Traffic in Bangkok is awful! Rush hour in the afternoon usually starts at 4PM and could last until 8-9PM. And I mean it when I said awful, it’s like the roads could pass like a long parking lot, hardly moving. So, knowing which means of transportation to take is very important to save time and money.
This is how I rate the means of transportation there:
BTS (Bangkok Transit System)Skytrain – Like Manila’s MRT, BTS only covers the central city (that has easy access with shopping malls and some hotels) but this is the fastest (not fast enough than the motor taxi though) way to get you to your destination. BTS has 2 routes (or should I say Line/Platform), the Silom line & Sukhumvit line. To transfer from one platform to the other, interchange is at Siam station on Sukhumvit line. From 6 in the morning it runs until midnight daily. Tickets may be sold at vending machines in the stations.
Here is the copy of the map (click to enlarge):
Tip: If you think you will be coming back to Bangkok that often, you can buy a reloaded card – BTS Sky SmartPass that costs 100Baht (30Baht issuing fee and, if I remember it correctly, 30Baht for deposit ) which you can refill for a minimum of 100Baht as well. The last reload expires in 2 years and the card is valid for 5 years from the first use. This saves time in queuing at the vending machine during rush hour and as well as queuing at the counter to change bills as the machine only accepts coins.
They also have One-Day Pass for an unlimited pass, of course, just for a day. I am not sure about the price but it should be around 100Baht or so.
If I need to go to places that the BTS doesn’t cover, I get off at the station nearest to where I am going.
Motorbike Taxi – You’ll know it’s a motor taxi because drivers wear orange vest. You can find them inside or at the corner of the Soi, main roads, outside the shopping centers and malls, offices, as well as under the BTS stations. These motor taxis provide a helmet (sounds eeew knowing that fact that it’s a “public helmet” so be sure to have a hanky or tissue or even a cap to at least cover your head before wearing the helmet) just to be safe because I tell you, they fly like jeepneys when there is no traffic, and of course it is safety policy by the traffic authorities there or you pay the fine.
These motor taxis are my favorite means of transportation in Bangkok! And why oh why? It is because it IS the fastest and most convenient way to go around the city. Motorbike taxi drivers are brave enough to counter flow and could squeeze-in in between cars and buses especially during traffic.
Though, I only recommend this one to those who loves adventure and who has been to Bangkok for quite a few trips already. And the why question pops out again. Motorbike taxis are not metered and you have to know the place or area for you to haggle and negotiate for the fare. Given the fact that you are a tourist for sure they will give you a fare that will surely rip off your wallet.
Tuk-Tuk – is a three-wheeled colorful motor rickshaw. I used to ride this one because on the road they are faster than taxis, but not until I tried the motorbike taxi. The pros, cons, similarities and difference of Tuk-Tuks and Motorbike Taxis:
Both are fast but while motorbike taxis can squeeze-in in between cars and buses, tuk-tuks can not.
Both doesn’t have meter and would require your power to haggle and negotiate, plus your knowledge about how far or near your destination is.
Tuk-Tuks can seat 3 people or 2 people with a handful of shopping bags, while only 1 person with stuff or 2 small passengers for motorbike taxis.
Tuk-Tuks scams tourists while Motorbike taxis don’t.
Taxi – cute colored taxi. Flag down rate is 35Baht for the first 2 kilometers and adding 2Baht every kilometer. They have a taxi fare matrix inside the cab and I would say that they are accurate. They are easy to find because they are everywhere but I try not to use cabs on rush hour.
Unless I have no other way to get out from where I am but use them, I get off at the nearest BTS station and ride the Skytrain from there.
Other means of transpo that I haven’t tried:
MRT – this is their subway. On the map above, it is the thin blue line. I haven’t tried this one because the BTS is more accessible to my places of interest.
Buses – If I have plans on getting stuck in traffic, I’d rather use the taxi than ride a bus. Hahahaha! Kidding! I heard that buses in Bangkok are numbered, unlike here wherein the routes or destinations are flashed on the bus’ window shields. People who use buses are locals who work in the city but reside outside Bangkok (like Makati – San Pedro Laguna). Some say that bus drivers in Bangkok are more horrible than those we have here in Manila. And I confirm, YES! I was riding the motor taxi and the bus (particularly that Green, rubbish bus) almost smashed the life out of me.
