bus inspires my three “C”s: comfortable, cheap and convenient. Best of all, it offers front row seats to the real Bangkok. Interestingly, this vehicle is seemingly off-the-grid for most tourists, but its a viable and simple way to get around. Just brush up on a few insider tips to catching the bus first and you’ll be good to go.

Fare: 7 to 22 baht, depending on distance. Fare is collected after you board.
Hours: Day buses run from 5AM to 11Pm; night buses run 24 hours.
Tips:
Avoid peak traffic hours and always carry small change, as the fare collectors generally don’t carry change for larger bills.
Information:
  Find your bus route number  or go to the BMTA website.

bus-collect

bus-fare collector thai bus Another regular (red & creme) city bus

 

3. Chao Phraya River ferry

If you enjoy boat cruises, the river ferry along the Chao Phraya River is a scenic ride you shouldn’t miss. From the grandeur of gilded wats and glitzy skyscrapers to dilapidated river houses on stilts, you’ll see a different side of Bangkok from its waterways.  The ferry always runs the same route. Unless it’s the Express ferry, it’ll make a stops on both sides of the bank and on each docking station on the line.

This will get you to farther provinces and avert bumper-to-bumper traffic during peak traffic hours. Just a head’s up- the boat can get crowded later in the day and close to closing.

Fare: 10-29 baht, depending on distance and boat type (regular or express). Unlimited day passes are sold at 150 baht.
Fare rates run like the city bus system and are often collected on the boat. Some docks may pose exceptions and collect them before boarding. In either case, after paying you’ll receive a receipt for proof of payment.
Hours: 6:15A to 7P
Information:  Boat types & hours here.  Map of the ferry routes here.

monks on a boat

Reserved section for monks on the express ferry boat chao phraya ferry Chao Phraya river ferry chao phraya river Chao Phraya river

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5.   Skytrain and  Subway

In the sweat of Thai heat, flying over the city traffic by Skytrain or zipping underground on the metro, presents an air-conditioned luxury. The BTS Skytrain offers beautiful aerial views over the city, while the MRT subway serves up a no-frills straight shot to your destination. Both are perfect solutions to averting Bangkok’s god awful peak-time traffic!

Fare:  15-40 baht and based on zone. An all-day unlimited card pass is 120 baht. Tickets are sold at kiosk stations and take only coins; you can get change at the nearby information window. The Skytrain issues card tickets, while the subway gives out token tickets.
Hours: 6A- midnight.
Maps here & Cool iPhone app: Bangkok transport map (Free)

metro

Skytrain Thai-metro-lines Thai locals line up for entry into the Skytrain. metro Bangkok’s Skytrain skytrain-view view of the city from the Skytrain

 

6 . Long-tail and khlong boats

The khlongs (aka canals) off the Chao Phraya River hold a waterway life, flavored with river houses and floating markets. Long-tail boats are sightseeing taxis to explore it with. At the floating markets, there are fixed price stations but if you want your own personal hire, you’ll have to bargain with the boat driver.

One thing I haven’t tried yet are the khlong boats (or water taxis) in the inner city. They run 18 kilometers along the Khlong Saen Saep river, making access to and from Siam Square quick and easy. Not to mention, they serve the practical purpose of escaping rush hour traffic.

Fare for long-tail boats: Prices vary as boats can be hired as a group or individually.
Fare for khlong boats:
10-40 baht, based on distance.
Hours: 5:30A-8:30PM
Khlong route information here.

riverboat

life on the waterways and canalsbangkok river boat a long-tail boat bangkok canals bangkok canals

damnoen saduak crowd

Damnoen Saduak floating market, a very popular tourist destination

 

7. Motorbike taxis

What’s the Bangkok scene without these cowboy bandits? These vest-wearing Soi knights skirt through the streets on petrol-filled tanks offering rides. The Thai don’t seem to mind. For locals, men and women alike, this is the perfect way to get to work in a direct shot. Hop on the back of one of these babies and off you go! It’s so common that the Thai have become amazing at riding side-saddle. Watch women sit cross-legged on the back, while talking on the phone or applying makeup.

Lugging a backpack and some bags? No worries. These guys are sure to oblige you and your luggage for the ride. No is not in their vocabulary and they’ll make your bags fit. Who says chivalry is dead?

motorbike riders

motorbike riders motorbike-taxi A line of motorbike taxi drivers hanging out, waiting for a hire.motorbike-taxi Motorbike taxi driver totes a customer.motor-ride Local Thai going to work

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8. Tuk-tuks

You go low and they’ll go high; that’s the art of haggling with tuk-tuk drivers. It’s not my favorite ride, especially when there’s cheaper and haggle-free motors to choose from. Still, tourists occasionally like to use them.

tuk tuks

tuk tuks tuk-tuk A slow day for tuk-tuks. As transportation, they’re not popular chariots in Bangkok.

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9. Taxis

With Bangkok traffic being the meaner than the L.A. freeway, the taxi is probably the last thing you’ll want to take! On one occasion it took me close to 30 minutes just to move one block! Thankfully, I was on the bus at that time; my baht was still in tact.  But taxis have their moments too. It’s perfect for getting around in the evening, after the river ferry and Skytrainclose.

Hours: 24 hours
Tips: Always make sure your taxi uses a meter.

traffic

traffic monks in a taxi How many young monks can you fit into a taxi?

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10. Long Distance and Overnight Trains

By daylight, it’s a regular train, but at night it can transform into a first-rate hotel on wheels! By far, one of my favorite rides, the Thai railway system strives for hospitably, cleanliness and order.   Train stewards patrol the aisle to set up your meal table or to transform your seats into a freshly sheeted berth bed of curtain-drawn privacy. Both, western and asian toilets are in each car and if you want to have a drink or eat in the restaurant car, that’s available also.

