Sri Lanka transportation – a guide to how to travel the island

Traveling to Sri Lanka? Landing in Colombo can be overwhelming but doesn’t have to be.  Travel in Sri Lanka can be stress free if you know how to get around.  Whether you are headed for your next big surf trip or just to soak up the beach sun, study our ultimate Sri Lanka transportation guide to best enjoy this Indian Ocean island paradise.

Sri Lanka transportation – a guide to how to travel the island

Train:

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The Sri Lanka train system is old-school and can range from dreamy rides through the mountains with a whole car to yourself, to being packed in like sweaty sardines, unable to sit for hours.  The most iconic ride is between Ella and Kandy, which takes you through incredible mountain and tea plantations views and Horton Plains National Park.  It is perhaps the most beautiful train ride in the world.  You can start east of Ella if you want to ride over the Nine Arch Bridge, or just hike there from Ella town to get your picture.  Trains are separated into first, second, and third classes.  First class tickets can be bought online and you get a guaranteed seat.  Second and third class are similar and you can purchase them at the ticket office no more than 15 minutes before the train arrives.  You might get a seat, you might not.  Once on a packed train we sat in the doorway with our legs out the side of the train the whole journey.  Despite sore butts from sitting on the floor the whole way, it was a great way to enjoy the scenery!

Bus:sri lanka bus transportation

Local buses go everywhere in Sri Lanka.  If you are traveling for a long time and/or on a budget, this is your best bet.  Find the blue signs along the road which signify stopping points; they are every few hundred meters.  Be prepared to jump on while the bus is still moving!  The ticket sellers will sometimes try to over-charge you.  Once inside hold on for dear life, as the drivers are notoriously psychotic and get paid by the trip, not by the hour.  Bus fare in Sri Lanka are around 20 LKR (Sri Lankan Rupees) for a short trip or near 200 LKR from Colombo to the south coast (~5hrs).  For busing to/from Colombo, check out the special section in the bottom of the page.  Throw your backpacks in front by the driver or in the storage space in the rear, depending on how helpful/hurried the ticket guys are at the moment.  Buses are by far the most popular form of Sri Lanka transportation with the locals, so ride them at least once for the experience.

Tuk tuk:

Tuk Tuk sri lanka

These three-wheeled motorized rickshaws are a Sri Lankan transportation staple and you will find them all over the island.  They are fun to zoom around in, but the drivers are pushy and you always have to ask the price up front and negotiate; just please don’t be a dick because the price is 50 LKR higher than you’d like.  A good tourist’s tuk tuk fare is 75 LKR per kilometer, but expect to pay more late at night.  They have room for three people but will sometimes let you take more (for a tip) and generally have room for your luggage.  Check out the Tuk Tuk Safari that we did, which featured the nicest tuk tuk we’ve ever seen!  In Colombo there is a great app called Pick Me that you can use to summon your tuk tuk rides.

Motorbike:

motorbike sri lanka transportation

Buses and tuk tuks get old fast, and sometimes you just want t stop and get a coconut (or an ice cream).  Renting a motorbike is a nice change of pace and lets you explore more remote and off-the-beaten-path destinations.  Prices range from 800-1200 LKR per day.  In our opinion, this is the most fun type of Sri Lanka transportation.  Technically you need an international drivers license, along with your home country’s ID, and a special permit only obtainable in Colombo.  Most tourists who rent motorbikes do not have all or any of these documents, so just expect to pay a fine if you are stopped by the police.  Watch out for police roadblocks in every town.  We generally see them coming and hide behind the car in front of us.  The police aren’t trying to work too hard, and won’t chase you.

Taxi:

Taxis are useful in Colombo, or if you are on a quick trip/higher budget.  A trip from Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport to the south can cost between 7,000 and 12,000 LKR so be sure to do some negotiating.  If you have a hotel reserved, have them arrange a taxi for you, as they will get a better price and your ride will be waiting on your arrival.  If you need a ride to/from specific places, post sometime on one of the Sri Lanka traveler Facebook groups and many taxis will message you with deals.  Uber is a good option, but only works in Colombo.  Taxis don’t normally have signs in Sri Lanka, because they are usually are just some dude with a Prius.

