There are a great amount of options when it comes to public transportation in Bangkok, so much so that many people find it unnecessary to learn how to drive. One of the most useful things to have when using public transport is a ‘bus guide’, which can be purchased at most book stores for around 50 baht. It contains information about all buses, the skytrain, boats, both on Chaopraya River and in the main ‘klongs’, and intercity trains. Although all routes are written in Thai, the guide contains maps of all routes, and your friends will be able to help you check how to go and where you want to go.
(Transportation rate is quoted as of December 2014)
One of the most abundant, and inexpensive forms of public transportation, buses are also one of the most confusing. You could quite easily get lost if you don’t know the system. There are many different types of buses.
These buses are the cheapest. However, they are non-airconditioned, and so can be uncomfortable, especially during hot days at peak hours.
Blue and White buses
These buses are also non-air conditioned and have fans.
Blue and White AC buses
These buses can be differentiated from the plain blue/white buses in that, as they are air-conditioned, their windows cannot be opened. They are also more expensive, but more comfortable, especially on long journeys. Fares start at around 11 baht. You will have to tell the conductor where you are going, and pay the according fare.
Orange AC ‘EU’ buses
These buses are practically the same as the blue/white AC buses. The difference is that these buses expose less pollution to the environment. They are also more expensive.
There are also microbuses, which are run by private companies. With the fare at a flat rate of 25 B, they guarantee every passenger comfort by taking no more passengers when the seats are full.
Buses all have route numbers listed on front and side, and the places on their route listed near their doors. However, since the place names are generally in Thai, it is best to be sure of the number you need. You can find out the route number by asking around, or by calling the bus hotline, which also provides and English language service. If you are still not sure, ask the conductor of the bus, they will be able to help you. However, please be patient, as not all conductors speak English and it is a good idea to have a map handy (as a visual aid) when you go out and about.
Notes for Buses in Thailand
- Buses in Thailand do not run to a strict timetable. You will have to wait at the bus stop until your bus arrives. It may take up to 20 minutes.
- Be aware of the destination sign in the front left passenger-side window of the bus. The usual color is white. If it is red, it means the bus does not travel the whole route. If you are not sure whether it will go to your destination, ask the conductor or wait for the next bus. Buses take time. Before traveling by bus, ask your Thai friends how long it will take to get to your destination. Don’t forget to tell them the number of bus you are taking and what time you are going, as the time you spend on the bus will depend on these two things.
- You will not be able to take strong smelling substances, such as durian, on air-conditioned buses. If you do have something like this, you will have to take an ‘open air’ bus (or wrap it in about three layers of plastic, and hide it from view).
If you’d rather commute by taxi, the best way is to get a “taxi-meter”. Other taxis require that you bargain with them. Metered taxis start at 35B. Make sure that the driver has his meter on. Drivers may try to coerce foreign passengers into paying a very expensive flat rate (100B or more). Also, it is common for some drivers to refuse to provide service to passengers travelling a long distance (they make less money), or travelling at rush hour (especially around 3:00–4:00 p.m. when their shift is almost over). If you need to travel at these times, offering extra money or accepting a flat fee (you can bargain), may be necessary.
The most modern and fastest way to get around Bangkok is by the Skytrain. It is easy to reach the terminal by river taxi and buses. Once you get on the Skytrain you will have an enjoyable air-conditioned ride high above the city streets. Fares start at 15 B and increase by distance. Route maps can be found in the International Office and at Skytrain stations.
The ever-popular Thai motor tricycles are fun to ride in but could be dangerous as many drivers are careless and reckless and the traffic is unpredictable. If possible, when you ride in a tuk-tuk only go for short distances and off the main roads. You will need to bargain – a good starting price is 20-30 B.
These are in great demand during peak traffic hours since they will get you to places where cars cannot and they are much faster. Motorbike taxis (“motocyes”) can be found at the top of many sois, “little streets”. Although this is a convenient and popular form of transportation, the passenger risks the chance of being injured (again, carelessness and traffic). Helmets for both the driver and passenger are required by law. Again, bargaining will be necessary.
If you wish to travel via Chao Praya River there are two available lines: the Chao Praya Express and the Laemthong Express. Boat fares vary by the distance traveled. This is also an interesting and inexpensive recreational activity. It’s the best way to go to places like Silom, Sathorn, Sukhumvit, Siam by connecting to skytrain at Taksin. A map and routing information can be found in the International Office.