Thailand is a beautiful country with so much to offer and a must-visit destination for many travelers. If you’ve never been to Thailand, figuring out how to get around can be challenging at first. You’re bound to make a few mistakes but hopefully, these tips will help you make fewer errors.
We’ll start with Bangkok as there is a good chance your itinerary has you flying into the Suvarnabhumi Airport. Depending on where you’re coming from the flight to Bangkok can be long so you’ll want to have a plan ready for getting to the hotel.
If you’re staying at a hotel there is a good chance they offer a prearranged pickup service. This is the easiest way and the recommended option if available. If you can’t arrange a pick up the next best option is using the Grab App. Thanks to a buyout to Uber for 27% of its company, Grab is the premiere ride-share service in Thailand. It’s a good idea to download in advance and have on hand, just in case.
You can get direct from Suvarnabhumi Airport to Bangkok city center by using the Airport Rail Link. From the Arrivals area at Suvarnabhumi Airport, follow the signs down into the lower levels of the airport. There you can board the train. The Airport Rail Link takes you to Phaya Thai BTS station. You then either leave the station to stay in the Phaya Thai area or buy a ticket to go onto the BTS train system and continue to your final destination. If you have a lot of luggage you may want to go with one of the options mentioned above.
Now, if you are on a strict budget, there is a public bus line that runs into the city for 35 baht. City buses arrive and depart Suvarnabhumi International Airport at Bangkok Airport public transportation center which is serviced by free shuttle buses. There are five shuttle bus routes that transport passengers around the airport; Routes A-D and the Express Line. The Express line is the route you want to get to the transportation center (https://www.transitbangkok.com/to_Bangkok_airport.html). Buses usually run every 15 to 20 minutes. There is also the option of public vans at the transportation center according to the link.
Being able to navigate the city can help you make the most of your experience. If you’re staying anywhere near Sukhumvit Road then the Skytrain is your best friend. The Skytrain is one of the cheapest and quickest ways to get around Bangkok. You can get just about anywhere you need to go for 50 Baht (https://www.bts.co.th/eng/routemap.html) Or you can get a day pass for 140 (https://www.bts.co.th/eng/tickets/ticket-daypass.html). The ticketing system is fairly simple (https://www.bts.co.th/eng/library/system-tickets.html) unless you’re buying a day pass its best to carry some extra Baht and use the ticketing machines to avoid waiting in line for change.
With around 22 million people a year, Bangkok is the world’s most visited city. Needless to say, there’s traffic and it can certainly ruin plans if you’re not careful. Fortunately, for moto-taxis, this is hardly an issue. Riding a moto-taxi is not only fun, but it’s also one of the fastest ways to travel around Bangkok. Be sure to ask for a helmet bc they will weave through traffic any way they can to get you to your destination as quickly as possible.
As wonderful as moto-taxis are, every once in awhile it’s nice to get from A to B at a slightly less furious pace. The renowned Tuk-tuk is always there for you, always. There are a few things you should know before hopping on a Tuk-tuk. Always negotiate the price. Tuk-tuk drivers commonly overcharge tourists. I have found the market rate is somewhere between what a local will tell you and what the Tuk-tuk driver tells you. Or until the Tuk-tuk driver refuses.
You should also be aware of common scams. one of which, If you are going to a temple some Tuk-tuk drivers may try to convince you the temple is closed bc of some royal event. Instead, he will offer to show you other great temples around Bangkok…and likely to a gem shop. Select a destination a few blocks away from whatever the Temple and you can usually avoid this scam. You want to decline any stop on the way to your destination, many Tuk-tuk drivers are compensated for bringing tourists to various shops. Tuk-tuks can be rather expensive in comparison, and they can’t get you through the traffic like a moto-taxi. Tuk-tuk is a great experience but shouldn’t be your main method of transportation.
Another convenient way to travel around Bangkok is the subway known as the MRT. The subway is an independent network to the BTS Skytrain but they do intersect at several locations making it easy to utilize both. There are currently 2 MRT lines:
Blue Line runs underground from Bang Sue to Lak Sang. This is the MRT line of most interest to tourists as it covers some central locations.
Purple Line which runs from Tao Poon to Khlong Bang Phai which is mainly to serve the greater Bangkok suburbs. You can purchase tickets ahead of time online (http://www.bangkok-city.com/go/info_transportation.html) Although I haven’t found an official site.
Taxis are abundant in Thailand and very colorful. The colors actually signify whether the taxis are owned by the driver, company-owned, or rented. Before you get in, tell the driver the location. If they quote a flat rate ask them to turn on the meter. If they refuse, just politely move on. The other problem with taking a Taxi in Bangkok is they are at the mercy of traffic. In a city the size of Bangkok traffic can be a major set back. Outside the city and on the islands taxis are very convenient. However, taxis are my least favorite option for getting around in the city.
Boats and ferries are a convenient and interesting way to get around Bangkok, and once you figure out the routes and the rules they’re very easy to use. Bangkok has two boat systems: the Chao Phraya river ferry system and the canal ferry system. River crossing ferries are flatboats that cross at 32 different piers bringing people from one side of the Chao Phraya river to the other for around 3 baht. Orange flag boats are public service boats that go up and down the Chao Phraya River every 15 minutes and cost 15 baht no matter the distance. Blue flag boats are tourists boats that will have an english speaking announcer call out all the stops. They are a few other colors (https://trevallog.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/2.-Bangkok-Chao-Phraya-express-boat-route.jpg) however the blue and orange lines will be the most relevant.
One other obvious method of travel is renting a car. Before you hop on a shuttle to the rental lot you should be aware that Thailand ranks second in the world for road accident deaths. Oh, and you’ll be driving on the opposite side of the road (unless you’re already used to that). I’m only putting renting a car on the list, to tell you not to rent a car. You do not want to drive in Bangkok, trust me.
Hopefully, this info helps you navigate your way around Bangkok. Next, we’ll look at how to get around the islands and other parts of Thailand.