Where to Go
Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport is serviced by airlines from around the world. Consequently it’s possible to fly directly to Bangkok from nearly any major city on Earth. Even those who arrive in Bangkok via bus or train will have no problem getting around once in the city. Despite Bangkok’s sprawling size and its reputation for horrendous traffic, Bangkok now features several electric rail systems that, along with tens of thousands of taxis and fleets of public and private busses, make it easier than ever to explore Bangkok’s sights and get from hotels to cultural attractions, shopping districts, restaurants, and entertainment venues.
At present, the only standard train service to Bangkok is via the Malaysian border town of Butterworth. Travelers from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur can travel by train to Bangkok, but not without stopping to change trains. The journey from Singapore can last up to 48 hours as two changes of trains are required and there are numerous stops along the way to Bangkok.
First class sleeper cars can make a train trip to Bangkok more enjoyable, though comfort and convenience come at a price; one can travel the Eastern & Oriental Express, a throw-back colonial-style luxury train that services Butterworth and Bangkok on a once weekly schedule.
Visitors can travel by bus to Bangkok from Thailand’s neighboring countries with varying levels of ease.
From Malaysia, one can cross by bus into Thailand through various border checkpoints in Songkhla, Yala, and Narathiwat provinces, although most busses will head to the hub of bus travel into, out of, and around southern Thailand, Hat Yai. From Hat Yai there are direct busses to Bangkok.
Most busses from Laos originate in Vientiane and cross the Mekong River to the Thai border town of Nong Khai, where it is possible to arrange for a bus transfer to Bangkok.
The primary route on a Cambodian bus to Thailand is across the border at the respective towns of Poipet and Aranyaprathet. From Aranyaprathet one can easily arrange bus or minibus transport to Bangkok.
Bangkok serves as a major international hub for air travel, with the new Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK) hosting over 40 million visitors and transit passengers each year. Dozens of domestic and international air carriers bring passengers to Bangkok from most major cities in Asia, Europe, North America, and Australia.
In addition to outstanding dining and shopping, the Suvarnabhumi Airport features a transportation center that provides visitors with easy transfer from the airport to destinations throughout the kingdom as well as rail, bus, taxi, and limousine service to all districts in the Bangkok metropolitan area. The city center is only 30 kilometers west of the airport and features a new electric rail line that provides easy access to the city center.
The former primary airport, Don Muang, located 20 kilometers north of the city center, no longer services international flights, functioning as a minor domestic airport and airstrip for charter flights to and from Bangkok.
Public buses are plentiful and cheap, with a minimum fare of 7 baht between most destinations within metropolitan Bangkok. Air-conditioned buses have minimum and maximum fares of 10 and 22 baht, respectively. Air-conditioned micro-buses charge a flat fare of 25 baht for all routes. A bus route map is available at bookshops and the TAT office. Visit www.bmta.co.th for more information on Bangkok’s public buses.
All 30,000+ taxis cruising Bangkok city streets are metered and are required by law to use them. If a taxi offers you a fixed-price fare politely ask to use the meter. If not, then flag down another taxi. In general, parked taxis will ask for fixed fares while those already driving will generally use the meter. Taxis using the meter charge a minimum of 35 baht for the first 3 kilometers, and approximately 5 baht per kilometer thereafter. Make sure you have change as taxi drivers often don’t! Passengers must pay tolls in the case of using an expressway, though drivers will occasionally pay these tolls and then expect reimbursement on arrival.
By Tuk Tuk:
These three-wheeled, open-air, motorized taxis are popular for short journeys. Fares must be bargained in advance and are typically higher than for taxis and higher for foreigners than for Thais. The minimum fare for a journey of up to 3 kilometers is generally 30-40 baht. Be aware that some tuk tuks around popular tourist venues like the Grand Palace are involved in scams, so beware of tuk tuk drivers telling you that certain tourist sights are closed or that there is a special sale occurring “today only”. Remember the old adage, “there is no such thing as a free ride”, and you should be fine.
By Motorbike Taxi:
Here and there throughout the city are congregations of motorbike drivers wearing brightly colored vests. For anywhere between 10 and 30 baht these speedy taxis will weave in and out of traffic, occasionally on the wrong side of the road, to get you where you need to be. It’s certainly the fastest way to get around the city, but also the most dangerous. Technically, you are required by law to wear a helmet, but many motorbike taxis do not have them available for you and police rarely enforce the law on visiting passengers.
By BTS Sky Train:
The above-ground, electric BTS sky train has two lines that travel above Sukhumvit, Silom, Sathorn, and Phahonyothin roads. The routes connect Bangkok’s leading hotels and major shopping areas such as Siam Square, Silom Road, Ratchaprasong, and Chatuchak Weekend Market. The fare ranges from 15-60 baht according to the distance. The trains run from 6 a.m. to midnight, daily.
The BTS Sky Train has transfer points with the MRT Subway at Asoke/Sukhumvit, Sala Daeng/Silom, and Mo Chit/Chatuchak Park. The BTS Sky Train also has a transfer points with the Chao Phraya River Boats at Saphan Thaksin/Sathorn and Bangkok’s Eastern and Northern Bus Terminals at Ekkamai and Mo Chit respectively. For more information, contact the Bangkok Mass Transit System at tel: 0 2617 7300 or visit www.bts.co.th <
By MRT Subway (Metro):
The city’s subway system, or MRT, connects many of the top tourist attractions with various accommodation areas, markets, and business districts. Fares range from 14 to 36 baht. The trains run from 6 a.m. to midnight, daily. The MRT Subway has transfer points with the BTS Sky Train at Sukhumvit/Asoke, Silom/Sala Daeng, and Chatuchak Park/Mo Chit. It also services the Bangkok Train Station, Hua Lumphong. For more information, visit www.bangkokmetro.co.th
Free from the traffic jams that clog Bangkok’s roads on a daily basis, river taxis service the Chao Phraya River and numerous klongs (canals) around the city. Some are just river crossing ferries, but others service the many landing stages on both banks of the Chao Phraya and cover routes that go up as far as the northern suburb of Nonthaburi. Klong boats run the back “alleys” of Bangkok, including Klong Sen Sab, which runs from the old city of Rattakosin near the temple mount to Sukhumvit Road where it runs parallel to Sukhumvit for many kilometers.
By Car Rental:
It’s not generally recommended to rent a car and drive around Bangkok as the traffic is dense and the expansive city is difficult to navigate. Throw in a few thousand motorbike taxis that frequently drive on the wrong side of the road (often into oncoming traffic) and you may wish to settle for a taxi or at least a car with a driver. If you wish to rent a car however, there are local and international rental car agencies with offices at both the airport and within the city center.
Be aware that only Commercial First Class Insurance provides full coverage on rental cars (as opposed to limited personal or third party only insurance). Most international car rental agencies will offer this insurance (some only for those with a valid international driver’s license) while local companies may or may not. You may wish to request a copy of their insurance policy and ensure that it states "For Commercial Use". Regardless, inspect rental vehicles prior to rental and drive with caution, particularly as traffic in Bangkok can be quite confusing.