Click to see the Thai Proverb of the Day!
Another means of transport that I want to mention here, and that is typical for Bangkok, is what I would like to call the water bus. This is a kind of long tailed boat that have a fixed route, and have fixed stops, like a bus. It is a special sensation to sit in these water buses. There are only a few "lines" in operation. One starts near the Democracy Monument, at the Golden Mount (Wat Saket) side of the Monument. Another one near Pratunam market. Between CentralWorld and Pratunam market, to be precise. (It is on the last mentioned spot that this picture was taken).
The taxi is one of the best and most comfortable means of transport in Bangkok. There are hardly - if any - taxi's left without a meter. Metered taxi's have the words "Taxi-Meter" on their roof (see the picture). From the Airport to the City, you should use the taxi booth service. Simply follow the signs "Public Taxi" at the airport and ignore anybody who wants to offer you his taxi service, except at the booth where the signs lead you to. At the booth you will get a ticket, and you will pay the meter rate, plus 50 Baht for the service to get a reliable taxi. (See also the Thailand FAQ section).
When a taxi passes a toll booth, the driver expect you to pay the toll. It always is extra. So keep a 100 Baht note ready. He will return the change!
Outside Bangkok you will still find some "un-metered" taxis!
Thai taxi's have a very ingenious meter. It will count (very) slowly when the taxi is standing still, and it will count at normal speed when the taxi is driving. You can see this ingenious piece of high-tech on the left hand side picture above. (The picture is not very sharp, because it really is difficult to take such a picture in a driving taxi!). On this picture you can see that the taxi has been standing still for 3 minutes so far (top left) and that the distance driven at this moment was 3.4 kilometers (top right). The total fare at the moment was 47 Baht (middle). The meter always starts at 35 Baht when you get in. (This start rate has not changed for ages!)
Never believe the driver that his meter is not working! These meters never fail! (See my experience with a taxi driver).
On the right hand side picture above, you see a table from which you can calculate the fare exactly. (Again, it is difficult to take such a picture, so don't tell me that it is not sharp. The information is readable, I think; click to enlarge).
And please observe this rule: Do not take a taxi that is standing along the road. Always stop a driving taxi. The taxi's that are standing along the road will normally try to ask a fixed fare from you, or want to sell you a tour.
The next means of public transport in Bangkok I want to show is the "Express Boat Service". This means of public transport in Bangkok is probably the only one that is not (yet?) hindered by traffic jams, although traffic on the Chao Phraya River is getting more busy every year.
This is an excellent service for traveling along the Chao Phraya River. It is cheap and relatively fast. In my opinion the Express Boat Service is also an excellent way for sight-seeing. You buy a ticket for a few Baht and you can travel from -say- Rama III Road, up to Nonthaburi.
It is a relaxing tour. My only further remark is that also in River traffic there is a rush hour, during which the boats are very crowded. In Bangkok the afternoon rush hour starts at about 16.00 hours.
Since 2002 the Express Boat service has become easier, and I want to explain the current system a bit further.
The piers have now received numbers. Nonthaburi (the northernmost pier in normal service) is pier N40, the Oriental Pier is number N1 (see the left hand side picture above), the next one southbound is called "central pier (0)", with a possibility to change to the skytrain (see below), and four more southern piers are called S1 to S4. Most maps of Bangkok now contain these numbers, and traveling by Express Boat is now very easy! Also already free maps for the Express Boat service are being distributed at hotels and at some piers. Furthermore you find a plan of the complete service at several piers.
But there is more: there are in fact three Express Boat services: The normal service, that stops at every pier, the orange service, that stops at about half of the piers, and the yellow service, that stops at even less piers and is meant for rush hour traffic (and only is being operated then). Then there are the green-flag boats, that stop at (almost) every pier and even go further North and South than the yellow-flag boats. They, however, are also only operated at rush hours.
So normally you will only have to do with the orange-flag boats.
The piers are marked with flags for the different services that stop there. See the right hand side picture above: At the pier on the picture all types of boats stop. If there are no flags, only the normal service stops.
To make the idea complete with pictures, here are a boat of the orange service (left hand side, with orange flag on the boat) and a boat of the yellow service (right hand side, with a yellow flag).
Since 2003 there is a yet another new type of Express Boat, called the Chao Phraya Tourist Boat. This new boat has a flat fee per day of 150 Baht per day and you can jump on and off as often as you like for that fee. You can recognize them from their blue flag. See the two pictures above.
However, this new type of boat has a limited range: from Central pier to Banglampoo pier only, and it does not stop at all piers. It only stops at piers that are interesting for tourists. So I only see any advantage in using this boat if you are shy to try to communicate with the ticket sellers on the normal boats. You can buy tickets for the Tourist Boat at all the piers where it stops. Remember, however, that it is hardly possible to spend the day fee for the Tourist Boat on the normal boats!
Fees for the Express Boats (October 2010):
- without flag: 9, 11, 13 Baht (dependent on distance)
- orange flag: 13 Baht
- yellow flag: 18, 27 Baht (dependent on distance)
- blue flag (Chao Phraya Tourist Boat): 150 Baht (whole day)
If you can reach your destination from the river, the Express Boat is the most convenient means of public transport in Bangkok. And remember: At Central pier (one pier further southbound than pier #1 near the Oriental Hotel) the Express Boat service is linked to the Skytrain, to be discussed next.