Featured Photo: Divesh Tanwani
In Article Photography: Ruksana Narang
Bangkok is a heavily congested city, with way too many cars for its own good. Luckily we also have an abundance of public and private transportation options to cater to all of our needs and moods. Whether we chose a transport option based on price, comfort, time sensitivity, or just for the fun of experiencing it, Bangkok has an overflowing amount of them, and I’ve tried to list and explain as many as I can, but there are so many more! At least this should help you out for now…
Buses: A mode of transport I’ve only taken once since in my life, and this is mainly due to the poor driving skills of the bus drivers, and the fact that I have no clue which bus line leads where, or when the buses will arrive at the bus stop. You can find yourself waiting anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour for the bus to arrive. Unfortunately, the traffic times the buses, and there’s go getting around that to create a scheduled and timely bus system! But, if you’re looking for extremely cheap modes of transportation, and don’t mind the bus-sickness feeling you’re most likely to have, then this is the mode of transport for you! The prices range anywhere between 7 – 15 THB (or maybe more depending on how far you journey with the city). Also, there are AC buses and non-AC buses. I would go for the AC buses if I were you (although they are slightly more expensive). The heat is enough to bare with as it is!
Taxis: The only mode of transportation in Bangkok that will say no to you 100 times, until one finally says yes, or you give up and decide to walk. Taxi drivers call the shots if they want to take you somewhere, depending on if it is convenient for them. They also call the shots on if they want to turn on the meter for you or not. Make sure to find out if they plan to turn on the meter before you enter a taxi cab. Taxis are definitely not the way to go if you’re in a rush and in the city centre, as its not going to beat the traffic. However, it is comfortable, so if you don’t mind spending a bit more time to reach your destination for the trade-off of comfort, then a taxi cab is for you. Oh, I almost forgot, you’ll also spot them fairly easy since they are always bright coloured cars, e.g. pink, yellow, blue, green, or a combination of either of these colours. The best way to find out if the taxi is actually available is looking through the windshield of the car to see if the red light is on. This is the signal for an available taxi here in Thailand. Don’t be surprised if the red light is on, and there are passengers in the car either because that can happen. Those passengers re probably being ripped off, as the taxi meter clearly isn’t turned on.
Motorbike Taxis: As a city girl, this is by far my favourite mode of transportation. It beats the traffic, I get to my destination without the span of a few minutes, and I catch some wind along my journey, so I’m never actually feeling hot on a motorbike even though the sun is trying to make holes in my skin. Yes, sometimes they can rip you off if you don’t strike up a deal in advance, and they are not the safest mode of transportation, especially on the main roads, and for long distances. If you’re concerned about your safety, then these motorbike taxies are not for you. A way to ensure you don’t get completely ripped-off is by actually going to grab a motorbike and one of the motorbike taxi stands lined along the corners of inner Sois or outer Sois. . You’ll spot them easily because they are all in orange vests! Never grab one from any random street. Either they will say no (which is actually the right thing for them to do as it’s out of their zone and they shouldn’t be stealing customers from other motorbike groups in the vicinity), or they will over charge you. It’s a whole mafia with the way motorbike taxis are run, and the less we know about it, the better!
BTS & MRT: They are basically both the same mode of transportation: trains. One above ground and one underground, owned by two different companies. BTS uses cards to get through, and MRTs use chips to get through. So clearly, not completely user-friendly if you want to make quick connections between the two modes of transportation, but this is Thailand for you! Also, it is a great way to beat the rush, and not overly pricey if you’re a solo traveller. As a group, you’ll find that taking a cab together comes up much cheaper, but of course, its the question about time again, depending on if its of the essence for you or not. There is also this other mode of transportation called the BRT which interlinks with the MRT. I’m not actually sure what this mode of transportation is for, except that it is a bus that has a lane blocked off entirely for itself in Bangkok, which is unheard of, in order to transport people from BRT specific bus stations to arrive at the MRT underground train. This is the most pointless mode of transportation Bangkok has seen thus far. All it has done is cause a large amount of traffic, because it’s converted a 3 lane road, into a 2 lane road on either side. I barely see any people waiting at the BRT bus stations, so it really makes me wonder. I just have to hope that it’s used frequently during rush-hour. At least that will make me feel slightly better about the fact that this mode of transportation managed to steal road lanes.
Tuk Tuks: Simply a thrill ride for foreigners, as I hardly ever see locals going on it. It’s safe to say that this isn’t exactly the real mode of transportation used in Bangkok anymore, although it once was. But then you travellers came, and hyped it up, and now it’s all overpriced and expensive so the locals no longer use them! But as a traveller, by all means you should at least try this mode of transportation because its fun! Especially when you’re around Old Town area in Bangkok, navigating through the temples will be all the more exciting.
River Boats: If you happen to stay close to a klong or the Chao Phraya river, the only mode of transport you should consider is the river boats! They will take you everywhere; markets, khao sarn, chinatown, old town, downtown, or any other town you choose in Bangkok. This mode of transportation is the best of both worlds when it comes to price, duration, and reach of locations. The only drawbacks are the smell, congestion, and klong water spraying in your face. Also, again, like buses, there are no time schedules for when the boats arrive, but there is no traffic either! So you’ll likely wait for a maximum of 15 minutes, which isn’t too bad. Boats can cost anywhere from 5 – 15 THB per ride. There is a method to the madness of collecting money on these boats. You don’t necessarily pay up front, but there’s a man or woman hanging off of either side of the boat, manoeuvring their way to you, and collecting money. It amazes me how they do not fall into the river. There balance is impeccable. Also, they have sharp memory, so don’t try and trick them by telling them you’ve already paid!
Oh and lets not forget the free option of walking, if you dare to risk your life as we don’t exactly have “walkable” sidewalks here. You’ll also find yourself battling with heat, pollution, and sewage smells. It will be a great experience though… potholes and all aside!