Getting to/from Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport:

Keep in mind that Sri Lanka only has one international airport, located in Colombo.  Most travelers choose to skip Colombo or leave it until the end of their trip, after getting more comfortable with the country.  Leaving the airport is one of the most expensive parts of travel in Sri Lanka.  There are several options to get you where you need to be:

Bus – When walking out the main exit during daytime hours, you will see a blue bus directly in front of the exit.  This takes you to the main bus station (150 LKR – 1hr) near the Colombo Fort and train station.  This main bus station is for local buses which depart to all parts of the island for a very cheap price.  However, if you’re headed to the south we’d recommend taking the highway bus to Matara (500 LKR – 2hrs) which is air conditioned and gets you there in half the time of the local bus. These nicer buses leave from a different bus station called Maharagama in south Colombo.  They depart every 15 min or so when full.  There are also highway buses directly to Galle, although they leave less often than the Matara buses. To get to Maharagama either take a bus from the local bus station, or taxi/Uber straight from the airport (45 min, recommended).

Taxi – If you are only in Sri Lanka for a short time and your first stop is outside Colombo, we recommend just taking a taxi straight from the airport to your destination.  Set it up with your hotel in advance to save money and have someone waiting for you.  Keep in mind that if you are arriving late at night or early in the morning, taxi or Uber might be your only option for getting anywhere.

Tuk tuk – if you are spending the night in nearby Negombo, you can take a tuk tuk to your destination.  The tuk tuks are not allowed into the airport pickup area but you just need to walk across the street to flag one down.

Sri Lanka transportation is easy, however sometimes it can be crowded and hot.  We call it “character building” as my favorite athlete Alex Honnold would say.  Just keep your cool and everything will be fine!  What’s to worry, if all else fails while traveling Sri Lanka, you’ve still got your Chevrolegs and your thumb!

Don’t want to worry about anything while traveling in Sri Lanka?  Check out our upcoming Sri Lanka Surf & Yoga retreat through Bigger Life Adventures!  We take care of everything so you can focus on the fun!

Enjoy this post about Sri Lanka transportation options?  Check out our archives for other guides and helpful advice for travelers all over the world!  And don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and subscribe to our Youtube Channel!

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What happened to Mirissa, Sri Lanka? The party is over.

What happened to Mirissa, Sri Lanka?  The party is over.  After the infamous assault of Dutch tourists on Mirissa Beach in April, 13 locals were arrested and parties and party places were closed across the south coast of Sri Lanka.  Several bars tried to organize events but were shut down by the police.  However, travelers were still coming and expected something to do, being surprised at the lack of party scene and moving on quickly once they realized it was not what they had read about.  Soon the situation escalated even more, as most of the Mirissa beach bars have been destroyed by government bulldozers.

***Don’t forget to read to the bottom for a more recent update***

 

The newest development happened quickly.  On May 11th, 2018 government bulldozers rolled into Mirissa town, along with more than 100 police officers, heavily armed soldiers, and a water cannon to fight back riots.  The government proceeded to knock down 21 structures deemed “illegal”.  This included nearly all the bars and restaurants leaving a big mess of mental, concrete, and other industrial waste along the beach.  Check out this article to read more from a local news report.

mirissa destruction
All that’s left of the popular beach bars

mirissa destruction-3mirissa destruction-2

This might be another case of a story which goes a little deeper.  Only a few bars in Mirissa actually had a license to sell alcohol.  These places are still standing after the bulldozing.  Most beach bars in Sri Lanka choose to operate illegally, paying bribes over the obnoxiously priced and hard to get liquor licenses.   These licenses have a price tag of near one million Sri Lankan Rupees and take years of dedication through the proper channels to obtain.

There is also the factor that several large hotel chains have recently been “banging on the doors” of Mirissa.  It will be interesting to see if these large corporate companies are awarded the licensing that the local people were so long denied.

The government’s official reasons for the deconstruction was that A) the structures are illegal, and B) they are causing an environmental impact along the coast.  After the buildings were knocked down, there was no plan in place to clean up the destroyed structures.  These are still lining the beach, slowly getting picked though by the locals, hazardous asbestos roofing sheets thrown about in the sand.  Was this really the most environmentally safe solution, or did the authorities start a plan without a real finish in mind?

