Bangkok Thailand is a sprawling city. As with any large city, getting around town can be daunting…and expensive! However, Bangkok has a fantastic network of transportation options for locals and visitors alike. In certain areas, different types of transportation will be the best options. So to help you plan your trip to Thailand and your transportation around Bangkok, are our recommendations for conquering all of Bangkok’s transportation options!
Bangkok Transportation and the Many Options for Getting Around
There are so many ways to get around Bangkok that it can be a bit overwhelming to figure it all out. Luckily, we found a helpful website in advance of our visit that helped us to plan out our journeys. The Bangkok Transit website breaks down all the different options available, as well as providing helpful maps and routes. So be sure to take a look well in advance of your trip because you should find accommodations that are convenient to the sights you want to visit, as well as transportation options that are convenient and affordable for you!
Our Experience Getting Around Bangkok by Subway & Sky Train
Bangkok Thailand has a good metro rail system, which consists of a variety of train options that are interconnected, such as the sky train (above ground) and underground subway. When you arrive at the main international airport, Suvarnabhumi, your best option is to take the Sky Train into the city.
The Sky Train is efficient, clean, safe, and relatively inexpensive (especially compared to a taxi!). This really is the best way to get into town because the international airport is a bit outside the city and there isn’t much to do in this area. Once you are in the city center, you can transfer to other trains, including the underground metro.
Purchase your tickets for the Bangkok sky train and metro from the automated machines. First, locate on the map where it is that you want to go. Select that fare, insert your money, and receive the ticket. The machines will only take coins, but if you don’t have coins, you can visit the windows and get change from the attendants. They do this all the time, so they will usually have change counted out and ready to go. After inserting your ticket into the gate to enter, be sure to take the ticket back because you will need it to get back out of the train station!
Travel By Water Taxi in Bangkok, Thailand
A unique form of transportation in Bangkok are the water taxis. Many years ago before modern roads, canals were used as the primary form of transportation. So there are a series of canals all over the city, and boat service is available on a number of them.
The Chao Phraya is also the main river that flows through the city. Similar to the Mississippi, it is a muddy and fast moving waterway that is critical to transportation and shipping. And there are a number of water taxis that go up and down the river, as well as river crossings that simple get you back and forth between the east and west sides of town.
Taking the water taxis can be very efficient if you are in the old historic parts of the city, and they are very inexpensive. For the main water taxi on the river, we paid 15 baht per person (about $0.46 cents USD) for a one way trip — and it didn’t matter the distance we were traveling!
Typically, you just board the boat (very fast) and someone will come around to take your money and give you a ticket. Keep the ticket handy in case they change ticket takers mid-journey. Some of the busier stops will have a person selling tickets on the dock, but very few. So don’t worry about hopping on board before you buy your ticket.
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Using the Bus System in Bangkok
Similar to the water taxis, buses are a very affordable option for transportation within the city. And there are a LOT of buses to choose from! With so many buses, the routes can be a little confusing so you may want to look online in advance to see the routes near your accommodations and where you want to go during your visit. We were staying near the Bangrak and Silom areas of town (south of the old city on the easy side of the river). We were able to hop on the #1 or #75 bus to most all of our destinations.
To get on the bus, simply wait at one of the signs and they will stop for you. Sometimes you have to flag them down, but not usually. Get on board first and take a seat so they can get moving (traffic moves fast). A person will come around to take your money and give you a ticket. This works the same way as the water taxis.
The fares vary by bus, depending on if you have a nice air-conditioned bus or older bus with open windows. We opted for the non-air buses because they were cheaper and worked just fine. We paid 8 baht (about $0.25 cents USD) per person for a one-way trip, regardless of the distance being traveled. Not a bad way to get around town!
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When you are ready to get off at your stop, just stand up and move near the door. If no one else is standing, then you may hit the buzzer button to signal to the driver. But if there are a lot of people standing, then the driver will probably know to stop anyway. We noticed that buses came by each stop about every 5 minutes. So you are never waiting very long!
As a foreigner, don’t be afraid to use the bus system. It is very convenient, safe, and super inexpensive!
Street Taxis by Meter ONLY
As with any major city, taxis are everywhere in Bangkok. This is a convenient way to get around if you are trying to get to an area that isn’t close to the bus, train, or water taxi. Also, it is hot in Bangkok…really hot! So sometimes you may get tired of walking and just want to sit in air-conditioning for a bit! Taxis may be quick late at night when there isn’t much traffic, but during the day you will sit in traffic for quite some time; which makes for a costly trip!
Also, be sure to ask the taxi driver to turn on the meter. They will sometimes try to negotiate a flat rate with you in advance, but don’t take it!!!
They are familiar with the roads and know that as a tourist, you are not. If they try to negotiate a flat rate, then you should know that the meter will likely cost less! Insist that they turn on the meter. By law, they have to. If they refuse, just move on to the next taxi – no worries.
Lastly, have a map with your destination on it to help explain where you need to go. Sometimes they will speak a little English, but don’t count on it. If you can get the destination written phonetically so that you can read it to them, or even better written in Thai, that will be a huge help. We actually found a travel app that we love for international travel called OffMaps. It lets us search for locations offline so that we don’t use our data, and it will even display the name of the destination in Thai — so we were able to show the phone to the driver. Very helpful!
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Tuk-Tuk Travel in Bangkok
So many people who visit Asia for the first time want to ride in a tuk-tuk. And while they do add to the experience, they are pretty much a tourist trap. Mainly tourists use them and they are primarily in the main tourist areas of Bangkok, although you may see a few elsewhere. There are no meters on tuk-tuks, so be prepared to negotiate!
As with taxis, it may be difficult to communicate with them unless you are going to a major tourist destination that they are familiar with. Still, they can be a fun way to get around, or if you are looking for the thrill of throwing caution to the wind!
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And lastly, you will be walking a lot in Bangkok. Being such a large city, there is just no way around it. But you can save your feet by incorporating the aforementioned forms of transportation when you are traveling long distances across town. Walking will definitely save you money, but be sure to bring sturdy shoes, plenty of water, and be mindful. Always watch your step because conditions vary widely and no one is to blame for you falling into a large hole but you!
Also, use extreme caution when crossing roads. Traffic is crazy here (as in many other parts of Asia) and they don’t always stop for pedestrians. Plus, there may not even be a break in traffic for you to cross. You will see other people playing “Frogger” between the cars to cross the street, and that is pretty normal here. There is a skill to it, but be highly alert. If in doubt, just follow the locals and walk just behind them, putting them between you and the cars. They seem to know how to do it!
Other Forms of Transportation in Bangkok, Thailand
There are other ways of getting around Bangkok too. You will see motorbikes for hire (like taxis) where you can just hop on the back. You will also see trucks with seats in the back called a songthaew. Locals use these a lot, and you may find them useful in the rural parts of Thailand. Within Bangkok, you likely won’t need to use them because the other transportation is sufficient, and the language barrier could be more trouble than it’s worth.
Enjoy Your Visit to Bangkok!
Overall, your visit to Bangkok Thailand will likely include many forms of transportation. Maps are available online and you will find some paper maps at the public train stations. Take a bit of time to map out what you want to do relative to where you are staying so that you can plan your transportation appropriately. Transportation can put a dent in your travel budget, and how you spend your time. Lastly, don’t be nervous about taking local transportation like the buses. We highly recommend them!