If you’re a tourist in the giant city of Bangkok, you might be wondering how to get from point A to point B. Fret not – there are numerous options that make it easy for you to get around Bangkok.
Bangkok is not a city that’s great for walkers, but there are myriad alternatives. The best ways to navigate Bangkok are via subway (MRT), Skytrain (BTS), taxis, Grab, an express boat, motorcycle taxis, tuk-tuks, public buses, and the Airport Rail Link.
The high paced nature of this bustling city makes it intimidating to simply cross the street for walkers. Thankfully, the city of Bangkok has invested in public infrastructure to ease that burden. The question then becomes, “what’s the best method of transportation for me”?
The subway in Bangkok is incredibly easy to use. When comparing the MRT with similar public transportation in New York, DC or London, the only difference lies in the number of people wearing pollution masks inside the subway. That’s Asia for you, though!
At any MRT stop, you can find machines or attendants to purchase your travel tickets. If you’re just going one direction, you’ll receive a magnetic coin after paying your incredibly reasonable sum. Simply scan it on the way into the MRT and deposit it into a coin slot on your way out.
If you plan to be using the MRT multiple times during your visit, it is recommended to purchase a blue Bangkok Expressway and Metro card. You can fill these swipe-able cards with Baht and your total sum will be subtracted by the distance you travel.
The only drawback to the subway system in Bangkok is the crowd. It can be rather close quarters so those with claustrophobia should stay away.
Just like the MRT, the Skytrain is a cost-effective solution for those traveling throughout Bangkok. The Skytrain is essentially a subway system that’s elevated several stories. It’s an above-ground alternative that offers a constantly changing view of the city.
It’s worth noting that the Skytrain won’t take you to every nook and cranny within the city. For every other destination, see the below transportation options. You can buy tickets or cards for the BTS at any Skytrain station, however, these are not interchangeable with the MTR card system.
Skytrain operates several stories above the street, and as such, is probably a physically taxing transportation option for those with trouble going up and down the stairs. Elevators can be found at most stations, but the options below may be better for aging tourists.
Taxis can be found just about anywhere, anytime in Bangkok. When arriving from the airport, you will wait in a queue and take a ticket number to secure a taxi. This ticket number randomizes the order for driver assignment and creates a system where taxi drivers aren’t screaming at arriving passengers in an attempt to bring in customers.
Taxi drivers in Bangkok have to go through several regulatory hoops in order to secure a taxi driver position. In the backseat of your ride, you will be able to find your driver’s name, their accreditation, and in many of the newer vehicles, you can even find a button that automatically calls the police in the case of a mishap. Think OnStar for shady taxi drivers.
Grab is the Uber of Southeast Asia. Quite literally, Uber sold their Thailand operations to Grab in 2018. Generally speaking, Grab is a cheaper alternative when compared to the meter cost of taxis. Surge pricing can make your ride more expensive if you try to hail a ride at peak hours. While there are many similarities between the ride-sharing companies, there are a few key differences to note.
You pay cash with Grab at the end of your ride. You can add a credit/debit card to your profile but the standard option is to pay your driver with Thai Baht. You also have the luxury of choosing between a car or a motorbike. The latter choice is not for everyone, though is certainly a riveting experience.
Chao Pyra River Express Boat
The streets of Bangkok can become overwhelming, to say the least. The capital of Thailand is a river city, so you also have the luxury of traveling via boat. These express boats are extremely cheap and can take you a surprisingly far distance.
They typically run 3 times an hour, however, they operate much more often during rush hours to accommodate demand. It’s nice to take a break from the city traffic and get onto the water with a cool breeze in your face.
If you don’t fear death, motorcycle taxis are a great option for you. These motorcycle taxi drivers typically wear orange and hang out on the street corners of busy intersections. You explain to the driver where you want to go, then settle on a price together. You are free to haggle but he is free to drive as fast as he pleases.
These prices are extremely affordable, but remember, every mode of transportation in Thailand is rather affordable. If you’re a thrill seeker, all we recommend is to ensure you are wearing a helmet.
Tuk-Tuks are a much more family-friendly version of motorcycle taxis. There is a sitting area in the back of the bike with walls so you are protected from any outside happenings. Tuk-tuk drivers know the ins and outs of the city and are always happy to give advice or take you to the restaurants of their friends.
Tuk-tuks are rather void of any regulation so don’t expect to find a meter anywhere in the vehicle. Negotiate the price ahead of time. Haggling is a common exchange in Thailand so don’t feel as though you are offending anyone by asking for a lower price. Most tuk-tuks will take you anywhere nearby in the city for 100 Baht (a little more than $3 USD).
A Tuk-tuk ride is a rite of passage for any tourist in Thailand. However, it is not recommended to become reliant on these as Grab rides are generally safer, cheaper, and most importantly – air-conditioned!
If you download the offline version of Bangkok on Google Maps, you’ll be able to see the bus routes throughout the entire city. This process can be rather confusing to tourists and most bus drivers only speak Thai.
If you do opt to try out the local public buses, make sure you have small bills and coins, otherwise, you’ll become a bottleneck in the bus process. If you know a little bit of Thai and can name your end destination to the driver, you’re likely to have a better experience than most here.
Airport Rail Link
The Airport Rail Link is a great option for those who have done their due diligence. If you know where your hotel is, it’s easy and cheap to secure a spot on these trains. The City Line leaves every ~15 minutes and your journey will take 30 minutes total. This train runs from 6 AM to midnight.
All in all, Bangkok is a city with transportation options available for every type of traveler. Go with a Tuk-tuk if you want something authentic. Choose a Grab if it’s a hot day. Take the Subway (MTR) if you want to feel like part of the city. Ride on the Skytrain (BTS) if you want to take cool videos of the city.
No matter what you choose, you’ll be extremely happy that you didn’t walk.
Is Uber available in Bangkok?
Uber is no longer available in Bangkok. In 2018, Uber sold its SE Asia operations to a similar ride-hailing company called Grab. The default setting for this ride-hailing app is to use cash instead of a debit or credit card.
How much does the Skytrain cost in Bangkok?
The Skytrain is a cheap transportation option within Bangkok. Most locals use distance-based fares, which is only 16-44 Baht (50 cents to $1.50 USD). If you’re after something extremely simple and just need it for the day, buy a 1-day pass. This single day pass costs 140 Baht ($4.50 USD).