Getting Around Bangkok Like A Local

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Published: March 28, 2020

Bangkok’s public transport system is ever evolving, and there is a myriad of ways to get around the Thai capital. In fact, it may deservedly be a city that’s famed internationally for its gridlocked roads and for blessing its residents with the world’s longest commutes, but often there’s an alternative to sitting in a traffic jam.


Getting under the skin of the various ways to get around can be a real challenge, though – especially when it comes to the likes of buses. Whether you’re based in Thailand long-term or are passing through on a trip, this is your cheat sheet to help you use all the various forms of public transport to navigate Bangkok like a local.

Taxis in Bangkok

Bangkok taxis - photo by Oleg Sidorenko

Bangkok’s multicoloured taxis – cheap, seemingly everywhere, and generally comfortable – are the obvious choice, especially for those fresh off a plane who have yet to get their bearings. That said, the state of the car and the driving style of the person behind the wheel can vary dramatically.

Taxis are metered, starting at 35 baht and with the fare rising incrementally based on distance – some taxis, which have passed checks put in place by authorities as part of a phased fare increase, are authorised to charge slightly higher (but still metered) rates.

Taxis are easily found 24 hours a day. Usually it’s easy to hail one down on the street, although if it is raining or rush hour this can be a different story.

Warning: There are rogue drivers who refuse to turn on their meters. Our best advice in that situation is to simply refuse the driver or, if you’re already in the taxi, then get out and hail another cab. It is worth noting that and really busy days like New Years Eve it may be very difficult to find a taxi that uses the meter!

Use a Taxi app like GRAB

A number of call centre and smartphone app services also operate in Thailand, allowing you to book either a public taxi or a private vehicle at similar rates (more below). The most used taxi app in Thailand is GRAB, and can be used to call regular taxi’s, private cars, minivans motorbike taxis…… However, the price on GRAB can vary hugely depending on supply and demand!

The Bangkok Tuk Tuk Experience

Bangkok tuk tuk - photo by Didier Baertschiger

Tuk tuks are the quintessential Thai form of transport that every visitor to Bangkok wants to try once. In truth, except for that novelty trip they’re not widely used by locals – except perhaps for market vendors and street food vendors lugging bulky loads of goods to and from the local market. That’s not to say it’s not worth jumping in a tuk tuk – it’s an experience you should try while you’re here! However, it’s one that’s best done either for a short hop or on a route where you know the fair price to pay.

Tuk tuks are available pretty much around the clock. Tuk tuks aren’t metered, so be sure to agree on a fare before you climb aboard, and expect to haggle hard. If you are picking a tuk tuk up in a touristy area you are likely to be quoted a “tourist price”.

You may be surprised that tuk tuks are usually a little bit more expensive than taxis. Generally a ride will start at about 50THB and go up to about 100THB if you are going about 15 min. If you try to negotiate per hour we would say approx 200THB per hour is a fair rate.

Be wary, too, of tuk tuk who tell you the place you want to go is closed or approach you offering a tour (sometimes at an unrealistically cheap fare). There are scams in Bangkok and while you might get an inexpensive or free tour of the city, but you’re also likely to spend at least part of the day touring a (fake) gem warehouse and being pressured into making a purchase.

Take a tuk tuk tour of Bangkok

Better still, avoid all of this by getting your tuk tuk experience on an organised Tuk Tuk Tour of Bangkok with us or rent a tuk tuk using our service. While you may be able to pick up a tuk tuk cheaper on the streets (or even be offered a free tour that stops at gem shops), we can guarantee a reliable and transparent experience using our regular drivers and licensed tour guides for tours.


Motorbike Taxi: The Fastest Way to Get Around Bangkok

Bangkok motorbike taxi - photo by Mark Fischer

Motorbike taxis operate with a group of drivers (known as a “Win”), with their drivers found clustered at the end of streets in their easily recognisable bright orange vests, are among Bangkokians’ favourite ways to get around the city. They’re cheap, fast and available around the clock (though in far fewer numbers late at night). Best of all, they can easily beat the traffic!

However, this doesn’t mean they’re safe, and you should wear a helmet whenever you can (easier said than done, as most drivers don’t carry a spare one for their passengers). You ride pillion behind the driver, either straddled across the seat or with your legs to one side (a more ladylike but frankly petrifying position that many Thai women adopt)/

Fares are regulated and are displayed on boards by the cluster of drivers, where you can also queue for a ride at peak times. But if it’s not a route you know, or if you hail down a driver along the road, it can be worth double-checking the price before you set off. Generally rides start at 15 or 20THB and go up quickly. As an indication expect the price to go up approx 20THB for each additional BTS station you pass and if you are going a long way it may prove much more expensive than a taxi!

