There can be few cities in the world where transport is such a headache as it is in Bangkok. Bumper-to-bumper vehicles create fumes so bad that some days the city's carbon monoxide emissions come close to the international danger level. However, the opening of the elevated train network known as the BTS Skytrain has radically improved public transport in certain parts of the city, including the Siam Square, Chatuchak, Silom and Sukhumvit areas.
Unfortunately for tourists, the Skytrain system does not stretch as far as Ratanakosin or Banglamphu where boats still provide the fastest means of hopping between sights. Otherwise, the cheapest, albeit slow form of transport in the city are still buses .
To get around the city, you'll need to buy the blue and yellow Bangkok bus map , available from guesthouses and book shops. TAT gives out a free map of Bangkok with some bus and boat routes (available from the TAT/police booth on the corner of Thanon Khao San and Chakra Bongse). Skytrain stations don't yet appear on most maps. The most detailed accurate street map is GeoCenter's Bangkok 1:15000, best bought before you leave home.
Bangkok was built around the Chao Phraya River and its network of canals ( khlongs) and boats are still the fastest and most comfortable way of getting around the city. The Chao Phraya Express runs large, numbered water buses between Krung Thep Bridge in the south and Nonthaburi in the north, stopping at piers ( tha) all along its course; boats (6am-7pm; every 15 min) do not necessarily stop at every landing, but will pull in if people want to get on or off. During rush hours (Mon-Fri 6-9am & 4-7pm), there are limited-stop services on set routes: a coloured flag sign on each pier shows which service stops there. The less frequent and less useful boats of Laemthong for the most part use the same piers, but don't stop at Banglamphu's Phra Athit pier.
Longtail boats ( reua hang yao) run frequently along Khlong Sen Seb canal from the Phanfa pier at the Golden Mount (handy for Banglamphu, Ratanakosin and Chinatown), and head way out east, with useful stops at Thanon Phrayathai, Pratunam, Soi Chitlom, Thanon Witthayu (Wireless), and Soi Nana Neva (Soi 3), Soi Asoke (Soi 21), Soi Thonglo (Soi 55) and Soi Ekamai (Soi 63), all off Thanon Sukhumvit. This is your quickest and most interesting way of getting across town, if you can stand the stench of the canal. Another very useful longtail service travels along Khlong Krung Kasem between Hualamphong Station and Banglamphu, depositing passengers near the New World department store before terminating at a tiny pier off Thanon Phra Athit (every 20-30min; 15min; B6). It's also possible to get a longtail from Hualamphong to Phanfa pier.
Licensed taxi cabs have yellow-and-black numberplates and are no more expensive than the (less reliable) unlicensed ones, which have white-and-black plates. Fares in Bangkok's metered, air-conditioned taxis start at B35, but it can be hard to get the driver to use the meter. If that's the case, establish a fare first. The noisy, three-wheeled, open-sided buggies known as tuk-tuks are the standard way of making shortish journeys and are cheaper and nippier, if less comfortable than taxi cabs; there have been cases of attacks on solo women in tuk-tuks late at night. Cheaper and faster still are motorbike taxis , which can only carry one passenger and generally do shortish local journeys. The riders wear numbered, coloured vests; crash helmets are now compulsory on all main thoroughfares in the capital.
The BTS Skytrain
In December 1999, the long-awaited elevated railway known as the BTS (Bangkok Transit System) Skytrain began operating in Bangkok, providing a much faster alternative to the bus. There are currently two Skytrain lines in operation, both running daily every few minutes from 6am to midnight.
The Sukhumvit Line runs from Mo Chit (stop N8, right next to Chatuchak Market) in the northern part of the city to the interchange, Siam Central Station (CS), at Siam Square, and then east along Sukhumvit, via Ekkamai (stop E7, a couple of minutes' walk from the Eastern Bus terminal) to Soi On Nut (stop E9).
The Silom Line runs from the National Stadium (stop W1) through Siam Central Station, and then south and west along Thanon Rajdamri, Silom and Sathorn to Saphan Taksin Bridge (stop S6) on the Chao Phraya River.
There are two ways of buying tickets . All Skytrain stations have vending machines that sell single-fare tickets. Next to the ticket dispenser a map indicates which fare zones you'll cross to get to your destination. There are seven zones, with fares ranging from B10 to B40. Note that the machines only take B5 and B10 coins. After going through the gates to the platforms, hold on to your ticket as you need it to exit the station at the other end. Alternatively, if you are planning on a few journeys, want to avoid queues and save time, you can buy a stored-value card from the ticket office (B30 deposit, B300 minimum charge) which can be charged again and again. Don't count on getting your deposit back though, as this requires much form-filling and reimbursement is only by post.
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