Getting Around Bangkok On The Cheap (We Did It All)

Welcome to Bangkok you made your long or short flight. Like every capital it’s busy and the first thing you want to do is to get to the accommodation you’re staying at to reset yourself, before exploring the beautiful sites and trying the tasty street food. Having exhausted and used all the different transportation options during our 2-week stay in Bangkok, we’re here to share what we learned about getting around Bangkok! We went everywhere and used transport every day and the bus is definitely the cheapest, but not the most efficient. The sky train is likely your best option, we explain why below.

Here are the 8 ways to get around Bangkok:

  • Tuk Tuks – generally quite expensive, you’ll pay tourist tax
  • Metered taxi – same as above (if they don’t put the meter on)
  • Grab/Bolt ridesharing apps, Bolt is cheapest, Grab is more reliable
  • BTS – Skytrain, great for getting around inner Bangkok, can mount up in price a lot
  • MTS – the metro of Bangkok, similar to BTS
  • Local Bus – very cheap, 2 options AC or non-AC, non-AC is 8 baht, AC is 30 baht
  • Boat – extremely fun, great way to see beautiful Bangkok, cheap prices too
  • Motorbike taxi – great fun, fantastically cheap for short journeys

Important: paying in cash is the only way around Bangkok unless you have international banking or you book through taxi apps.

Getting A Taxi in Bangkok – Don’t Get a Taxi Driver

To get around Bangkok by Taxi, you should download Taxi Apps. This prevents you from getting ripped off because the app decides the fee based on the distance before you agree to book. The best apps are Grab, Bolt, or InDriver. Bolt has the lowest prices, Grab is slightly more expensive and has more drivers, and InDriver is the cheapest with not many active drivers.

Pros

  • Good transport for getting around new locations
  • Grab & Bolt & Indriver
  • Apps give you reasonable prices

Cons

  • Not available on rainy days
  • Potential traffic
  • Locals will try charge you more

Price

  • Bangkok Airport – Accommodation = 500 baht
  • Terminal 21 Pattaya – Dongtan Pattaya Beach = 120 baht
  • Dongtan Pattaya Beach – Bali Hai Pier = 100 baht
  • Reminder: location can impact on prices.

Yes, typically there will be public taxi services at the airport but we all know that is usually quite pricey. On top of that, non-app taxi drivers will single you out as a foreigner and try to rip you off. For example: when we arrived at Pattaya from Bangkok, a taxi driver wanted 500 baht for a 6km drive.

Our taxi cost us 500 baht from central Bangkok (Suvarnabhumi Airport) to our accommodation (Bang Son) using Grab, which is expensive in theory, and we did catch a traffic jam but probably much cheaper than the airport taxi drivers’ rate.

Grab Taxi

The video above is a timestamped video of ours showing use of the Grab Taxi app in Thailand, Bangkok

The Grab app is very reasonable for its’ prices around Bangkok. However, like any other taxi service factors affect the price such as busy times, how far you are heading (prices range for a 5km trip), and whether is it sunny or rainy too.

Note: When it is torrential rain booking taxi drivers is highly unlikely and many don’t operate. This is because roads flood in a matter of minutes. You will most likely only be able to get a Motorcycle Taxi in these conditions.

Heads up the traffic jams in Bangkok are something else I have never seen, let’s imagine putting New York and London traffic together and maybe that would equal how bad it gets. Even better! We were stuck on a Bus for 40 minutes for it to only move down the road which would have been 5 minute’s walk. Seriously that’s how bad it gets.

So if you find yourself in your first torrential rain, which is an experience in itself, being wet but not necessarily cold is a first.

The best thing to do in this scenario is book yourself a motorcycle taxi, through one of the apps. Crazy, dangerous, and fun idea but at least it gets you around Bangkok, literally through the maniac traffic jams. We touch on this shortly.

Bolt Taxi

Similar to Grab, factors affect price ranges for a 5km trip but the only difference is that Bolt is generally more expensive in Bangkok.

For a 5km trip in Bangkok using a Bolt taxi expect to pay:

  • On rainy days it can be around 200-400 baht ($5-12)
  • On any other day, it can cost 100-200 baht ($3-5)

Indriver Taxi

InDriver can save you a lot of your money as part of the app is to set your own rate. Sounds brilliant! Unfortunately, it’s really unreliable and you almost barely can find rides as it’s not very active. It’s worth downloading and giving your best shot, but from our experience using it, we never found a ride – even when we put the price higher than Bolt and Grab were suggesting!

Recommend viewing the prices between the apps to get the best deal before booking!

