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Bangkok Survival Guide - Transport

Bangkok

Getting around Bangkok is a challenge for new-comers.  This is a big subject and as you might notice from us, it tends to focus on bikes for transport primarily.
However in a capital city like Bangkok it’s not always suitable for biking all the time, sure we love it but it's not always ideal.  You can do it, but day-in-day-out riding can really get to be a pain.   I’ll go into this in more detail on this link below as there’s a whole raft of other options for the canny expat to choose from in Bangkok. See below.

Bangkok Taxi

Bangkok Taxi

The easiest, most convienient and usually comfortable.
Compared to some city’s Bangkok is a breeze for hailing a cab.  You make a gesture, he pulls over, you get in.
There’s aircon and comfy leather seats.  If he’s not already done so ask him to turn his meter on.  Some Thai taxi drivers still try the soft-scam of negotiating a price for the destination instead of relying on the meter.  This is against the law and if he doesn’t turn his meter on make a move to get out the cab straight away.   The chances are he’ll relent and turn it on.
Don’t take this personal or anything, you’re in Thailand now and the ‘rules’ you may be used to back home aren’t the same here.
Taxi’s in Bangkok are either green and yellow, blue and red, or occasionally pink!  These all represent the different factions of taxi’s in Bangkok and they are the big three that operate.
A lot of the taxi drivers are from the provinces, often the north-east / Isaan.  Some of them are great guys to talk to and if you speak Thai they will really start talking and build up rapport.

Taxi Bike

Bangkok Taxi Bikers

You see these guys in the busy Soi’s mostly.  They are typically the most streetwise dudes you’ll encounter,  they normally have to pay bribes to the cops, fend for themselves and struggle to make ends meet.  Hard-living and womanising are often the creed of the Taxi-biker.  Actually with all the taxi-folk there's a more 'streetwise' and macho-vibe but Taxi-bikers are reckoned to be the most hardcore due to being poorer (generally) and living-on-the-edge (biking).
They are not reckless riders though, I’ve never felt threatened or in danger while riding with one.  They may have a family or a woman (or indeed women!) to support so a smashed up bike and injuries etc is not conducive  to a career in taxi-biking.

Bangkok Bikers

All fares must be negotiated before-hand with these guys, don’t be afraid to haggle if they quote you a silly price.  I can’t give you a firm guide for what’s a good price but if one wants 200 baht for going to the end of the soi you’re being ripped off (unless it’s a honking long soi that runs for miles that is!).
The price will increase in rush-hour in some areas and if the journey is too far or into an area the biker isn’t familiar with they may well refuse to go.   These folks operate best in their ‘home’ district that they are used to.

Tuk Tuk

Tuk Tuk Bangkok!

Everyones heard or seen these things.  LPG propelled wonder Trikes with a vibrant Thai flavour.
Their owners and taxi-operators are often as outlandish and wild as the Tuk Tuk itself.
They can seat more than a bike comfortably and in more safety. 
But you’re as open to the road smog as a bike with slight shelter from the elements (although some tuk tuks do have side canopy’s for a downpour.
Less manouverable than a bike also, for a one-off experience they are worth a blast down the streets of Bangkok.
Fares are roughly the same as a taxi.  For Thais it works out to be a bit cheaper due to the farang effect.

Motorbike

Our favourite method of transport. Usually the cheapest way to get around most of Bangkok. You jump on, zip through traffic and get to where you want to go, find a place to park and your done. Not for the faint-hearted, especially in rush-hour. Farang's who can handle Bangkok's busy streets are few and far between. If you can hack it then you are one of the select few. With good reason, the roads in Bangkok are more aggressive and cut-throat than anywhere in Europe or the USA. Elsewhere in Asia only India can compare to Thailand's capital. Although big bikes are commonplace (compared to elsewhere in Thailand) they can be a pain to weave and get through the gridlocked traffic. Anything 250cc and below is optimal, with scooters and mopeds excelling.

For a guide on Motorbike ownership in Thailand then click here now.

 

Skytrain - BTS

Now we’re talking!   The Skytrain in Bangkok can really be a boon during rushhour in the capital.
It zips above the traffic below and you feel like there’s just a hint of blade-runner about it.
The mono-rail system officially called the BTS cost a pretty penny to build but it’s been going strong for about ten years now.
It costs slightly less than a taxi would and the air-con keeps you cool enough.   From about 2008 BTS stations and trains introduced LCD TVs blaring out pop-music and annoying adverts.  These are, for the most part, a pain in the neck and detracts some of the appeal from it.
The main drawback to the Skytrain is that it only covers a small fraction of central Bangkok.  It was projected to be a city-wide mega-project that would link Don Muang airport with Bangkok Central.  Alas, the ill-fated economic crash of 1997 put paid to those lofty plans.  The concrete piles that were sunk into the ground are a reminder of what could of been.
 However, despite the short-fall, the skytrain in Bangkok is complemented by it’s bigger, underground brother... The MRT!

For more info on the BTS click here.

The Subway – MRT

This major city project was completed in 2004 and bridged the mass-transit gulf between the Skytrain (which some had considered a white elephant) and the car driving masses.
The Subway system is comphrensive.  Benefitting from the recovery of the Thai economy the Bangkok Metro runs like a ring around the upper northern fringes of Bangkok and down to the center with it linking up at prime areas like Asok and Phahon Yothin.
The prices here are cheap and the aircon, as can be expected from something subterranean and more up-to-date, is superior to the Skytrain.
It is slightly slower in speed and journey time though.

For more info on the MRT - Metro click here.

In Bangkok Traffic

The embedded video above shows a fairly typical scene in Bangkoks inner-city traffic.

You can see a more in-depth account of Bangkok Traffic by clicking here

 
 

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