Things to know when visiting Bangkok for the first time
Yes, visiting Bangkok may be a dream for many young people because they don’t call Bangkok the “City that never sleeps”, for nothing.
When we decided to visit Bangkok for the first time, we did not know what to expect but boy was we surprised!
Landing on the famous new Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, which is huge, by the way, a taxi was waiting for us to take us to our Hotel in the city. Little did we know that the airport is quite a distance from the city, and with the normal horrific Bangkok traffic, it took us almost an hour to cover the 25km’s to our hotel.
Booking in at the friendly Holiday Inn Express Hotel, close to the BTS National Stadium Station, made us realize that it might not be difficult to get along in this humungous city. And so it was. Learning the ropes of where and how to buy a day pass train ticket on the BTS opened the doors to Bangkok for us.
We each had our train tickets and took the BTS to its furthest stop and back, just to be acquainted with its program. We were very surprised with the timing between trains and the effectiveness of getting on and off during peak times.
For more information visit Bangkok.com here.
Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK)
The easiest and quickest route into downtown Bangkok from Suvarnabhumi Airport is the clean, airconditioned Airport Rail link which will drop you off in the heart of the city and close to lots of transport options. Here are some key facts:
- The ARL operates daily from 6:00 a.m. to 12.30am and costs between 25-45 baht
- Suvarnabhumi Airport Link (ARL) line is 28km long and runs parallel to the No. 7 Motorway
- A non-stop Express Line trains terminate at Makkasan Station
- A stopping City Line terminates at Phaya Thai Station, calling at 8 stations on its way.
- City Line trains leave every 12–15 minutes
- Express Line trains leave every 60 minutes, takes 20 minutes and costs 45 baht
- You can find the ARL Link by following the signs within the airport because it is well marked
- This trainline does not go to Don Mueang Airport
Other ways to get from Suvarnabhumi Airport into Bangkok
You can take a minivan, a public bus or an air-conditioned bus and the best way to find out which route you want to take and what time they run is to check out the official Suvanabhumi Airport website. They keep the information up to date and it is the most comprehensive listing. You should view the pages for Bus Bor Khor Sor, Bus BMTA and Public Van. These minivans and buses also travel directly from the airport to other cities within Thailand. Prices start from as little as 5 baht.
Don Mueang Airport (DMK)
A train service runs from Don Mueang Airport between the hours of 06:00-21:00. The station is 500 meters from the airport and is clearly signposted. From Don Mueang Train Station you can take a train to Hua Lamphong (Central Railway Station) in central Bangkok (see above map). Trains run every hour and take around 1 hour to reach Hua Lamphong Train Station. These trains are not air conditioned and are busy because they come in from well outside the city, so this is not the most comfortable option but can be fun.
Taking the bus from Don Mueang Airport to Bangkok City
During the daytime taking the bus is the best option for getting into Bangkok. The ideal option is to take a 20-minute bus ride to Mo Chit Skytrain Station (BTS) and then take the cheap and air-conditioned Skytrain (BTS) for the rest of your journey. The official website for Don Mueang airport gives you the bus options, including a bus to Khao San Road, although doesn’t tell you what time they stop running in the evening. If you want to get from Don Mueang to Khao San Road, taking the bus is logistically simple compared to other options (apart from a metered taxi) but make sure to ask the driver to tell you where to get off. Bus/minivan fares range from 5 baht to 100 baht.
Final Tips for Bangkok Airport Transit Success
Don’t get flustered once you arrive onto the concourse, get your bearings and look around you for well-placed signs. Leave plenty of time to get to and from the airports of Bangkok and if you are heading to the airports for a flight out of Bangkok, double check which airport you are flying out of.
Recently bloggers/forum members have suggested that the best option for getting to Don Mueang Airport is to take the ARL Link to Suvanabhumi Airport and then take the free shuttle transfer bus. This is not the case as they are located in totally different areas of outer Bangkok. Try the train or bus to Don Mueang, it’s not that difficult if you read all the above info and check out the map. Best of luck!
There are two BTS Lines:
SILOM LINE runs west to south, between the National Stadium in the Siam shopping area and Bang Wa in Thonburi (across the Chao Phraya River).
