Getting around in Bangkok can be a bewildering experience for any visitor to the Thai capital, but there are some options such as the Skytrain (pictured) and metro which are comfortable, clean and convenient.
The excellent Skytrain is a great way to get around Bangkok although it is limited in range and does not connect directly to some of the main sightseeing areas. However, it easy to get a Skytrain (use the Saphan Taksin station) to the Chao Phraya River and catch a boat to take you upstream to Wat Arun, Wat Po, Wat Phra Kaeo and the Grand Palace.
The metro system has also improved the transport options in Bangkok, providing a long awaited link from Hualamphong train station to the Skytrain network. The metro is clean, easy to use and the air-conditioned environs provide a respite from the Bangkok heat.
Bangkok metro website >>
Easily spotted in an array of bright colours including pink, light blue and yellow/green, you won’t have trouble finding a Bangkok taxi. You may, however, have trouble in actually getting them to put the meter on. Instead they may quote you a non-meter price telling you that the ‘meter is broken’. Of course this price will be slightly higher than normal, so it’s up to you if you want to play along with the game and barter down his price. Alternatively, just smile and get the next taxi and ask for the meter. Once a taxi driver knows you are insisting on the meter the ‘broken’ meter has a habit of beginning to work.
Read more advice about Bangkok taxis »
There are a lot of scare stories about tourists being ripped off by Bangkok tuk-tuk drivers. There is undoubtedly an unscrupulous element, but most tuk-tuk drivers are decent and it’s an experience that should be tried at least once if you’re in Bangkok, so try not to be put off. During the day, always try and flag down a tuk-tuk that’s on the move rather than one that’s loitering around outside popular tourist places. That way there’s little chance of being hassled into one of the infamous jewellery/tailor shop trips. If you do find yourself being taken to a shop you don’t want to go to, don’t panic, just politely insist on going straight to your destination or get out and get another tuk-tuk or taxi.
Bangkok’s central train station is Hualamphong (pictured right), located close to the Chinatown district and now handily served by the metro.
Station staff are well used to dealing with foreign tourists and it’s relatively easy to buy tickets and get information (including English language timetables). Always go to the official counters; there are still a few con artists who operate at the station and may approach you offering to sell tickets or take care of your bags. They are well dressed and will have impressive looking ID tags on their person. Ignore them (or smile and walk away) and go to the official counter.
Most tickets can be bought on the day, but for overnight trains it can be a good idea to book at least a day in advance particularly during tourist high season. If you are intending to travel during a public holiday you may have to book at least a week in advance.
It’s possible to buy a combined rail/boat ticket or a rail/bus ticket to get you all the way through to certain destinations including Krabi, Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan, Ko Phi Phi and Ko Tao. In many cases, buying the combination tickets works out as cheap as purchasing each leg separately.
Open daily from 04.00 – 22.30. As with buying tickets, always go to the official counter.
(It’s worth noting that I’ve read and heard mixed reports about how secure your luggage is here; bags are left at owners’ own risk).
The overnight sleeper trains are often very slow, but they are quite comfortable whether you choose to opt for a fan compartment or an air-conditioned one.
Top tip: pay a few more Baht and get a lower berth seat; the bed is bigger and less claustrophobic than the upper berth.
The Chao Phraya River boats are relatively easy to use and are well used to coping with tourists. Ask your hotel or guest house for a map which includes the locations of the piers along the river. Saphan Taksin skytrain station is a handy location, just a short walk to the pier. Tickets for tourist sightseeing boats can be bought from here or you can just hop on one of the regular services.
If you’re feeling adventurous, the city has a network of canals with regular water taxis. Be warned though; these are not for the faint-hearted. The boats are often still moving as you embark and disembark. You won’t see many tourists here, but it’s very authentic and a great way to get around.