Modes of Transportation in Bangkok
For all its beauty—or perhaps because of its beauty—Bangkok has the unfortunate lot of falling into the top 10 cities in the world with the worst traffic. Fortunately, Bangkok has several modes of transportation you can choose from. Depending on what you want—cheap fare, speed, comfort, or sights—there’s a vehicle just for you in Bangkok.
River Express Boat
The River Express Boat is the best way to skip the jampacked traffic in Bangkok. It surely helps that the view of the city from the Chao Phraya River seems to be the most picturesque. As the boat merrily plies along the river, you will be treated to a stunning view of the Temple of the Dawn, the Grand Palace, the Wat Po, among others. For many tourists, taking in the city views while leisurely riding in a boat is the best way to understand why Bangkok has historically been called the “Venice of the East.”
Bangkok taxis are air-conditioned and equipped with a meter which charges you by the distance travelled so you don't have to worry about haggling. Comfort is its major advantage. Some say Bangkok taxis are some of the cheapest in the world. However, at night, when the traffic is at its worst, the fare is often charged by the trip and can be horrendously expensive. Taxi drivers are some of the pleasantest in the world, too, and with a fairly good grasp of English. Here’s a tip: in hailing a taxi, do not wave, as Westerners do, but turn your palm down—it’s the polite thing to do in Bangkok.
Riding in a train high above ground makes for a comfortable, traffic-free way to get around Bangkok city. It offers a good bird’s eye view of Bangkok while being economical, fast and pollution-free. It also carries you to strategic points like malls and most hotels. However, during before- and after-office rush hours, the train can be very crowded.
The tuk-tuk is the most Thai vehicle you can find. Colorful, ingeniously built by outfitting a motorcycle with a passenger cubicle behind, it is the vehicle of choice when you’re carrying some goods or have company and want to navigate through tight city streets fast. The tuk-tuk does slither through traffic much faster than a taxi. The downside though is that fare prices are not fixed and your haggling skills can put to rigorous tests. Then too, it is very rare to find tuk-tuk drivers who know English well.
The motorcycle taxi is simply motorcycle. Its foremost and sole advantage is speed. It’s the meanest, fastest vehicle on the road, snaking its way through even the most frantic rush hours. If you do not want to be sunburned and if you are concerned of safety, this is not for you. I repeat, this is only for those who want speed.
Bangkok is teeming with buses which offer you the cheapest fares you can find. There are even buses which take you to next destination free. However, for first-timers in the city, going by bus is not feasible as the bus goes by pre-set routes. You do not have the privilege of asking for directions from drivers as you have with tuk-tuks and taxis. You also have to contend with the traffic and the heat.