Hours: 24 hours
Information: train routes and schedules.

train station

boarding the train

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What is your favorite mode for getting around in Bangkok?

 

21 Comments

  1. Kathy says:

    Just want to say your site is very well-written. I think it would be a huge help to anyone trying to navigate Bangkok. When I was there, I had to figure out the transportation system by trial and error. One comment I want to make is about the metered taxis. There’s no guarantee you won’t get cheated with a meter, because they know they can drive an unsuspecting tourist all over the place and rack up the cost. I learned that lesson the hard way!

    • Christine Kaaloa says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience Kathy! Also, thanks for reminding me about updating this post with my videos. I used to be afraid of what you mentioned… But then here’s some tips I discovered during a recent Bangkok Taxi scam: https://youtu.be/u5waDld3Gg0 =)

  2. Tina Santos says:

    L♥ve the BTS skytrain & the MRT…oh, and just plain Walking! Only when i go on vacation in BKK is where i actually lose some weight because of all the walking–even with all that great FOOD!!

    • @Tina yes it’s one of my fave parts of BKK too. And the AC doesn’t hurt. My legs get all oiled up and when I get home they get stiff again. Any trips planned?

    • Tina Santos says:

      No firm plans right now. . .poss go see my son in Aspen or go to East coast visit more family…not sure.
      Wanted to go Machu Picchu next, but that Zika virus! So, instead we’ll prob hit Japan for now if we sisters can coordinate days off together. . .soon I hope!

    • Tina I hear you on Macchu Picchu! Hawaii always has decent flights to Japan (around the cost of going to L.A. or Vegas!) Let me know if you plan on Tokyo and I’ll send you my eguide for Tokyo on a budget! =)

    • Tina Santos says:

      Shoots! will def let u know when and if we go!–we are SO into small budget+big experience!! Mahalos!

  3. I always get the cards you can put a load on, like the Rabbit card in Bangkok, the Octopus card in Hong Kong, and the Easy card in Taipei. They are good for life, and I always keep at least a minimum load that is enough to get me to the city from the airport when I enter the country. I did learn that after several years, at least the Octopus card will be deleted from the system, BUT you just have to go to a booth and they will re-enter it into the system. That happened when I gave an Octopus card to my cousin and her husband and they tried to use it when they traveled to HK. They said it didn’t work, I told them I was sure it would have because it was lifetime, then when I went back to HK on another trip found out that it had just been too long for it to stay in the system. Bummed me out, they threw the card away with about 140 HK dollars on the card! Oh well, now they know AND I know, go to one of the stations and get them to re-enter the card!

  4. I hate Tuk-Tuk and Taxis in BKK, many are crooked and a**h**es. Motor cycle taxis & under rail systems works for me, but buy the 3 days pass is cheaper

    • A three day pass? Not sure if they’ll still have that. I know they were doing away with weekly/monthly cards. Loooove motorbike taxis once I found they have sorta set rates.

  5. Woody Koo says:

    Have you ever been worried about Thai moto taxi drivers not giving you a helmet? That worries a lot though, especially on a long distance ride during rush hour.

    • No @Woody. It’s certainly a risk. But many working class Thai practically grow up on them. Parents will even balance them on as babies. But I would ask them to drive slow if you feel nervous. Some can try to scare tourist for fun.

  6. Barry says:

    Thanks for the tips! We’re heading back to Bangkok next year so we’ll check some of these out, especially the long tail boats!

  7. Leyla Giray says:

    This is a great piece! I lived in Bangkok for two years and experienced them all. My least favorite were the boats – they seem to take off while you’re still stepping in and you don’t want to fall into those filthy waters. The buses do the same but I somehow mastered the art of jumping in at full speed. For some reason – perhaps difficulties in getting route information – most foreigners won’t use them. I couldn’t get information either so I started riding each bus that came by my house – all the way to the end of the line and back. I was soon pretty knowledgeable about where they went.

    You’re right about the trains – the best overnight rides (although I was once derailed on my way to the Lao border but no one was hurt).

    What wasn’t around when I was is the Skytrain. That has revolutionalized public transport for those who can afford it. I remember sitting for hours in taxis down Sukhumvit once upon a time in a posse that simply wouldn’t move, at all. Last time I was in BKK there was still traffic on that street but due to the Skytrain it was bearable. It is a great city for public transport!

    • @Leyla: Thanks for dropping by and sharing your experiences. You have so many interesting stories.

      Oh my, you were on a derailed train?! That must’ve been a story. You sound like you lived an adventure in Thailand. I hope someday I’ll get to live there; I really love returning. I think getting lost on the buses and just finding out where they go is a good idea. You were smart to have experimented with that. Information these days is easier to get, but like you, there was a time not so long ago when I lived in Korea for a year and finding any information on bus transportation in ENGLISH was a hard won task!

  8. Gray says:

    I love how you always provide the most useful, practical information for travelers, Christine! I often read about the motorbikes, tuk tuks and taxis of Bangkok, but rarely about the boats, buses and trains. Thanks for the info. Now, I’d like to know, because I feel like I’ve heard this elsewhere–do tourists have to worry about theft on public transportation like city buses and trains?

  • […] is a bucket list must .  However, in reality, because there are many ways for a solo traveler to get around Bangkok on their own, I generally avoid using tuk tuks. Much like taxis in Bangkok, I’ve never felt […]

  • […] a crime thriller that reminds me of Joe D'Amato's flicks with Laura Gemser. Sidewalks of Bangkok . Photo Essay: Top 10 ways around Bangkok | GRRRL TRAVELER Best sidewalks and streets to walk: Khao San Road area and off the BTS Skytrain : Sala Deng, Siam […]

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