Getting Motorbike Taxi in Bangkok

Getting Motorbike taxis in Bangkok can be quite dangerous but when there is torrential rain and floods it becomes a good source of transport and it is cheap too.

Pros

  • Good transport on torrential rainy days
  • Grab & Bolt
  • Apps give you reasonable prices

Cons

  • No cover so you’ll get wet in the rain
  • Increase price on rainy days
  • Increase price if you order more than one
  • No safety equipment (helmet)

Price

  • Bangkok (torrential rainy day) = 120 baht per person
  • Bangkok (sunny & short trips ) = 40+ baht

When you come familiar with Thailand’s rules of driving, you will very soon realise there aren’t any rules for motorbikes around Bangkok.

Motorbikes are a large percentage of Bangkok’s transport and 74% of Thailand own a bike. Motorbikes here in Bangkok drive how they wish to, to get to their destination and more so when there is traffic.

Despite the point of having a motorbike to get through the traffic, the bikers here in Bangkok create their own bike traffic too, due to the high volume of owners. So, bikers will ride on the opposite side of the road, on the pavement, and will cross red lights just to avoid being in any sort of traffic jam.

Important: Always double-check when crossing roads especially if you’re crossing on a bend, motorbikes appear out of nowhere a lot of the time!

On the other hand, they do get around even if that is pushing the bike at full gear through above-knee-level floods. Which benefits on rainy days, they can drive you to your destination, but it’s quite dangerous or scary if you’re new to being on a bike with no minimal safety. Yep, not even a helmet. If you’re feeling brave then enjoy yourself.

Prices for getting Motorbike Taxi in Bangkok, Using Grab or Bolt

Prices ranges for motorbike taxis in Bangkok for a 5km trip are:

  • On rainy days it can be around 80-120 baht
  • On any other day, it can cost 40-80 baht

Getting Taxis is really cheap and efficient when you’re in Bangkok, but during rainy times it’s best to avoid the roads altogether and head for the Skytrain, or get a dangerous motorbike Taxi and have a fun ride!

Taking The Bus in Bangkok

Buses are one of the largest forms of public transport in getting around and a great experience to explore Bangkok too. They’re not as reliable as the SkyTrain, and during rush hour and rain, you will barely move an inch in the thick Bangkok traffic. They are the cheapest way to get around, especially if you go for the non-AC buses (which are much more fun anyway).

Pros

  • Non-AC Super cheap
  • Super fun and wicked experience

Cons

  • Not consistent
  • No good for rainy days
  • No goods for rush hour
  • Conductor less likely to Speak English

Price

  • Non-AC buses = 8 baht per person (Bangkok)
  • AC Buses / Longer trips = 14-19 baht per person
  • Bus from Patong Beach to Phuket Airport = 100 baht per person (Phuket)

Most of the buses are still from 1975 when the prime minister proposed a free bus service for those on a low income. So the buses are a bit rough around the edges compared to other transport. We personally loved that they still had their big steering wheels, big gear sticks, doors in the middle and front of the bus, and let’s not forget the amazing loud engine!

Lucky us we have google maps to guide us to the right bus stop, but even then you have to just hope you won’t be standing for more than 30 minutes as there are very few smart bus stops that tell you the times. Well, some don’t even display the bus numbers.

Prices for Buses in Bangkok

Fares range depending on the bus (has it got Air Con or not) and where you are heading, for instance:

  • Buses without AC: 8 baht per person no matter where you’re going
  • Buses with AC: 16-28 baht per person depending on where you’re going

We recommend getting the non-AC bus because they’re a lot more fun and you really don’t need the AC when you start moving as all the windows are completely open. Also, you save a fair amount if you’re traveling as a family or group. Non-AC buses are also pure fun! You got the warm breeze in your hair, the view of the city center with the locals, and the best part is when you go over bumps at speed it feels like you get a little air time. AC buses are more expensive and of course a smoother ride.

One thing to note is that the buses don’t have a schedule and you need to wait at the bus stop until it comes. Most buses will also stop anywhere on the road if you wave them down, so that’s a bonus. Also, many buses that say they don’t stop at the bus stop, will stop if you ring the bell, which is fantastic.

Many of the conductors are extremely friendly and if you tell them where you need to go, they will tell you if it’s the right bus and shout at you when you need to get off, telling the driver to stop the bus for you. Most don’t speak English well, but a lot of the time, if you’re having trouble, many Thai people will offer to help you out and translate for you.

It is worth mentioning that tickets on the buses are also one-way trips, meaning you got to pay for both ways and even the extra buses in between to get to your destination.

