Road traffic in Bangkok is a mixture of cars, motorcycles, bikes, tuk tuks, public buses, taxis, motorcycle taxis, minibuses and pedestrians. The congestion make driving or taking a taxi one of the most fatiguing aspects of touring around Bangkok. The perpetual traffic forces people to arrange their daily activities around traffic problems, and causes a lot of stress, frayed nerves and frustration. If you can, take the mass transit MRT or Skytrain, even if they take you only part of the way to where you are going.

Taxis, buses, tuk tuks, and motorcycle taxis are plentiful in Bangkok and in many cases cheaper than they are elsewhere in Thailand. Drivers who have at least some command of English are also more common than other places in Thailand but still it helps to have a paper with your destinations written down in Thai and English. Although they can be dangerous motorcycle taxis are often the best way to get around because they can maneuver through the gridlock traffic better than other forms of transport.

In the early 2000s Bangkok finally opened a mass transportation system. Thailand now has two primary metropolitan rail lines, the BTS skytrain, consisting of two Green Lines (Sukhumvit and Silom) and several MRT underground lines. The Skytain covers are relatively limited area of Bangkok. Locals complain that it doesn’t go to most of the places they want to go but fortunately for visitors it does cover many of the downtown tourist destinations frequented by foreign tourists. The new subway opened three years after the Skytrain. There are only two transfer points between the two systems which are viewed as rivals rather than partners. The subway is more ordinary than the Skytrain, lacks its views, but it clean and efficient. Skytrain and MRT map: Urban Rail

According to ASIRT: Taxis make up over 50 percent of the vehicle fleet. Official taxis have a “TAXI METER” sign on the roof and a yellow and black number plate. Taxis are often air-conditioned. Many are metered; negotiate fare before boarding if not metered. Taxi drivers seldom speak English. If possible, ask someone to write down your destination. Rental cars are available. Renting a motorcycle, moped, or bicycle or using tuk-tuks or motorcycle taxis for transport is not recommended. [Source: Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT)]

Bicycling: Bangkok has cycle lanes on 10 kilometers of Pradit Manootham Road and one kilometers of Petchakasem, otherwise there are not many of them. More cycle lanes are planned. Cyclists are permitted to ride on sidewalks. Bikes may be taken on buses and the Skytrain. ABC Amazing Bangkok Cyclist Tours offers interesting tours through Bangkok’s back streets, along its canals and into the few green areas of Bangkok. Prices start at 1,500 baht for an 18 kilometer weekend tour using a sturdy hybird or Dutch-style bike. For more information visit or call 66- (0)-2665 6364 or 66 (0) 8181-29641,

Getting Orientated in Bangkok

The S-curves of the Chao Phraya River separates Bangkok to the east from Thonburi (formally a separate city but now part of Bangkok) to the west. The Grand Palace and many of Bangkok's most well-known tourist sights are grouped together on the Bangkok side of the river across from Thonburi. They are located in the old town area of Rattanakosin, which also embraces Chinatown and the Indian district. There are couple of temples in Thonburi, which has traditionally been connected to Bangkok by ferries rather bridges. A new bridge connecting the two places opened in 2002. More bridges are further upriver. One lies downriver.

Bangkok is not a good city for walking. The weather is usually hot and sticky; the city spreads out over a large area; and, with the exception of sights along the river, many points of interest are scattered around, and reaching them often requires a taxi or tuk tuk ride. Make sure to get a good map and take along the addresses of your destinations and your hotel written in Thai.

Making getting around Bangkok particularly difficult to get around in independently is the fact there are so many long, seemingly impossible-to-say names. The problem is compounded further by the inconsistency of romanised Thai spellings. The addresses are also hard to sort out and often have dashes and slashes. This is a holdover from the sale of property in lots, with the number before slashes referring the lot number and the post slash number to the buildings constructed on the lot. The lot number refer to order in which they were added to city plans, meaning that the numbers on a particular street often do not run consecutively.

The Thai word "thanon" means road, street or avenue. A "soi" is a small street or lane that runs off a larger street. A "trok" refers to an alley. When buying train or bus tickets or giving instruction to taxi drivers it is a good idea to have everything written down. You can either copy the Thai characters from a guide book or phrase book or get a Thai person to write them for you if you are going to be dealing with taxi and tuk tuk drivers that maybe can’t read English.Recommended maps include "Nancy Chandler’s Map of Bangkok", which is chock full of interesting information about the city and is updated annually, and the "Bangkok Bus Guide", which is a large, very detailed map with all the major bus routes on it (a version of this is on Wikipedia under “List of bus routes in Bangkok.”

