Monday, 28 October 2013

Bangkok Transport, A-Z

Regular contributor John Borthwick samples, in alphabetical order, Bangkok’s various public transports of delight and sometimes despair. 

Airport Rail Link From Suvarnabhumi (pronounced Suwannapoom — or “Swampy”) to midtown takes 30 minutes (and 45 baht) on the eight-stop City Line, and about 20 minutes (and 90 baht) on the one-stop Express Train. Both terminate at Phaya Thai BTS SkyTrain station. Excellent system. 

Airport Taxi Exit on the ground floor; locate the yellow, meter-taxi hire desk. This service costs 50 baht added to your final fare. Desk tells the driver your destination hotel/address. For example, you’re going to Sukhumvit Road: the meter starts at 35 baht, you pay road tolls as you go (45 and 25 baht) and the final meter fare (about 250 baht), plus 50 baht service fee. Tip if you want. 

Bicycle Sheer PC masochism. The Big Mango’s traffic is anarchic and merciless: might is right and two wheels are “wrong”, unless attached to a motorbike. However, if you’re a true zealot, consider the share bike system called PunPun. ( 

Bus Cheap, often crowded, non-airconditioned. Signage in Thai. Drivers rarely speak English. Unless you know exactly where you want to go (and have it written in Thai), this is not the easiest choice for visitors. 

Canal Boat Fast, furious and spray, too. Skinny canal boats rocket along the 1837-built Saen Saeb klong, making fleeting pit-stops at 18 wharves. You leap on and off — literally — wherever you want. The conductor collects fares on-board. A cheap as chips tour of Bangkok’s backdoors. 

Motorcycle Taxi Non-PC masochism. “Moto-si” dudes linger on corners wearing numbered, low-visibility vests. Explain your destination. Settle on the fare first — prices start at about 40 baht for a short trip. Be sure to use the helmet. Settle back for a slipstreaming, tailgating, maximum monoxide view of the Bangkok stampede. 

MRT Metropolitan Rapid Transit system aka the subway. A limited network (18 stations, one line), but clean, fast and economical. Purchase a token before boarding. 

River Ferry There are two principal ferry systems. The Chao Phraya River Express is a local service that’s quick, crowded and cheap. It services numerous whistle-stop wharves — a commuter bus on water. The recommended Chao Phraya Tourist Boat is more comfortable and stops at 30 piers near main visitor attractions — a one-day pass costs 150 baht. Starting point is Central Pier (at Saphan Taksin Bridge). 

River ferry in BKK

SkyTrain (BTS) The Bangkok Train system, aka SkyTrain, is more extensive than the MRT and runs (as the name suggests) well above ground. Some 33 stations on two lines. Before boarding, purchase your ticket card (15 to 52 baht, depending on distance) or a 130-baht One-Day Pass. Clean and air-conditioned, though often SRO crowded. Always beats road traffic. 

BTS Skytrain

Taxi BKK meter taxis are plentiful, clean and inexpensive. Many drivers speak little English (and some don’t know this extensive city very well) so it helps to have your destination address written in Thai. Make sure the meter is on (flag-fall, 35 baht); if the driver won’t use the meter, just hop out and hire the next cab — which is about one minute away. 

Tuk-tuk These days tuk-tuk (proper name samlor, “three-wheel”) is a novelty transport mostly used by tourists. Tuk-tuks are unmetered and drivers will charge farang whatever they think our (often demonstrated) ignorance will bear. Always more expensive than a meter taxi. Never start your journey without agreeing on the price and if there’s more than one passenger, do not pay “per head.” PS: Don’t get taken to gift shops, etc, “just for quick look”. 

Crazy BKK streets: Pics: John Borthwick

Walking BKK footpaths can be wondrous, infuriating, alienated zones of stalls, utility boxes, merchandise, excavations, pitfalls, fortune-tellers, food carts and random roadblocks, more resembling a steeplechase than a sidewalk. You won’t get anywhere fast, but you’ll see plenty and often out-walk a Sukhumvit-Silom traffic jam.


  1. Entertaining and viciously informative. Wish I'd read this first!

  2. That's a great guide Julie, perfect for anyone wanting to negotiate Bangkok.

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