|How to get around Bangkok,
by: Jonathan Semenick
To start off it is good to understand
what kind of transport you can get in Bangkok.
There are numerous different types of
public transport, but the usual visitor or resident uses only 7 of
these: Meter Taxis, Tuk Tuks, buses, canal boats, river taxis,
motorbikes, and Taxis (with no meter).
Lets begin with Tuk Tuks. Aren't they
cute, those little three wheeled taxis, colorfully painted and
featured so much on anything to do with Thailand.
They are very cute until you get
stuck in the traffic, behind the number 36 bus at about 2 in the
afternoon and suck down a multitude of fumes in 10 minutes than the
average smoker does in a life time... you'll say to the kids, isn't
this fun....while your kids bury their heads in their Dad's armpit
because it smells fresh compared to the air around them.
Okay Try a Tuku Tuk once, don't go
too far and then give them up as a bad idea. Out of Bangkok they're
much more fun. Tuk Tuk drivers should be haggled with, the price
fixed in advance and generally you'll always get ripped off, take a
Taxis (with 4 wheels) come in two
flavours, metered and no meter, although a few non meters actually
have a meter concealed behind a panel in the dash board below the
radio.... Taxis are great, sit back in air conditioned luxury and
watch the Smiths die of carbon monoxide poisoning in a Tuk Tuk. If
the driver of a Taxi objects to use his meter then tell him to take
a hike, get out, do not be suckered.
Check where you are standing, if it's
outside a nice big hotel , then walk up the road a bit and wave down
a taxi. Unlike the US or Europe taxi drivers have to pass NO TESTS
to become a taxi driver, within a few days of being in Bangkok you
will know Bangkok better than many Taxi drivers.... again if the
driver seems to not know where it is you are going, get out....one
other thing, make sure you know where you are going and have a rough
idea of the route, else a less honest cabby will take you o a tour
of the back roads "the short cuts". If you're going a long way, take
the toll way, it costs between 20 and 40 Baht, (you pay) and will
save you hours of travel time.
Calling a taxi by phone costs ab
extra 20 Baht, Taxis at the airport cost an extra 50 Baht. And yes
there is a REGULATED taxi stand at the airport outside the main
meeting zone. Don't be suckered by taxi and limo touts.
Oh yes then there are the taxis with
no meter.... well if you want to use one feel free....it'll cost
about the same as a Tuk Tuk but at least you'll get Air
Buses, once upon a time there were
red buses, blue buses, green buses and Air Con buses, then came
micro buses and then came deregulation and now there are so many
buses that I really don't know what they all are...anyway if you are
going to use a bus GET A BUS MAP. Then always use Air Con buses
unless where you are going is not on one of their routes or your on
such a tight budget that 8 to 15 Baht per person may cause you to
have to go without food. Other buses vary from 3 Baht up to 20 Baht.
Don't bother asking the conductor about where you want to get off,
to them you are a lower life form (all passengers are) ask another
passenger. A word about getting on and off buses. Do it FAST, buses
on occasions don't stop at the bus stop they "slow" in the middle of
the road and let off a stream of potential roadkill in the middle of
the traffic, okay I exaggerate a little but when you get your stop
make sure you are already near the door and can sprint for it. Don't
expect the people getting on to make way, that kind of common sense
tends to fail people using the buses, their objective is to get on
fast and get a seat before anyone else...which brings up seats....
don't be fooled into thinking that being a "gentleman" will get you
thanks...oh no, you'll see pregnant ladies standing up while young
school brats take up the seats, you'll see old ladies burdened by
shopping standing while teen sweethearts hog the seats...it's a
first come dog eat dog world on the buses and if you take one of the
non air con buses you'll eventually see some poor person pass
out....then they get a seat.
Motobikes. Yeah.... want to get
somewhere fast, take a motorbike taxi, married with kids...get life
insurance and a damn good helmet.
The majority of MB taxi drivers will
make it their sole intent to scare you to death, to see if they can
squeeze their bike through a gap that is obviously closing up faster
than they are moving and to see how fast they can go on an open
stretch of road...they have no fear (or sanity).... your life is in
their hands and you'll soon wish it wasn't.
It is the law in Thailand that all
bike riders MUST wear a crash helmet.... some of the helmets you see
wouldn't project a toddler falling off a 3 wheeler.
Thai law says you have to wear a
helmet, but as far as the law is concerned...it can be made out of
if you intend to use MB Taxis a lot
then get a helmet...I did, it saved my face when the inevitable
eventually happened and I slide across the road after being side
swiped by a pick up truck.
If you can avoid MB taxis, then do.
If you are in Bangkok for long enough you may eventually get to
learn which MB Taxi Teams (yes they work in teams) are safer than
others (or luckier than others).
Check out the bikes they are driving,
a scratched up wreck will be a good hint that the driver has kissed
the tarmac a few times, a brand new bike , a green horn still
waiting for his first brush with death.... if you're on a bike and
the driver is driving like a nut, tell him to stop and get off.
I have to admit I have very little
experience with boat transport in Bangkok, but from what I am told,
if you can take a canal or river taxi, then do, they are fast,
generally clean, less pollution and of course there are less
vehicles to hit. Prices vary depending on how far you are going.
In summary I would suggest that if
you plan to travel in Bangkok that you :- get a map, take meter