Travel information: getting around Bangkok

Traverse Bangkok by bus, taxi, train, tuk tuk or river boat

By Time Out editors

Public transport

Bus services

BMTA Buses

0 2246 0973, hotline 184, www.bmta.co.th.
Bangkok Mass Transit Authority and private firms run over 13,400 buses on 442 routes. It’s cramped and chaotic, with new and old buses, air-con and fan, having the same number but different colours and prices. Signs are all in Thai. Minibuses cover routes unserved by buses.

Air-conditioned buses are blue with a white stripe or white and articulated (5am-11pm). Fares: B8-B16. Orange buses (5am-11pm) charge B12-B20.

Non air-conditioned buses are red/cream (5am-11pm, B7). Fares: Red/cream ones using expressways cost B9; running as nightbuses (11pm-5am) it’s B8.50.

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)

0 2354 1224-7.
The BRT will have dedicated central bus lanes with stations every 700m. The overdue first line will feed Chong Nonsi BTS (16.5km, from Rama IX Bridge via Thanon Rama III-Thanon Narathiwat Ratchankharin).

Long-distance buses

Rot tour (inter-provincial buses) are the mainstay of ordinary Thais and often sell out well ahead of time, so book ahead through travel agents, hotels or bus terminals. Rot air (air-con buses) are roomier; VIP buses serve food and drink. Drivers can be reckless. Be alert to your bag security. Minibuses run upcountry routes. www.transport.co.th provides information on all bus terminals.

Eastern Bus Terminal (Ekamai)

Sukhumvit Soi 42 (0 2391 8097). Ekamai BTS. Open 4am-midnight daily. No credit cards.

Northern & North-eastern Bus Terminal

(Morchit 2, also serves Central region) 999 Thanon Kamphaengphet 2 (0 2936 2852-66). Open 24hrs daily.

Southern Bus Terminal

(Sai Tai Mai, also serves the West) 147 Thanon Boromratchachonnani (0 2435 5605). Open 5am-11pm daily.

Songtaew

Local roads and soi often have pick-up truck buses called songtaew (‘two rows’, after the bench seating), seelor (four-wheeler) or hoklor (six-wheeler). Often gaily painted, they cost B5-B10 and stop at will. Hail and hop on; pay when you buzz to alight.

Taxis

Taxi-meters

With radios and meters, air-con taxis are cheap, plentiful and comfy. Those with a red light are vacant and stop for you instantly. Signal by flapping your hand, palm down (up is rude). Taxis are coloured by company. Decline drivers refusing to use the meter. Poor maintenance often indicates a dodgy driver. Front seatbelts are compulsory. Directions in Thai (especially written) help more than showing maps. From B35, rates rise at B2 increments with a traffic jam surcharge, but no night-time increase. Round up fare for a tip. For safety and ease, 24hr radio taxis collect within 20mins (B20 surcharge) or offer full-day hire (from B1,500).

Bangkok Taxi Radio Centre
0 2880 0888.
Community Radio Taxi 1681.
Nakornchai 0 2878 9000.
Siam Taxi 1661.

Taxi motorcycles

For a quick pillion ride, rot motocy serve most soi. Short runs cost B5-B20, longer rides mirror taxi fares (agree the rate first). For a helmet, say ow muak garn knock; they’re compulsory, but often not worn.

Tuk-tuks

The open-air tuk-tuk (or samlor, three-wheeler) is customised from Japanese motorised rickshaws. The bench may fit three slim farang. You get rain, fumes, soot and sweat en route, and even the sanuk (fun) may fade if you get haven’t agreed the unmetered fare.

Train services

Airport Link City Line

(0 2535 7481-2). Times frequency and fares to be announced.
Due by 2010, Airport Link (AL) trains to Suvarnabhumi will run from Makkasan check-in terminal (accessing MRT Phetchburi). Parallel commuter trains will run from BTS/AL Phyathai to AL Lad Krabang.

BTS SkyTrain

BTS Tourist Information Centre (0 2617 6000, www.bts.co.th). Open 6am-midnight daily every 5mins (3mins peak). New Year 24hrs.
This safe, private train has two lines that intersect at Siam: the dark green Sukhumvit line (Morchit to Onnut, extending to Baring); and light green Silom line (National Stadium to Wong Wien Yai, extending to Phetkasem). It connects to the MRT, Airport Link, Expressboats, and by SkyBridges to many malls. Machines issue Single-journey tickets (B15-B40), but people queue for B5 and B10 coins from the counter. The Sky Card (refillable, minimum B100 plus B30 deposit, valid 5yrs) depletes by distance. The 1-Day Pass (B120), 30-Day Adult Pass (20 trips B440, 30 trips B600, 40 trips B800) or 30-Day Student Pass (20 trips B340, 30 trips B450, 40 trips B600) have no distance limit.

Hualumphong Station

1 Thanon Rong Muang (0 2225 6964, booking 0 2220 4444, schedule 1690). Open Trains 4.20am-11.40pm daily. Booking (3-60 days ahead) 8.30am-4.30pm daily. Tour desk 8.30am-4pm daily.
The State Railway of Thailand (0 2621 8701) runs all long-distance trains. Most depart from this Italianate terminus, some from Bangkok Noi station (0 2411 3102) or Wong Wian Yai station (0 2465 2017) for the quaint line to Mahachai.

