Bangkok is a major Asian transport hub and also the centre of transport for Thailand. It boasts one of the world’s largest airports and a good infrastructure of transport links to the southern islands, the north and other regions of the country. In recent years, the Bangkok transport network has improved considerably and is quite useful.
Almost 100 airlines from all continents fly to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, including non-stop services to east and west coast of the USA, and numerous flights stopping over from Europe en-route to Australia. A dozen budget airlines connect it regionally, with almost hourly flights to popular destinations in Thailand and neighbouring countries.
A limited rail network spans out from Bangkok, but a busy bus service (including VIP services) is used by locals and budget-minded tourists alike to all corners of the country. The city itself is best navigated by affordable taxis, though rush hour traffic in this city is notoriously bad, so you’re better off making use of the efficient BTS (Skytrain) and MRT (Metro) to reach most tourist-oriented parts of the city. Boats also ply the river and canals.
Getting to Bangkok and about the city
Almost all visitors to Thailand arrive in Bangkok first, or at least pass through while travelling around Thailand. It is served very well by flights and buses as the most popular options for long distance travel, while getting about in the city itself is not too bad these days.
Bangkok by air is how you are likely to arrive, and the modern Suvarnabhumi Airport is a striking single terminal that is spacious and reasonably efficient. Affordable taxis (and a rail link) spirit you into the city centre in less than 40 minutes for 400 baht (US$12). You can fly direct to Bangkok from many major European and Asian cities, while regional services put the city within reach of Phuket, Krabi, Samui, Chiang Mai, Siem Reap, Ho Chi Minh City, Kuala Lumpur, Langkawi and Singapore (within two hours), departing several times a day. There are also many online booking services which offer flights to Bangkok.
Bangkok by bus appeals to budget travellers, especially those staying on Khao San Road who can get an all-inclusive bus and transfer service direct to Koh Pha Ngan, Phi Phi, Koh Chang, Phnom Penh, Penang, and also the north. The main bus hub is at Mochit Station, where VIP services depart almost hourly to many cities across the country – fast, comfortable and safe. A 10-hour overnight service for 500 baht will get you to Chiang Mai or Phuket.
Bangkok by train suits those with plenty of time, where a bunk is essential for an overnight journey. Catch the sleeper for 800 baht and ride in comfort, waking the following morning in Chiang Mai, or Surat Thani for a transfer to Samui or Phuket. It’s more comfortable and more expensive than the bus, and certainly not the fastest or most modern mode of transport in Thailand.
Bangkok by taxi and tuk tuk is the best way to get around this large and congested city, provided you avoid the roads in rush hour. Taxis are excellent value in Bangkok – cheap, safe and new – while tuk tuks are good for a lark, covering short journeys that avoid car fumes. You can even opt for a motorcycle taxi to avoid a hot stick walk from a Skytrain station to your hotel, if you have the nerve, and some insurance!
Bangkok by public transport has made life much more manageable for Bangkok commuters and tourists alike. The BTS Skytrain runs the length of the touristy Sukhumvit Road and usefully intersects lines at the popular Siam Square shopping district. Underground, you can use the MRT (Metro), useful service that runs two lines intersecting with the two above ground, making most central areas of Bangkok accessible – quickly, cheaply and comfortably.
Walking is generally not too practical and neither is cycling, but you can catch boats along the river, which is a great way to reach the Grand Palace and Khao San Road in the old city, where the commuter services are not permitted.