Layout of Bangkok

Bangkok covers 1,537 square kilometers and is made up of 24 districts (khet). The city used to be laced with canals (called "klongs") and some places still can be reached by water taxi, but don't count on it. Many of the klongs have been paved over as Bangkok has developed. The Bangkok railway line divides the older parts of Bangkok from the newer part. The city's most interesting temples, Chinatown and cheap guesthouse areas are situated inside the railway line. Most of the large modern hotels are east of the railroad line.

The two main roads in central Bangkok are Sukhumvit Road and Silom Road, which all provide the framework for Bangkok’s mass transit system: the BTS Skytrain and MRT subway. The BTS skytrain runs the length of Sukhumvit Road, a major thoroughfare where numerous hotels, shops, and restaurants are located, and travels north to Mo Chit, where there is an interchange between the BTS skytrain and the MRT subway near the northern bus terminal and the JJ Weekend Market. The other BTS/MRT interchange on this Sukhumvit Line is at Asoke station (BTS) and Sukhumvit station (MRT).

The BTS skytrain Sukhumvit Line intersects with the BTS Silom Line at Siam square, the central shopping district of the city. The BTS Silom Line passes through the major business district of the city at Sala Daeng, where it links with the MRT (Silom station), and terminates at the Chao Phraya River, where there is connective service to the city’s public boat service (Saphan Thaksin BTS station - Sathorn Pier boat station).

The major shopping, restaurant, and entertainment areas are around: 1) the "sois" (lanes) off Sukhumvit Road (which becomes Rama I); 2) Silom Road and Patphong Road; and 3) the upscale shopping area in the Phloen Chit-Ratchadamri District. The main backpackers area is around Khao San Road north of the Grand Palace. Nearby is Banglamphu, another budget traveler area. There aren’t many parks or green spaces in Bangkok.Klong Toey near the river is known as being the home of Bangkok’s super slum but it is a large area that is also home to Bangkok’s largest port, its planetarium, the Stock Exchange of Thailand Building and Lumpinee Boxing Stadium.

Road Travel in Bangkok

Roads in Bangkok are generally good with the exception of pot holes here and there. However, because much of the city is below sea level, major drainage problems occur during the rainy season. Some streets return to being canals. Others flood. Large potholes are hidden below puddles and drain openings go unrepaired for weeks.

According to ASIRT: Traffic mix includes buses, mopeds, motorcycles, bicycles, vending carts, trucks, pedestrians, three-wheeled “tuk-tuks,” and an occasional elephant. Drivers often run red lights, fail to stop for pedestrians in crossings, or drive on sidewalk when making a U-turn. Drivers and cyclists commonly pass on either side. Be alert for cyclists passing on the left when making a turn. Motorcyclists often weave in and out of traffic. [Source: Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT)]

Traffic is often congested. Increasing tourism contributes to traffic congestion. Bus drivers tend to have little regard for passenger safety. Pedestrian travel is difficult. Sidewalks may in poor repair. Construction sites may not be fenced off. Pedestrians should use overhead walkways when available. Pollution is so great that some traffic police and pedestrians wear surgical masks in the street. Air-conditioned vehicles recommended due to high heat, humidity and pollution levels.

Road travel is more difficult in the rainy season. Most of the city is only a few feet above sea level. Street drainage systems are often inadequate. Only 20 minutes of heavy rain may exceed storm drain capacity. Smaller streets tend to flood. Water may reach several feet; tends to dissipate rapidly. Large potholes are common; damaged drain openings are not repaired until drier weather comes Streets that most often have serious flooding include Second Road, Beach Road, Sukhumvit Road, Soi Buakow, Soi Yensabai, Soi Post Office and Soi Yamato. To contact police—phone: 1155