SUKHUMVIT LINE runs north to east from Mo Chit to Bearing. The two lines meet at Siam Station, and also connect at two points with the underground (MRT) – at Sala Daeng Station (Silom Line) and Asok Station (Sukhumvit Line).
A new train arrives every 3 – 6 minutes or so between 06:30 and midnight. The last train leaves between 23:30 and 23:50. Fares start at 15 baht for one stop (more info about the BTS Passes). Note that trains can get pretty full during peak hours (07:00 – 09:00 and 16:00 – 19:00), as the BTS has also become the choice mode of transport for people living and working in Bangkok.
Fares and Skytrain Passes
The BTS Rabbit cards are used to access all stations. Fares start at 15 baht per one stop. A one-day pass may be a good option for those planning to do a lot of hopping on and off for one full day. But if you plan to be in Bangkok for a while, it might be a good idea to buy the BTS Smart Pass.
Unlimited travel within the duration of a single day for 120 baht. Ideal for tourists.
Standard Rabbit Card / Stored Value Cards:
These are available for 100 baht plus 50 baht refundable deposit. The Standard Rabbit Cards are valid for 5 years and can be filled with a minimum of 100 baht and up to 4,000 baht.
30-Day Pass for Adults:
15 trips (use within 30 days), 25 baht per trip unlimited distance, it costs 375 baht.
25 trips (use within 30 days), 23 baht per trip unlimited distance, it costs 575 baht.
40 trips (use within 30 days), 21 baht per trip unlimited distance, it costs 840 baht.
50 trips (use within 30 days), 20 baht per trip unlimited distance, it costs 1,000 baht.
The following stations offer facilities (such as elevators) for disabled people: Mo Chit, Siam, Asok, On Nut and Chong Nonsi. BTS Tourist Information Centers can be found at Siam, Nana, and Saphan Taksin stations. A very informative BTS city map can be picked up free from any station.
For more information visit Bangkok.com here.
Express Boat River Taxis
There are five different types of Express Boat River Taxis:
No flag (Local Line)
Blue Flag Line (tourist boat)
Orange Flag Line
Yellow Flag Line
Green Flag Line
Boats with No Flag (Local Line)
Stops at every pier 06:00 – 18:30, Monday to Friday 10-20 baht This boat has no flag and stops at every pier from Wat Rajsingkorn (Pier S1) in the south to Nonthaburi (Pier N30) in the north. It only runs on weekdays only. Departures are scheduled every 20 minutes. As with all types of boat, you can pay at the ticket kiosk or directly to the staff on the boat.
Blue Flag (Tourist Boat)
Stops when you want 09:00 – 19:00, daily 40 baht/trip or 100 baht for all-day pass Operating between Nonthaburi in the far north of Bangkok to Sathorn Central Pier from 07:00 to 18:25. The fare is 40 baht per trip or 100 baht for an all-day pass with unlimited journeys allowed. English speaking staff will call out every stop clearly over a microphone and ask if anyone wants to alight at that stop. If there are no passengers to get on or off the boat will not stop. In between stops, staff explains the sights lining the river on either side.
Stops at the main piers 05:50 – 19:00, daily 15 baht per journey Orange flag boats operate between Wat Rajsinkorn (Pier S3) and Nonthaburi (Pier N 30). Fares are set at 15 baht per journey. It stops at all the most popular piers along the route from 5:50 to 19:00.
Yellow Flag Large express boat for commuters
Morning 06:15 – 07:00, Afternoon 16:45 – 20:00, Monday to Friday 20-29 baht Running only during rush hours, yellow flag boats are the larger type also used by the Tourist boat. It can fit more passengers on, has better quality seats and is faster in the water. Stopping at only 10 piers, it is an express boat designed primarily to service commuters coming to and from work from the northern outskirts of Bangkok. Fares range between 20-29 baht.
Green Flag Express boat for commuters
Morning 06.10 – 08.10, Afternoon 16.05, Monday – Friday 13-32 baht This is an express boat and the only route which stretches all the way to the northernmost pier of the Bangkok river taxi route (Pakkret, N33). Boats with a green flag on the front and rear will only stop at 13 out of 33 piers and is the fastest boat for passengers heading up to Koh Kret for the day. The route was designed primarily to service commuters coming to and from work from the northern outskirts of Bangkok. A single journey costs from 13-32 baht.
