Welcome to Bangkok! Unlike most cities, you have many public transport options – five, in fact – travelling around this metropolis. Some modes of transport are attractions in themselves, and we’re here to guide you through every one of them.
The five transport options are:
- Underground Subway (MRT)
- Overhead Skytrain (BTS)
- Tuk Tuk
- Motorbike Taxi (Win)
Taking a Taxi in Bangkok
Average price: 80 to 150 baht per ride, depending on distance.
Taxis are perhaps the most convenient mode of public transport in Bangkok. They are relatively inexpensive too. Flag-down fees are 35 baht, and increase at a rate of 2 baht per kilometre.
Always ask the driver to use the built-in taximeter. Taxi drivers will often attempt to tout a fixed fee which will be more expensive than what the meter would read.
Not all taxi drivers speak fluent English, so you’ll need to improvise most of the time. However, all taxi drivers will recognise famous landmarks, such as “Chatuchak Market” or “CentralWorld”, so unless you’re going to an obscure location (for whatever reason), you’ll be just fine!
Be wary of taxis parked outside your hotel or the attraction you just visited. The drivers will usually stand around their cab and will tout a “fixed fee” to your next destination. Thinking that you don’t know any better, they offer prices that are over 200% of the usual metered fare. Calmly avoid these drivers. Walk away and flag a cruising taxi along the road.
Take note: The drivers might follow you and drastically slash their fees, or even promise that they will use the meter. This is still most likely a scam! Once you are in the taxi, he will offer his original “fixed fee” or make long-winded detours using the meter. Just ignore these drivers completely. There are plenty of taxis around Bangkok, so don’t worry. If you don’t feel good about a taxi driver, politely decline and wait for the next one.
The notorious traffic jams in Bangkok are not funny. At all. During peak hours, you can get stuck in traffic for nearly 2 hours for a taxi ride that would normally take just 20 minutes. If you really must travel during peak hours, we strongly advise against taking taxis. Hell, even the cab drivers (especially those who drive stick) will tell you to take the train.
[10 Tips to Taxi like a Pro… KIV]
The Bangkok Underground Subway (MRT)
Average price: 15-35 baht per ride, depending on distance.
Personally, the MRT is our favourite way to travel in Bangkok. It is well connected, very fast, and completely underground so it’s a great reprieve from the Bangkok heat.
How to Ride the MRT
You’ll need to purchase a neat little travel token to get around on the MRT. Simply buy one at the general ticketing machines, or ask the friendly staff for help if the machines are over-crowded. Usually, asking the staff is faster, because the machines can be a bit complicated to use.
To enter the station platform, tap the travel token. To exit the station, drop the travel token into the coin slot in the gate. You won’t get the token back when you exit the station.
If you see yourself frequently travelling to Bangkok, you may want to purchase a Stored Value Card (SVC) from the ticketing counter. For adults, the card costs 180 baht (with a stored value of 100 baht). You can use the card at all MRT stations and top-up the card at any ticketing counter.
With the SVC, say goodbye to buying single-trip tickets for each trip, saving you lots of time. Plus, you’ll get to keep this card for your next visit to Bangkok.
Starting August 2016, both MRT and BTS ticketing systems will be combined into one, so a single ticket will allow you to travel on both the MRT and BTS. We will update this article when that system is in place to help you along!
If you’re going to the Chatuchak Weekend Market, alight at Kamphaeng Phet Station, and not the misleadingly-named Chatuchak Park Station. Kamphaeng Phet is literally right at the doorstep of Chatuchak Weekend Market, and is one of the reasons why we love taking the MRT.
Naturally, it would be wise to book hotels and accommodation near any of the 18 MRT stations all over Bangkok.
Bangkok Overhead Skytrain (BTS)
Average Price: 15 – 35 baht per ride, depending on distance.
The BTS is Bangkok’s city skytrain, and plys most of Bangkok’s central metropolitan areas. You’ll be able to access most of Bangkok’s famed shopping malls just by riding the BTS alone.
How to Ride the BTS
The BTS network interchange with several MRT stations. The interchange stations are within walking distance and they are properly sheltered, but both networks do not use the same system. BTS stations are not integrated with the MRT, and you’ll need to exit one station to enter the other.
This peculiar difference also means that payment options are different too. BTS does not use the travel token – you’ll have to purchase a ticket from their ticketing machines that only accepts coins. It is rather outdated, so you’ll will need to queue and approach the counter staff to exchange for coins if you’re out of small change.
