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Bangkok is one of the most visited cities in the world with an average of 22.78 million visitors a year. On top of that, it has a population of 10.72 million permanent residents as of 2022.
So with all these people, getting around Bangkok can be incredibly challenging if you don’t know what you’re doing.
When navigating your way through Bangkok’s public transportation system, it’s important to be clued up on the route maps and how it works, so you can get from A to B without a hitch.
You might also find that some modern public transport in Bangkok doesn’t reach a lot of places, and you may have to resort to traditional (albeit more fun!) methods such as using river boats or tuk-tuk.
With trains, buses, subways, boats, sky trains, taxis, tuk-tuks, and your own two feet, it can be overwhelming knowing which public transport to take.
So allow this guide to help you out. We’ve detailed each mode of transport in Bangkok so you can navigate your way around Bangkok’s mass transit system without a hitch.
Types of Public Transportation in Bangkok
From the Bangkok airport rail link, to subways and tuk-tuks there are so many options for getting around Bangkok. Here’s some information on each way around Bangkok, Thailand.
1. Bangkok Airport Rail Link & Rail Link Express
I don’t really get excited to travel on trains, but I was when I took the Bangkok Airport Rail Link. Not because it was a train, but because it was exactly the solution I needed when getting to and from the airport.
I loved not having to worry about expensive airport parking, over-priced train fares (the Sydney airport link is extortion), slow buses, expensive cabs, or dirty public transport in general.
The Bangkok airport rail link is cheap, clean, and efficient and gives you the chance to watch greater Bangkok pass by your window.
The airport link opened in 2010 and connects Suvarnabhumi Airport to the city center of Bangkok.
Clean and comfortable
The train to/from Bangkok airport will go directly from either Makassan Station or Phaya Thai Station.
Phaya Thai has an easy connection to the BTS sky train and Makassan is within walking distance of the Phetchaburi MRT station on the Sukhumvit Line, so you can easily jump onto other public transport to get to your hotel.
Tickets are between 35-45 baht each way depending on whether you take it from Makassan or Phaya Thai.
At Makassan station, you can check in for your Thai Airways flight. If you have an evening flight, check your luggage in and then go hang out in the city until you need to go to the airport. Cool idea!
You do not need to book your rail ticket in advance, just rock up at the station and buy a ticket from the booth. Staff speak great English and are there to help!
If you want to save a little more money and have a bit more time, then take the City Line to Bangkok Airport. Trains run every 15 minutes, there are six stops and it takes 35 minutes to get to the airport on this line. Tickets for this train are 15-45 baht depending on where you get on.
2. Bangkok Taxis
Unless it is very early in the morning or late at night, I wouldn’t even consider getting a taxi to the airport in Bangkok. The traffic is notoriously bad and it will end up costing you a lot.
A metered cab to the airport will cost from 200- 400 baht depending on traffic. If you take the tollway (which in Bangkok traffic you should) then you will pay an extra 50 baht for the toll.
When getting around Bangkok, a taxi should always be a last resort. They are slow and expensive, and you spend most of your time sitting in traffic. Unless you’re getting motorbike taxis that whizz between the cars.
Always insist that the meter is turned on when you enter a Bangkok taxi. Be aware that if you take one within Bangkok you will have to deal with added costs due to traffic delays and have to pay for every toll.
All taxis are now metered and air-conditioned: the hailing fee is 35 baht and most trips in downtown cost less than 100 baht for most trips. To avoid confusion have the name of your destination written in Thai when asking your driver to take you somewhere.
Top tip: If you are worried about prices racking up, use the taxi app, Bolt. This is the Uber of Thailand and has much cheaper prices than Uber or Grab.
If you’re traveling by yourself, you can take a Bolt motorcycle taxi which can whizz between the traffic. Make sure you ask your driver for a helmet! Motorcycles are fun but can be dangerous.
3. Bangkok MRT Subway
The Bangkok MRT is the underground subway network in Bangkok. It’s clean and efficient and has reasonable prices (certainly cheaper than taxis).