MRT Subway

Bangkok Metro (0 2354 2000, www.bangkokmetro.co.th). Open 5am-midnight daily; 4-6mins (2-4mins peak).
The underground blue line arcs 20km (12 miles) from Hualumphong railway station to Bang Sue railway station, and connects to the BTS and Airport Link. Fares are B17-B41 from station counters and machines. Top-up cards (refillable, minimum B100 plus B50, valid 5yrs) deplete by distance. The 30-day pass costs B1,000. Entrances open a metre above the highest flood level.

Water transport

Canal boats

Quick, exhilarating, but cramped and awkward, covered longtail boats ply Khlong Saen Saeb, an east–west canal from Tha Saphan Phan Fah (Golden Mount, for old town) taking 15-17mins to Tha Pratunam (change boats) and 40mins to Tha Bang Kapi, with many useful stops.
Family Transport (0 2375 2369). Boats every 2-11mins, 5.30am-8.30pm Mon-Fri; every 5-11mins 6am-6.30pm Sat, 6am-7pm Sun. Fare B8-B18.

River boats

Chao Phraya Expressboat

78/24-9 Thanon Maharaj, Phra Nakorn (0 2623 6143). Open 8am-6pm Mon-Sat.
The private river bus service covers 18km (11 miles). Buy tickets from boat conductors or at one of the 35 piers, which are signed in English, with Tha Sathorn (‘Central Pier’) linking to Saphan Taksin BTS. Flags on the roof identify boat types:

Yellow flag (rush-hour express) Few stops Tha Nonthaburi-Tha Sathon (45-50mins). Mon-Fri every 10mins 6.10-6.30am, every 4mins 6.30-8.40am, every 15mins 4.30-6.20pm. Returns every 10 mins 3.45pm-7.30pm. Fare B18-B27.

Green & Yellow flag (rush-hour express) Few stops Tha Pakkred-Tha Sathon (1hr). Mon-Fri every 15mins 6.05-8.05am. Returns every 15mins 4pm-5.30pm Mon-Fri. Fare B12-B30.

Orange flag (express) Major piers Tha Nonthaburi-Tha Wat Rajsingkorn (1hr). Mon-Fri every 5mins 5.50-9.15am, every 15mins 3-5.50pm. Returns every 12mins 6.30-8.45am, every 20mins 2-4pm, every 10mins 4-6pm, every 15mins 6-7pm. On Sat every 15mins 6.45-8.40pm, 4-6.20pm; no Sun service. Fare B13.

No flag (local) All piers. Mon-Fri every 15mins 6-8am, every 20mins 8am-6.40pm. On Sat and Sun every 20-25mins 6am-6.40pm. Fare B9-B13.

Tourist Boat
From Sathorn Pier to piers at sights. Daily every 30mins, 9.30am-3pm. Day pass B150. Also to Koh Kret 10am-4.30pm Sun. Fare B300 adults, B250 children.

River ferries

Dumpy ferries (kham fahk) cross the Chao Phraya from many piers (every 5mins 5am-midnight, some until 9pm, daily) for just B3. River hotels’ ferries serve Tha Saphan Taksin, Tha Oriental and Tha Si Phraya (River City).

Driving

Drivers need an international licence (foreign licences aren’t accepted). Thais drive on the left, front seatbelts are compulsory and speed limits are 80kmh in Bangkok, 90kmh outside. Fines can resemble arbitrary extortion. Expect bad drivers, expressway tolls, narrow soi and many ‘one-way’/‘no right turn’ detours.

Car & van hire

Rental firms provide cars from B900 per day (most including insurance); most offices close Sunday. Along with travel agents, many also rent a car/van with driver (B1,500-B2,000 per day, overnight B2,500 per day, plus tip). All exclude petrol and tolls. For problem assistance try the Transportation Safety Centre (0 2280 8000, hotline 1356) or Highway Police (0 2354 672, hotline 1193).

Avis (0 2255 5300-4, www.avis.co.th).
Budget (0 2203 9200, www.budget.co.th).
Highway Car Rent (0 2266 9393-8, www.highway.co.th).
Krung Thai Car Rent (0 2291 8888, www.krungthai.co.th).
Lumphini Car Rent (0 2255 1966-8).
Thai Prestige Rent-A-Car (0 2941 1344-8, 2231-3).

Parking & services

Street parking is limited (and banned 5am-10pm on some highways and bus lanes); pay attendants a B10-B20 tip. Malls, hotels and offices charge from B40/hr, often with a free period if you get the ticket stamped at a venue on site. Double parking is normal, so to enable shunting, park in neutral, wheels straight, handbrake off. Petrol is cheap at plentiful stations. In case of breakdowns try:

B-Quik Service 16th floor, 253 Sukhumvit Soi 21 (0 2620 0900, www.b-quik.com). Open 8am-9pm daily.

Carworld Club 2/1 Thanon Rama IV (0 26121 9999, www.cwc.co.th). Open Breakdown service 24hrs daily.

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