Bangkok Traffic

The number of vehicles in Bangkok — cars, trucks, buses, vans and tuks tuks—has skyrocketed over the years, from just 600,000 in 1980 to 6.8 million now, and this does not include the millions of motorcycles and motorscooters. Adam Janofsky of the The Pulitzer Center wrote: “In 2007, Bangkok had both 5.6 million registered vehicles and 5.6 million residents, according to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. As a percentage of the population, the number of vehicles in Bangkok completely eclipses traffic levels in many other Asian metropolises: There are almost twice as many vehicles per person in Bangkok than in Tokyo or Seoul, and about eight times as many as Shanghai. And on top of that, the number of cars in the city continues to soar over 6 percent each year, said Soithip Trisuddhi, director of the Office of Transportation and Traffic Policy and Planning. [Source: Adam Janofsky, The Pulitzer Center, August 14, 2012]

The roads in Bangkok, which are not all that different than they were in the 1960s, have been unable to keep up with the influx of vehicles. Street capacity has increased at a rate of 1.5 percent a year while vehicles have increased ar 12 percent a year. Not surprisingly Bangkok suffers some of the world's traffic gridlock. Only Cairo, São Paulo or Jakarta are as bad. Sometimes people sit in the same places for hours and seven mile back-up are not unheard of. Busy streets are sometimes tied up by wayward elephants. There are even major ties up in the back alleys.

Motorist often leave their homes at 4:00am to beat the morning rush hour. The evening rush hour often lasts from until around 11:00pm at night. A crosstown journey can take as long as overland trip to Cambodia. The average Bangkok driver spends an equivalent of 44 days a year in traffic. The delays are worth hundreds of millions of dollars in lost productivity.

In an effort to improve the traffic situation, new bridges and expressways have been built, a mass transit train system was opened and the Chao Phraya River and canals have been better utilized for transportation purposes. Pedestrian only zones have been set up on the weekends on Silom Road and near the river. Other shopping areas have expressed an interest in hopping on the pedestrian-only bandwagon. There has also been suggestions of implementing car or parking taxes to keep cars out of the city center.

Public Transportation in Bangkok

The Bangkok bus system features buses of various size, type, and cost. This is due to the fact that there are both public and private city buses. Although waiting for a Bangkok bus can be a sweaty and air-polluted prospect, so can walking from A to B. If you are on a budget and don’t mind a little adventure, hopping on a bus that appears to be going your way will only cost you as little as 7 baht, (slightly more for the nicer, air conditioned ones), though the buses with perpetually open doors are easier to hop off if the bus turns off your intended course.

There are Air-conditioned buses and non-air-conditioned buses.According to ASIRT: Non-air-conditioned buses are slightly less expensive, but tend to be overcrowded. Air-conditioned buses are cleaner and more comfortable; fares vary with distance traveled. Many major roads have “Bus-only” lanes to allow buses to move more quickly through congested traffic. Micro buses are air-conditioned. Standing is not allowed. They are fairly inexpensive. Routes include areas of interest to tourists and businesspeople. Bus drivers tend to have little regard for passenger safety.[Source: Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT)]

Trams Trams operate around Rattanakosin Isle near the Grand Palace area but otherwise Bangkok once extensive tram system was shut down in 1968. The trams around Rattanakosin cost 20 baht for adults, 10 baht for children.

Bus Stations and Train Stations in Bangkok

Depending on your destination, buses leave from different terminals in Bangkok. There are three Inter-city bus terminals in Bangkok: 1) Mo Chit Bus Terminal Destinations in the central, northern, and northeastern regions; 2) Ekamai Bus Terminal Destinations in the eastern region; 3) New Southern Bus Terminal Destinations in the southern region.

In Bangkok: 1) Eastern Bus Terminal: Ekkamai Station, Tel: +66 2 391 2504. To get to Ekkamai Eastern Bus Terminal take the BTS skytrain to Ekkamai Station on Sukhumvit Road. 2) Central, Northeast, and Northern Bus Terminal: Mo Chit Station, Kamphaengphet 2 Road. Northern Buses: +66 2 936 3660, Northeastern Buses: +66 2 936 0667, Central Buses: +66 2 936 1897. To get to Mo Chit Northern/Northeastern Bus Terminal take the BTS skytrain to Mo Chit Station (terminal station). Then you can take a motorbike taxi for about 50 baht to reach the bus station. 3) Southern Bus Terminal: Sai Tai Mai Station, Boromratchchonnani Rd, Bangkok, Tel: +66 2 435 1200. To get to Sai Tai Mai Southern Bus Terminal you can take bus number 511 from Sukhumvit Road. It may be better to take a taxi as Sai Tai Mai Station is in a difficult location to find on Phutthamonthon Soi 1 in the Taling Chan district.