Taxis and Tuk Tuks
Taxis is available as far as the eye can see. You can wave down a taxi almost around every corner and street. To try and drive yourself around Bangkok is insane and crazy if you are a foreigner that is. By just watching the traffic in the streets will be enough to make the decision to rather take a taxi or look for the nearest Tuk-Tuk.
Besides the BTS and MRT, the easiest and most convenient way to get around Bangkok is by taxi. Most taxis are new, spacious and, in addition to the traditional green-yellow and red-blue, they also come in funky colors like bright orange, red and even pink. Finding a taxi is not a hassle, especially around hotels, shopping malls, and other tourist attractions. The fare starts at 35 baht, and stays there for the first two kilometers. Thereafter, the fare gradually works its way up with 2 baht at a time (roughly per kilometer). A surcharge applies in traffic jams (1.25 baht per meter when moving under 6 km per hour). Typical taxi fares for going a few kilometers are around 50 baht. Communication can be a problem with the majority of Bangkok’s taxi drivers as they often speak little English. Improvise, and be imaginative.
Taxi Colour Codes?
Bangkok taxis are famous to be very colorful, especially the pink ones: This means nothing to us, those are just different companies and fares and features are the same.
How to Spot Available Taxis
Available taxis are the ones with the glowing red vacant sign.
No need to negotiate the fare as all taxis in Bangkok are now metered (well, sort of anyway). A driver refusing to use a meter is an indication of a suspicious agenda. If he insists on giving you a fixed fare, instead of using the meter, it’s best to find another cab. Taxis standing by in front of hotels are usually suspicious.
Don’t be surprised if the driver refuses to take you where you wish to go. While there’s not much you can really do about it you can report to Land Transport Department Hotline on 1584 and report the taxi if you were fast enough to take a picture of the car plate (plates are both inside and outside the cab). Alternatively, you can download this app DLT Taxi to report the taxi. Better try your luck with the next taxi.
Flagging a Taxi
It’s ok to get a taxi at a bus stop when there’s no bus approaching, otherwise, you can expect to be honked at.
Like tuk-tuks, watch out for an over-eager taxi driver who offers to take you to ‘good’ places, skip it or decline! Trust your intuition. If you don’t get a good feeling about a taxi driver, rather wait for the next one. Again Taxis standing by in front of hotels are usually suspicious.
Don’t expect Bangkok taxi drivers to know the city’s every nook and cranny, as a driver qualification exam isn’t required. It’s always a good idea to carry a map, or the name and the location of where you’re heading to written in Thai. (Pick up a hotel card when leaving your hotel if you are in a small street of Bangkok)
Watch when stepping out!
Look behind you and make sure there’s no motorcycle coming before you open a car door. It’s very common for passengers to open the door without looking, and have a motorcycle slam into it. This can cause serious injury to the motorcycle driver, the taxi passenger, as well as considerable damage to the taxi itself.
Tipping of taxi drivers is not required, though rounding the fare off to the nearest 5 or 10 baht is common practice (it’s a nice thing to do, as they earn very little, work long hours in often stressful conditions). But remember: Taxis often pretend not to have change, so carry small amounts!
Before getting out of a taxi, make sure you haven’t left any valuables or shopping bags behind.
Tuk-tuks have become one of Bangkok’s most recognizable transportation features, and are still popular among tourists and visitors. Riding a tuk-tuk is more of an experience rather than a practical way to get around. So, if it’s your first time in The Big Mango, there’s no harm in giving it a go.
Things you have to know:
Fares vary, depending on the distance traveled, the time of the day, the traffic, and the mood of the drivers. Normally a very short trip will cost 30 baht.
Fare negotiating and haggling is a must because the price named by the driver is always an ‘inflated rate’ (especially if you’re a tourist). The trick is to negotiate 5 – 15 baht off the proposed fare and take it from there.