The MRT is really easy to navigate since there are only two lines serving 53 stations in Bangkok, going from Hua Lamphong in the South (near Chinatown) to Bang Sue in the north.
The blue line takes a circular route around the city, the purple line heads towards Nonthaburi and the Red Line connects to Chaling Tan.
The interchange station between the blue and purple lines is Tao Poon Station, which you’ll only really use if going to the Chatuchak Weekend market. Most likely you will stay on the blue line the whole time.
Bangkok MRT subway trains run every 5-7 minutes and connect to BTS at Sukhumvit and Silom stations, as well as several other BTS stops, so you can easily swap between the two modes of transport.
Commuters can buy single trip tokens (15 to 40 baht depending on the distance) or one-day passes for unlimited trips for the day at 120 baht and three-day passes at 300 baht.
Note: The MRT and BTS Sky Train are two separate companies, so you will need to buy passes for each separately. It’s a good idea to plan your daily public transportation in Bangkok to see which mode of transport is worth investing in a day pass for.
4. The BTS Skytrain
The BTS Sky Train is an excellent way of getting around Bangkok. In fact, it’s probably one of my favourite public transportation in Bangkok because it’s clean, quick, and you get to watch the city go by.
You will really appreciate it on a stinking hot day as the AC is freezing! The sky train can get you around Bangkok quite quickly, but it does not connect everywhere in the city.
The BTS was constructed in 1999 and while it has been extended since, it still does not reach too many places in Bangkok. It does not reach Bang Phlat across the Chao Phraya River, for example.
It’s easy to navigate as it only has two lines, the Sukhumvit Line and the Silom Line.
When visiting many tourist attractions in Bangkok, you will most likely need to take the BTS and the MRT or taxi to your destination. The MRT also has a BTS Skytrain Station at Sala Daeng, Asok, and Mo Chit.
The BTS Sky Train covers most of downtown Bangkok however and is a good option if you are going a short distance. Fares range from 16 to 44 baht depending upon how many zones you are travelling in.
Consider a rechargeable stored-value card (from 100 baht), or one day pass for 140 baht per day.
5. Tuk Tuks
traffic rush hour in the city at dusk evening
Tuk tuks are one of my favourite ways of getting around Bangkok, despite being a bit of a tourist gimmick and you spend the whole ride on the edge of your seat and with a face full of pollution.
The great thing about tuk-tuks is they are everywhere. There are many places the Bangkok rail network will not reach. In that case, you have to take a bus, walk, or a taxi, or tuk-tuk.
Even though tuk tuks are more expensive than a Bolt would be, I would often opt for them just for the thrill of it.
Riding a tuk tuk will involve bartering before you start your journey. There is no set price for a tuk tuk.
Tuk Tuk drivers will always try to overcharge the tourists. Offer the price you are willing to pay and see what they say. If they say no, walk away and take a Bolt instead.
If they follow you, you know that your price was reasonable, and barter a little more to meet in the middle.
I was fortunate enough to be an English teacher and know a little Thai, so before I would start the negotiation in Thai.
Pro tip: If you speak a little Thai, you will likely get a much more favorable price because you’ve made an effort to speak in their language. Kindness and respect go a long way in Thailand.
6. Bangkok Buses
With friends during non-peak hour- a pleasant ride
The buses in Bangkok are often the most convenient way around the city as there are usually several buses that go to the top places to visit in Bangkok. When in doubt, you can always take a bus.
We loved getting around Bangkok on a bus. The constant clacking of the conductor’s change tin as he tried to wriggle his way through the sweaty armpits of all of Bangkok squashed into the bus is a memory that will last forever.
Hold your nose, hold on tight, and watch out for potholes. Hold the overhead hand ropes or the person next to you and enjoy the cultural experience.
They are a very cheap way of getting around Bangkok. In fact, if you get one of the really old un-airconditioned buses with just a fan, you could pay only 8 baht per journey.
Do be mindful of the traffic though, as buses do get stuck in traffic jams. An off-peak drive would take 15 minutes, but during those heavy periods, it was an hour to an hour and a half.
The price of buses depends on their colour and how far you go, but they range from 6 – 40 baht per trip.