Train Stations: There are two train stations in Bangkok. The main Hualamphong Station, on Rama IV Road, serves destinations to the north, northeast and some destinations in the south. The Thonburi or Bangkok Nio station serves some destinations in the south. Southbound travelers make sure you go the right station. Hualamphong is almost a tourist site in its own right. It was completed in 1816 and handles more than 200 trains a day.

Mass Transportation in Bangkok

Mass Transit in Bangkok consists of three services: 1) the “Skytrain,” 2) the MRT subway, and 3) the Airport Link. The Bangkok Mass Transit System (BTS), or skytrain, and the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), which is the subway, are electric train systems in central Bangkok and the perimeter, whereas the electric train linking Suvarnabhumi Airport (Airport Link) is a special project to facilitate those traveling to and from Suvarnabhumi Airport, using highspeed electric trains.

Unlimited single day and various multi-day passes can be purchased for both the BTS skytrain and MRT underground, many of which are ideal for tourists wishing to explore the city, though such cards are not transferable between the two independently owned rail lines and must be purchased separately.

Several stations have walkways that lead directly to popular places such as department stores, commercial areas, and various attractions. The direction signs and announcements on both electric trains and at their stations are in Thai and English. In addition to the new mass transit system travelers can also use commuter trains and regular trains—and boats too–to get around.

Bangkok didn’t have a subway system for a long time partly the city was built on a swamp and the water table is very high, making construction and maintenance of an underground subway difficult. The State Railway of Thailand operates train services between Hua Lam Phong train station in central Bangkok and various points around the city, including stations near Don Mung Airport. Trams operate around Rattanakosin Isle near the Grand Palace area but otherwise Bangkok once extensive tram system was shut down in 1968.

BTS Skytrain

BTS Skytrain is Bangkok’s $1.6 billion elevated mass transit railway. It opened in Bangkok in 2002, seven years behind schedule. It was supposed to be finished before Thailand hosted the Asian Games in 1998. But that didn't happen. The Asian economic crisis in 1997-98 slowed down its construction. When it finally did open some commuters were quite happy to have their travel time reduced from more than an hour to 10 minutes. Skytrain and MRT map: Urban Rail

The BTS Skytrain is an overhead commuter train; fast and inexpensive. It consists of two Green Lines (Sukhumvit and Silom) but covers a relatively limited area of Bangkok. Locals complain that it doesn’t go to most of the places they want to go but fortunately for visitors it does cover many of the downtown tourist destinations frequented by foreign tourists. The Skytrain is easy to use. Staff generally speaks some English. Fares paid with an electronically-read card.

The BTS SkyTrain is Asia’s only mass transit system owned by a private company and one of the few mass transit system in the world to make at it as a profit-making venture. It embraces two lines and 23.5 kilometers of track. The sleek three-car electric trains are air conditioned and operated by computers. Drivers only open and close the door. The only time they drive is when there is an emeregncy. The system is operated by Bangkok Mass Transit Systems (BTSC). Initially locals complained the 10 baht tickets (about 25 cents) were too steep for short rides but ridership increased to more than 400,000 a day after the price of gasoline jumped in 2005.

SkyTrain operates 12 meters above the ground and offers fine views of the city. Built by the German company Siemens, it is modern and quiet and takes passengers across the central part of the city in less than 30 minutes at an average speed of 35 kilometers per hour and a top speed of 80 kilometers per hour.

SkyTrain runs from 6:00am to 12 midnight and stops at 26 stations. The trains arrive at the stations every five minutes and give visitors accesss to 51 major hotels, 17 department stores, 25 embassies, Dusit Zoo and Chatcuhak weekend market. The fares range between 20 cents and 90 cents, which is nothing for foreign travelers but a lot for some ordinary Thais. The BTS Skytrain One Day Tourist Pass (100 baht) and Three Day Tourist Pass (280 baht) offers unlimited rides on the Skytrain system. Buyers of the three day pass get a free Skytrain guide and map.

BTS Skytrain Routes and Stations

The BTS skytrain runs the length of Sukhumvit Road, a major thoroughfare where numerous hotels, shops, and restaurants are located, and travels north to Mo Chit, where there is an interchange between the BTS skytrain and the MRT subway near the northern bus terminal and the JJ Weekend Market. The other BTS/MRT interchange on this Sukhumvit Line is at Asoke station (BTS) and Sukhumvit station (MRT).