With your ticket, simply approach the gates and slot it (not tap) into the ticket gantries to enter the platform. Do the same upon exiting, and similar to the MRT, you won’t get your ticket back.
If you’re planning to visit Bangkok often, you may want to get the Rabbit Card at 100 baht (with a stored value of 50 baht) for future BTS travels. You can regularly top-up this card, saving you the hassle of having to buy a ticket each time. The neat thing about the Rabbit Card is that it can be used to buy many other things too, such as a McDonald’s meal or many other food from kiosks all over Bangkok.
Starting August 2016, both BTS and MRT ticketing systems will be combined into one, so a single ticket will allow you to travel on both the BTS and MRT. We will update this article when that system is in place to help you along!
The BTS is perhaps not the best way to get to Chatuchak Weekend Market. This is because the nearest BTS station to Chatuchak is Mo Chit Station, and you’ll still need to take a 10 minute walk in the sun before you’ll hit the market.
However, the BTS is excellent if you’re here to explore Bangkok’s many impressive shopping malls. Most BTS stations are directly linked with the mall, so you’ll have as seamless a shopping spree as you can get with the BTS.
The Traditional Tuk Tuk
Average Price: 100-200 baht, flat rate depending on distance.
Ah, the Tuk Tuk. Whatever you may think of these little motorcycle-car hybrids, no Bangkok experience would be complete without a ride in one of these.
They are small, nimble, surprisingly fast and classically Thai. Their mere presence on the road gives Bangkok it’s unique charm.
As a mode of transportation, however, they can be quite controversial. Firstly, they are overpriced for what they are, and are generally twice as expensive than taxis for the same distance. Since you’re partly paying for the experience, it’s probably wise to only take a Tuk Tuk once for novelty, and then revert to using the more traditional modes of transport.
Taking the Tuk Tuk
Simply approach any Tuk Tuk driver, or flag one down. Let them know where you’re heading, and they’ll give you their fixed fee. If you’re agreeable, hop on and go! Remember, you can always negotiable for a lower fee first. Always agree on a fee first with the driver before hopping on. Also, avoid Tuk Tuks waiting outside touristy spots as they will most likely overcharge. Simply move away and flag another Tuk Tuk.
If not apparent already, the open-air Tuk Tuks can feel a little less safe than their full-bodied car counterparts. Not to worry – they are quite safe as long as you don’t do anything silly. Generally:
- Keep your hands and feet inside the Tuk Tuk, and under no circumstances should you stick any limb out of the Tuk Tuk.
- Hold on to the many railings in the Tuk Tuk.
- If you have many bags, keep them secure inside the Tuk Tuk and hold onto them if need be.
The Motorbike Taxi (Win)
Average Price: 20-50 baht, depending on distance
See the many motorcyclists wearing colourful vests? Yes, they are motorcycle taxi riders whom you can flag down and ride pillion if you wish! These skilled riders weave through traffic, so Motorbike Taxis are Bangkok’s answer to their notorious traffic jams, and are a lifesaver for those who need to get to places that are too near for the train, but too far to walk.
Surprisingly, this is one of the primary modes of transport in Bangkok. It is a necessity for the locals because Bangkok does not have buses at MRT/BTS stations to ferry them to nearby places that are too far to walk to from train stations.
Taking a Motorbike Taxi
Similar to a normal taxi, just flag any of the motorcyclists wearing a bright orange vest, and proceed as though it were a usual taxicab.
There are designated waiting areas at every MRT/BTS station. Expect queues of 10-20 people during the evening peak period.
Usually, the rider will advise you how best to ride pillion on his motorcycle. If you need to feel more secure, you can hold onto the rider him/herself. Otherwise, most pillion riders sit to the side, and hold onto the motorcycle’s side handlebars.
The Question of Safety
Bangkok’s Motorbike Taxi riders undergo vigorous training before they are given the license to carry pillion passengers, so rides on them are generally quite safe. Some people may be uncomfortable taking a motorcycle, and that’s perfectly okay! In fact, some members of our ShopJJ team adamantly refuse to take motorcycles in Bangkok too, and we don’t shun them… much. (Just kidding!)
But the locals love their motorcycle taxis for the convenience, affordability and accessibility that they give them. Riding on a motorbike taxi will let you get around Bangkok much faster than otherwise.