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.
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
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!
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.
1)HOW TO GET TO WAT PHO/GRAND PALACE TEMPLES BY BUS
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.
Turn right at the Burger King sign, and after 300mt you’ll find the big road (Picture here below)
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$) with air conditioning.
Cost of the ride by Tuk-tuk: at least 100 baht ( (if less, beware: there is a scam where the driver takes you to a shop and insists that you buy something, don’t fall for that. I did once and when I refused to go to the shop he just yelled at me to get off, leaving me in the middle of nowhere and in a dark street).
2) HOW TO GET TO MBK SHOPPING CENTER BY BUS
Warning: At least save the money by going there by bus, because as soon as you enter you will be LOST forever, my friend. Anything you need, anything you could think of, you’ll find it at the MBK shopping mall!
How to get there: From Khaosan Road, take the same road to Ratchadamnoen Klang Rd, but this time no need to cross the road. Walk on your left and catch the Bus n. 79. It will take around 20/30 minutes depending on the traffic, but it’s a very enjoyable ride with air-con. And you won’t find a single tourist on the bus. I promise.
Cost for the ride: 13 baht no air con (0.4$). 16/18 baht (0.5/0.6 $) with air con.
3) HOW TO GET TO PRATUNAM AREA BY BUS
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)
4) HOW TO GET TO CHINATOWN AND SILOM AREA BY BUS
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.
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!