The BTS skytrain Sukhumvit Line intersects with the BTS Silom Line at Siam square, the central shopping district of the city. The BTS Silom Line passes through the major business district of the city at Sala Daeng, where it links with the MRT (Silom station), and terminates at the Chao Phraya River, where there is connective service to the city’s public boat service (Saphan Thaksin BTS station - Sathorn Pier boat station). BTS skytrain extensions across the river and further down Sukhumvit are planned for the near future.

Skytrain stations (with interchange or connection when applicable): 1) Sukhumvit Mo Chit MRT, Chatuchak Station, Chaloem Ratchamongkhon Route, 2) Saphan Khwai, 3) Ari, 4) Sanam Pao, 5) Victory Monument, 6) Phaya Thai Airport Link, Phaya Thai Station, 7) Ratchathewi, 8) Siam BTS, Silom Route, 9) Chit Lom, 10) Phloen Chit, 11) Nana, 12) Asok MRT, Sukhumvit Station, Chaloem Ratchamongkhon Route, 13) Phrom Phong, 14) Thong Lo, 15) Ekamai, 16) Phra Khanong, 17) On Nut, 18) Silom National Stadium, 19 ) Siam BTS, Sukhumvit Route, 20) Ratchadamri, 21) Sala Daeng MRT, Silom Station, Chaloem Ratchamongkhon Route, 22) Chong Nonsi, 23) Surasak, 24) Taksin Bridge Sathon Pier, 25) Krung Thon Buri, 26) Wongwian Yai.

Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) in Bangkok

Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) , or Bangkok Metro, is the first subway in Thailand. At the present time it operates one route, the Chaloem Ratchamongkhon Route, with 18 stations. Built at a cost of $2.5 billion and inaugurated by Thailand’s King Bhumibol with great fanfare in July 2004, it consists of a single line: the 21-kilometer Blue Line between terminal stations at Bang Sue and Hua Lumphong, the primary train station for journeys to destinations outside Bangkok. One reason it took so long for Bangkok to get an underground subway was because the city’s water table is so high (near ground level and far above the subway trains) and the city is prone to flooding. Before the project could be undertaken a system for pumping out the groundwater had to be developed. The Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand operates the metro service. The inaugural line will be extended in phases totaling 27 kilometers, and two future lines, totaling 67 kilometers, are planned. Skytrain and MRT map: Urban Rail

The subway is more ordinary than the Skytrain, lacks views, but it clean and efficient. According to ASIRT: Bangkok Metro runs from the main train station, Hua Lamphong; passes under two major roads, Rama 4 Road and Ratchadaphisek Road. Links the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre, several hotels, shopping centers, and business districts. The MRT has three interchange stations connecting with the Skytrain and bus routes serving suburbs. Pedestrian bridges are needed from Metro stations to Skytrain stations. Escalators are lacking at some underground stations. Has Park and Ride facilities near subway.[Source: Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT)]

Accessing different neighborhoods than the BTS Skytrain, the MRT follows Rama IV and Ratchadaphisek Roads, both of which feature a number of tourist attractions, such as the Thailand Cultural Center. However, in comparison to the more tourist-oriented districts of the BTS, the MRT destinations are still more practical for Thai commuters. The MRT has interchange stations with the BTS skytrain at Mo Chit, near the northern bus terminal and the JJ Weekend Market, on Sukhumvit Road at Asoke station (BTS) and Sukhumvit station (MRT), and on Silom Road at Sala Daeng Station (BTS) and Silom Station (MRT).

MRT stations (with interchange or connection when applicable): 1) Hua Lamphong, 2) Sam Yan, 3) Silom BTS, Sala Daeng Station, Silom Route, 4) Lumphini, 5) Khlong Toei, 6) Queen Sirikit National Convention Center, 7) Sukhumvit BTS, Asok Station, Sukhumvit Route, 8) Phetchaburi Airport Link, Makkasan Station, 9) Rama IX, 10) Thailand Cultural Center, 11) Huai Khwang, 12) Sutthisan, 13) Ratchadaphisek, 14) Lat Phrao, 15) Phahon Yothin, 16) Chatuchak Park BTS, Mo Chit Station, Sukhumvit Route, 17) Kamphaeng Phet, 18 ) Bang Sue.

