With Bangkok being so vast and the tourist attractions being quite far apart the question you might be asking yourself is how do people, especially visitors to Bangkok, get around? We hope to give you some answers and options to that question right here so read on and hopefully you'll find an option that helps you get about in Bangkok with a minimal of hassle.
If we could give you a single ‘top-tip’ about getting the most out of your stay in Bangkok it would to use the BTS Skytrain and the MRT Underground to get around as much as possible. Both the BTS and the MRT are a cheap and efficient way of getting around the city and will save you (literally) hours of sitting around in traffic jams if you were planning to use taxi’s instead.
Unfortunately there isn’t a single card/pass you can purchase to use both the BTS and the MRT at the moment but using them is basically the same as using the train or underground in the west. The easiest way to use them is by buying individual journey tickets at the coin operated ticket machines in the stations.
While it might be a bit intimidating at first, people in Bangkok are generally very helpful and friendly so we're sure someone will help you out if you get a bit stuck. Once you have completed your first couple of journeys and have got the hang of it, there’ll be no looking back!
Taxis in Thailand come in two variations. Private taxis are referred to simply as a taxi and are normally booked and paid for in advance.
The colourful public taxis you'll see on the streets are known as taxi-meters because they charge based on a meter dependent on the distance you'll be travelling and the time it takes to get to where you want to go.
When you first get in a taxi-meter, make sure the driver starts the meter - the meter should start at 50 baht. At the end of your journey you’ll need to pay the fare displayed on the meter. The only exception we've ever experienced to this is if you get a taxi-meter from the airport when there is usually a 50 baht surcharge.
Using taxi-meters in Bangkok is really easy because they are virtually everywhere and most taxi drivers do speak some english - certainly enough for you to be able to tell them where you want to go.
It is also important to mention that, unless you have been in Bangkok for a while and already know what the fare will roughly be, it is not advisable to use taxi-meters where the driver offers to turn the meter off and charge a set, pre-agreed fare. This can be quite common, especially late at night - our advice is don't do it unless you have some idea of what the fare should be!
Tuk-tuks or 'sam lor', which means three-wheeler, are possibly one of the most famous symbols of Thailand. They used to be everyone's favourite way of getting around Bangkok before the BTS, MRT and colourful taxis took over. Originating from old-fashioned rickshaws used during the second World War, a tuk-tuk is essentially a rickshaw with a motorbike engine - and sometimes a very impressive sound system!
Riding in a tuk-tuk can be quite good fun so if it's your first time in Bangkok be sure to give it a go! Tuk-Tuks work differently to taxi’s in that you have to negotiate the fare upfront but be aware that the initial price the driver offers you will most probably be inflated by between 10% and 25% so you need to haggle with them a little to agree a price before you start your journey.
Tip: Tuk-Tuks are great for shorter journeys but we wouldn’t advise taking a tuk-tuk in rush hours between 7am and 10am in the morning and 4pm and 7pm in the evening.
Not for the faint hearted but motorbike taxis are actually one of the fastest way to get around Bangkok especially for shorter journeys. Motorbike taxis are used extensively by both local expats and Thai people because they are quick and cost effective.
You will see motorbike taxi ranks on most major street corners in Bangkok with the drivers waiting around for their next customer in their florescent jackets. Much like with a tuk-tuk, if you decide to use a motorbike taxi then you’ll need to negotiate the price upfront with the driver. Once a price has been agreed, jump on the back of the bike, hold on tight and let the driver do the rest!
Tip: Many motorbike taxi drivers won’t offer you a helmet so if you need one (recommended) then just ask them - although it's illegal in Thailand to use a motorbike without wearing a helmet, the drivers are usually very relaxed about whether you wear one or not!
Whether you decide on a taxi-meter, a tuk-tuk or a motorbike taxi most drivers are fair and honest but be wary of anyone who offers to take you on a ‘tour of the city’ for a special price! If you are walking when you get such offers then we suggest a firm but polite ‘No thanks’ and then keep walking. If you are already in/on the taxi then, again, a firm but polite ‘No thanks’ should be all you need but if the driver persists it’s best to get out, pay the driver and find a different taxi.
Tip: For more information on public transport in Bangkok check out the Transit Bangkok website.
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