TYPICAL-Bus-IN- Bangkok-colorful-pink-with-no-air-con-

BANGKOK BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT: A Smart Way To Get Around On A Budget!

In ASIA, BLOG, THAILAND, USEFUL GUIDES by Clelia Mattana38 Comments


GUIDE TO BANGKOK BY PUBLIC TRANSPORTS

How many tourists/Travelers venture into Bangkok only by using public transport, especially the buses? I haven’t seen many.

public pus transportation in bangkok guide for tourists travelers. how to visit bangkok by bus
On the public Bus!

In this article I’ll show you not only how to not get ripped off by taxis and Tuk Tuks, but also to enjoy THE REAL THING. I’ll tell you which buses goes to the main attractions, how not to get lost (or why you should try to get lost at least once), fares and tips. All personally tested by me.

DISCLAIMER: THIS POST IS FROM 2013 WHEN I FIRST ARRIVED IN BANGKOK, but it has been updated in 2020 🙂


  TIPS TO GET AROUND BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT

TYPICAL-Bus-IN- Bangkok-colorful-pink-with-no-air-con-

1| Carry Small Change With You:

The driver will collect the fare (or a lady passing among the people with a small cylinder), always have small change with you.
A 100-baht note on an air-con bus might be acceptable, but not so much on regular or smaller buses (500 and 1,000 baht notes are a big no-no).

  • 100 Baht: 2,80 Euros / 3,30$ / 2.5 GBP
  • 500 Baht: 14 Euros / 16,5 $ / 12.5 GBP
  • 1000 Baht: 28 Euros / 33 $ / 25 GBP

2 | Keep The Receipt: 

After buying the ticket they will give you a small receipt. Keep it as sometimes they will ask you to show it again.

3 | Always Tell Your Destination To The Driver/Ticket man: 

This way, you will pay according to it (this is valid on Air-conditioned buses) and they will also let you know where to get off. Don’t always count on it but usually they do it if you are the only foreigner on the bus.

4 | Call For The Bus When It’s Approaching: 

It doesn’t matter if you are right at the bus stop, when you see your bus coming, do like the locals do, either run towards the entrance or call it by waving your hand clearly! If you don’t do that, you are very likely to miss it.

5 | Get Ready To Jump In And Out: 

Most of the buses don’t really stop fully and you need to run and jump in (and out) when they are still moving. A little balance and quick reflex will do the trick!

Ready to jump on!
Ready to jump on!

6 | Try To Ask For Directions: 

It is very unlikely that you’ll find anyone who speaks good English on a Thai bus in Bangkok, but from time to time there will be someone who understands a bit, and usually, these people will be very kind and willing to help the “Farang” (read: Stranger/Tourist).

Sometimes you might even find yourself surrounded by concerned people trying to understand where you need to go or to get off. All this may sound a bit “uncomfortable” for a normal tourist but it’s all part of the experience! Rejoice at the fact that people want to help you 🙂

7 | Grab A Map of The City:

I am actually against using any map because it removes the excitement and the adventure out of my trips, but the bus one, provided by the BMTA website is pretty useful if you are too scared to jump into the unknown, without a small parachute.

8 |Find Out Where The Bus Stop Is. Possibly In Advance.

Get ready! not all the buses have a “proper” bus stop, so if you are not sure where your bus is supposed to stop, try to ask people on the streets. A good sign, especially on big roads is when you see more than 3-4 people waiting on the side of the road.

If you have a specific destination in mind, go to the closest main road and chase the first bus that stops there, run to the front door and ask the driver… good luck with that! 🙂

Pro Tip: Just say the name of the place you need to reach, don’t try difficult sentences. Even just a “WAT PHO??”(a famous temple in Bangkok) Including a clear question mark at the end, might be enough for the driver to understand and either let you in or not.

9 | Write The Name Of The Places And Roads In Thai:

Unless you are fluent in Thai, you better ask the Hotel/Hostel receptionist to help you out with that, and trust me, doing it might be a life savior if you want to get around by public transports among the locals!

I once jumped on a bus and asked for the “Grand palace Temples”, confident that the driver would understand such a simple request. A blank stare on his face brought me back to reality: Thai people use their Thai names for streets and attractions. So what for me was a simple word: TEMPLE, in Thai is called WAT.

So learn a few basic Thai words and you’ll be in better shape to get around Bangkok by bus/Public Transport!


MY VERY SPECIAL MISSION:

For 5 days I moved only by using  Public Transport and boats In Bangkok

After my 7th time in Bangkok, I was quite tired of Tuk Tuks negotiations and scams and taxis with a taxi meter that is conveniently always “broken”. I simply wanted to try to move like a local.

Well let me tell you something: My plan worked wonderfully, now I love Bangkok and can’t wait to be back for more (very soon! I’ll be back by the 6th of December 2013).

Below is a practical list of how to get around Bangkok by bus / public transport. I will specify the bus numbers and where they can take you. Starting point: The Backpackers paradise Khaosan Road.