HOW TO GET AROUND SRI LANKA: TRANSPORT OPTIONS EXPLAINED

With the beach party scene being the reason most people came to Mirissa, Sri Lanka, we suspect it will take years for the town to recover.  Many honest and hardworking locals will be without work, not to mention the tremendous economic loss to the hundreds of local hotels and tourism businesses.

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This is why you should still visit Mirissa!

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We still recommend people go to Mirissa for the surf and awesome beachfront.  And don’t forget the sunsets!  Whatever ends up happening with all of this, hopefully in a few years Mirissa Beach will be in a better place because of the changes, however drastic that they were.  What do you think?  Did the government make the right decision?  Will you help us to have a clean up day, making the beach beautiful again?  Comment below!

Check out our archives for other guides and helpful advice for travelers all over the world!  And don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and subscribe to our Youtube Channel!

UPDATE October 2018:

We recently went to Mirissa to see if anything has changed.  The season is starting and tourists are beginning to flood to the area.  The beach is still a mess, lots of the debris has never been cleaned up.  Also, several of the bars/restaurants have reopened in the structures that were not eliminated.  All the rubble just makes the beach not seem as nice as it used to be.  The parties are apparently up and running again and we are curious to see if any of this destruction will change anything in the long run.

 

What we are doing now?  We’re in the Tuk Tuk Tournament in Sri Lanka!  Check out our Youtube series about the adventure!

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Tuk Tuk Safari – Exploring Galle on the Sri Lanka Coast

The amazing Tuk Tuk Safari offers tours around Colombo, Galle, and Kandy.  The tours are not just in any tuk tuks, these babies have roll-back tops, coolers of beer, custom music playlists, cool drivers, and classic paint jobs!  Our driver, Donald Duck (yes, that was literally what his nametag said), picked us up in downtown Galle and welcomed us to his safari!  He wore a fun colonial safari outfit, and kept a great smile on his face as he showed us our sweet ride.

 

We hadn’t really researched the places Tuk Tuk Safari would take us around Galle, which led us to an afternoon full of surprises.  At first we drove a little ways, ending up in Kabalana where we bounced up a dirt road to a little house in the palms.  By a beautiful outdoor kitchen we were served an incredible spread of curries: jackfruit, dhal, sweet onions, cucumber, potato… plus rice and of course papadam.  The curries were super special, and we both agreed it was one of our top three favorite meals in our two months of traveling Sri Lanka.  For dessert we had some very nice pineapple, jackfruit, and soursop, along with fresh curd and treackle (coconut sap, Sri Lankan maple syrup).  So yum!

Sri Lankan curry
Homemade Sri Lankan curry!

Our second stop was to the famous stilt fishermen of Ahangama.  The Sri Lankans erect sticks into the reef areas where there are many fish.  They climb up the sticks and sit on little shelves for hours at a time.  The spot we stopped was made for tourists so you can go experience it like the locals.  I climbed up there, getting super wet in the process, so Carrie could snap this classic shot!

Stilt fishermen Ahangama
Stilt Fishermen of Ahangama

Tukkin’ down the road, we veered off after an airport and headed inland.  Down a few skinny local streets, we came to a sign: “Spice Garden”.  They had a nice garden of all the local things out back, along with boat tours around Koggala Lake.  We took a quick tour around the garden then found ourselves in their showroom where they sell amazing Ayurvedic products along with homegrown spices.  We had a lot of fun learning about everything that could be cured by natural products.  We try to not use any chemical products so we bought a few things to take on our travels.

spice garden koggalaThe next stop on Tuk Tuk Safari was the Turtle Conservation Center in Koggala, Sri Lanka.  They take in sea turtles injured by boats and nets and try to heal them or give them a comfortable place to live their disabled lives.  There is also a turtle hatchery behind the building on the beach.  One of their turtle tanks was packed full of hundreds of baby turtles!!!  Cute little tiny things.  We love turtles and we really appreciated what this place is doing to help.

sea turtles sri lanka

baby sea turtles
Babies!!!

