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Posted by on Jan 23, 2011 | 5 comments

Bangkok’s Transportation Tips –15 ways to maximize the experience of moving around the city

There is no doubt, Bangkok is a great city.  Who does not love beautiful temples and palaces, delicious food, awesome shopping opportunities and a wide arrange of accommodation options? Better yet, you can find all of these for dirt cheap prices.  Besides, the city offers a full range of transportation choices at good prices.  You are not going to have trouble finding ways to move around.  However, the information I found on travel guides and Internet pages did not prepare me to move seamlessly through the city.  I made tons of errors but also learned a lot.  In here, I share what I learned after moving around Bangkok several days.

  1. Use the metro and Skytrain when possible.  This is one of the easiest and coolest (I mean cool as in air conditioned) ways to move around.  The Sytrain has two lines and the metro one line.  It does not sounds like a lot but they can take you to the city center (Siam Square), MBK mall, Siam Paragon mall, Silom (night market) and Chatuchak Saturday market.  Use it as much as possible.
  2. If you are going to be in the city for various days, consider buying a tourist pass for the Skytrain.  The pass can save you some money.
  3. The metro does not extend to Bangkok’s oldest area (Rattanakosin).  This is the area where the Gran Palace, Wat Pho, Khao San Road, Amulet Market and other must see attractions are located.  If you want to go to this area you will have to hail a taxi or a tuk-tuk. 
  4. There is also the possibility of arriving to the Rattanakosin area by express boat.  There are public express boats with stops at both sides of the Chao Phraya River.  If you are staying close to the river, you may be close to a pier and this may be an option.  If you are staying far from the river (like around the city center) forget about this option.  Use a cab or tuk-tuk.  When in Bangkok, I stayed close to the city center.  My initial plan to move to the old area was to take the metro till the end of the blue line (Hua Lamphong), walk to the nearest pier and stop at the Grand Palace pier.  Well, I never found the pier once I got out of the metro.
  5. One boat that you will probably take is the one crossing from the Wat Pho area to Wat Arun.  If you are on the Wat Pho side and want to go to Wat Arun, walk towards the back side of the temple (you are probably going to arrive to the temple through Sanam Chai Road).  It is not easy to tell where the pier is.  Once, you are in the back (around Maharat Road), you are probably going to see a lot of tourists walking towards one direction.  I bet you that if you follow them you are going to find the pier.  That is what I did and it worked.
  6. If you are taking a taxi, ask the driver to turn on the meter.  Make sure he agrees before you get inside the taxi.  Sometimes, taxi drivers do not want to use the meter because they want to charge you more of what the meter will dictate once the trip is finished.  If the driver does not want to turn the metro on, go away and hail another taxi.
  7. If you hail a tuk-tuk, negotiate the price before getting in the vehicle.
  8. A tuk-tuk driver should charge you less than a taxi driver.  But, do you think they are going to quote you a lower price when you hail them?  Of course no.  If you take a taxi, get an idea of how much you get charged when going from one point to another. After several times, you will get an idea of how much a tuk-tuk should charge.  I know this is not necessarily an easy thing to do so let me give you some examples.  A taxi charged me around 65 bahts to go from the Grand Palace to the city center.  This is a distance of about 2 miles.  A tuk-tuk driver wanted to charge me 100 bahts so I knew he was overcharging me.  From this experience, I learned that moving around the city’s old area should not cost more than 60 bahts because the distances are shorter than going to the city center (the city center is outside the old part).  So that is an example on how to determine if the prices are reasonable.  Of course is up to you if you want to negotiate.  You can always accept the initial price.
  9. When in a tuk-tuk, hold tight your possessions.  You do not want passenger from another tuk-tuk or people on a motorbike separating you from your precious belongings.
  10. Some taxi and tuk-tuk drivers do not accept big denomination bills.  Try to save small denomination bills for transportation.  If you do not have the small bills, you run the risk of pissing off the driver.  He would inform you that he does not have any change. Then, you will have to ask around for change (to strangers) while the driver is giving you the hate look.  Believe me you do not want to be in that situation.
  11.  Always hail your own transportation.  Never, ever let anyone call a vehicle for you.  There are a lot of scams going on around the city.  Do not get trapped in one.
  12. I advise you arrange your own transportation from and to the airport.  When I arrived to Bangkok, my tour company arranged transportation for my husband and me.  We paid $80 for that.  When we were leaving the city, we just took a taxi to the airport.  How much he charged?  200 bahts or $6 plus $1 for a toll.  Can you see why I am advising this?  Just writing the last few lines makes me want to cry.
  13. There is also a rail line connecting the airport to the Skytrain and metro.
  14. If your hailed taxi has to go through a toll, the driver is probably going to ask you to pay.  So, be prepared.
  15. Most of the times your driver will understand where you want to go.  Notice that I used the words “most of the times” not every time.   Well, I got dumped in two incorrect locations by taxi drivers.  It is a good idea to have the name of the places you want to visit written in the Thai language.  Ask around at you hotel to determine if somebody can help you.  Or have with you a city guide with the attractions in both English (or your native language) and Thai.  Moon guides have this feature.

5 Comments

  1. Great transportation tips Ruth!

    I would also add that the bus system is quite extensive and cheap in Bangkok. Pick up a bus map from a bookstore or convenience store to check the route numbers and from there you can safely get around the entire city!
    Migrationology recently posted..101 Things To Do in Nairobi- KenyaMy Profile

    • Migrantology,

      Thanks for telling me about the bus. I didn’t use the bus system when I visited the city but I am sure it is a great system. In general, Bangkok has a vast array of cheap, safe and extensive option.
      Ruth recently posted..Thailand’s Blue Tiger- Day 2 Scene 6My Profile

  2. I would also add that if you get dropped off by long distance bus near Khao San Road expect to be ripped off! The taxi drivers near Khao San Road are picky and will refuse if you dont pay 200 baht for cross town (no meeter). So get walking to a main road and hail a taxi unless its a busy hour and you might not get one. Otherwise the skytrain rocks!!
    Jeremy recently posted..Cruising Forecast for 2011My Profile

    • Jeremy, thanks for the advice. Yes, I have heard of a lot of scams going on if you depart or arrive from other national or international destinations. Good info, thanks for stopping by.
      Ruth recently posted..Thailand’s Blue Tiger- Day 2 Scene 6My Profile

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