Boats and Ferries – They run across the famous Chao Phraya river and they connect the city to the nearby suburbs. On the map above, the terminals are in gray tab. If you have more time to spend and opt not to use the other means of transpo, can ride the ferry when visiting the Grand Palace or other temples that are accessible through the river.
Enjoy the ride!Learn More
This is one issue that I address to friends who ask for advices when traveling to Bangkok. Avoid interaction with the word SCAM. It’s like tourists has this magnet and invisible mark on their forehead that reads “Tourist I am. Come and scam me!”.
In those Bangkok days I have yet to consider myself a Dek Krungthep, I was one of those with that stamp on my forehead. I have been fooled. Shame on me, but had it not happened, I wouldn’t have this chance to save you guys. Hahaha!
So let’s get back to business. One of the famous and common scam is called “The Gem Expo Scam”. The trick is this, when you hail a Tuk-Tuk (motorized rickshaw) going anywhere around Bangkok (especially if you are going to the temples—The Grand Palace and Wat Po), the driver will lure you to drop by at this Gem Expo before going to your destination. To get you into the crappy scheme, the crazy drivers will reassure you that it is okay if you will not buy, just get inside the shop and pretend that you are interested with those friggin’ blings and precious stones. This, my friends, is in exchange for a free 5-liter gasoline for the tuk-tuk as their commission for bringing in customers to the shop. What a win-win business model for both the shop and the drivers! And why is that? Well, I left the shop with a pair of earrings. But wait! It’s not that I really want to buy it, but the pressure’s on me that if I don’t get anything from the shop they may not give the free gas to the driver and the driver might get angry and he won’t give me the agreed fare we have negotiated earlier. Oh vulnerable days please don’t ever come back!
Tip: If Tuk-Tuk drivers offer you 30Baht-below fare for a 1 kilometer distance ride, it is a scam.
Let me remind you that this scam happens most of the time for tourists going to and from the temples of The Grand Palace and Wat Po. And here’s another style. One of my friends almost fell for this trap. Since Tuk-Tuks are all over the place in the temple area, they decided to skip the cab and take one of those tuk-tuks to the Central World Mall. The driver told her and her companions that the mall is closed and will open at noon for that day because it is the day of worship, like it’s a holiday or something. She thought that it could be the scam I was talking out so they just made an alibi and looked for a cab. It was around 11 in the morning when they reached mall. It was already open!
Fraudulent business schemes do not only happen in Bangkok. It is everywhere but just as long you do your homework (research and ask around) before going to a foreign country and always vigilant, scammers will surely miss you.Learn More
Which flight to choose is very important as it will greatly affect your itinerary. Sorry but I had to include this issue because some are asking which airline I fly to Bangkok too.
I often take PAL because as much as possible I should arrive in Suvarnabhumi Airport after lunch for me to reach Bangkok (town) before 4PM or I will be stuck in traffic. The worst flight I took was the 2PM flight off Manila, arrived Suvarnabhumi at 4:30PM and daaang, reached town after almost 4hours. Half a day wasted from traveling.
Thai Airways is cheaper compared to PAL but mostly they only have afternoon flight from Manila to Bangkok. Return flight however is an hour later than PAL (mid day).
As much as I want to take Cebu Pacific because of much cheaper fare, their flight schedule is a problem. I think it is midnight out of Manila and midnight out of Bangkok. The thing is, the latest time one can check out from the hotel is at 2PM and if you are planning to do some sightseeing and last-minute shopping, repacking the luggage or looking for a place to freshen up will be a slight problem. Anyway, you always have an option. It’s just the maarte in me minding this issue. Hahaha!!!
Off to the city you go. If you have not arranged land transfer through a travel agent, you can always take a metered taxi to the city. Make sure to get a cab on queue to avoid scams. Keep your hotel information with map in handy because you will be surprised to know that some taxi drivers doesn’t know the place (even a 5 star hotel) . Tip: If you can, research how to say the Soi name in Thai or at least you have the address in Thai characters, it would be much better.
The metered taxi charges additional 50Baht on top of the meter bill. I would also suggest for you to take the toll way because you wouldn’t want to be stuck in a damn traffic jam. Toll way fee is 70Baht (25 and 45 for the 2 toll gates [note: this rate is from Airport to Sukhumvit and Silom areas). Normally, my total bill for the cab is 370-400Baht for the surcharge, toll, and meter. Well it is much cheaper than the AOT (airport limo) that costs 1500-2000Baht (it’s a Mercedes or a Camry though).
And once you’re there, check in, freshen up, and enjoy Bangkok!Learn More