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Driving & Public Transport

Bangkok - Driving & Public Transport

Click here to go to this city guide's homepage

Bangkok City's traffic is notorious. A distance of 10km can take up an hour to reach. The traffic situation is made worse during the rainy season (September - November), where flooding occurs in parts of Bangkok.

Expatriates who are unfamiliar with Asian traffic are in for major adjustment. Driving in Bangkok is not for the faint-hearted. Apart from the poor traffic situation in Bangkok, there are several other adjustments. For example, the idea of a motorcycle being the carriage of two persons only. It is not uncommon to find families riding on the same motorcycle, or find motorcycle transporting large baskets of goods or unusual things from livestock to building materials. Motorcycles (and motorcars) have been known to drive on both sides of the roads in both directions.

New laws prohibiting the use of mobile phones without hands-free device were introduced in 2008.

Public Transport

Most expatriates prefer to move around the city by public transport. Public transportation is inexpensive, and there are many options.

Bangkok's public bus service are operated by the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority that maintains a website with information about bus routes. There is a handy bus guide (The Bangkok Bus Map) sold at convenience stores like 7-11. There are different types of buses, and not all buses are air-conditioned. Most buses run from 5am to 11pm. There are also night service buses. When alighting, not all buses come to a complete stop, and passengers simply jump off the bus. Female passengers should avoid sitting next to monks, as monks cannot be touched by women.

Invariably, it is the taxi that is most commonly used by expatriates, especially among those who have stayed in Bangkok for a long time. Metered taxis offer the best overall value for getting around the city. Tolls for using highways are paid by the passengers. In recent years, there has been an initiative to help taxi drivers learn English to enhance their service, especially to tourists. Look out for a sticker / sign on the window that indicates that the taxi driver is comfortable with speaking English with passengers. If you are unable to hail a taxi, you can call the 24 hour Taxi Radio at 1681.

The ubiquitous tuk tuk that is often featured in tourist books are best reserved for journeys that you are familiar with, as there is invariably some bargaining involved if the potential passenger is a foreigner.

There are also motorcycle taxis riders are identified by the colored vests they wear. Motorcycle taxis differ from normal car taxis in that they only pick up passengers from one location. Motorcycle taxis are great if you really have to go somewhere that has a bad traffic jam, as these motorcycles can weave between cars and do not necessarily ride on roads all the time.

On some canals ("klongs"), there are riverboats that ferry commuters to certain areas. Some routes, such as the Saen Saeb klong offer useful routes that bypass some of the heavy traffic roads. In some areas, there are AHT buses ("song taew") that usually ply only very specific areas.

The BTS Skytrain (elevated rail network) is a great way to beat the road traffic, and the current lines cover many major commercial and residential areas, between Siam Square, Silom, Sukhumvit and Chatuchak. Click here for the Skytrain's map and routes. In 2004, the Skytrain routes have been complemented with an underground / subway train network. The underground train system is managed by Bangkok Metro Public Company, and they maintain a useful map on their website. There are currently 18 stations, with more in the pipeline (but no construction has taken place). Get the stored value card for best value.

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