Donald Duck now drove us to our final stop, the Japanese Peace Pagoda in Unawatuna.  Built in 2005 in an effort by a Japanese Buddhist sect to build temples in conflict zones (Sri Lanka was in civil war until 2009), the temple offers incredible views from a hilltop overlooking the bay.  The sunset was turning fantastic and the whole scene was super magical.  When the sun was nearing the horizon, we hurried down the hill and caught the last glimpse of the red ball falling into the ocean.  With a lot of light still, we walked down a path to Jungle Beach, a secluded spot with a nice beach and calm water.

Japanese peace pagoda unawatuna
The view from Jungle Beach

Dark now, we headed home.  Donald dropped us off at our hotel and we said goodbye.  Tuk Tuk Safari far exceeded our expectations, taking us to all new spots even though we’d already been traveling in that area for weeks.  Everything was organized perfectly and Donald Duck was an outstanding tour guide!  We really hope to do their other tours of Colombo and Kandy at some point.  Tuk Tuk Safari just offers such a cool and unique experience!

To book a tour go to the Tuk Tuk Safari Facebook Page.

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Sak Yant – Thailand’s Sacred Bamboo Tattoos in Ayutthaya

As soon as we arrived in Thailand we started noticing people’s traditional tattoos.  After a few internet searches, we learned more about the “Sak Yant” as they are called– magic bamboo tattoos.  Sak Yant are beautifully designed and come with a blessing, their goal to grant protection and to give strength to the bearer of the tattoo.  The sacred tattoos are given by Buddhist monks, or ex-Monk tattoo masters called Ajarns.  The Ajarns dedicated their lives to learning the ancient art, passing the traditions down to their apprentices.

Our Sak Yant Experience in Ayutthaya

After the initial research we put in, we were turned off by the whole “free tattoo in the temple thing” as from the accounts we first read the process seemed crowded and rushed, with questionable sterilization practices.  We searched for a more personable experience, and that is when we found Where Sidewalks End Travel.  WSE’s owner Ian has spent years traveling all over Asia looking for the best Ajarns masters of the art of Sak Yant.  He now offers the most authentic Sak Yant experiences for travelers by providing a translator/guide and making sure participants really understand the purpose of the tattoos they are getting.

On the morning of our appointment, our guide, Coco, picked us up at our hostel and we took a taxi to Mo Chit Bus Terminal in Bangkok.  From there we took a mini van for the 1.5 hour journey north to Ayutthaya.  We chose to go to Ayutthaya because of the amazing things we had heard about Ajarn Wao, the sak yant master there, and his psychic abilities.  He seemed like the best choice and we trusted him to use his mastery to help us decided on the right sak yant tattoos for us.

Sak Yant - Getting Thailand's Sacred Bamboo Tattoos in Ayutthaya

Once in the city, we stopped to buy marigold wreaths as an offering.  After getting the flowers we jumped into a tuk tuk that would take us to the samayant” the studio/temple where the ceremony would take place.  After driving past the temples of the old Thai capital, we arrived and were welcomed upstairs into the sacred space.

The room was open with many windows.  At the far end was a tiered altar containing many images of the Buddha, Ganesh (the elephant god and god of art), and other sacred figures.  Incense burned in the corner and the master’s apprentices sat patiently at the side of the room.  While we waited for Ajarn Wao, our guide Coco told us some guidelines to follow in order to be respectful.  These included never pointing your feet towards the altar and walking with bent knees, aiming to never walk taller than the Ajarn.

Sak Yant - Getting Thailand's Sacred Bamboo Tattoos in Ayutthaya
The altar in the samayant, with images of Ganesh (the elephant god), Hanuman (the monkey king), Lersi the Hermit, and the Buddha.
sak yant ayutthaya
9 sticks in incense each for good luck.
Sak Yant - Getting Thailand's Sacred Bamboo Tattoos in Ayutthaya
9 sticks of incense burn for each of us.

When Ajarn Wao entered the room, we kneeled at the front and lit nine sticks of incense each, nine being the most lucky number in Thailand.  We then presented our marigold wreaths which were hung on the altar.  Carrie decided to go first, since she had more tattoo experience.  Through our translator Coco, Carrie answered questions about her birth-date, along with a few details about some struggles she has had and her desire to be more mindful in her life.  Ajurn Wao made a chart in his notebook, which he used to explain her future and recent past.

