Bangkok is the capital city of Thailand and it is famous for its traffic congestion and traffic jams; Bangkok traffic can really be a nightmare at times and quite stress-inducing.
However, with construction of tollways, skytrain and underground things are improving. Put these together with metered taxis, tuk tuks, boats, motorcycle taxis, public buses, minibuses and of course, on foot, there are many ways of getting around town.
Here I will display some of my photos of these modes of Bangkok transport and write a few notes about each one.
Take a Look Around Bangkok
Using Bangkok BTS Skytrain
I have written a step by step guide to using the skytrain in Bangkok and it is available here: Bangkok Skytrain.
The Bangkok Skytrain is by far the quickest and civilized way of getting around town. It has been so successful that extensions have already opened and more are being planned. However, this highlights the skytrain's big downfall - it is just nowhere near extensive enough to make a big impact on traffic, although it does allow people to get around the downtown area quickly and cheaply.
The Skytrain is particularly good for getting around the shopping areas of Bangkok, such as Siam Paragorn, Silom Road and Sukhumvit Road, but not so helpful in getting to the major tourist attractions.
Taxis are probably the most comfortable and convenient method of transport in Bangkok. They are ubiquitous, very affordable and air-conditioned - a wonderful asset.
Bangkok taxis come in a variety of bright colours (see photo) but are always unmistakable. You can flag down a taxi in Bangkok anywhere you like; so long as the red light is lit, it is available.
Sometimes a taxi driver will try and negotiate a fare with you, this is particularly true in major tourist areas, but they are trying to rip you off, just ignore these guys and stop the next taxi - there are plenty of them. The point about the taxi drivers who want to negotiate a fare is that firstly it will be more expensive to you than putting the meter on and secondly it is illegal - if they are prepared to break the law like this what else might they do?
However, generally Bangkok taxi drivers are friendly and honest and travelling in this way is usually relaxing.
There are a confusing profusion of buses in Bangkok; they go almost everywhere. There are so many official and unofficial buses that there does not exist a map of all the routes, and if there were it would be most confusing.
To use the bus you must stand at the appropriate bus stop; the numbers of the buses that use that route are on the bus stop sign. Either flag down the bus or just wait for it to stop and get on. If there is a seat you can sit on it, or at busy times you will have to cram in among many people. The conductor will come and collect the fare and give you a ticket.
Here is a useful tool for bus users in Bangkok - Buses in Bangkok Route Planner. You just enter the name of the origin of your journey and then the destination and click "Find Transportation" and a list of buses that will get you to where you want to go will be supplied.
Tuk tuks are noisy, dangerous and erratic but they can sometimes be useful for weaving in and out of the traffic if you are in a hurry to get somewhere in the worst traffic.
There is no meter on a tuk tuk so you must negotiate the fare and this can be a problem for visitors - one thing to remember is that if they offer to take you somewhere for 10-30 baht they will almost certainly be setting you up for a scam; a gem shop or suchlike.
Whilst I would not recommend that visitors regularly use tuktuks (taxis are cheaper and more comfortable) I would suggest trying a tuk tuk ride once as it is a bumpy, noisy, smelly, traffic-dodging experience you will not forget - it is one of those things to do in Bangkok that visitors usually enjoy.
The Bangkok Underground (MRT: Mass Rapid Transport) has been a success since it opened in 2004. It offers a cool and comfortable service along just one line and the fares are cheap.
Unfortunately, the problem with the underground is that it is not extensive enough to use all the time, although it does intersect with the Skytrain at a couple of places and has stations in a number of major roads and intersections.
Using the MRT is easy, just descend and tell the "ticket" vendor where you want to go and pay the fare!
The Chao Phraya Express Boat is an interesting way of getting around Bangkok, but, of course, you are limited to locations along the river which, however, do include the attractions of Wat Pra Kaew and Wat Po. Still, the boat does have many piers where it stops and you can continue your journey including one stop at the skytrain.
You can find out all about the Chao Phraya Express on the official website: Chao Phraya Express.
The Chao Phraya Express gives travelers an interesting view of the city and is ridiculously cheap and as such it can get extremely busy.
Longtail boats in Bangkok are more of a sight-seeing way around than transport around the city (although a few remote canals are serviced by cheap longtail boats) due to the fact that they are quite expensive to hire.
Lots of visitors find it a pleasant thing to do to hire a longtail boat for the day, or half day, to cruise the river and stop off at various attractions such as Wat Arun.
Longtail boats can go very fast and this can be exciting as you are very close to the water.
You can read what people have to say about a longtail boat tour here - Longtail Boats on Bangkok's Canals.
Motorcycle taxis can be found at most street corners in all parts of Bangkok. The motorcycle taxi drivers all wear a coloured vest with a number on and this shows which motorcycle taxi stop they are allowed to operate from. Sometime you might try and flag down a passing motorcycle taxi and they will not stop, this is because they don't want to be seen stealing business from an area that they are not from.
To get a motorcycle taxi walk to the street corner where they are hanging around and tell them where you want to go. You will need to find out the price beforehand. If it is just to the end of the road there will be a fixed price; usually just 10 baht or so; but if it is further away you will have to haggle over the price.
My advice would be only take these motorcycle taxis along side roads where there is no other transport. Don't be tempted to take them along busy streets as it can be quite frightening and there are a huge number of motorcycle accidents in Thailand.
Vote On The Best Mode Of Transport In Bangkok
Which is the best way to get around Bangkok?
Bangkok is a huge city and it can be difficult for visitors to know where to go, how to get there, how to deal with the chaos, what and where to eat etc. Although one can now prepare for a trip abroad using the internet, there is nothing like having a guide book to refer to once you are at your destination.
This little guide fits right into your pocket, so carrying it around as you take photos is not a problem. It also deals with the city in a series of top ten lists which are themed making it easy to find out about the best temples to visit, the best places for shopping, the best street food etc. I have used these city guides for many different locations and think they are great, succinct and without waffle or pretentiousness.