The best ways to get around the city of Bangkok
Before you leave for your trip to Bangkok, you can learn about the customs and culture of Thailand through this book. You can also view Bangkok through the lens of popular movies such as The Beach, The Hangover Part II, and Only God Forgives.
Grab is the Uber or Lyft of Thailand. You have options of calling a scooter, GRAB taxi, or car. The taxis will use the meter so you won’t know the exact fare until you reach your destination. The app will show an estimated range to give you an idea of what the fare should be though. The GRAB cars will have a set price that is usually around the mid-range of what a taxi fare might be. In our experience, the GRAB car drivers have generally been friendlier than regular taxi drivers. BONUS: If you don’t want to go out, you can order food through GRAB and have it delivered.
Hail a cab or motortaxi
You can flag down a taxi yourself instead of using the GRAB app. Don’t ask how much, just make sure they turn on the meter when you get in. If you ask how much they will usually quote a much higher fare. Tips are generally rounded up. So if your ride was 132 baht, you’d give 140.
Pros: the metered fare is usually cheaper than using GRAB. There are taxis all around the city so you shouldn’t have to wait long for a ride.
Cons: Driver may not know where you’re trying to go, you might have a miscommunication/language difficulty. There is also a lot of traffic in Bangkok so be prepared for a long ride even if the distance is short.
Motortaxis are popular with the locals because it is one of the fastest ways to get around the city. The motorbikes can weave in and out of traffic or even drive on the sidewalks. It isn’t the safest way to get around, and we avoided it since we had our 1-month old baby with us. But if you’re interested in taking one, check out this article.
Use the trains / subway
Another way to avoid traffic is to take the trains or subway. There are the MRT (underground), BTS (Skytrain), and the Airport lines to get around the city. The MRT fares run from 16-42 baht for adults (as of April 2019) and it is the most affordable out of the three trains. The stations and trains can get very crowded during rush hour, but the lines move quickly and efficiently. Unlike other cities we’ve used trains in like Paris, one-way tickets are not paper or cards. Instead they are black token coins. They must have a chip in them as you use them by tapping them at the gate to enter the platforms, and then push them in a coin slot to exit.
Waterways / watertaxis
There are watertaxis that navigate the rivers that run through Bangkok. Google maps shows where the ports/pick up spots are located. Hop onto the boat and tell the attendant where you’re headed. You can usually tell who the attendants are by the fanny pack they are wearing. They will tell you how much you owe and then give you a ticket when you’ve paid. Remember to tell them your final destination and even if you have to transfer boats, you’ll be able to get a ticket that will cover the transfer too. Carry small change and bills to pay for your ticket.
Catch a bus
The number one tip we’ve found useful when catching buses in Bangkok is NOT to trust Google maps. It tells us to catch a certain number bus, but that number bus doesn’t ever show up and is not on the list of buses that go by that station. We’ve also caught buses from bus stations where Google says the bus doesn’t go that route. Use this website instead.
Wait at the bus stop, and pay attention because you may need to wave your bus down. If no one is getting off at your stop and you don’t wave, the bus may just pass the station without stopping. Wave at the bus and hop on quickly. Some bus drivers will start driving off just as you step on, so hold onto the handrail when you get on!
When you get on the bus, you’ll have to let the attendant know where you’re headed. The attendant carries a metal tube with tickets and coins. They’ll let you know how much you owe. The fares seem to vary between 6-25 baht per person. Besides the distance, the fare on the buses with a/c cost more.
Note for Parents – If you have an infant, we’ve noticed Thai people are very kind on buses and will be proactive about giving up their seat for you. It has not been the case on the trains or watertaxis though. You can probably get a seat if you are carrying your child on the train or watertaxi, but you’ll have to be the one to ask. Also, if taking a taxi, carseats are not mandatory for babies/children in Thailand. You are able to catch a taxi or GRAB car and ride without having your baby in a carseat. It is up to you whether you are comfortable with doing so or not.
Additional alternate forms of transportation around Bangkok
For the adventurous, there are also minivans and Songthaews that navigate the roads of Bangkok. We didn’t try them, but have heard they are cheaper alternatives to taxis. You’ll need to know some Thai as the destinations are often written in Thai on the side or front of the vehicles. They usually have a set price of around 10baht that you pay to the driver once you reach your destination.
I almost forgot to mention the iconic tuk-tuks! In Bangkok, they cost more than a taxi but have no air conditioning. They can weave in and out of traffic easier, and have become a tourist attraction in itself. Tell the driver your destination and haggle the price. We almost took one, but were quoted a price more than twice the amount of a taxi ride so we got out. We would rather pay for seatbelts and a/c than a tourist novelty if we’re going to be sitting in Bangkok traffic. That’s just us though. Let us know if you decide to take a tuk-tuk and if you thought we missed out!
The Best Hotels in Bangkok
Best Luxury Hotel, Experience & Location: Hotel Indigo Bangkok Wireless Road (price varies)
Best Value & Location Hotel: The Raweekanlaya Bangkok (around $65 USD per night)
Best Experience & Location VRBO: Sukhumvit 24 or North Bangkok (as low as $60 USD per night)
Cheapest Decent Hostel & Location: iSanook Hostel (usually between $6-$10 USD per night)
That rounds up our guide on how to get around Bangkok, Thailand! We want to make travel easy for everyone, so let us know if it helped you and if we missed anything! The traffic in Bangkok can be a bit overwhelming, but with so many transportation options it’s easy to get around.
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Jenny & Bradley of EatWanderExplore