Sak Yant - Getting Thailand's Sacred Bamboo Tattoos in Ayutthaya
Carrie’s age timeline.
Sak Yant - Getting Thailand's Sacred Bamboo Tattoos in Ayutthaya
The needles and equipment.

Carrie’s Sak Yant Experience:

Carrie’s tattoo was decided; she would receive a tiger to protect her and give her strength.  The tiger would be depicted looking over its shoulder at her past, which was difficult but would make her stronger.  In the future her enemies will become jealous of her strength and success, and will try to take it from her, the Ajarn said.  But in the end she will overcome, emerging stronger than ever.  Thus that tattoo was also a reminder to stay in the moment, to not worry about the future.

Tiger Sak Yant
The basic outline
Sak Yant - Getting Thailand's Sacred Bamboo Tattoos in Ayutthaya
Starting Carrie’s protective tiger Sak Yant.

Sak Yant - Getting Thailand's Sacred Bamboo Tattoos in Ayutthaya

Sak Yant Tiger Ayutthaya Sak Yant Tiger Ayutthaya Sak Yant Tiger Ayutthaya

Ajarn Wao worked fast, but Carrie’s tattoo was large and it took nearly an hour.  It was amazing the precision of his needle strikes.  After he wiped the ink away, intricate patterns were revealed.  As he went he was constantly uttering blessings, his mantras calming.  After a few more blessings were added, the tattoo was finished.

But Ajarn Wao wasn’t done.  He wanted to give Carrie a special additional oil sak yant tattoo, invisible but still powerful.  Our guide said that this was very rare.  Carrie agreed and soon a design formed on her upper back out of small bits of blood.  The oil yant would fade over the next few days, but it’s lucky magic would remain.

Invisible Oil Sak Yant
Invisible Oil Sak Yant
Invisible Oil Sak Yant
The finished oil yant — it disappeared in a few days.

Zach’s Sak Yant Experience: 

As it was my turn the calmness left me and my palms became sweaty.  I sat in silence with plans to share about some of my struggles, my idea that I was my own worst enemy.   I knelt before the Ajarn and before I could speak a word, he said to me (translated through Coco) “You need to decrease your ego.  Try to think before speaking.”  This was shocking because ego was what I already knew to be a problem and exactly what I had planned to bring up.

He then figured out the meaning of my birthday.  In the Chinese calendar, I am born in the year of the rabbit.  However, Ajarn Wao based his predictions on the Thai calendar.  Under these dates, I was born in the year of the snake, and on Saturday, the day of the snake.  This double snake made me very powerful, but my biggest enemy was my ego.  The Ajarn then asked me about what I wanted to share, and I exclaimed that everything had already been said.  I felt as if Ajarn Wao could see into my soul, which was scary but also calming in a way, as understanding your weaknesses is the only way to truly overcome them.

Sak Yant - Getting Thailand's Sacred Bamboo Tattoos in Ayutthaya

Sak Yant - Getting Thailand's Sacred Bamboo Tattoos in Ayutthaya
Ajurn Wao deciding which Sak Yant will help me the most.

My tattoo was to be a blessing, with an emphasis on a chicken.  The chicken would distract the snakes (my ego) and help bring my consciousness away from my ego’s control.  It would help me to listen and think more before speaking, allowing me to choose the right words at the right time.  After a blessing I bent forward, away from the master who began inserting the inked stick into my back.

Traditionally given with sharpened bamboo, present day Ajurns use sharpened steel poles called “khem sak”.  At first it was just a few pricks, but soon I could feel the sharpness grind against my spine.  My knuckles turned white and sweat poured down my face.  I was warned that the placement would be difficult, and I was given a mantra to repeat when it got rough.  I noticed that the others present felt my anguish and my reaction was laughter which engulfed the room.  Soon I was able to relax myself and I became numb.

Sak Yant - Getting Thailand's Sacred Bamboo Tattoos in Ayutthaya
The more pain, the more power.

Sak Yant - Getting Thailand's Sacred Bamboo Tattoos in Ayutthaya

Sak Yant Tattoo Ayutthaya

sak yant

I noticed the apprentices, who where holding me still, stand and the sak yant sacred tattooing was finished.  Ajurn Wao splashed me with cool water and a flood of energy flooded by body.  I felt a great power come over me, as if I was new.  A smile spread over my face as gold leaf was rubbed into the blessed tattoo.