Suvarnabhumi Airport Rail Link and Airport Transport

Suvarnabhumi Airport Rail Link opened in August 2010. It provides train service between Suvarnabhumi Airport and downtown Bangkok at the maximum speed of 160 kilometer per hour on an elevated track parallel to the eastern railway. Two types of service are offered on the Airport Link: trains on the Airport City Line (trains with blue markings) stop at eight stations, taking 28 minutes, and the Airport Express (red markings), operates high-speed trains that run non-stop from Makkasan Station to Suvarnabhumi Airport, taking only 15 minutes. The train covers the distance of approximately 28 kilometers, passing through 8 stations. The trains operate daily from 6.00am to 12:00 midnight. For more information, check

Passengers who wish to travel to Suvarnabhumi Airport have three options of service: 1) SA Express, a train service that transports passenger from City Air Terminal or Makkasan Station to Suvarnabhumi Airport within 15 minutes without stopping at any station along the way. 2) SA Express, a new express route that transports passenger from Phyathai Station to Suvarnabhumi Airport within 20 minutes without stopping at any station along the way. 3) City Line, a train service that transports passengers between Phyathai Station and Suvarnabhumi Airport within 30 minutes and stops at every station long the way. It can be connected to MRT (subway) at Makkasan Station and BTS (skytrain) at Phyathai Station.

The Suvarnabhumi Airport electric train (Airport Link) has eight stations: 1) Suvarnabhumi Airport, 2) Lat Krabang, 3) Ban Thap Chang, 4) Hua Mak, 5) Ramkhamhaeng, 6) Makkasan (City Air Terminal) MRT, Phetchaburi Station, Chaloem Ratchamongkhon Route, 7) Ratchaprarop, 8) Phaya Thai BTS, Phaya Thai Station, Sukhumvit Route

On transport to Don Muang Airport (few miles north of city), ASIRT reports: Access by special elevated highway; traffic can be congested. Air-conditioned airport buses provide efficient, easy transport along 3 routes to city center. Minibuses and metered taxis are available. Only use taxis from the official airport taxi stand. Unofficial taxi drivers may overcharge or rob tourists. Groups may hire a minibus for travel to other cities; fee low. Reliable 24-hour limousine service is available to downtown hotels. For information: Phone: 02-535 1111. Major hotels arrange for a car and driver to meet flights.

Chao Phraya River and Bangkok’s Canals

Chao Phraya River is a busy waterway filled with long-tailed boats (known locally as "hang yao"), open-air passenger ferries, expensive private boats, tour boats that "look like floating temples" and water crafts of various sizes and shapes. In the old days, when Bangkok was known as the "Venice of Asia," the river was like a main highway and the klongs were its side streets. But those days are long gone. Stretches along the banks are pedestrian only on Sunday. The impressive-looking Rama VII Bridge opened in 2002. Its geometric array of support cables look as if they can be plucked like a harp.

Bangkok’s Canals are known as klongs. Bangkok used to be laced with them. They followed streets, ducked under superstructures and were crossed by bridges. By one estimate a third of the city’s residents in the mid 19th century lived in stilted or floating houses along the canals or the river. Until a few decades ago they were so were so crowded and full of boats that policeman were used to direct traffic. Over the years many of Bangkok’s klongs have been paved over to widen streets and make room for houses and other buildings.Many of remaining klongs are foul and dirty. Some are filled with black oily water. Others are stagnant pools covered by smelly green scum and filled with garbage.

Klongs have traditionally provided an important mode of transportation in parts of central and southern Thailand. According to “Cities of the World”: "Although most canals in Bangkok have been filled in, or are no longer navigable, water-taxi routes starting from points along the banks of the Chao Phraya River link the capital city to the large number of klongs in the countryside. Water taxis and small motorboats provide a low-cost and efficient means of transporting passenger and light-cargo traffic, and are a pleasant way to explore a style of Thai life not visible from the roads. These boats do not carry life jackets."

Some klongs are quite scenic. Ones visited by tourists have floating hyacinths and lotus flowers, small houses with garden and fluttering laundry. In some places you can still find monks floating in the water in inner tubes, women in broad woven hats and sarongs using sampans to buy groceries and, floating shopkeepers and deliverymen. In recent years there has been a campaign to free the paved over klongs to attract tourists to places they otherwise wouldn’t go and provide better drainage.

