Getting Around in Bangkok
Options for transport in Bangkok are as endless as its different noodle dishes; nevertheless, most expats tend to favour public transport, especially the city's many varieties of taxis. Travelling by foot is not ideal in Bangkok, while travelling by car is equal parts dangerous and frustrating. However, driving may be essential for those living in areas not reached by public transport.
Public transport in Bangkok
A popular mode of transportation among expats in Bangkok is the Sky Train (BTS). This elevated train system navigates the main business, entertainment and hospitality districts of Silom and Sukhumvit. It is a reliable, clean and safe way to travel in Bangkok, and runs for about 18 hours a day with trains arriving every three to six minutes.
Alternatively, expats can opt to ride the Metro (MRT), which runs from the north to the south of the city. It's based on the Singaporean model and is very popular with expats as well as locals. Its length is currently just over 40km with extensions under construction.
Currently, these two systems work separately but there are plans to introduce a ticketing system common to both.
There is an extensive system of buses in Bangkok, some of which are equipped with air conditioning. Although this is a cheap way to travel, it is often uncomfortable and can be very slow due to the amount of traffic in the city. For this reason, it's not a popular option with expats. However, buses are ideal for long-distance, rural, and intercity travel and a wide variety of private services operate routes to different parts of Thailand.
Expats in Thailand will quickly become familiar with tuk-tuks, open air three-wheeled carriages attached to motorbikes. The city is served by thousands of them and they are popular with tourists but are also useful for expats and locals. They're a speedy way to get around as their size allows them to zip in and out of traffic.
Though not as widely used as in the past, there is a system of water taxis operating in rivers and canals around the city. Routes are very limited so using one of these water taxis will probably entail
Taxis in Bangkok
Taxis provide the most reliable, convenient, cost-effective and efficient way of getting around Bangkok. These vehicles are never in short supply and are available around the clock; simply flag one down, hop in and prepare to pay the fare.
Taxis are fitted with a meter which charges a set rate per kilometre – by law, the meter should be turned on, but some drivers deliberately leave them off so as to be able to charge the passenger a higher price. If the driver refuses to use the meter even after a passenger has requested it, the best response is to promptly exit the taxi and find another one.
It is important to remember that most taxi drivers have very limited English skills. Expats living in Bangkok will quickly learn that it is best to have the address of their destination written down (ideally in Thai), otherwise they may experience an unsolicited tour of the city.
Driving in Bangkok
Because of the city's constant heavy traffic, as well as the high death toll on its roads, many expats prefer to avoid driving in Bangkok if they can help it. Expats who do intend to drive can buy cars new in Thailand or import their own from home, but both of these options are expensive. Foreign driver's licences are acceptable for up to three months after arriving in Thailand after that, a local Thai drivers licence must be obtained.
It's not uncommon for expats to hire experienced Thai drivers rather than braving the roads themselves. This is an ideal solution and some employers may agree to include this perk as part of the offered relocation package.
Cycling in Bangkok
Compared to many of the world's other major cities, Bangkok is relatively bike-friendly. There are a fair few bike lanes scattered around the city, though getting from one to the other may prove troublesome. Furthermore, these lanes are usually shared with pedestrians and street-side markets, making them tricky to navigate safely. Cycling in the road itself is extremely dangerous and should be avoided.
Walking in Bangkok
Thai people tend to walk less than expats in Bangkok, which may explain why the sidewalks are often used for shopping rather than strolling. The city's high pedestrian fatality rate should be taken seriously, though, so if travelling by foot is unavoidable, it should be done only over short distances.