Bangkok’s heaving traffic is legendary, presenting a constant challenge for residents and visitors alike. River and canal boats, along with the BTS skytrain and MRT subway systems, offer some reliable alternatives to getting stuck on the roads. Nonetheless, traffic remains horrendous, particularly mid-week. Below is a layman’s guide to inner-city transport choices.
The Bangkok Transit System, or BTS, is a two-line elevated train network covering the major commercial areas, from up north at Mo Chit all the way past Siam Square to On Nut and from down-town National Monument all the way over the river to Wongwian Yai. Trains run every few minutes from 6am to midnight, making the BTS a quick and reliable transport option, especially during heavy traffic jams. Depending on stops involved, fares range from Bht 15 to 40; special tourist passes allowing unlimited travel for one day (Bht 120) are also available. www.bts.so.th.
Bangkok’s Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) is another fast and reliable way to get around town. The 18-station line stretches 20kms from Hualamphong (near the central railway station) up to Bang Sue in the north. Subways run from 6am to midnight daily, with trains arriving every 5-7 minutes. The underground connects with the BTS at MRT Silom/BTS Sala Daeng, MRT Sukhumvit/BTS Asok and MRT Chatuchak Park/BTS Mo Chi. Subway fares range from Bht 15 to 39 depending on distance. www.bangkokmetro.co.th.
Khlong Saen Saep canal boats operate from Banglamphu across the city to Ramkhamhaeng University. However, you have to be quick to board them as they don’t usually wait around long. Canal (khlong) boats tend to be frequent and cost around Bht 8 to 18 depending on distance. Tickets are bought onboard. Note that the piers are a tad hidden, which makes them somewhat difficult to find, pick up a handy route map from any pier to help.
EXPRESS RIVER BOAT
Bangkok’s vast network of inter-city waterways offer a quick and colourful alternative for visiting some of city’s top sights, such as the Grand Palace. Express boats ply the Chao Phraya River from Saphan Taksin Bridge up to Nonthaburi, stopping at some 30 main piers along the way. Fares range from Bht 9 to 32 depending on the distance, with tickets being purchased either onboard or at the pier, depending on how much time you have. Boats depart every 20 minutes or so between 5:030am and 6:00pm. Cross-river services operate throughout the day from each pier for just Bht 3. Like their klong brethren, these tugs don’t hang around, so make getting on and off a hasty affair.
Bangkok has an extensive and inexpensive public bus service. Both open-air and air-conditioned vehicles area available, respectively for Bht 5 and Bht 7.50-23. As most destinations are noted only in Thai, it is advisable to get a bus route map, available at hotels, TAT offices and bookshops. Note that for many of the buses you board in the middle set of doors and exit from the front and rear. Tickets sellers will come to you once onboard.
In Bangkok’s heavy traffic, motorcycle taxis are the fastest, albeit most dangerous, form of road transport. Easily recognisable by their colourful oranges vests, motorbike taxi drivers gather in groups beside department stores, outside restaurants, at the end of long sois or nearby tourist spots. As with tuk-tuks, fares definitely have to be negotiated beforehand. On average you are looking at Bht 10-30 for a 3-10 minute ride. Whilst drivers wear helmets, they will not offer or have a spare one on hand for passengers, you ride at your own risk.
Bangkok has thousands of metered, air-con taxies available 24 hours. Flag fall is Bht 35 (for the first 2km) and the fare climbs in Bht 2 increments from there. Be sure the driver switches the meter on as this is a popular swindle played on unsuspecting visiting guests. Whilst there is no tipping expected, rounding the fare up to the nearest Bht 5 or 10 is considered nice. Note that additional passengers are not charged, nor is baggage. For trips to and from the airport, passengers should pay the expressway toll fees. When boarding from the queue outside the terminal, an additional Bht 50 surcharge is added.
Those three-wheeled taxis (or samlor) are best known as tuk-tuks, so named for the steady whirr of their engines. A 10 minute ride should cost around Bht 40, but always bargain before boarding as drivers can be notoriously sneaky when it comes payment time. Also, be on guard if a tuk-tuk driver offers to deliver you anywhere for Bht 10, it’s part of a setup that will lead you to an overpriced souvenir or jewellery shop.