Khlong Mon in Thornburi features weathered teak homes and orchards and interspersed with modern houses, crumbling shacks and the odd temple. Saffron-robed monks can be seen among and stretches of morning glory or water hyacinth. Small boat's travel up and down river. People scrub clothes, take naps and throws scraps to fish, smiling and waving at passers by. Boats leave every 30 minutes from the Tha Tian Pier behind Wat Pro . The fare is minimal. Khlong Bangkok Noi is wider and bolder – more river than canal. It is lined with factories, temples and navy installations as well as homes. Where it meets the Chao Phraya river is the Royal Barges National Museum, where the elaborately gilded barges used in solemn Royal ceremonies can be seen up close.

Bangkok River & Canal Tours

Boat trips and klong (canal) tours can be arranged. These include taxi rides on the Chao Phraya River, and "long tail" boat trips through the klongs. Visitors can see many traditional Thai stilt houses. Cruises on converted rice barges also are possible. For around $15 to $25 an hour, you can hire a boat and visit the klongs of your choice. From the water you get a close-up look at the shacks, houseboats and beat up teak mansions that people live in. For a few baht you can take a crowded 21-meter water bus that carries uniformed school girls, office workers in neat suits and monk in saffron robes to their canal-side destinations.

Many people say the best way to get a feel for what the real Bangkok is like, and have a good time doing so, is to hire a long-tailed boat for a tour of the Chao Phraya river and city’s klongs (canals). Long-tailed boat (named after propeller drive shaft which extends far beyond the back of the boat) and river taxis ply the Chao Phraya river and some of the klongs. The fares are cheap for short runs. Water taxis and ferries can be used to travel between some destinations in the Bangkok area. They are used mostly by locals. Foreign visitors take them more for the experience and adventure of it rather than to actually get somewhere (after getting off they take a tuk tuk to get back to places more familar).

There are also frequent ferries that cross the Chao Phraya River between the Grand Palace area and Thonburi. Boats with a minimal fare leave every 20 minutes between 6;15am and 8:00pm at the Chang Pier near the Grand Palace. There are several ways to enjoy Bangkok’s klongs (canals) and the Chao Phraya River. There are also several canal routes by long-tail boat which offer more charming scenery with stops at old temples which are scattered along all canals. Tourists can book such a tour through travel agents or rent a boat at Tha Chang (Tel: (02) 225-6179, (02) 623-6169), a pier near the Grand Palace, or Tha Si Phraya (Tel: (02) 235-3108) near the River City Shopping Complex.

A number of cruise companies in Bangkok operate trips to Ayutthaya along the Chao Phraya River. As most companies are affiliated with riverside hotels, the boats depart from the hotels' piers. Normally the trips include visits to the Royal Folk Arts and Handicrafts Center in Bang Sai and Bang Pa-in Palace. There are also express boats sailing to Ayutthaya from Tha Maharat and Tha Chang piers near the Grand Palace every Sunday.

Chao Phraya River Express Boats

Chao Phraya River Express Boats between Bangkok and Nonthaburi are cheap and fun. This water bus runs roughly 16 kilometers and makes frequent stops at landings along the banks of the river. The service is most frequent in the morning and late afternoon. The route starts at Wat Ratchasingkhon Pier near Krungthep Bridge and ends at the pier of Nonthaburi (a province north of Bangkok). Major landing piers are Sathon, Si Phraya, Chang, and Wang Lang piers. While travelling along the Chao Phraya River, you will see many splendid temples and attractive buildings, for example, the Royal Thai Navy Dockyard, the Thai Maritime Navigation Company, the Old Customs House, the Temple of Dawn, the Grand Palace, and Wat Rakhang.