The bus is the cheapest but slowest form of public transportation in Bangkok.
Pro tip: Download the ViaBus App, which tells you where every bus in Bangkok is located and where they go. It’s a really easy-to-use app and really helped me understand and navigate Bangkok’s buses.
7. River Taxis/Ferries, and Long-Tail Boats
A cheap and unique way to get around Bangkok and see the more suburban side of it is by river boat.
The Saen Saep express boat is mostly used by commuters and goes down one of the few remaining klongs (canals). It provides easy access from the Golden Mount (our old home and close to Khao San Road) to Siam Square.
The fare is 8-20 baht depending on where you want to go to. Watch your step getting on and off!
The Chao Phraya Express boat is more of a tourist boat, as it runs along the river stopping off at many tourist spots such as Wat Arun. I love exploring Bangkok from the river boats.
These boats go from Phra Arthiti pier near Khao San Road. The Chao Phraya Express Boat is more expensive and costs around 50 baht per trip, but you can get day passes for 180 baht.
The orange line is the one that covers most tourist destinations and is fast. They are also slightly more comfortable as fewer locals use them, and cost from 15 baht up to 30 baht.
If you want to get around the klongs and see the floating markets, then you may want to hire a long-tail boat. You can hire a long-tail boat from many piers in Bangkok, but the most popular is Phra Arthiti pier near Khao San Road.
Alternatively, get an MRT or BTS to Bang Wa Station and take a taxi. You can also get a BTS directly to Sathorn Pier.
8. Walking Around Bangkok
There is so much to discover and explore in Bangkok, but it’s also huge, so walking is not really an option unless you stay in one neighborhood.
If you want to visit the Grand Palace and Wat Pho, as well as the other temples in Old Town, it’s really easy to walk from one to the other.
Likewise, when visiting Chinatown, the neighborhood spans three MRT stations, but you can easily walk from one side to the other in 30-40 minutes or so.
Where possible, opt to walk instead of taking one or two stops on the MRT or BTS. It won’t cost you anything and has less impact on the smog that shrouds the city every day.
Most of the time walking is quicker than riding one or two stops, and more peaceful than dealing with the horrors of Bangkok traffic.
Before You Go
Bangkok is an energetic city with so much happening all the time. It’s busy, chaotic, and wild – but that’s all part of the fun of it!
Hopefully, this guide has helped you understand Bangkok’s public transportation a little better and give you some options. Be sure to put your BKK itinerary together first, so you can plan which of Bangkok’s public transportation you need to take.
Before you go, be sure to download maps and all your relevant apps, so you can get from A to B as soon as you arrive at the airport.
When walking, be careful of traffic. The pedestrian light may say green, but cars will still go. Always look when crossing the road and be careful of rogue drivers!
Plan Your Trip to Bangkok
We’ve been traveling consistently for 17 years and have come to rely on a few trusted websites that save us money and time when booking accommodation, flights, and car rental. Below are our preferred partners:
Flights to Bangkok
Skyscanner is a comparison website that searches millions of flights. Once you find your best deal, book directly through the airline (no extra fees).
Scott’s Cheap Flights is another fantastic resource for finding flight deals.
Accommodation in Bangkok
Booking.com has 1,332 hotels, apartments, and hostels in Bangkok. You get free cancellation on most rooms and a best-price guarantee.
In the 3-Star category, we suggest staying at the Chateau de Sukhumvit in Sukhumvit. The hotel sits on a wonderful street where ex-pat bars intermingle with hawker food stalls.
For a much more polished 5-Star experience, there is no better place to stay than the Sheraton Grand Sukhumvit.
It sits across the famous Benchakitti Park and Lumpini Park. Not only is the park a wonderful place to spend the day as a family, but the hotel is also a 5 minute walk from our top shopping mall, Terminal 21, where you can find affordable and delicious food in Bangkok.
There are plenty of vacation rentals options, and if this is the route taken, it’s best to get one a bit outside the city to have the opportunity for a more authentic and local experience.
Popular Tours of Bangkok
Do you have any tips for getting around Bangkok? Share them with us in the comments!