mastercopycat

Virtual meanderings

Getting around in Bangkok

    I am wrapping up writing about Bangkok. Next post will be about the islands in the South. So I thought I’d devote this one on something simple, yet essential – moving from point A to point B in Bangkok.
    Travel guide books showcase the ‘local flavor’ with photos of tuk-tuks and smiling Thai drivers. But – you should all know by now – this is the least recommended way of transport (unless you are some kind of rip-off lover)
The infamous tuk-tuk 'taxi'

The 'traditional' tuk-tuk 'taxi'

    Let me quote (again) the venerable www.bangkokscams.com:
We got scammed with the TukTuk, a guy in an official looking suit who spoke quite decent English was standing in front of the grand palace and told us it was closed until half past one, because the king’s sister had died. Since we thought Thai people respected their royal family we doubted he would lie about something like that – after three weeks in Thailand we are innocent no more. In any case, he got us an ‘alternative route’, conveniently hailed a TukTuk for us and after visiting the standing budha (which was actually quite nice) we went from shop to shop. I got scammed into buying a suit. I had actually been thinking about getting one made, but probably would not have done so if it weren’t for the scam. Luckily my suit turned out pretty decent although a bit overpriced, so I like to think I got away with it. We later met a British couple in Kanchanaburi who got scammed by the exact same guy, appearently he told them the same story word for word :)Even outside bangkok people think of you not as a person, but as a wallet with legs”

    Or revist what Issac, a long-time Bangkok resident, had to say in his letter to me:

If you stay in Kao San Road or go the sits in the old city (This is where Kao San Rd. is located) then watch out for scams. In particular, I would advise to never take tuk tuks (three wheeled open air taxis). They always try to over charge and they will take you to a shop (jewelry, suits, travel agent) instead of your destination. It’s the same price or cheaper to take a metered taxi.

   But there are a lot of those tuk-tuks out on the streets and Thai people can often be seen using those?!

    But… but are you Thai? Price discrimination between locals and foreigners is one thing (and it makes some sense), but blatant rip-offs and scams such as the Thai gem scam is another.

   So is there a way out of that? Yes. Bangkok offers many modes of transportaion (and I did use all of these myself).

 Taxi

Bangkok Taxi

Bangkok Taxi

 It is most convenient to simply take a taxi – as long as you insist that the driver turn the meter on. Should he refuse for any reason (“no meta, meta broken, cheap no meta“), just go for another one.

    After all, there is a reason why these people do not use a meter, and it is not because they want you to pay less. Taxis abide in Bangkok, they are air-conditioned, and riding one is roughly 100 more comfortable than a tuk-tuk. Best of all, the prices are very reasonable for any distance – large or small (around $5 for a 15 minute ride).

Chao Phraya River boat

River Passenger Boat
River Passenger Boat


     The Chao Phraya river splits Bangkok in two parts. There is a regular boat service on the river, very popular with Thai people themselves because of price and convenience. Riding it is fun, you get a nice view, and it can deliver you near many destinations of tourist interest for B20 (< $1 US). More info here. As usual – beware of scammers at the river piers (like the one described here).

Bangkok Sky train

Bangkok Sky Train (BTS)

Bangkok Sky Train (BTS)

As its website claims  “The BTS Skytrain is the safest, most comfortable and convenient way to get around Bangkok”.

I mostly agree. The sky train is cheaper than a taxi, it is fast, convenient and covers much of downtown Bangkok. But it can get extremely crowded during rush hour. Price: B30 – B40

 

Suvarnabhumi Airport Rail Link   

Bangkok Airport Rail Link

Bangkok Airport Rail Link

 A brand new train service from the airport to downtown Bangkok (and back). Entered in full service in 2011 (it was partially open in 2010). Fast, convenient, reasonably priced.
http://www.bangkokairporttrain.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suvarnabhumi_Airport_Link

    And last, but not least – if you are brave enough, you can use a scooter – like a real Thai. Traffic in Thailand is on the left – like in UK and Japan. Looking at it, I thought using a scooter was sheer madness. But when I later got to Vietnam I realised how wrong I was. All you need to use the scooter in Bangkok is having some guts (pun not intended :)) As for Vietnam… I’ll talk about it later, but in case you are curious, you can look up “Hanoi traffic” on Youtube.

    Next, as far as travelling outside of Bangkok is concerned – the tourist angecies would love to take care of you (for a good profit to themselves). But you have your counter-options, too.

Going by Train

     If you will be travelling from Bangkok to some other destination in Thailand by train, try to get your ticket in advance. At the train station you may be told that there are no tickets for your train. Then before you know it, you end up buying a bus ticket from the tourist bureau at the train station – for double the price and half the comfort of the normal VIP bus service. Like I did.

Train information can be found here:
http://www.1stopbangkok.com/getting_here/train
http://www.seat61.com/Thailand.htm

Travelling by Bus

Thailand has a well developed bus network, and you can travel easily to wherever you want from the Bangkok Mo Chit bus station (or the other two bus stations in town). You’d be surprised how low the ticket prices are. More information is available here:

  1. http://www.1stopbangkok.com/getting_here/bus/
  2. http://www.into-asia.com/bangkok/gtmo/

Armed with so many web links, you just cannot go wrong now.

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