Ultimate Guide To Transportations In Bangkok Thailand
Having lived in Bangkok for a few years now, I’ve taken every mode of transport available, and I will share with you what to expect, based on my experience, when to use any of these transportations, how much each will cost you, and when to take certain transportation over the other.
I take the Taxi the most when getting around Bangkok, but bear in mind that it could be the hardest to take if you are new to Thailand. I will explain why below.
Grab: The Asian version of Uber
The most accessible mode of transportation is using an app called Grab. Most likely, you will already know how it works as it is similar to Uber. Uber was once available here in Thailand, but since 2017, Uber is not in service anymore; not just in Thailand, but all of the Southeast Asian countries. You can download the Grab app in the App Store or Google Play by searching for “Grab”. The app is in English so you’ll find your way around it with ease. There’s a feature within the app where the driver can chat with you, and it will translate every text for you: Thai to English and vice versa for them.
It’s very convenient to use Grab, but it is one of the most expensive modes of transport. The fare is fixed and will be displayed on the app; it will not go up or down during your travel. For a 10km travel, it will cost you around 220 baht (about USD 7) depending on traffic. Yes, $7 is nothing, but it does add up if you use Grab all the time.
You shouldn’t always rely on Grab, however, as you may run into some issues such as long wait times. Almost all the time, when you request a Grab, the accepting driver is a few blocks away. A few blocks in Bangkok is a lot because of the dreadful traffic. So if you’re in a hurry, Grab may not be the best mode of transportation to take.
Taxi: It’s everywhere, but be careful
Taxis, when used correctly, is very cheap in Thailand. For a 10km travel, it will cost you around 120 baht (about USD 3.80). You will see taxis everywhere and you can just hold out your arm on the side of the road to request for one quickly. A quick tip: look out for the green light on the bottom right of the windshield of the taxi. The green light indicates that the Taxi is empty.
It’s hard taking a taxi if you’re new to Thailand. Here’s why:
- Most drivers are old and they speak very little English, if at all.
- Again most drivers are old, and they don’t know how to use a GPS like Google Maps.
- If you can’t speak Thai, some (but not all) will try to scam you.
After calling a taxi, you will have to tell the driver where to go. In my experience 30% of the time they will reject you because they are picky about where they want to go especially when they have to do U-turns. The hard part is telling the driver where to go. If it’s a famous landmark/building, they may know right away where to go. But oftentimes they will not be able to pick up your accent, and you’ll have to repeat the name of your destination multiple times. It can get very frustrating.
If a taxi driver demands a flat rate, rather than by meter, it’s not always a scam. The only 3 situations a taxi driver will ask you to pay a flat rate are:
- You are at the airport and you get a taxi that isn’t from the Taxi Service desk. Scam.
- During peak hours there’s usually heavy traffic and the taxi driver asks for a flat rate. Not a Scam(-ish).
- Every other time the driver asks for a flat rate the moment you speak English. Scam.
At the airport, go to the Taxi Service desk where you’ll get a queue ticket. If you don’t go to the Taxi Service desk and you just go straight out, you are on your own. 99% of the time, the taxi drivers will ask for a flat rate and give you a BS excuse such as the meter not working or it’s much cheaper to pay the flat rate than turning the meter on. Don’t fall for this.
During peak hours, most taxi drivers will ask for a flat rate even to the locals. This happens because they earn very little while sitting in traffic. Sometimes they ask for an absurd amount especially if you’re a foreigner. The only time you can tell if you are being overpriced is when you’ve travelled the same route before and know how much it costs on meter. You may end up haggling with the driver to lower the flat rate. My suggestion: If they ask for a flat rate, don’t even bother haggling, let them go and get another taxi. Based on my experience, 1 out of 4 taxis will allow for metered travel during peak hours. Some taxi drivers just don’t want to haggle, I guess.
Train: BTS / MRT / Airport Link
During peak hours, depending on where you want to go, the fastest way is to take the train system. There are a few train systems in Bangkok, but we’ll just refer to all of them as BTS as that’s the most common train system. It’s relatively cheap to take the BTS. Fares vary from 15 to about 50 baht depending on the distance.
Of course, you can’t always take the BTS as the stops may not be within your route especially if you’re only traveling a short distance. One thing to note is that you can’t eat or drink inside the trains. That may be a deal breaker if you like sipping on milk tea, for example, while commuting.
Bus: It’s a hit or miss
If you’re in an area where there are no BTS stations nearby, and you want to save your precious baht by not taking a taxi or Grab, then taking the bus may be a valid option.
Buses are really cheap. Fares will vary on the type of bus you take:
- An air-conditioned bus will cost about 13 baht (about USD 0.42).
- A non-air-conditioned, open window, wooden floor, smog-producing bus will cost you around 7 baht (about 0.22 USD).
Very cheap right? Now here’s the problem. You may not know the route of the bus you’re taking. You can find some info on Google Maps, but there are times when, based on my experience, the information there is inaccurate. You also won’t see any routing maps on bus stops as you do in your home country. You will have to ask someone if a bus goes to your desired destination. Good luck with that.
Tuk Tuks: Good experience, bad for the wallet
You’ve probably heard that tuk-tuks are a must for any foreigner visiting Thailand – and it is. You need to experience them at least once during your stay here in Thailand. Tuk-tuks can get very expensive compared to the other modes of transport as most of the time their customers are foreigners.
Based on my experience, a tuk-tuk ride from Central World or Siam Mall to Khao San road (about 7km) will net you somewhere between 300-500 baht (about USD 10-16) depending on your negotiation skills. Sure, USD $16 is nothing, but it does add up if all you’re taking around Bangkok are tuk-tuks.
Motorbike Taxis: Good for short distance commute
One good option for when you are in a hurry and just want to cut through traffic is by taking the motorbike taxis. You may find that the first time you ride one of these can be terrifying. The drivers will speed through traffic like there’s no tomorrow. Of course, they are careful about it, but that’s subjective to what you’re used to in your home country.
Like taxis, most drivers of these motorbike taxis are old men. Most are not able to speak English, and if they do, most of the time you will not be able to pick up their thick accent.
There’s no telling how much these really cost. It’s up to the driver. And like most things in Thailand, they will try to earn more from a foreigner.