Living in a foreign country like Thailand can be fun, exciting, inspiring and even life changing! At the same time, however, living abroad is also fraught with unexpected challenges and daily struggles that you wouldn’t even have to think twice about back home. One of these such challenges that I’m sure you can all relate to is using public transport!
In many cities around the world, when it comes to transport, the options are pretty limited. In my home city of Sydney for instance, you have a choice of bus, train or an incredibly overpriced taxi. Other than that, you’ll be tying up your laces and be going for a nice leisurely walk to wherever you want to go. Bangkok on the other hand literally has just about every transportation option under the sun to fit your budget. A few of my most popular ways of getting around include:
Bangkok Skytrain (BTS)
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For most foreigners living in Bangkok, the BTS will be the main way you get around. In fact it was only after about six months in this city that I realized that Bangkok stretched far beyond the end of the BTS line. When you reach Bearing or Bang Wa you have in fact not even scratched the surface of greater Bangkok. Webster University’s Bangkok campus is located right downtown just a short walk from BTS station Chong Nonsi. On the Silom Line, Chong Nonsi means that you’re only about 5 minutes away from Siam and about 15 minutes away from most places of interest. With fares ranging from 15-52 baht, the BTS is a quick and easy way to get around.
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It doesn’t take you long on the ground to realize that the traffic in Bangkok can be horrible. What should normally take 10 minutes or so, can in fact take much longer, leaving you hot, sweaty and tired! In order to combat Bangkok’s traffic woes, in the 1990’s the Thai Government initiated a motorcycle taxi scheme. If you have a sense of adventure and can hold on tightly, a motorcycle is a very efficient way of getting around. A short trip to the end of the soi will set you back about 10 baht with anything longer directly negotiable with the driver. Some motorcycle taxi stands might also have a pricelist written up on a signboard near their bikes.
Travel along the khlongs
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As a city built on water, Bangkok has hundreds of tiny canals (khlongs) that cut across the city in all different directions. Whilst this is not the most convenient way of commuting to and from class each day at Webster Bangkok, it can be surprisingly handy when you’re venturing to other parts of the city. The main route and perhaps the most popular in terms of volume of people is Khlong Saen Saeb. Stretching east to west across the city, the boats along this route stop at some of the most popular parts of Bangkok including Thong Lo, Ekkamai, Nana and Ramkhamhaeng. With fares ranging from 10-20 baht, the journey in itself is well worth the money.
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Probably one of the most synonymous symbols of Thailand (and Bangkok more specifically) is the tuk-tuk. In fact I’m sure that before you even stepped foot off the plane you had a pretty good idea about what to expect. These three-wheeled motorcycles with a semi-enclosed cabin on the back are a right of passage for most visitors to the Kingdom. If you have friends or family stopping by during your time here, it’s well worth the ride. My only tip however is “bargain hard and bargain often”. Many drivers will suggest spurious figures for short distances with the assumption that you are a cashed up tourist. Good luck and have fun!
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Now yes I know exactly what you’re thinking – “Bangkok is a tropical climate and there is no way I’m riding a bicycle in this heat (and this traffic!)”. Whilst these are very valid concerns, you’d actually be surprised at how easy a bicycle makes it to get around! With bike share stations situated all the way from Phloen Chit to National Stadium to Lumphini and Surasak, it is actually pretty convenient. For rides of less than 30 minutes you pay absolutely nothing. For anything longer than that then there is a nominal fee for each 30 minute block thereafter. After you organize your card all you need to do is tap and go. You can take and return a bike at any one of the stations across Bangkok.
Buses in Bangkok
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There are definitely pros and cons about the buses that traverse this wonderful city. On the positive side, there are literally hundreds of bus options and there will always be a bus that can take you wherever you want to go. The difficult part however is figuring out exactly which bus to catch and where to get on/off. Unfortunately very few of the buses have any signs in English and generally the conductors / ticket collectors will also have only a rudimentary grasp of English. This can make things challenging but definitely not impossible! Whilst I’m no expert, I generally try to memorize the bus numbers, cross my fingers, and utilize Google Maps! My two favorite buses are the bus from Victory Monument to Don Mueang Airport (17 baht what a bargain!) and bus number 62 from Phloen Chit to Sathorn. Each and every time I’ve found the staff extremely friendly and it is also a great way to practice my Thai!
No matter how you decide to get around, one thing’s for sure – you’ll have fun whilst doing it! Each and every option provides you with a different perspective of Bangkok and will undoubtedly make you feel more like a local every day!