Hop, skip and jump around Bangkok

Bangkok’s traffic jams are legendary, but there are ways to avoid them. Here are some tips on how to get around the city, the easy way.

With around 10 million people and countless visitors taking to the roads of Bangkok in cars, buses and around 30,000 taxis, it can get very crowded. And when you throw in an accident or pelting rain, it can add a lot of time to your trip. The best way to get around the river city is by train or boat – here are some tips that will save you time on your next visit.

On rails

Riding on the rails is the way to go depending on where you want to go. BTS Skytrain zooms along on rails elevated above the busy streets. There are two lines – the Silom line which runs west to south, and the Sukhumvit line, which runs north to east.

(c) John Borthwick

The Silom line passes through popular areas such as Siam, Silom and Saphan Taksin – where riders can link up with the express boats at the Sathorn Pier. The Sukhumvit line takes you to places like Chatuchak Weekend Market, Victory Monument, Siam and Phrom Phong. You can connect to the MRT Underground at Mo Chit and Asok stations and to get to the airport, transfer to the Airport Rail Link at Phaya Thai station. The one-day BTS Skyline pass is exceptional value – costing 140 baht (approx. AUD$6.60) for unlimited rides.

The MRT Metro is the underground system, servicing 18 stations in a 20 km horseshoe loop that runs from Hua Lamphong to Bang Sue. Trains come very regularly so you don’t have to wait very long at all. The Metro operates from 5.30 A.M. to midnight on most routes. The system can be very busy in peak hour as locals use the Metro to commute.

The Metro also links up to the Airport Rail Link at Phetchaburi station, with the walk between the two about 300 metres. If you have a lot of luggage, perhaps link up through the Skyrail instead.

The Airport Rail Link runs from Suvarnabhumi International Airport to Phayathai Station, located downtown. It makes six stops during the 30-minute journey and operates from 6 a.m. to midnight daily.

(c) John Borthwick

On water

There are several ways to explore Bangkok via the magnificent Chao Phraya river – known as the ‘River of Kings’. One is the Chao Phraya Tourist boat – the original hop-on hop-off boat tour. There are five vessels that pick up and drop off at nine piers along the river, departing every 30 minutes between 9 a.m. and 8.30 p.m. The boats are quite spacious, with toilets and WiFi on board, with clear information given on the boats’ sound systems. Jump on or off from Sathorn Pier, Wat Arun, Thonburi Railway Station pier, Iconsiam pier or Ratchawongse pier, to name just a few.

The Chao Phraya Express Boat is another option, with services on four routes. They have 65 boats stopping off at 38 piers around Bangkok, making it easy to get to the many attractions along the river.

One of my favourite ways to explore Bangkok is on a klong tour. Hire a long-tail boat at Sathorn Pier and head up the river, head whipping from bank to bank at the many sights along the way. Then turn off into a canal, heading past crooked houses on stilts, art galleries, local restaurants, shops and even wend you way to the impressive Jim Thompson’s House. It is a wonderful way to look back at how Bangkok used to be – when it was known as the Venice of the East.

(c) John Borthwick

On the road

To see the sights of Bangkok by road, the Siam Hop – hop-on, hop-off bus is an excellent option. The orange buses are easy to see and offer routes that allow visitors to get to know the city. There are four routes and one-, two- and three-day passes to make the most of your time in this big, beautiful, bustling metropolis.

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