You can also call a motorbike taxi using Grab app (details above)

BTS Skytrain in Bangkok

Bangkok BTS - photo by Shinji

If your destination is connected with a Skytrain station then this can be the most convenient way of getting around Bangkok. The BTS is is know as The Skytrain as it is an elevated train that cruises above the city’s congested roads. The two lines, known as the Sukhumvit and Silom lines, run between Kasetsart and Kheka stations and National Stadium and Bang Wa stations respectively, and connect at the Siam interchange station.

They cover many of Bangkok’s downtown attractions but are a long way from offering comprehensive connections elsewhere in the city, for tourists most notably to the old town of Rattanakosin island and Banglamphu. Bangkok’s transit systems are growing fast and by connecting to another system it is possible to get most places. There are also connections with the MRT Subway, the Airport Rail Link, the BRT special bus route, and the Chaophraya xpress river boat.

Buy a ticket for the Skytrain at one of the self-service machines at the station entrance – some newer and larger machines now accept small denominations of banknotes, but most still only take coins; you can get change (but not always buy single-journey tickets) at the counters next to the ticket barriers. Journey costs run from 16 up to 59 baht depending on the number of stations you are travelling through. You can also purchase one-day unlimited-use tickets for 140 baht, or purchase or top up a stored-value Rabbit card; these offer discounts if you purchase a fixed number of journeys in advance, or provide convenience (by allowing you to skip the ticket machines) but no discounts if you simply top up a cash amount. You will need to show ID to get a Rabbit card and pay a deposit for the card.

The BTS runs from 5.15am onwards (the timing of the first train depends on the station, and ticket/change counters don’t open until 6am so before then you’ll need to have change for the coin-operated machines); the service winds down around midnight, with last trains departing just beforehand or just afterwards depending on the station. 

For full details on the routes, tickets and timetables, check out the official website of the BTS https://www.bts.co.th/eng/index.html

MRT Subway

Bangkok MRT - photo by nist6dh

Much like the BTS, the air-conditioned MRT is a welcome addition to Bangkok’s transport scene, and it is quickly expanding it’s lines.  The MRT also has a number of interchanges with the BTS so combing these allows you to get to many places.

The two lines, known as the Blue line and the Purple line. The Blue line is the oroginal line but has just been extended. It runs between Lak Song (via Hualumpong) and Tao Poon stations. Possibly the most important stations to know on this line are Sanam Chai (if visiting attractions in Rattanakosin area), Hualumpong, Silom (to connect to BTS at Saladaeng), Sukhumvut station.

The purple line goes between Tao Poon and Khlong Bang Phai stations, and connects to the blue line at at the Tao Poon interchange station. The blue-line subway runs from Bang Sue in the north to Hualamphong in the south.

Ticketing is much the same as for the BTS, except that you can choose whether to purchase your ticket from a machine or from the ticket counters next to the gates. Fares run between 15 and 42 baht. Like the BTS, a top-up card offers convenience to buy credits and provides savings if recharged on a monthly basis, when it provides unlimited travel for the period purchased. The MRT runs from 6am to midnight, but note that stations begin to close from 11.30pm onwards. 


Chau Phraya River – Express Boats

Bangkok boat - photo by Fabio Achilli

A number of Chaophraya Express boats ply the river. They’re distinguished by the colour of the flags flown from the back of the boat.

Local Boats

The local orange-flagged boat that stops at most piers between Nonthaburi and Wat Rajsingkorn temple and costs a flat-rate 15 baht per journey. In rush hour it can be hard to get a seat.

Another option is and the ultra-local flagless commuter boat that runs only at peak times but serves all piers between Nonthaburi and Wat Rajsingkorn (with fares between 8 and 12 baht that vary depending on the distance travelled).

Tourist Boats

The blue-flagged “Chao Phraya Express” tourist boat travels more quickly, stops at fewer piers (between Sathorn and Phra Athit only) and provides English-language commentary on major attractions, costing 60 baht for a single trip or 200baht for unlimited (hop-on-hop-off) all-day travel. For details visit their website https://chaophrayatouristboat.com/

An alternative company called Boat4U offering an almost identical option with a full day hop-on-hop-off ticket.


Getting around by river boat

All boats serve the central Sathorn pier, connected to Saphan Taksin station on the Skytrain’s Silom line; other piers useful for visitors include Phra Athit for the Rattanakosin island and Banglamphu areas (including backpacker enclave Khao San Road), Tha Chang for the Grand Palace, Tha Tien for Wat Pho, Ratchawong for the Chinatown area of Yaowarat, and Yodpiman for the Pak Khlong Talat flower market. With the exception of rush-hour-only boats, most operate between around 6am and sunset. Convenient cross-river ferries also connect sights on opposite banks of the water, and usually only cost a few baht.