Sak Yant - Getting Thailand's Sacred Bamboo Tattoos in Ayutthaya
A blessing with gold for luck.

Sak Yant Tattoo Ayutthaya

Finshed

After we were both finished we thanked Ajurn Wao and presented our donations to him for his services.  He told us that in our relationship we needed to stop trying to one-up each other, to listen more and let things go.  He was spot on again!  This man has real wisdom.

Sak Yant Tattoo Ayutthaya Sak Yant Tattoo Ayutthaya

We chose this experience because of the reputability of WSE Travel.  Other options include going to a temple where the tattoos are given in exchange for an offering.  In these places you will wait in line and receive a tattoo for very cheap, but it may be rushed and you will miss the personal experience.  While the needles at the temple are sterilized, they are dipped into the same ink from person to person.  Theoretically this could spread diseases and even though our research never found any confirmed cases, we decided that it wasn’t for us.

Sak Yant - Getting Thailand's Sacred Bamboo Tattoos in Ayutthaya
A tiger and a temple.

Sak Yant - Getting Thailand's Sacred Bamboo Tattoos in Ayutthaya

This was hands down one for the greatest, most spiritual experiences of our traveling lives, and the lessons we learned have immeasurable value.  WSE’s Sak Yant tattoo experiences are definitely not the cheapest, but you get what you pay for and this is a lifetime commitment.  With their inside knowledge and their commitment to sustainability and making sure the sak yant tradition continues in Thailand, WSE was the obvious choice for us.  They also offer experiences in Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Chiang Rai, and Sukhothai along with ink-less blessings in Bangkok. We’ll write an update on our tattoos and how they are affecting our lives soon!  Do you think Ajarn Wao’s predictions will come true?

Would you get a sacred tattoo to help you on your life journey?

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Enjoy this post about the Sak Yant Experience – Getting sacred tattoos in Ayutthaya, Thailand? Check out our archives for other adventures! Also, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram @laaventuraproject and subscribe to our Youtube Channel.

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How To Get Around Bangkok, Thailand – A Guide For Travelers

Figuring out how to get around Bangkok, Thailand can be overwhelming at first.  Navigating the big city can seem impossible, until you figure out the different transportation systems.  The options are many and all have their time and place and ideal use.  Taking advantage of the right method can save you time, money, and headaches.

HOW TO GET AROUND BANGKOK

how to get around bangkok

1 – Taxi

Metered taxis can be the cheapest way to get around the city.  They are best when the roads are less busy (before 7 am), midday (10am-2pm) and after 8pm.  Taxi’s should always be running the meter.  If the driver offers you a price upfront then move on to the next driver because he’s trying to rack up the price.  They usually will only do this during rush hour when the meter price isn’t worth it for them to drive you.  At these times it’s best to take another mode of transport anyhow because it could take you hours to drive a few miles.  Sometimes the taxis around the very touristy areas will also refuse to use the meter.  If you just walk a couple blocks out of the super touristy area you should be able to find a taxi not trying to scam you.

Uber is another decent option.  They are usually a little more expensive than the meter taxis but you get a set price in advance.  You need a Thai phone number to do this, as the drivers usually like to call you in advance.  Set yourself up in front of a 7 Eleven to make it easy for the driver to understand.  Just say “Farang 7 Eleven” and they can usually find you.  Your hostel can usually help you talk to the driver as well.  You can use the code zackm5528ue to get 50 Baht off of your first ride.

Grab is an app like Uber, but more popular in Asia.  Most of the metered taxis also run this app.  It is usually a little cheaper than Uber and a good option during busier traffic times when the drivers don’t want to run the meter.  Same as Uber, they will usually call you so be prepared to communicate with someone who has rudimentary English skills.  Most taxi drivers at least know basic English though, so don’t fear.

how to get around bangkok

2 – Tuk Tuk

Tuk Tuks are little motorized rickshaws that are on every street corner in Bangkok.  Slightly more expensive than the metered taxis, tuk tuks are SUPER FUN to zoom around town.  The price starts at about 100 Baht for a 10 min ride and you always have to negotiate to get a decent deal.  Ask your hostel before you start for a fair price.  They hold three people comfortableyand up to six if you want to get super cozy with your friends after a night out.  They are best to use at night for bar hopping when it’s cooler and you care less about the lack of A/C.  Keep in mind that you will get wind in your hair and the dust from the street may irritate your eyes a little, but it’s totally worth it for the experience.  Everyone who comes to Thailand has to take a tuk tuk at least once.

