As holidaymakers rather than backpackers, we decided to get the overnight sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai instead of flying, more for a different experience than to save money. We got the 1935 train which arrives at 0945 and as First Class with a private berth was full, we got tickets for the open-plan Second Class carriage costing 841 Baht each (about £17). You book two seats that face each other in a booth with a table then later in the evening a guy comes round and converts both those seats into a lower bunk made up with a sheet and blankets then pulls down another bed which is stored in an overhead locker and has a ladder to get up there but no window. They will ask at the station which combination you want and it is worth booking one up/one down so that you have your own curtained off area on one side of the corridor and can both sit on the lower level together if you are not ready to go to sleep when they turn the lights out. A woman comes round shortly after departure with a menu and you can order dinner. We paid 150 Baht and got soup, main course with rice and fresh pineapple slices. It is all lukewarm and in plastic bowls with clingfilm over so not exactly gourmet cuisine but felt like part of the experience washed down with a bottle of cold beer. You can also order breakfast but we took croissants with us. It is not warm on the train so take a fleece and it rattles along the tracks so earplugs would be a good idea. We didn’t sleep well with the noise and fairly cramped conditions. The shared bathroom is basic with a hole in the ground for a toilet. We were glad we had booked a flight onto our next destination as it’s a long, fairly uncomfortable journey but felt like an adventure!
I love Bangkok but sometimes is a difficult city to navigate if you want to avoid tuk tuks. However, there is a great official tourist booth just by Khao San Road where they know everything. From the bus number you have to take to the train station, its price or where is the closest gym
West side of Khao San Road on the opposite side of the police station
To get to the new airport you've basically got three options: 1) Taxi 350B, 2) Airport Bus 150B, 3) Khao San Road minibuses 120B.
Now if there are two of you the choice would seem to be a simple one - take the taxi! No need to read on!
If you're alone I'd also recommend the taxi but if you are really saving the baht you've got:
1) The Airport Bus - It's comfortable, spacious and relatively hassle-free. Disadvantages are that it doesn't run to a schedule - you've got to stand there and wait, and wait. This does have one advantage however: You might meet other travellers while waiting and get to share a taxi! One other disadvantage of the Airport Bus is that they seem to take the absolute longest, most traffic-jam prone route. You're at serious risk of missing your flight if you take one of these in the day time.
2) The Khao San minibus - Cheaper than the above, they run to a schedule and they'll come to your guesthouse. Great isn't it? Well you're squeezed in like sardines and some of those vehicles look like they're about to break down. You also have to book in advance, reducing your flexibility. One advantage is that they're in tune with the road conditions so they'll avoid the worst of the traffic jams.
If you've stayed around Khao San Road you'll know what a nightmare it is getting across town during the day. However if you're heading in the direction of Pantip or Sukhumvit there's the river taxi.
The river taxi starts from Fort Mahanak - that's the white fort near the democracy memorial - this marks the eastern edge of Rattankosin Island. It stops at Hua Chang, which is good for MBK Department Store and Siam Square; Pratunam which is near Pantip Plaza and Central World; and Nana and Asok - before terminating near Bang Kapi. See Wikipedia link below for a list of stops.
Short journeys cost 10 baht. Important things to remember if it's your first time:
1) The interchange is at Pratunam - all passengers must change here.
2) Try to sit in the middle so it's easier to see the sign denoting which stop you're at. They're very small!
3) Try to sit near the side - less spray there.
4) Note that they often miss stops - for example they often go straight from Pratunam to Nana - don't rely on counting the stops!
5) You must get your orientation right - there's only one landing at each stop serving both directions of traffic.
The history of the Saen Saeb Canal (Khlong Saen Saeb) is interesting. It actually goes out all the way to Chachoengsao near Chonburi and was built to transport soldiers and supplies to help the war effort with Cambodia. Construction started in 1837 and took three years.
This applies especially around the back of Soi Rambuttri near Khao San Road. Every morning I go for my muesli and a group of travellers will be haggling for a trip to the railway station. They're just standing there, looking like they've been just standing there for quite some time and in the interlocution I can just make out "100 baht each" or something ridiculous. For me this isn't a great way to start the day!
These drivers are time-wasters, not interested in using the meter, very interested in taking you for more than just a ride (definitely in the case of the tuk tuks), and getting in the damned way and making nuisances of themselves.
If you want to take a taxi:
1) Haul your bags over to the main road. For our group above that would be either Chakrapong or Phra Athit. Perhaps 50 metres. Yes, the hardships.
2) Flag down a taxi. This is easy, they're coming down the road in a constant procession.
3) Open the door, get in, tell him where you're going.
4) He'll switch the meter on.
5) Get to your destination, pay the fare, get out. (If you need to, you can wait a few seconds for your change. They offer change to the nearest five baht these days.)
While all this is happening your counterparts over at Soi Rambuttri will still be standing around engaging in useless banter with a dead-beat scam merchant who is not interested in turning on the ignition for anything less than a 500% markup.