Express boats on the Chao Phraya River run as far north as Nonthaburi from Wat Rat Singkhon. Fares range from 10 baht to 36 baht and are determined by the flags in the boats. Yellow flag boats stop only at the main piers and charge 20 to 29 baht. Orange flag boats stop at most piers and charge 15 baht. No flag boats stop at every pier and charge 10 to 14 baht. The terminal pier is near Krung Thep (Bangkok) Bridge. The express boat services operates daily from 6:00am to 8:00pam. Tel. 0-2623-6001-2. . Blue Flag boars run Monday-Friday from Sathorn(Taksin) to Nonthaburi(Pibul 3) from 7.00 am to 18.25 pm for 24 to 34 baht. Boat services on the Chao Phraya River which connect Bangkok with the northern neighboring province of Nonthaburi are operated by two companies: Laem Thong Co. Ltd., and Chao Phraya Express Boat Co.,Ltd. Tel (02) 623-6143

Canal and River Boat Tours

Canal and River Boat Tours are offered on Bangkok's klongs and on the Chao Phraya River. From the river you get good views of the Grand Palace, the colorful Royal Barges and Wimen Wak Palace, the favorite residence of "King and I" king. From the klongs you can see Jim Thompson's house, lots of filth and people bathing, washing their hair and brushing their teeth in the foul water.

River trips are usually organized at the Oriental Hotel jetty; and klong trips are arranged at Tah Phra Chand. Long-tailed boats can be rented at Oriental Hotel jetty for about $20 an hour. A converted rice barge that leaves from the Marriot Royal Garden Riverside Hotel at 7:30pm offers a dinner cruise with a set meal, not including drinks, for $35 per person.

The trip along Khlong Bangkok Noi & Khlong Bang Yai depart from Tha Chang Pier many times daily. It takes about an hour to reach Bang Yai, a district in Nonthaburi. Attractions along Bangkok Noi canal include the Royal Barges Museum, Wat Suwannaram, Wat Sisudaram, Wat Nairong and Wat Phaowana Phirataram.

The trip along Khlong Dao Khanong - Khlong Bangkok Yai - Khlong Bang Chuak Nang can be done with a boat rented a boat from Tha Chang Pier. Some attractions along this route are: Wat Sai Floating Market, Snake Farm, Wat Pak Nam, Wat Ko and Taling Chan Floating Market. There are tour programs to other small canals on Thon Buri side, but they are not regular routes and you need to hire a long-tail boat at one of the pier. The standard fare is 400 baht per hour. Prices can be negotiated (before travelling). The major piers for hired boats are Tha Chang, Tha Saphan Phut (Memorial Bridge Pier), Tha Si Phraya and River City.

From Pak Kret, tourists can travel further to Koh Kret, a small island in the Chao Phraya River. A river ferry leaves Wat Sanam Nua, which is located within a short walking distance from Pak Kret Pier during 6.00 a-m.-9.00 p.m. Returning to Pak Kret, visitors are able to catch a small long-tail boat at any pier around the island. Trip Along Khlong Bangkok Noi - Khlong Bang Yai operate from 6.30 aam to 11.00 pm. The boats depart from Tha Chang every half an hour until 11.00 a.m. They leave the pier when there are enough passengers. The boat fare is 30 Baht per person. It takes 50 minutes to get to Bang Yai, a district in Nonthaburi.

After arriving at Bang Yai (a district in Nonthaburi), travelers who expect to continue the trip to Nonthaburi can catch another taxi boat at Wat Sao Thong Hin pier which is situated within a walking distance from Bang Yai pier. The boat service is operated during 4.00 a.m.-8.00 p.m. It takes 15-20 minutes. The fare is 12 Baht/person. Next to Wat Sao Thong Hin, Wat Rat Prakhong Tham has a three-top building which houses a huge reclining Buddha image. Along the route, visitors are able to enjoy the peaceful scenery and waterway life along Khlong Om. Houses along both sides of the canal look very tidy. Almost every house is made of wood in the same style, Colourful flowers are also planted along verandahs by the river. Mit Chao Phraya Express Boat operates another boat trip on Saturdays during 8.30 a.rn.-12.30 p.m. through Khlong Bangkok Noi, Bang Kruai, Khlong Om, and stops for sightseeing at the Royal Barge Museum. The trip costs 100 Baht/person. For more information, Tel: (02) 225-6179, 623-6169.

Visitors willing to take a private trip along this route are able to rent a boat from Tha Chang at the rate of approximately 400 Baht per hour. For advance reservations contact Mit Chao Phraya Co. Ltd. at Tha Chang, Tel: (02) 225-6179, (02) 623-6169 and Si Phraya Trip and Boat Co. Ltd. at the River City Shopping Complex, Tel: (02) 41 2-0207, (02) 41 2-7644.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: Tourist Authority of Thailand, Thailand Foreign Office, The Government Public Relations Department, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books and other publications.

Last updated August 2020

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