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1)HOW TO GET TO WAT PHO/GRAND PALACE TEMPLES BY BUS

Giant Reclined Buddha at Wat Pho
Giant Reclined Buddha at Wat Pho

Directions from Khaosan Road: Go to the end of the street where there is a Burger King Sign, turn on your right and after 300 mt you’ll find a huge Road called”Ratchadamnoen Klang Road“.You need to memorize this street very well, as most of the buses you need will pass from there.

burger king khaosan road JPG

Turn right at the Burger King sign, and after 300mt you’ll find the big road (Picture here below)

Bus road bangkok OK PICASA

How to get there:For the temples (Wat Pho and the Grand Palace complex)  bus number 203 going to the  direction on your right. You’ll need to cross the road  and immediately on your right there is a  blue old Bus stop sign.

Cost of the ride by bus: 13 baht (0.40$) with air conditioning.

Cost of the ride by Tuk-tuk: at least 100 baht ( (if less, beware: there is a scam where the driver takes you to a shop and insists that you buy something, don’t fall for that. I did once and when I refused to go to the shop he just yelled at me to get off, leaving me in the middle of nowhere and in a dark street).

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2) HOW TO GET TO MBK SHOPPING CENTER BY BUS

bangkok-mbk-shopping-centre-by-bus

Warning: At least save the money by going there by bus, because as soon as you enter you will be LOST forever, my friend. Anything you need, anything you could think of, you’ll find it at the MBK shopping mall!

How to get there: From Khaosan Road, take the same road to Ratchadamnoen Klang  Rd, but this time no need to cross the road. Walk on your left and catch the Bus n. 79.  It will take around 20/30 minutes depending on the traffic, but it’s a very enjoyable ride with air-con. And you won’t find a single tourist on the bus. I promise.

Cost for the ride: 13 baht no air con (0.4$). 16/18 baht (0.5/0.6 $) with air con.

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3) HOW TO GET TO PRATUNAM AREA BY BUS

The revolving Roof deck in Pratunam bayioke bangkok by night bangkok view, bangkok by bus
The revolving Roof deck in Pratunam

Pratunam is my personal paradise place in Bangkok. I’ve been here so many times and, apart from the shopping, you can find the most amazing revolving rooftop view (highly recommended at sunset for stunning pictures!).

How to get there: Same  Road from Khaosan, same direction as for the MBK (on your left). Bus numbers: 511, 60 or number 2.

Cost for the Ride: 13 baht no air con, 16/18 baht with air con.

Same advice as before: tell the driver where are you stopping (I always say, Baiyoke tower or “Shopping Centre” they understand that)

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4) HOW TO GET TO CHINATOWN AND SILOM AREA BY BUS


Yaowarat at night (32455695783)

How to get there: From Khaosan Rd, same bus n. 203 to the temples, then bus Number 1 going in direction to the Silom Area.

Disclaimer: This may not be the easiest way to reach Chinatown. I discovered it by accident. I went off from a public boat on a random pier (more about it on a separate post on public boats in Bangkok) and I found myself in the Silom area, after wandering around I tried to get back to Khaosan Road.

I decided to jump on the first bus coming my way. Bus number 1.  I had no idea where it would take me.


Italian Gestures: signs against bad luck
Italian Gestures: signs against bad luck

I had my Italian gesture for good luck in action, and I enjoyed the ride so much! it’s been one of the most freeing experiences of my life!

I always wanted to jump on a random bus and see where it led. Well, bus number 1 was definitely my lucky one as it went through some amazing places, including the heart of Chinatown.

I can’t even start to tell you the incredible sensation of VICTORY when I realized that from Chinatown, the bus went straight to the Grand Palace! I felt like a lioness, I was literally roaring inside 😀

My adventure went well after all. From the Grand Palace I took the usual bus number 203 (CAREFUL! I took it in the wrong direction because it goes around the huge grand palace complex and I got confused), but in the end, I arrived safe and sound at my hotel in Khaosan road! What an exciting ride!

Tip: bus number 1 is a safe choice if you want to make sure you stay in well known areas, but it will give you the thrill to see some very fascinating parts of Bangkok unknown to the “Public”.


MY FINAL TIP

Embrace the adventure and enjoy it, even if you get lost! or may I say, you should hope to get a bit lost?

Sometimes the best things happens when you are not looking for them. Don’t be afraid to risk a bit (always using your judgment of course, as don’t go to dodgy areas by night and always have a copy of your address and passport with you, and some money to grab a taxi in case of emergency).

Talk to the locals on the bus, they will be in most cases, very friendly and happy to try to communicate with the only western person on the bus. Doesn’t matter if you don’t really understand each other. A smile goes a long way.

Enjoy the ride, look around you, be curious, jump off the bus when you feel like exploring by foot. Go with the flow

As Tolkien wisely said: “Not all those who wander are Lost”


What do you think? any direct experience? or would you like to add some more tips! leave me a comment below, would be great to see how you managed the experience!

Read in: Italian German

Comments

  1. Wow never seen such an in-depth guide for traveling Bangkok, I love travelling through bus transportation. soooo that means your blog will really come in handy for me to get lost and wander. Hopefully this pandemic will soon subside for us to travel safer 🙂

    Thank you Clelia! I really appreciate this well-written and very informative guide from you!

