My first visit to Bangkok last February, we got a tour and was there for only two full days and wasn’t able to see much of the place. It was a rushed trip (we booked a week before leaving) and then we had trip problems when we arrived so we were tired and beat after the tour, so we slept early. One thing I will never forget is how cheap everything there is! The currency exchange between Baht and Peso is just of minuscule difference, so I was barely thinking about the conversion whenever I purchase anything.
Coming back again this year, I was with my friends and we didn’t get a tour and planned our itinerary out well. It’s safe to say that Bangkok has truly captured my heart and I learned so much more about being in the city.
It’s fairly easy to navigate Bangkok. I really appreciate the fact that there are English translations to all signage, so for as long as you know your exact destination, you won’t get lost. Secondly, they have a really good public transportation system, which is a refreshing experience for me.
Via BTS (Train)
Bangkok gets quite a bit of traffic but I wouldn’t say it’s as bad as Manila. For most people, the BTS is the best way to go around the city. As someone who doesn’t ride the LRT/MRT due to traumatic news, the BTS is a miracle! I was actually afraid to ride the train quite a bit because in my small experiences in riding the train here in Manila, there’s a lot of shoving and squeezing and general discomfort happening. However, the BTS is definitely way more advanced and the people are generally nicer and more disciplined.
The best thing about the BTS is that wherever you go, there’s more or less a BTS station near you. Pretty much every place that we went to is around a five minute walk away from the station (except for the Chatuchak market).
The fare aren’t so bad either, I think the most expensive fare (from end to end) would cost you THB 55. Since our apartment was far from the city center, we opted to get the BTS One Day Pass (THB 140) for convenience.
We just rode the Sukhumvit line, but I do know there are other lines connected as well as a connection to the MRT. The train station announcer is always kind enough to remind passengers if the upcoming station connects to a different train line.
Uber and Grab is also very good in Thailand. In our experience, the price has always been fair. I wouldn’t say it’s cheaper than in Manila, but it’s definitely not exaggerated. We took the uber when going to and from the airport, when we went to Pratunam night market (since we didn’t know how to get there via BTS), and quite a grocery shopping in Siam Paragon. Since it does get traffic, I would recommend riding a BTS to the nearest area as possible and then just get an uber or hail a cab upon getting off to reach your exact destination. That way it would be faster and most probably cheaper.
Another good observation I had was that we never encountered any problems in terms of pick-up and drop off with all our uber drivers. In Manila, even if your pin is on the exact location of where you are, there’s always a 50% chance that your driver will call you to ask help for directions, etc. and this is even considering really well-known locations.
For us, our strategy (especially when we went to Pratunam), was go to a hotel and use that as our pick-up point. Even though we were equipped with a cellphone that could text and call, there might be a language barrier so to make it easier for both us and the driver, we would go to a clear establishment for pick-up. The only time we had a problem was when we got paired with an uber driver who was on his first day. Nonetheless, his kindness and general positive attitude made the trip nice and didn’t cause us any inconvenience.
Additionally, Thai uber drivers seem to be really knowledgeable about the whole set-up of Uber. The rule of thumb is, when you pass by a toll gate, the driver has to pay for the toll because the cost gets added up in Uber automatically OR should be requested in the system (via fare change). Here in Manila, there have been countless of times where I would need to argue with the driver because of their refusal to pay the toll fee and request for a fare change. I remember after getting off our uber from the airport, I asked the driver if I still need to pay for the toll separately (Uber in Thailand can be paid via cash or credit card; we used cash mostly just in case of sudden fare bloating), but the driver said “no”, and that it was automatically part of the fare.
Other Commute Options
Due to traffic, you can ride tuktuks or motorcycles to take you around since they are faster. I personally haven’t tried riding a motorcycle because I am scared, but I have ridden a tuktuk. It is fast, and more comfortable than the motorcycle, but it can also get scary because they really take over other cars.
Tuktuks are not ideal for tourists as some drivers can overcharge you. It’s only best to ride the tuktuk in desperate times. I rode the tuktuk last time from Siam Paragon to our hotel in Pratunam (this is from my trip in February), and I got charge THB 300. It wasn’t that much of a trip, but I was desperate then because I needed to be back in the hotel badly.
Apart from all I have mentioned, Bangkok also has buses to take you around within the city. This is something I haven’t tried yet, but I do know that there are a lot of stops all over and that there are non-airconditioned and airconditioned buses, with the former being cheaper of course.
To cap it off, the BTS is really your best friend when you commute to Bangkok. It offers a fast, cheap, and reliable way to go around the city. Since it’s connected to the MRT and has other lines (Silom, Sukhumvit), you won’t have any problems going to where you want exactly. In fact, the BTS is also connected to Suvarnabhumi airport! It’s fairly comfortable, with consistent AC temperatures and people respecting personal space (even if it’s rush hour). Bangkok will really test your walking skills too, since most places are beside each other so you would prefer to walk. There are plenty of overpass that you can walk on to ensure that you will cross safely.