There is a lot to do in Bangkok, but it is a very large city and getting around can be a challenge for newcomers. Despite its reputation for traffic, however, Bangkok does have a very effective and modern transportation infrastructure. If you are spending some time in the city, here’s a look at how you can expect to get around.
Bangkok buses are often hot, dirty, and noisy, meaning they are not for the faint-hearted. They are also just as vulnerable to traffic as other vehicles, meaning your journey could be a slow one. They are very affordable, though, and they cover an extensive network that will take you to just about wherever you want to go. Still, one experience can make it easy to see why tourists, expats, and many Thais will take other options if they can.
Not all of Bangkok’s buses are bad, with some modern, air-conditioned vehicles available on some routes. You can ask at your hotel for more information. Knowing where to get off can be the biggest challenge, but the bus conductor will often be kind enough to let you know when you have arrived at your stop.
If you are in central Bangkok, then a taxi is never far away. All you need to do is to wave one down, and you will also find taxis waiting for fares at convenient spots. Again, though, taxis are vulnerable to getting stuck in traffic, potentially making for a frustrating journey. Make sure you insist that they use a meter – it is illegal for them to refuse and they have been known to charge extortionate prices if they think they can get away with it. About the most you should expect to pay from one spot in Bangkok to another is 500 baht, although heavy traffic can push this up
You can also hire the services of a taxi driver on a personal basis, acting as your personal chauffeur during your stay in the city. Bangkok taxis are often very new, modern cars making for a comfortable ride, although you will also find some that will have you wondering if they are held together with tape.
You will find motorbike taxi stands peppered around the city, and they are an absolute godsend to many people. They are not for people that scare easily, but they do cut through the traffic like a hot knife through butter. This makes them ideal if you need to be somewhere quickly.
In addition to the traffic and pollution, Bangkok’s weather sometimes means that motorbike taxis are not ideal for longer journeys. If you are headed for somewhere that is not too far but not within walking distance, however, then a motorbike taxi is the way to go. They are officially registered and you will see them wearing high-viz orange jackets at motorbike taxi stands in strategic spots. They are also very affordable with most trips costing less than 100 baht, depending on distance.
Bangkok does have its own underground network which opened in 2004. It is commonly known as the MRT, which stands for Mass Rapid Transport. It is not as well-known as its more visible cousin, the sky train, but is still well used nonetheless. The MRT mainly serves areas of the city that are not tourist orientated, but it does still serve some important spots such as Sukhumvit and China town. It is a relatively new service, making it clean, comfortable, and efficient. Some stations, such as the Asoke interchange, grant easy access to the sky train from the MRT. The MRT is easy to use with clear signage in English and Thai and is also very affordable.
Depending on where you stay in the city, the sky train is an unmissable feature. It serves the city’s two main roadways: Sukhumvit Rd and Silom Rd, and is constructed directly above each. The sky train is perhaps the best known of the city’s rail services because it serves the centre of the city where visitors are most likely to be staying. From the nightlife in Patpong to the vast shopping malls of Sukhumvit, the sky train will take you there.
It is best to try and avoid the sky train during rush hour if you can because it can become extremely busy. Still, it makes for a convenient and easy service that is also very affordable. Its elevated position can also give you a wonderful view of the city’s impressive skyline, especially at night.
These iconic vehicles get their names from the sound that their raucous, polluting, two-stroke engines make. They are open-aired, so expect to be inhaling the pungent fumes of Bangkok’s streets while being partially deafened by the noisy engine as it pumps out enough fumes to make up the carbon footprint of a small country.
Despite all of the above… a tuk-tuk ride is an opportunity not to be missed. The noise, pollution and the sheer risk factor only makes a tuk-tuk ride an exhilarating experience. It also gives visitors an opportunity to see the city streets that no other method of transportation offers. If you get a chance, and the weather permits, it is something that any visitor should try at least once.
You will find tuk-tuks located in convenient tourist spots around the city. They also know the tourist scene well and know exactly where to go. As with taxi drivers, Tuk-tuks will also be happy to be your chauffeur for the day, taking you around some of the city’s best-known sights.