The full name of Thailand’s capital is “Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit”. It means “The city of angels, the great city, the residence of the Emerald Buddha, the impregnable city (unlike Ayutthaya) of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn.” For short is it called Krung Thep by the locals.
Most other people know the city as Bangkok. The metropol is home to more than 10 million people if you include the suburbs. Bangkok is also the hottest city in the world, with an annual average temperature of 34 degrees Celsius. But it can be much warmer in the concrete jungle.
Bangkok is a large city, and traffic jams are too common. It is therefore recommended to choose a hotel located near the places you want to visit. Bangkok has over 70,000 hotel beds, and you will find everything from hostels to boutique hotels to five star serviced apartments. Some good websites to find hotels are Tripadvisor.com, Hotels.com and Booking.com.
Bangkok has several public transport companies, and each one of them have individual ticket systems. Link to Bangkok Transport website HERE.
ARL – Airport Rail Link
ARL is a rail service from Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport to the city. The station is in the basement of the terminal building. Maps show non-stop express routes from Suvarnabhumi Airport to Makkasan and Phaya Thai, but they are no longer in use. So the train stops at every station. Despite this, ARL is the fastest way to travel from Suvarnabhumi to downtown Bangkok, especially in the rush hour. For example does it take 25 minutes to travel to Makkasan station.
Tickets cost from 15 bath to 45 baht. The ticket machines accepts take coins and bank notes up to 100 baht.
It can be inconvenient to travel with large bags. The train is often full of locals commuting to and from work. The reliability is not 100 %, and sometimes is the service postponed for some hours.
Tip: When travelling from the city to Suvarnabhumi Airport is it beneficial to start at the first station – Phaya Thai. Then you will have a seat. When the train arrives Makkasan station is it already full.
BTS Sky Train
The Sky Train is a train service elevated above the streets. There are two lines, Sukhumvit and Silom, and they are connected at Siam Station. The stations may not have escalators or elevator at all entrances. It is therefore difficult to travel with heavy bags. The trains can be very full at rush hours, but is still more efficient than cars and taxis, which are stuck in Bangkok’s notorious traffic jam.
Tickets cost from 15 to 52 baht, depending on the number of stations. A day pass costs 130 baht. Many ticket machines accepts only coins. It is therefore a good idea to collect coins before you travel with the Sky Train.
MRT – the Metro
There are two underground lines; the second starts where the first ends. The system is modern and efficient. Every entrance to the stations are elevated a few steps to prevent flooding. This makes it a little harder to travel with heavy bags. The metro can be very full at rush hours, but it is still the most comfortable and efficient mode of transport, because the stations are air conditioned.
Tickets cost from 16 baht. The ticket machines accepts take coins and bank notes up to 100 baht.
There are nearly 100,000 taxis in Bangkok, and 99 % of them are Toyota Corolla. Taxis can be found almost everywhere. Available taxis display a red or green “ว่าง” light in the windshield. “ว่าง” is pronounced “wang” and means free or empty.
Bangkok’s taxis are cheap, because the rates are set by the government. Another reason is that the cars are running on natural gas, which is promoted by the government with a very low tax. Unfortunately does the extra gas tank occupy half of the space in the trunk, so there’s little space left for bags. At Suvarnabhumi Airport is there a line for passengers with large bags. They will get taxis with better baggage capacity.
Starting price is 35 baht. 10 km costs 100 baht. 25 km costs 200 baht. Extra charges that must be paid to the driver are:
- Taxi from the airport: 50 baht.
- Taxi booked by phone: 20 or 25 baht.
- Tollway charges.
If a driver refuses to carry you or to use the meter, call Passenger Protection Center on telephone number 1584 and make a complaint. The driver may loose his authorization because of this.
Thailand’s charming tuk-tuks are iconic. Despite Bangkok’s hot and polluted streets, you should try a tuk-tuk ride at least once, just for the experience. Some hotels offer free tuk-tuk rides to and from main roads for their guests. Commercial tuk-tuks are more expensive than taxis, because the drivers can charge whatever he wants. Remember to agree about the price before you start the journey.
You may be offered a free or discounted ride if you accept to be taken to a shop where you are offered over-priced goods at a “discounted price valid only for today”. The tuk-tuk driver receives commission from the sales.
At many street corners, especially near bus stops and rail stations, will you see a group of bikers with orange wests. They are the local taxi service.
Motorbikes are convenient, because they can negotiate traffic jams effectively. But the passenger should not be faint-hearted, because the margin between the passenger’s kneecaps and the cars are minimal!
Starting price is 10, 15 or 20 baht. The rates are, or should be, shown on a poster.
Bangkok was formerly known as Venice of the East. The old city had numerous canals, and most of the transport took place via the waterway. Today are most of Bangkok’s canals filled and covered with asphalt.
There are two boat services in Bangkok:
- Chao Phraya Express: Chao Phraya is the main river flowing through the city. There are three lines, and the fare is between 13 and 29 baht.
- Khlong Boats: There are two lines on some of the main canals, and the fare is between 10 and 20 baht. The boats start operating at sunrise, and the last departure is between 19:30 and 20:00.
There are four types of buss services in Bangkok.
- Normal bus routes. Some of the buses are old and lacking air conditioned. They are recognized by their open windows. New buses are air conditioned.
- BRT, a single line in Sathon district. The buses have their own lane and are therefore not affected by traffic jams.
- Mini-busses, which are vans driven by aspiring Formula 1 champions.
- Bath-busses, which are pick-up trucks converted for carriage of passengers.
Locals do their best to avoiding walking in the streets, because of the heat and the pollution. You should to the same. Taxis are easy to find, and busses are frequent. And don’t forget to stay hydrated.
Be careful when you cross the streets. Drivers in Bangkok may not stop for pedestrians, even at zebra crossings. There are walkways over major streets, and in some central areas will you find “Sky Walk” – elevated walkways.