There is also a really cool app called Tuk Tuk Hop.  It’s like Uber for tuk tuks, and takes you around the historic temple area of the city.  You pay a set price and get unlimited rides for the day.  It’s really nice because you don’t have to negotiate or search for vehicles.  Check out our article HERE for more information about this app.

how to get around bangkok

3 – Moto-taxi

Mototaxis are the scariest way to travel in Bangkok.  The drivers are crazy and you might spend the whole time praying that you live to see the next day.  However, during rush hour this is sometime the ONLY WAY to get places because the mototaxis will cut between the traffic.  Look for the guys with orange vests and the price usually starts at 50 Baht and foreigners usually have to negotiate.

how to get around bangkok

4 – BTS, MRT, ART (Skytrain, Metro, Airport Rail)

The train system is by far the easiest and safest way to get around.  It goes to most of the most popular Bangkok neighborhoods and get your their fast.  You can pay as you go or purchase a re-loadable card for 100 Baht.  The hard part about the trains is that there are three different systems and each has it’s own top-up card.  Also when transferring between lines you usually have to leave one station and navigate around a corner to the other.  Use the trains during rush hour or on weekends when the roads are clogged up.

how to get around bangkok
Bangkok BTS, MRT, and ART Map

how to get around bangkok

5 – River Boats and Canal Boats

River Boats – The best way to get to the temples from central Bangkok.  Just take the BTS to Saphan Taksin station and walk down to the Chao Phraya River.  There are several options of boats that can take you across to Wat Arun for around 50 Baht as well as a free boat at night to the Asiatique Market.

how to get around Bangkok map
Chao Phraya River Boat Map

Canal Boats – These boats cruise through the small canals in central Bangkok.  This is the best way to get from the BTS to the Golden Mount and Khao San Road.  The boat is a 9 Bahtt flat free and cuts your travel time in half over the bus, even more at rush hour.  Buuuuuut, the downside is that these boats stop running at 7pm.

how to get around Bangkok map
Bangkok Canal Boat Map

how to get around bangkok

6 – Bus

Public buses run all over Bangkok and are the cheapest form of transport.  They are pretty much useless during rush hour, so keep that in mind.  They also are not air conditioned but have open windows.  Just wait at the bus stop, get on and sit down.  Someone will come around to collect your money.  The best way to figure out which buses go where is with Google Maps– it’s usually accurate enough.

how to get around bangkok

7 – Songthaew

These are pickup trucks with bench seats installed in the truck bed.  Less common in Bangkok, they are very popular in Chiang Mai and other cities throughout Thailand.   They usually have a set route and a cheap price.  Just flag them down, hop in, and pay at the end.

how to get around bangkok

8 – Bicycle

Bicycling in Bangkok can be downright scary when traffic is crazy.  However, cycling around the temples at night can be an amazing experience.  Check out the Bangkok Night Bike Tour put on by Grasshopper Adventures.  Also, biking is the best way to get around Bang Krachao, the “green lungs” of Bangkok.  Take a whole day to explore this neighborhood and escape from the grind of city life without going too far from the urban center.

how to get around bangkok

9 – Walking

Walking is always our favorite way to get around.  You see more and interact more with the local people.  Some nice places to walk in Bangkok include Lumphini Park, Chatuchak Market, and Khao San Road.  Use the maps.me app listed below for nice downloadable maps to show you how to get around Bangkok by foot.  There is also a free walking tour by Take A Walk BKK once a week.  Check their Facebook page for more info.  Note that if you walk more than two blocks by choice, Thai people will laugh at you in a lighthearted way.  The concept of walking by choice for exercise or sightseeing is pretty foreign here.  Thai people jump on moto-taxis to go two blocks!

Other Useful Advice

Maps.me – The most useful app for world travelers.  Just download the country map of wherever you are going then you are all set once you arrive.  It navigates you around without using data.  The app picks up location data from pinging WiFi signals, giving you constant location updates in towns and cities.  It’s very handy to make sure the taxi driver is taking you in the right direction, or just for general exploring of a new city.  This is the app we use the most while traveling, don’t skip it.