Commuting by Canal Ferry (including San Saeb Canal)

Bangkok used to be known as “The Venice of The East” due to the vast network of canals, and this used to be the main way to commute. Nowadays, many of the canals have been filled in or hardly used.

The main canal that is still used for commuting is the San Saeb Canal and which connects the Sukhumvit Road area (almost as far as the airport) with National Stadium and Rattanakosin Island. If you are staying on Sukhumvit Road this is a great way to get to the historic part of Bangkok. There are 2 lines and if you are going from Sukhumvit to Rattanakosin (Phan Fa) you will need to change at Pratunam Pier

People do comment that the San Saeb Canal is dirty and smelly but this is honestly one of the most local ways and sometimes quickest ways to explore. Plus it is very cheap (10-20THB)

There is also a tourist boat that operates (http://www.bangkokcanal.com/) but we feel the local boat is the authentic experience!

Getting Around by Bus in Bangkok

Bangkok bus - photo by Junpei Abe

Local buses

The humble bus is perhaps the most challenging forms of public transport for visitors to Bangkok to use, such is the sheer number of different routes and types of bus available. That’s not helped by the fact that they’re a slow way to get around, most buses have their destinations written only in Thai, and that most bus stops are in a poor state of repair and often have outdated information posted on them. But buses are cheap – some are free, while many run as low as seven baht and few cost more than 20 baht – and they cover almost the entire city, making them worth getting to know if you have the time.

The most famous route , and first route in Bangkok, is the Number 1 bus. This runs the length of Charoen Krung Road all the way to The Grand Palace!

Flag down a bus as it arrives (it likely won’t stop otherwise!), clamber onboard and take a seat – the conductor will come around to collect your fare, unless it happens to be a route offering free travel as part of a long-running government initiative (identifiable by a blue banner with white text running right along the bottom of the windscreen as seen from the outside). Fares on paid fan-cooled services are often fixed, but many air-con routes charge by the distance travelled, meaning you’ll need to tell the conductor where you are going. Many routes start at about 5am and begin to wind down after around 11pm; some run 24/7, though fares often increase (by no more than a baht or two) around 10pm.

BRT Bus Route

Bangkok BRT - photo by boonkumnoun

The BRT is a bus rapid transit system that so far offers one of five planned routes, running between Sathorn (close to Chong Nonsi BTS station) and Ratchaphruek. The buses that operate the route have their own lanes, allowing them to travel faster than other buses while not being obstructed by traffic. Fares range from 12 to 20 baht depending on the distance travelled; purchase a ticket from a machine before boarding. The BRT runs between 6am and midnight.


Walking, Bicycle or eScoota

Walking: Explore Bangkok by Foot

Like any city, it is possible to explore by food. While many people are turned off by the heat, traffic, pollution and relativey long distances between points of interested, we personally love exploring by foot.

You could pick up a map or a walking guide, or you can simply walk down a backstreet and see what real life is like.

If you are interested in a walking tour you could check our walking tour options out.

Bicycles in Bangkok

Bangkok is not the most bicycle friendly city and attempts for bicycle lanes have not been that successful. However, cycling is a growing trend among young people. If you are adventurous and want to explore by bicycle you are best to either going on a bicycle tour or rent a bike from a company that offers tours. There is a city bike share scheme called Pun Pun, but it honestly is not as simple as it should be to sign up.

eScooters in Bangkok

Just like many European countries, eScooters are new thing here in Thailand. While owning one can be expensive and troublesome to carry around, there are few companies from whom you can rent it and spend your good time travelling in Bangkok. Visitors can actually rent it around The Rattanakosin Island and explore many of the beautiful historic temples. To rent an eScooter, download an app name Scoota, register yourself and collect your eScooter at their pick up points. The fare is 20THB for unlock fee and additional 2THB per minute billed to your credit card. They also have a daily pass valid for 24 hours at a price of 299THB.  

Or if you are looking for an eScooter ride with a tour of Bangkok old town then do check out our eScooter Tours 


Photos by Oleg Sidorenko; Didier Baertschiger; Mark Fischer; Shinji; nist6dh; boonkumnoun; Fabio Achilli; Junpei Abe



Explore Bangkok with Expique

At Expique our mission is to help people discover the real Bangkok and the local cultures. We do this through a range of experiences including Food Tours, Walking Tours, Tuk Tuk Tours, Cooking Classes, and Market Experiences

Our Bestselling Experiences

• Check out our Award Winning ★  Bangkok Night Lights Tuk Tuk Tour
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