Bangkok is the hub of Southeast Asia. I started my trip by spending a few weeks here getting to know the city, but I didn’t realize at the time how often I’d actually be in and out. Today I find myself back in Bangkok and after answering a few questions from new travelers about how to get around, I realized how many options there were in the city’s transportation network, which one could only learn with time. Here is a quick rundown of the options, the advantages to each and the best and cheapest ways to get to some of the major spots.
Modes of Transportation:
The Skytrain aka BTS
The Skytrain in Bangkok is awesome and my favorite way to get around. Here’s why:
- It turns a 1 hr trip by taxi into 20 mins. Bangkok rush hour has nothing on the Skytrain.
- It’s cheap. Getting across the entire city will cost you 45 Baht max
- It covers all the major parts of the city (not Khao San Rd, sorry)
- It looks like the future floating high above the major city streets
- It provides shade from the heat of Bangkok when walking beneath
The MRT (underground subway)
The MRT is the underground version of the Skytrain. It’s a little newer than the BTS, just as efficient and links parts of the city that the Skytrain does not. There are two interchanges between the MST and the BTS allowing easy transfer. Prices are cheap and similar to the Skytrain.
Chao Phraya River Boat
This boats rocks. It travels up and down the river that serpentines along the western edge of Bangkok. It’s 15 Baht (50 cents!) or 30 for the express (less stops) and you get to take in the atmosphere of Bangkok along the way. I’ve taken it from the end of the Skytrain in the south to a stop near Khao San Rd further north. One of the cheaper ways to get to the backpacker mecca.
Bright pink, orange, yellow and green taxis litter the streets of Bangkok. You won’t be hard pressed spotting one. They’re also surprisingly cheap if you can get the driver to use the meter. A trip across the city is usually 100-200 Baht. But convincing them to use the meter can be tricky, especially around rush hour, near Bangkok’s major tourist hubs and if you look like a tourist. I usually refuse to pay a set price, but I’ve had to be very patient at times, flagging down cab after cab.
These bad boys are ubiquitous in the streets of Bangkok, but after a few novelty rides, I usually stay away. Their fixed rates for tourists are often more than a metered cab and you don’t get the A/C, just Bangkok smog in your face. Problem is, they have a knack for finding you, even stopping in front of your path as you cross the street to offer their services.
The quickest and dare I say most exciting way to get around Bangkok on the street level. Everyone needs to do this at least once. You’ll see these guys sitting around with their orange and purple vests ready to whisk you off, in and out of lanes and around cars. Just make sure you negotiate a good price. They are well versed in the appearance of the farang.
Khlong Saen Seap Boat Service
Admittedly, not one of the easier modes of transport to navigate, but well worth it if you’re looking for a more authentic side. Far less trafficked by tourists, this channels is used mostly by Thais making their way to and from work. It does however connect a few points of interest. I’ve gone as far as Palladium Square to the east. Headed west it crosses near the National Stadium and Rachathewi BTS stops, right next to the Jim Thompson House and ends at the edge of Ko Ratanakosin (the island with the Grand Palace and most of the major wats). From there its also a short tuk tuk or taxi ride to Khao San Rd.
I’ll be completely honest, getting accurate information on this is difficult to say the least. My only experience with it was jumping on a random bus, which ended up taking us to the MBK Center, where we partook in some excellent bowling.
Best and Cheapest Way To and From Khao San Rd
As mentioned above, you can take the Khlong Saen Seap (I just call it the channel boat) to the end of the line in the west and then its a short taxi or tuk tuk. Also, after taking the Chao Phraya Boat Service to Phra Arthit (stop 13), its only a short walk east from there. When leaving Khao San Rd., I like to walk away from the main street to hail a cab. From the street itself, there is a monopoly on taxi and tuk tuk services. Prices are high and meters are none existent.
Best and Cheapest Way To and From the Northern Bus Terminal
I take the BTS to the end of the Dark Green line which is the Mo Chit Stop. From there its a short taxi or motorbike ride to the station. Do it in reverse if your bus drops you off there.
Best and Cheapest Way To and From the Southern Bus Terminal
Not in the south at all, the Southern Bus Terminal (located in the Northwest) isn’t the easiest to get to. A taxi is definitely the easiest way, but you can cut down on the distance by taking the Chao Phraya to Phra Pin Klao Bridge (Stop 12).
Best Way to and from the Suvarnabhumi Airport
I take the Airport Rail Link every time. It connects to the BTS at the Phaya Thai Station and the MRT at the Phetchaburi Station and takes you the 28km to the airport. You can choose between the Express Line (15 min – 90 Baht) or the City Line (45 Baht) which makes stops along the way and takes about twice as long. The rail line runs from 6am to midnight.