Sim Card – Get yourself a Thai number.  You can pick one up at any 7 Eleven for 49 Baht then just top it up 100 Baht at a time to keep yourself connected in case of emergency.  If you phone is locked you can get it jailbroken at many phone repair stores for a cheap price, or just buy an old used phone to use as a travel phone.

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7 Ways To Be A Better Traveler – Positive Impact Tourism

Many of us go traveling without any real purpose or direction.  This can be great but sometimes our travel can cause harm to the local economies, environments, and people.  Being mindful about how your travel affects others can make a real positive difference, especially in the developing world.   Here is our list of 7 ways that Positive Impact Tourism is important when you’re on the road.

1) Dress Like the Locals:

If you travel to a Muslim or more religious country, you don’t necessarily have to wear a hijab or dress to your ankles.  However, you might consider ditching the crop top and short shorts for a more conservative approach.  This is especially important when entering temples and other religious sanctuaries.

2) Understand Local Customs:

Before you embark on your trip, take a moment to Google “how to be polite in __________”.  This will go along way to encouraging the local people to not hate you.  For instance, in Thailand it is very impolite and unheard of to get visibly upset or mad at someone.  Keeping your cool can go a long way to having a more positive traveling experience.

3) Avoid Businesses Profiting Off of Animals:

Playing with the elephants, petting tigers, feeding the monkeys.  These things all sound mighty fun but these businesses are profiting off of keeping wild animals in cages.  These places are sad and there are few that should be supported.  Spend your money in National Parks where the wildlife is wild and will eat you if you try to pet it.

4) Reduce Waste Along Your Journey:

Carry a reusable bag and water bottle on your travels.  When you go shopping, insist that they put your purchases into your reusable bag.  Also, many hostels have drinking water stations so refilling your bottle can save a lot of money along with reducing waste.  Try to avoid plastic bottles in general, as usually you have an option to purchase soda in a can.  Refusing plastic straws is also a great way to help the environment as single use straws are very destructive.  Check out these bamboo drinking straws which are reusable and make you look super educated when you use them.

Make sure you read our post 8 ways to reduce plastic consumption when you travel!

5) Eat At Local Restaurants:

When you go to a new country and immediately go straight to McDonalds, you are being a very bad tourist.  Eating at the local establishments keeps the money you spend in the community.  Skip Starbucks and drink the local coffee.  It will be cheaper and you won’t look like a total douche.  Spending your money the right way is one of the most important parts of positive impact tourism.

6) Volunteer The Right Way:

Stick to volunteering on farms or at hostels to extend your stay.  Many “voluntourism” options create more harm than good.  Make sure to do your research especially if it involves elephants or orphans.  Make sure your work is having a long tetm positive impact before you begin your stay.  Here is an article from the Huffington Post about “voluntourism” and the “white savior complex” and how terrible it is for third world nations.  One of our favorite Instagram stars, Barbie Savoir, sums up the problem pretty well through her clever satire.

7) Learn The Language:

Locals understand that most travelers can’t speak their language.  However, it’s really easy to pick up a couple words to make yourself a more polite traveler.  Learning “hello,” “please,” and “thank you” in every country you visit can earn you a lot of respect and smooth over awkward situations.  Do not just show up and start yelling at everyone in English.  Bad Tourist!!!

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Thai Boat Noodles – Street Food Bangkok

Depending on where you stay in Bangkok, you might have some locals suggest you grab some “Thai boat noodles.”  The best boat noodles are located near Victory Monument, right off the BTS Skytrain. Thai boat noodles are generally served in small bowls and the object is to eat a lot.  Most shops serve upwards of seven different types of noodles and if you manage to eat ten bowls they will give you a free liter of cola.Thai boat noodles

There are a series of canals that run through Bangkok.  Traveling by boat through these canals used to be the easiest way to get around the city.   There were many floating markets along these canals where the vendors sold products from their boats.  Several of these markets still remain in the city but are mostly just there for tourists to take pictures.  However, these are where the “”boat noodles” originated and, although they are no longer served off of boats, the shops that sell them are still located by the canals. Read more

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