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

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 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 – 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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Crossing Into Peru – Huaquillas Ecuador Border Crossing

In getting from Ecuador to Peru, our goal was to avoid spending a night in Guayaquil altogether, as we had heard it was just a big dirty city. Instead of staying in Guayaquil, we stopped for the night in Puerto Lopez, about one hour north of Montañita. This was our last night in Ecuador and we wished we had more time to explore Puerto Lopez because we really enjoyed the town during the few hours we explored. But we decided to go to bed early, and after a good nights sleep we woke at six a.m. and embarked on what was to be the most difficult day of our trip thus far. We headed for Peru and the Huaquillas Ecuador border crossing.

Journey to Huaquillas Ecuador
The view from our hostel room in Puerto Lopez

After hauling all our stuff to the main drag in town, we found a bus headed to Guayaquil, but it was first going through Jipijapa (pronounced “Hippy-Hoppa”), a town with nothing but a great name that was back in the northern direction. The bus driver assured us it would only take four hours–a little longer than traversing directly down the coast, but he gave us a good price so we were on board. After about five hot hours we were in the Guayaquil bus terminal, which resembles a United States shopping mall, minus Starbucks which we (shockingly) have yet to find in South America. We quickly were on the next bus to the edge, the Huaquillas Ecuador border crossing into Peru. Another hot and sweaty trip during which we spent five hours staring at millions and millions of banana trees and taking detours off the highway to stop every tiny village along the way. It was just about as boring as driving through the cornfields of the midwestern United States, only our ears were blessed with Latin beats not only from the bus stereo but also from two other passengers who had not yet discovered the magic of headphones.

In Ecuador, usually every time a bus slows to let off a passenger, someone climbs on selling stuff to eat. They bring on anything imaginable and to write the list of foods we have bought from these people would take up a whole blog entry in itself. Since the bus never stops for very long, the only way to eat is to buy whatever cheap amazing nonsense is hauled aboard (or pack something, which would just ruin the fun of the whole thing). This bus, however was the most crowded long distance bus we have taken yet. The aisle was packed full so that some people stood for over 3 hours. This unfortunate bus-stuffage meant the food vendors could not squeeze onto the bus, leaving us ravenous. We are not nice or happy people when hunger sets in…being hungry inevitably leads to being “hangry” (props to whoever coined that term) and speaking nicely to one another and our fellow passengers becomes more and more difficult. Finally we were able to throw some coins out the window at a man who passed us some ice cream sent straight from heaven.

We thought we would never make it to the border but out of nowhere, before we reached the last town in Ecuador, the bus driver yelled for us and told us this was were we needed to get our exit stamps. So we got off the bus, the agents stamped our passports and yelled “Ciao!”. We knew from our guidebook that it was 2km to the actual border, so we grabbed a taxi which dropped us off in a huge mess of confusion. The driver pointed to a ditch full of burning trash, telling us that that was the border and what we needed to do was walk across the bridge, on top of which people seemed to be having some kind of a country fair, and we would be in Peru.

There was no fence here at the Huaquillas Ecuador border crossing, no men with machine guns, no customs with stupid questions; you just walk across the bridge. There were such a crowd and everyone was bumping us and we we worried about warding off pickpockets and such. New Peruvian taxi drivers were following us telling us it was 3km farther to the Peruvian immigration office where we had to get our entrance stamps. We never like to go with the first guy who bugs us so we followed the second driver, who seemed more polite, through the mess to his car. The guidebook said to only take “official” taxis in Peru but none of the taxis looked very official so we just let him drive us to the immigration office. The entrance process was the same as entering Ecuador: write all your information on a form, then the officials type it in a computer and pass out stamps as fast as they can, no questions asked.

Our eager-beaver taxi driver was still there waiting to take us to the bus station in Tumbes (which we thought was close) so we changed what little American money we had left for Peruvian Soles. The money changers tried to rip us off the first time, giving us a horrible exchange rate, but as soon as we questioned them they gave us the proper amount. We threw our stuff back in the taxi/guy’s car and asked how much it was going to be to take us to the bus station. “20 dollars,” he said “Because it’s 40km away and there are no buses from here, no other way. Come with me and we will ask the police if there is another way. They will tell you the same thing!” The police were all his friends so of course they told us the same thing, but it was getting dark and we needed to get a move on; we didn’t know who to trust and didn’t have time to investigate before the sun set. (Border towns are not good places to be after dark, we’ve heard.) So after we acted like we were going to leave, Eager Beaver told us he would take us for $10 if his policeman-friend’s son could ride with us also. We passed busses headed to Tumbes from the border that “didn’t exist” according to the taxi driver and the Policia, but we were just happy to finally be away from the hectic border and on our way to the last bus of the day.

It was just two more hours to beach paradise, Máncora, where we would spend Christmas. But of course, this wasn’t the end of the fiasco. After what seemed like a lot less than 40km we entered Tumbes and the taxi driver stopped, directing us across the street to his friend’s van that was filling up to go to Máncora. We expected a nice cheap ride for say six Soles ($1= almost 3 Soles) but this van was super classy and wanted 40 SOLES EACH!!! Of course. Now we were stuck, exhausted; the sun was setting and we had no idea where to go but were refusing to pay almost $15 for a two hour ride. Eventually, after looking lost for a minute, a nice lady told us that since it was the holidays it might be hard to catch a bus at this late hour, but we would surley be able to find a cheaper van. This we did, for 25 Soles each and they even said they would drop us off right at our hostel. They actually dropped us off nowhere near our hostel and we had to take a mototaxi (motorcycle with an attached rear bench for two people) but WE MADE IT!!! The relief of finally being there was almost as strong as our frustration with all the scammers of the day. We already missed Ecuador. Not exactly happy with our first impression of Peru, we resolved to enjoy the beach for a few days and hoped for better luck in our next travel experience!

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