Be careful of the ‘mafia’ tuk-tuks around touristy areas, who often boasts privileged knowledge of ‘secret’ or ‘special’ shopping places and things. Some of them may offer sightseeing tours and unsolicited help to take you places. A short and sweet “no, thanks” will save you from their scams. The same rule applies to taxis.
Avoid taking a tuk-tuk during peak hours (07:00 – 09:00, 16:00 – 19:00). You don’t want to be stuck in traffic for hours, sweating and breathing in the hazardous fumes from engines all around you.
Tuk-tuks are most ideal for short trips. Sometimes it would cost the same, or even cheaper, to take a cab to the same destination, but it will go a lot faster.
Don’t be afraid to put your hands and tastebuds on street food in Bangkok. The food is really good and safe to eat, as long as you visit the vendors that are frequented by locals or tourists. This ensures that you get fresh food.
What is Bangkok Street Food
What to Expect Bangkok street food comes in many guises. It might be a humble cart on the side of the road, it could be a collection of stalls in a local market or even a traditional shophouse that has tables spilling out onto the pavement.
If you are worried about cleanliness our tip is to eat at busy places as the ingredients will be fresh. Often specializing in particular types of dishes, you should be able to work out the type of food a stall is selling by observing the ingredients and the way they’re being prepared. Vendors can be seen busily stir-frying in an ancient wok, pounding papaya, grilling meat skewers or boiling noodles. Some speak basic English but it’s not guaranteed.
To help you out, here’s a list of the most popular street food dishes with Thai translations:
Som Tam (ส้มตำ) – Papaya salad
Khao Pad (ข้าวผัด) – Fried Rice
Pad Thai Kung (ผัดไทยกุ้ง) – Noodles with shrimp
Khao Mun Gai (ข้าวมันไก่) – Steamed chicken on rice
Gai/Moo Bing (ไก่/หมูปิ้ง) – Grilled chicken/pork skewers
Sai Krok Issan (ไส้กรอกอีสาน) – Sour Issan sausage
Pad krapao moo (ผัดกระเพราหมู) – Stir-fried pork with basil
Pla Pao (ปลาเผา) – Fish barbecued in salt
There are many kinds of noodle stalls available:
Egg noodles with wonton and ‘moo daeng’ (red barbequed pork)
Beef and meatball noodles
Yen ta fou (noodles in red soy bean paste with fish ball,
squid and morning glory) – the list is endless.
The noodles themselves come in different sizes and shapes too.
Deciding what kind of noodles you want can be confusing as choices are so plentiful.
Sen Yai (rice river noodle): a wide flat noodle made from white rice flour
Sen Mii (rice vermicelli): a small wiry looking rice flour noodle Sen Lek: a medium flat rice flour noodle (the same kind used in pad thai)
Bah Mii: an egg and wheat flour noodle (yellow in colour)
Woon Sen (glass noodle): a thin, wiry, transparent soya bean flour noodle
Gieow (wonton): boiled minced pork wrapped in yellow dough
Once you have a favourite kind of noodle in mind, the next step is to make a decision whether to have ‘naam’ (soup) with it, or ‘haeng’ (dry).
Then it’s time to choose your meat. Just look at the display and see what is on offer. The price varies from 30 to 80 baht and you can have a larger portion – ‘pi sed’ (extra) – for an additional fee.
Usually, Thai people add condiments to their noodle soup, aka the ‘four flavors’: sugar, dried ground chili, vinegar with chili, fish sauce and/or ground peanuts.
Other types of Thai street food:
This includes ‘kaao laad kaeng’ (curry on rice) stalls, which are probably the cheapest and quickest places to eat. A wide range of different items is displayed in tin trays. Here, the ordering process is less tricky than with the noodles because all you need to do is point to whatever you want, and the price is also logical, the more items you order, the more you have to pay.
This is just a taste of what you will find. The rest is up to you to explore! The sweat on your back, the pungent smell of chilli in air, the rickety chairs and tables, and the cheap, tasty food, it’s a dining experience everyone should experience at least once.
You can find Thai street food just about everywhere in Bangkok and at practically every time of the day or night, except on Monday daytime because that is the official street cleaning time when street stalls are not allowed to operate in many areas.
For more information on Bangkok visit their website HERE.