For your information the trip to the railway station costs 50-60B - that's for the *car* not per person - taxis never charge per person.
That's the drill for taxis now...
If you want to take a tuk tuk:
They're filthy and they spew noxious pollution. That's the drivers I'm talking about. There's no need to take one in Bangkok for any kind of journey. The taxi will always win in terms of price, safety, speed and comfort. Do the locals a favour and help to consign these evil menaces to the scrap heap.
Back to taxis: I find the yellow ones to be a lot nicer than the blue ones. The purple ones are good too.
Public transport is cheap. Planes, trains, buses, minibuses and taxis from town to town. If you’re in a minibus or taxi, tell the driver you’ll tip him if he keeps the speed below 90/100 kmph! National speed limit is 90kph (120 on motorways).
Around Bkk try to use meter taxis with the meter on - it’ll be cheaper than the tuk-tuks (take a tuk-tuk once for the experience then use meter taxis).
Don’t let the drivers take you out of your way...they’ll try to take you to some store where they get commission.
All of these methods of transport were reasonably priced and offered good service.
It also means you can avoid taxi and tuk-tuk drivers, who are more interested in taking you where they want to go rather than where you want to go.
When taking a taxi make sure the driver uses the meter and, if they decline to do so, simply wait until you get a cab that does. One taxi driver wanted to charge us four times the metered fare to take us from the Royal Palace to the Silom area.
When you arrive at the airport you are greeted with numerous "helpful" locals who are keen to recommend the pre-booked "taxi" service for 700 baht. We took a metered taxi (make sure the meter is working and on) for 400 baht to Bangkok at 2am and paid just 200 baht for the return.
Quieter than tuk-tuks, more breezy than using the buses, cheap as chips, better sights and smells and much more in tune with what the locals do.
There are stops all the way up and down the river, they come about every five or six minutes most days
Don't let fear of getting ripped off stop you taking a taxi. Just be prepared to insist they use the meter, rather than giving you a flat-rate quote. Some drivers may refuse, if so, just try another. At least you get air-con when the traffic's bad.
Incidentally, the taxi drivers with Buddhist texts written on their cabs’ ceilings, seem to be more amiable - just an observation.
The taxis in Bangkok were pretty dodgy and I'd heard some bad stories before I arrived. My friends and I stuck to the green/yellow cabs.
We also made sure though that we always asked for the meter when we used the taxis. If the driver didn't put it on, we didn't get in. We always followed a map with our finger and would point out monuments loudly. This prevented drivers from taking 'alternate' routes in what is a chaotic, disorientating place.
I'm sure we were highly annoying passengers, but we never got ripped off.
Although using a taxi is often the best way of getting around Bangkok, be careful about two things. Don't automatically take the taxi that is regularly parked outside your hotel. Sometimes, these cars have their meters fixed to rack up a very large fare for unsuspecting, foreign visitors.
Also, be careful of the taxi driver who says: "Too much traffic today! 300 baht to take you there!" The traffic is always busy in Bangkok and the suggested fare, without the meter running, is bound to be more than you would pay if the meter WAS running.
The airport bus departs regulary from ticket booths outside all terminals (the last one is at midnight) the staff are very helpful and if you have the address of where you are going they will tell you what bus to catch and the best stop to get off at.
The bus is safe, clean, air-conditioned and cheap - just 100 baht. Yes, you can probably get where you are going a bit quicker in a taxi, but at some times of the day (rush hour) nobody goes anywhere fast.
It's also a good way to meet people, enjoyable conversations and great nights out in Bangkok have all started on the airport bus.
Bangkok is well served by canals (khlongs) which run right across town. The quickest, easiest and most fun way to get from, say, Siam Square to Banglamphu is by river taxi. Don't forget to duck when you see a low bridge approaching.
There is a boat taxi terminal right by Golden Mount and another on the Siam Square side of MBK shopping centre.
Beat the notorious Bangkok traffic jams by taking the BTS Skytrain - although it has a limited route, it's great for getting around several of Bangkok's hotel and shopping districts. Trains are nicely air-conditioned, run from 6am until midnight and you can get a day pass for 100 baht (about £1.50). There are 3 interchanges with the new subway system - plus the public riverboat service at Saphan Taksin station.
Taxis are easy to come by and pretty cheap, but you should make sure your driver uses the meter rather than barter the fare as it will generally work out cheaper. Although a lot of drivers speak English, it is worth having your destination written down in Thai or on a map just in case.
Bangkok's roads can be blocked with traffic, especially during the day. The sure fire way to cross Bangkok quickly is to find one of the orange vested motorcycle cabs. Like all Thai people, the drivers are very personable and bar the Skytrain, it's the fastest way to travel. Make sure your helmet is on tight, keep your knees in and finally (maybe this was just me) prepare to laugh hard as you fly in and out of the traffic. It's better than any theme park ride I've ever been on.
Most streets of Bangkok
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