Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Round Round get Around how I get Around YEAH.

Photo by Stuck in Customs

Bangkok is a pretty huge spread out city. Luckily there are half a dozen or so easy ways to get around in relative comfort and ease. And for cheaps!

1. Taxis

Taxis are generally* the easiest way to get exactly where you want to go in the City. They are everywhere and there is hardly ever a shortage(*cough* Perth *cough*). The flag fall is only 35 baht and goes up in 2 baht increments. It's the only way to get from the airport. It can be a little bit confusing because you'll have a million people INSIDE the airport asking you if you need a taxi. Ignore them. They'll cost you twice as much. Head outside and find the desk that say public taxi and tell them where you are going. They'll set you up wit a driver and you're off. At the most it will cost you 400 baht to the city areas, including 2 tolls and a 50 baht airport fee. You even get a receipt. Make sure you know how far you are going in kms if you can and check fee the chart in the taxi. I have heard a few stories of "broken" meters going up twice as fast as they should. You also want to check that they turn on the meter anytime you get in a taxi. It's unusual that they don't but it pays to be careful.

Remember that you should almost never have to barter for a taxi. If you are in a really touristy area you might have them offer you a (ridiculous) price rather than a meter. Send them on their way and wait for the next one. This might also happen when it's raining. You can't really blame the taxi drivers for trying to make an some extra cash but it can be annoying. If there is no other taxi around you might have just bite the bullet and get in. But barter and bring the price down to something more reasonable. Especially if you know how much it should be.

In the end, taxis are air conditioned, comfortable and the drivers know where they are going. And so so cheap. You could use them all the time, all day every day and not go broke, unlike back home. It makes me feel a little posh being able to swan about with my own chauffeur all day. Tehehe.

*avoid taxis in peak traffic at all costs. Bangkok traffic is insane at peak hour. You will not get to where you're going on time and be sitting there for ever and ever in the bumper to bumper traffic. And it will cost you way more than it should.

2. BTS and MRT

Photo by bangkok_diary

The cheap, no traffic, air conditioned way to get around BKK are the above ground Bangkok Transit System and the below ground Mass Transit System. I use these the most, the BTS more so than the MRT, only because I live right near the Nana BTS station. The King is was one of the main supporters behind getting the train up and running to help Bangkok's chronic traffic problems (it's still awful! I can't even imagine how bad it was before). It will cost between 20-60 baht depending on the stop. Keep in mind the BTS and MRT use different tickets so they are non transferable. If you are here for more than a week, I'd recommend purchasing a Skypass for the BTS (I'm not sure what the equivalent is for the MRT, I don't use it enough). It will set you back 130 baht (approx. $4.60AUD) but that includes money you can use for fares. It makes it much easier and quicker to get into the station and the fares are cheaper too.

The down side to the BTS and MRT is that they don't go everywhere. There are 2 BTS lines and 1 MRT. But the up side of this it they are super easy to navigate. And they go to quite a few of the main tourist and shopping areas, namely Siam, Chitlom, National Stadium and Mo Chit. They also get super crowded during peak hour. But it the train is too crowded and you can't get on, there will be another along in a few minutes or so. You never have to wait long.

Definitely give it a go if you are here. It seriously make live so so so much easier when the traffic is terrible. I know some people are super snobby about public transport but please. Get over it. It's a great way to get around the city and it's better for the environment so suck it up. Oh and one more thing. Thai's will rush onto the train like their lives depend on it. It's just because they want a seat and you'll have to do the same if you want one!

3. Tuk-Tuks

Photo by iceviriya

I have already written a whole post on how much I loathe Tuk-Tuks. Since then I have found out that they get 90 baht for every place they take you to so just keep that in mind. But just to re-iterate, Tuk-Tuks are a lousy, smelly and complete rip off of a way to get around the city. Don't do it.

4. Motorbikes

Photo by reallygoodphoto

You'll see people on motorbike with little orange vests. These guys are motorcycle taxis. Now I am possibly biased because I have never been comfortable on the back of a motorbike and that I had an accident that totalled Sid (my bright yellow Vmoto). But these are Dangerous with a capital D for death. I use them only when I am running late for something and need to get to the BTS ASAP but that is a whopping 1 minute ride up my Soi. Mr A catches them all the time from his work to Mo Chit and a workmate has his own bike that he rides home every day (Mr A catches a lift with him sometimes too because he lives on our Soi). To be fair, they are very cheap and can't be beaten for speed in peak hour because they can zip between the cars. Thais catch them all the time. You'll see girls in skirts riding side saddle, not even holding on, checking their make-up with one hand and clutching a hand bag with the other. But here is why I don't like them.

You don't get a helmet. As a rational person, I like to keep my brains on the inside of my head in the event of a crash, which is the main function of a helmet. If you do get one, it's the equivalent of a bicycle helmet. Woo! I also like to keep all my limbs attached to my body. Most of the beggars you see in the street who are missing limbs are that way because they have been involved in a motorcycle accident. Bangkok traffic is INSANELY dangerous for motorcycles. I've seen three very nasty crashes since I've been here and considering I haven't seen one (aside from my own) the entire time I've been living in Perth, those ain't good odds.

If you want to take them you can. Like I said, they are cheap, great in peak hour and quick in a pinch. But for me, the risks just aren't worth it.

5. Buses

Photo by anormynous

I have only ever caught one bus in BKK ever so I can't tell you an awful lot about them. Like I said, I live right on the BTS so that's the most convenient thing for me. I do know they vary in price from about 7 baht to 35 baht depending on the route and what type of bus. They are great if you live somewhere with no BTS/MRT access. They are much less Farang friendly though with less signs in English so it may be harder to pick the right one. A few of my friends catch them and have never had any problems. They can be unreliable because of the BKK traffic but otherwise I can't see a problem with them aside for working out where you need to get off!!

6. Ferries

Photo by hn

This is my FAVOURITE way to travel in BKK. Cruising down the Chao Praya River. It's so cool and refreshing. The river is a little dirty and smelly but I don't care. It cost between 13 and 22 baht to go as many stops as you like one way. The ticket people are usually really friendly in helping you work out where you need to go and what ticket you need. I catch it from Sathorn (Central) Pier from Saphan Taksin on the BTS, usually to go to Wat Po for a massage and to pick up some flowers. It takes you right to a few of the most well known tourist spots such as Wat Po, Wat Arun and the Grand Palace along with China Town and Kao San Road (god knows why anyone stays there! It's so out of the way!). You need to take a cross river ferry to get to Wat Arun but there are lots of signs to let you know. It will set you back a whopping 3.50 baht. OH NOES!!! I can also recommend trying to get the Chao Praya Tourist Boat. If you get a good guide it can be very informative. You can also see all the shacks and temples along the river. Very interesting.

As with any form of public transport in Bangkok, the ferry can get very crowded. It can also be a little daunting jumping off the boat to the dock, especially if you have a pen chance for impractical foot like moi. When it's jam packed with nervous tourist who aren't sure where to get off and crowd the exits, it can be annoying too. But those are the only down sides to it. Otherwise it's just wonderful! It's like your in some old movie, like the African Queen!

These are just the ways to get around the main areas of Bangkok. It's all you would need if you're staying within the city limits. I shall do a post later about how to escape the daily grin and get out of the city. I hope you find this information helpful in getting around the BKK comfortably, without confusion and without getting ripped off!

1 comment:

nickswift said...

Going back to the taxi bit - last time i landed in bkk coming from london, i walked out of arrivals, and then went up some stairs to departures and picked up a cab from there... they are really cheap of you get them from here for some reason... it was a tip i read on some website and it worked... still a meter cab.