When I first stepped out of the Bangkok international airport I already knew how I was going to get to my hotel and that was via the local taxi service. I had already consulted various forums on getting around Bangkok, along with emailing my hotel on what the best options were in getting to the hotel itself. I had toyed with all modes of transport from private transfer to catching the train.
I couldn’t find anywhere on forums that gave me enough information on how to catch a train from the airport, so I decided that my easiest option was for a taxi as I certainly didn’t want to have to worry about working out a train system after an overnight flight and being sleep deprived. Especially since I really had no clue as to how far I would have to cart my luggage from the train stop to a location I wasn’t completely familiar with. So after eventually reaching my hotel and some hindsight I was glad I took the taxi option.
Bangkok is basically your traffic nightmare, busy is an understatement and the traffic waits for no man. You can be standing on the roadside for some time if you wait for a break in the traffic to cross the road. Travelling along the highway en-route to my hotel, I soon learned how chaotic the traffic really is and getting from one street to the next is not as straightforward as it seems. There are lot’s of one way access streets and non-descript street signs to hamper your bearings. Even on foot street signs may not necessarily correspond to the map you are holding. I found that there were various street names with the same name in close proximity to each other, not good when you are suddenly lost and it is dark! Yes this happened to me on the way to find the Patpong market but that is another story in itself!
So what are the best options for getting around Bangkok?
Getting to Bangkok from the airport
From the airport you will either most likely take a taxi or have your hotel meet and greet you at the airport. There is the option of the train from the airport if you are familiar with the system.
If it’s your first time in Bangkok then I suggest to take a taxi and make things a whole lot easier for yourself. Head to the public taxi rank (there are signs directing you where to go) and a taxi will be organised for you. You will be given a piece of paper with the destination and taxi details and a taxi will be allocated to you (you can’t pick and choose). Make sure you know where your hotel is located (street name) and specify a landmark it is near.
Once in the taxi you will either encounter one of two things – a metered taxi or a driver wanting to negotiate a price. I suggest that you go with the meter option and make sure that the meter reads 35 Baht before you take off. There are two tollway booths you will be required to go through and my taxi driver included these in the final price (he informed me of this upfront). It took around 40 minutes from the airport to my hotel which was near the Embassy. The total price was 400 Baht (around $14 AUS/US) and this was what my hotel had told me to expect.
The toll booths – to leave the airport the first toll booth will cost you 50 baht and the second toll booth will cost around 25 baht. If you are required to pay the toll booth direct then make sure you have 50 and 20 baht notes at the ready.
On my return journey to the airport (leaving at around 9 am) the journey cost only 225 Baht. The actual fare was 200 Baht and the other 25 Baht was for the one toll booth we passed through on the highway. The journey was a straight run right through to the airport.
The other method is to negotiate a price with the driver which may be hard to ascertain what is reasonable if you are not sure how far you are going. Inevitably you will pay more for this method. Remember that there will be two toll booths you pass through when leaving the airport so these will be an added cost on top of your fare. If your driver insists on negotiating a price then get out of the taxi and go back to where you got the ticket and politely ask for another taxi.
Hotel airport transfers will cost you a fair bit more – expect to pay up to around 4000 Baht. This is a meet and great service at the airport and you are chauffeur driven. My hotel quoted me 3700 baht for a meet and greet in a Mercedes Benz. I thought that this was a little excessive, so taxi it was.
There is also the airport link train that heads straight into the city and connects up with the Skytrain. I would suggest that you familiarise yourself with the area first before tackling the train, especially when carting around luggage up and down stairs and more importantly when you are unsure where you are going. If you have the luxury of plenty of time in Bangkok to work out getting to your hotel by train and want to save your money then the train is the way to go.
Getting around Bangkok
This method is the most easiest and quickest ways to get around Bangkok. Pick yourself up a map of the Skytrain – available from your hotel. Go to the nearest stop and head up the stairs to the station. You will need to exchange your notes for 10 baht coins. To do this you go to the counter, tell the counter assistant where your stop is and they will give you the correct amount to use. You then go to the self serve ticket machines on the wall and press the number of your stop. So if you are travelling to let’s say “Ploen chit” the machine will have a corresponding number which for me this stop was 28. It will then ask you to insert 28 Baht. It then prints your ticket and gives you your change. Your ticket conveniently has the Skytrain map printed on it, so you can see how many stops there are or where to interchange.
Check the end point of the station to make sure you get on the one heading in the right direction. Once on the Skytrain check above the door and you will see some green lights that will show you the direction you are heading and the red lights show where the train has already stopped.
The Skytrain is incredibly easy and once you take it once you will have mastered it and it literally costs around $1 to $2 (around Aus/US dollars).
Taxi’s and Tuk Tuk’s
Once again either go metered but if you are catching one from a major tourist area then you will most likely have to negotiate a price. On my first day I took a taxi from the Embassy to the Grand Palace, which I negotiated a price for 200 Baht, pretty much most of the time this is how I spent my first day getting across town. We did get caught in traffic jams and mostly took around 30 mins to get from point “a” to “b”. There are plenty of taxi’s vying for business (there are 200,000 taxi’s in Bangkok) so hold firm on your price. On one occasion I just went down the line of taxi’s until someone agreed on my price.
If you are taking a Tuk Tuk (a must try at least once if you are in Bangkok) then make sure you have negotiated a price before you set foot in the Tuk Tuk otherwise you could be at the mercy of your driver!
Hiring a car
I would not recommend this at all, unless you are extremely familiar with the ways of Bangkok traffic. The traffic is horrendous, unsafe and there are lot’s of one way streets and of course you will get acquainted with Bangkok traffic jams that have you going nowhere fast.
If you are in an area that is not serviced by the Skytrain then you may want to take a bus. I didn’t use the bus service as my hotel was located within the Skytrain circuit.
For bus timetables in Bangkok click here.