Transportation 101: Getting Around Bangkok Like a Local
Bangkok is one of the busiest and most hectic cities in the world. Many times Bangkok has been listed with the honour of having some of the worst traffic in the world. Thanks to the BTS skytrain and MRT subway, Bangkok residents no longer suffer in lengthy traffic jams like they used to, but these clean and modern transport systems aren’t the only way to beat the Bangkok traffic and get from A to B. Here are some other alternatives that locals use to get around Bangkok that you might not be aware of.
1. Saen Saeb Canal Boat
Built in 1837 on order of King Rama III to establish a water transport system for soldiers and weapons, today the Saen Saeb Canal or Klong Saen Saeb is one of the most convenient ways to travel across Bangkok despite the fact that the canal is notorious for its water pollution and bad smell. You will enjoy the view of inner Bangkok and get a peek at authentic locals' lifestyles.
The Klong Saen Saeb route begins in the Old Town at Pan Faa Lee Lart Pier, near the Golden Mountain Temple at the end of Ratchadamnoen Road, and runs all the way to Chachoengsao Province. It cuts through CBD areas like Phayathai, Pratunam, Chitlom, Nana, Asok Road, Thonglor, and Ekkamai.
Be mindful of the gap between the pier and the boat, and make sure that you hold the rail before hopping on to the boat. Once you are in the boat, don't forget to pull the plastic sheet up to protect yourself from the dirty water splashing up. Holding the plastic sheet up is a team effort. While maybe not the safest and most pleasant way to travel across Bangkok, it is extremely cheap, often faster than driving, and at the very least it will definitely give you a few thrills.
2. Bangkok Buses
Bus routes are extensive across Bangkok but it can be quite challenging for first timers to get used to them. You can find all the information on routes that you need from the BMTA website or simply ask the locals.
Even though the destinations on the side of the bus are written in Thai, you can hop on the right one by recognising the bus number and colour. You can confirm with the bus conductor before you pay.
There are some tips you should know before getting on a Bangkok bus. Avoid over-crowded buses or buses where you have to hang on to the doorway. If it’s crowded, it’s best to wait for another one to ensure your safety and avoid accidents. The typical bus fare is from 8 - 25 baht (USD$0.25 - USD$0.70), and smaller change is preferable. Paying with a large note might result in an unwelcome frown from the bus conductor's direction.
3. Chao Phraya Express Boats
Getting around by Chao Phraya Express boats may be one of the most wonderful and affordable experiences for you in Bangkok. Chao Phraya Express boats operate from Nonthaburi, a north-western suburb of Bangkok, to Asiatique in the heart of the city. It is a delightful opportunity to explore Bangkok by cruising the river as many major tourist attractions such as Wat Arun (the Temple of Dawn), the Grand Palace, Wat Po, the Royal Barge Museum, and Asiatique are found lining the route. Different coloured flags indicate that not all boats stop at the same stop. You can find out more about the colours of the flags, fares and timetables on the Chao Phraya Express website.
4. Motorcycle Taxis
Speaking about transport options in Bangkok, it's impossible NOT to mention motorcycle taxis. Most riders should be wearing bright orange vests that are issued by the government. Bikes can usually be found at the entrance of your street or soi. A motorcycle taxi stand is called a win in Thai. You will find wins scattered every few hundred metres around town.
The fare varies depending on the distance. Fares are often displayed on a large board at the win, but of course they are invariably written in Thai. The fares are usually negotiable, however there is an 'unspoken understanding' as to what fare is 'fair', so try to negotiate sensibly. Remember to always ask for a helmet before hopping on the bike.