Biggest tip: Don’t get the bus during rush hour, which seems to be 4pm – 8pm in Bangkok.

Rush hours in Bangkok seem to be between 4 pm all the way until 8 pm some days. One of our journeys from Samyan Mitrtown to Bang Son should have been 1 hour and took us almost 2 hours.

This goes for when it rains too because as mentioned it floods very quickly which affects the cars and buses which then rapidly turns into a gridlocked traffic jam with water flowing above your ankles.

Taking the BTS Skytrain in Bangkok

The Skytrain in Bangkok only offers single-journey tickets and it’s very much like the underground in London, but the best transport if you don’t speak Thai well.

Pros

  • Avoids traffic
  • Easy an quick travel
  • Great transport for rainy days
  • Conductors speak English

Cons

  • Single-journey tickets
  • Price increase in rush hour
  • Price increase to touristy stops

Price

  • Cheapest single ticket = 16 baht per person
  • Rush hour ticket = 44 baht per person
  • Touristy destinations ticket 22-44 baht per person

The Skytrain, also known as The Bangkok Mass Transit System (BTS Skytrain) is an elevated train that operates on two lines above

Sukhumvit Line runs from Mo Chit Station to On Nut Station and the Silom Line runs from National Stadium Station to Saphan Taksin Station. Between these lines, it serves 23 stations in total.

In case you’re not familiar with the underground system in London, the way the Skytrain operates is: its routes run on coloured lines and some lines link to two lines or more. For example, the MRT blue line (Tao Poon) links to the purple line (Bang Son).

It can be very confusing getting around the first couple of times, just like the underground, you will find you will have to change many times unless your destination is on one line.

Also, some stations have similar names for instance: Chatuchak park MRT and Chatuchak park SRT, only have one letter difference but are miles apart from each other. We quickly learned this on the first day, trying to meet our Thai friend. As a result of this, the signs for both sides on the rail, a lot of the time have the same destination or similar name – so be sure to check your direction before getting on.

  • Note: There are ticket machines at the stations which translate into English. However, you must pay for every ticket individually rather than to get to the end destination. So best to go over to the counter to speak to a conductor.
  • So remember if you don’t speak any Thai to use the BTS Skytrain, as most conductors speak English, and may be easier for you.

Prices for the Skytrain in Bangkok

The average price of the Skytrain in Bangkok for a single journey can vary between 20-40 baht, depending on where you’re going and at what time you’re going.

Here are some prices for example trips using the Skytrain in Bangkok:

  • The cheapest and fewer tourist areas tickets are 8-16 baht
  • Train to Chatachuk, Ari, or more tourist areas are 19 baht – 28 baht
  • Rush hour times tickets can cost 44 baht

Therefore, if you are heading to the tourist attractions like Siam station or your Bangkok trip changes to big stations like Bang Sue then expect to pay more than going somewhere less touristy.

Rush hour! It happens everywhere but it’s always worse in a huge city. And while it sounds crazy to pay more when rush hour is happening just think about how it’s not “off-peak” time.

Here are the two main stations that cost us more to travel from during our stay

Having said this, the Skytrain is probably the best way to travel to get around in Bangkok when it is busy because this elevated train system avoids the traffic jams below your feet, as well as decreases the chances of you getting soaked from the rain.

Plus the views you see along the way of the huge city are beautiful.

Getting the Boats in Bangkok – Chao Phraya River

Getting boats in Bangkok through the Chao Phraya River is pretty easy to use and get around. However, the Chao Phraya express boat is the cheapest as it is the local boat service and they also operate on coloured lines routes, which affects the price.

Pros

  • Great transport for short Island hops
  • If you’re by Chao River fun transport to explore or to get across the river
  • Local boat services are cheap

Cons

  • Boat tours can be pricey depending on your budget
  • Modern AC boats increase the price

Price

  • Modern Boat AC (Bangkok) = 20 baht per person
  • Chao River Express Boat (Bangkok) = 8 baht per person
  • Pattaya – Ko Lan = 40 baht per person
  • James Bond Island Boat Tour = 3,500 baht (£81.52) per person

While standing on a platform rocking on the river waves waiting for the boat to arrive. I wasn’t too keen about getting the boat due to my small fear of boats. However, the boat service is actually a fun and great experience even more so during the rain. You get to see a lot of different buildings and parts of temples along the river too.

The express boats also work on a colour system, similar to the Skytrain. Google maps even state the colour for you, so it’s easy to navigate and get around using maps in Bangkok.