    1. Thank you! I also love using public transport when traveling 🙂 And yes, let’s hope we will soon be free to move around again, what a difficult moment this is! But I’m sure we will finally get out of it 🙂

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  5. Thanks for creating this, great guide! Just FYI, the BMTA website link in #7 is broken – or their website is down, but you get a 404 Page Not Found error when you click it.

  6. I have been to Thailand/Bangkok about 14 or 15 times and am planning my next trip this Sept. I absolutely love the country and almost always travel alone. I have been to Bangkok so many times I am beginning to run out of things to do without repeating some things. I agree that some of my best travel adventures when traveling other countries is to just take off and wander getting lost in the process. As long as you have your hotel information with you and some money (and stay out of dodgey areas) you can always get back to your hotel. After all, one of the adventures of traveling is getting out of your comfort zone. I’m going to try your ideas on getting around by bus and look at it as an adventure when in Bangkok. Just found your website. Looking forward to reading more of it and updates.

    1. Glad to see that there are other people who like to experience some adventures, that’s the right spirit! 🙂

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  9. Hello clelia. It’s very an interesting experiece u’d got. I’ll go to bkk in the end of july. Thanks a lot 4 ur detail info. This my second trip to bkk and I hope I’ll have fun as u did there

    1. Hey Wiji, take the buses and you won’t be disappointed 🙂 Adventures times ahead!

  10. Finally I got what I wanted to find out about the local travel in Bangkok. I have been to BKK for 4 times and I used to stay in Pratunam area only as I am alone. All the bus routes are the same even if I stay at Pratunam? Why do you prefer staying at Kahoson Road? This area is also like Pratunam? Kindly give me some more tips as I will traveling to Bangkok for 3 days from 05/06/15.

    I am Premkumar from Bangalore, India.

    1. Hey Premkumar! Glad that you found what you were looking for. I always stay in Khaosan road because I prefer the vibe of the area which is more for backpackers really and it’s also easier (for me) to move around Bangkok.
      Pratunam is also a nice area, the buses also follow the same routes but to make sure always follow my advice and ask the driver (or someone at the bus stop) where you want to go!

      Hope it helps!
      Cheers

      Clelia

  11. Wow, you like your buses, well done Clelia. I always use MRT and BTS when in BKK, river taxi from Saphan Taksin to Wat Arun/Wat Pho. Have to agree with tuk tuk drivers, but taxis are usually ok, apart from the lower Sukhumvit and other tourist areas. I always stay in phraram 9 area, less farang, taxi better:-)

    1. Probably I’ve not being lucky with the taxis, as i always had bad experiences with them. But at least I know my tricks now. And I still take the buses whenever I can. I simply love them!

  12. Great site you have got here.. It’s hard to find high-quality
    writing like yours these days. I honestly appreciate individuals like
    you! Take care!!

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  14. So glad i found your website! I was actually looking for Bangkok’s Bus map and stumbled upon your article. Guess what? i want to try your way and just get lost and see what happens.
    Great philosophy love it :=)

  15. Great article! I tried the buses experience in Bangkok too and i found it very enjoyable. Much better (and cheaper) than the Tuk Tuks.
    Can’t wait to go back to Bangkok asap.

  16. Such a great article full of useful information. Glad i found it as i’m heading to Thailand very soon and honestly my idea was to avoid the usual tuk tuks. I will definitely try the buses for once. Sounds a very fun experience.
    Ps: Had a look at your website and loved it! Good job

    Moren

  17. WOW… Great info here… I am defnitilly book marking this page 🙂
    By the way, you are going back to Bangkok on the 6th, I will be arriving on the 8th, let me know if you would like to get lost together… That is my kind of attitude 🙂

    1. Ha Mo! as i told you..we are going to get lost at the airport!, I like this too about Bangkok, you have no idea on how many people i met on the streets and then again at the airport in Bangkok. Seriously. It’s amazing how small the world is after all. See you somewhere around the world..
      Stay safe!

  18. We took the bus to Chinatown, too. Not sure it was anything special as bus rides go, but Chinatown was amazing. Best part of Bangkok, if you ask me. Never had any idea at all what was going on there, which was fine.

    1. Tom, the buses are “my cup of tea” in terms of adventure and relaxation. I just love them. So yes they are not spectacular or anything, the opposite maybe. Chinatown wowed me big time too. I wasn’t expecting what i saw, all the lights and so many peoples and things going on. I hope i have time to explore it in depth when i’ll be back in December.

  19. Awesome info Kle! We also explored Bangkok by bus. It costed us about $1 to get anywhere. The buses were shaky and crowdy, but we still enjoyed the budget ride. The driver was so nice and we asked the lady who was collecting the money for direction and she let us know when we should get off. Everyone’s so polite and kind! Tuk tuks suck! 🙂

    1. I knew you would, that’s the spirit i like! i honestly didn’t find them so crowdy, apart for when i was coming back from the Mbk and Pratunam, but if you wait for the next one, it is always a bit better and i could be seated in about 5 minutes 🙂
      Yes everyone in there is so nice, they probably see us as the “Bangkok Attraction” of the day, and are so willing to help!

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