Prices for Boats in Bangkok

The average price for getting boats around Bangkok varies from 8 baht up to 20 baht.

  • The Chao Phraya express boat is 8baht
  • The more modern and tourist boat is 20 baht

On the same day, we got the Chao Phraya express boat we got the tourist boat from Phra Pinklao Bridge to Si Phraya which was 20 baht each for a 20-minute journey. Whereas, we traveled from Si Phraya to Bang Po for 16 baht (8 baht each), which was almost an hour worth of boat service. Naturally, the tourist boats are going to cost more as they are modern and have AC too.

But like every other public transport mentioned so far, it was cheap because it was the Chao Phraya express boat – local boats in the Chao Phraya river – basically, not the tourist boat.

Getting Tuk Tuks in Bangkok

Getting Tuk Tuks around Bangkok quick tips:

  • Avoid them if you can unless your bartering skills are good.
  • Go for the quiet drivers who don’t drive up to you or shout if you need a TukTuk the second they see you, they are generally more honest with their pricing.

Pros

  • Available almost everywhere
  • Fun and crazy ride experience

Cons

  • Price increase for foreigners
  • Drivers quite pushy

Price

  • Tuktuk in Phuket (15 minutes) = 300 baht

The locals know how to pinpoint the tourists around Bangkok and whilst they are indeed more common to see around than the local buses, a lot of them will rip you off because they know you need to get around and you don’t know how.

Don’t be entirely scared off using them if you want, but it’s better to use the Grab app and tip the drivers using that app (in our experience, they’re more honest and you will never be overcharged).

Getting To Bangkok

Getting into and out of Bangkok by bus and coach (shuttle) is the cheapest transport to use if you want to save money. Booking online is easy and notifies where bus stops are for pick up. Be sure to arrive a few minutes earlier because they are either on time or slightly late but if you miss it, the next one available is in the next hour.

Out of taxis, buses, and shuttles, if you’re not driving yourself, the cheapest transportation is the bus and shuttle but buses can add extra time to the journey due to their stopping locations.

Going to Pattaya was part of our travel plans after being in Bangkok for 2 weeks. Pattaya is 100km from Bangkok and although there are flights, it’s a max of 2-hour journey by coach. So getting the coach for us was more beneficial to our budget, we booked through Roong Reuang Coach knowing it was more reliable.

Important Note For Saving Money Booking Coaches Online

We recommend checking the Thai coach websites if you’re located in another country because otherwise, you’ll get results that charge you more because they’re targeted at foreigners.

To do this go to google.co.th and search for รถเมล์ (it’s Thai for “bus”). Then type (using Latin alphabet) the places you want to travel between.

For instance:

  • รถเมล์ Bangkok Pattaya
  • รถเมล์ Pattaya Phuket

You can do the same with trains, just translate the word for train.

Prices For Transport To Bangkok

Prices range for getting transport into and out of Bangkok depending on your destination and booking website.

Some examples of our journeys of getting into and out of Bangkok:

  • The coach (shuttle) from Bangkok to Pattaya was 131 baht each
  • The coach (shuttle) from Pattaya to Bangkok airport was 166 baht each
  • The bus from Phuket to Bangkok was 100 baht each
  • Domestic flights can cost anywhere between $70-$300 depending on location, to save money use Skyscanner

Find a few different websites for transportation to your destination and compare prices to get the best price for you.

Final Tips for Getting Around Bangkok on The Cheap

Spite of whether you go on the local public transport services or the modern tourist ones, traveling on each transport it’s an experience in itself and will create contrasting stories.

A quick insight: Me and Harry have used every single different transportation type in Bangkok, and for the 2 weeks we spent going around Bangkok it cost us 2,200 baht = £51.21

Things To Know Before Using Public Transport in Bangkok

  • In Bangkok, Thailand, when you pay for your travel tickets remember it’s for a one-way route and you got to get a separate ticket for your route back. This is where money mounts up but it is still pretty cheap.
  • Many people speak English but on the buses, you find fewer who can. This is where google maps come in handy & trying to pronounce the places you’re heading too, go a long way too.
  • Worse comes to worst the locals are so friendly they will help you out. We had a lady pay 5 baht out of her pocket so we could stay on the bus, as we were short on cash.
  • Mainly in the smaller tourist areas, everyone is honest with prices and the security & conductors are more than happy to help direct you to the right place.

Last quick note: while masks do not strictly need to be worn outside, the locals do it. It is mandatory to wear masks on public transport in Bangkok and all of Thailand. Make sure to have one with you while going around Bangkok.

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