Thailand, Travel Tips, Year of Travel

How to Navigate Bangkok

We have a problem. It’s what some would call being cheap, it’s what we would call saving money and exploring. But here’s the thing – you can’t walk everywhere. And, when you’re carrying a rucksack on your front and your back, in 33 degree heat, having not slept in 24 hours, something has to give. Finding our way around Bangkok did not get off to the best start. We decided to take it upon ourselves to trudge through the streets (as the description above). After a while, we felt unhappy with the city. Then, we acted out a little conversation based on what we were doing:
Stranger: ‘I don’t like London.’
Us: ‘Why?’
Stranger: ‘I got off the tube at Trafalgar Square with all my luggage and walked around and couldn’t find a thing.’
Us: ‘Well, duh.’
So, we admit, we got off to a stupid start, used (as we are) to walking everywhere. However, despite this, Bangkok actually is not an easy city to navigate. We’ve had issues getting around Thailand before (every blog we read told us that Koh Samui was simple to get around – we found it the opposite). Here’s a short blog post to help you work out Bangkok if, like us, you’re having a tough time.
The cheapest method of travel:
First of all, the cheapest way to get around is by the canal boats. It’s a fraction of the cost of the underground, tuk tuks, anything else. For around 16 baht you can travel a serious distance. But, that doesn’t mean it’s the easiest method. For some reason, all tourist maps fail to mention the canal boats and piers. If you use Googlemaps, you can find your nearest pier, but it still doesn’t tell you how to use it. The signs each pier are, likewise, baffling. So – we’re here to tell you this:
If you’re trying to get to the Grand Palace, China Town etc, get a canal boat to Pratunam. Just get on a boat and tell the person this is where you are going. Pratunam is basically where everyone has to change to a different boat to get to where they are actually going.
At Pratunam, hop off the boat onto the one in front (there will be one everyone else is swapping to as well), and tell the person that you are going to Phanfa Leelard. This journey is so much simpler than the expensive route on the underground.
Be aware: The boats are very busy and you are expected to alight quickly. Seriously – hop on fast, and when you have to get off, use your elbows. They won’t wait for you.
Note: Canal boats are distinct from River Boats. They use a different river. They use different piers. Don’t go looking for your local pier in the River Boat guide because you’ll be upset.
The easiest method of travel to understand:
The metro, the airport line, and the underground are the easiest to understand – though all are unlinked and require some walking to change lines. If you use the tube in London, the underground in New York, etc, you won’t have any issues. The only thing that we wouldn’t recommend is the cost, which is understandably much more than the canal boats. After all, you’re dry.
The most expensive, but potentially fun:
A tuk tuk can take you where you need to go, and though negotiation is expected, they are undoubtedly the most expensive of our three ways to get around Bangkok. You won’t be paying the same price as the locals pay, and if this irks you, best to take the underground. If however, you are on holiday and just want something easy and fast, this is the method for you.
The one we didn’t try:
Oh, taxis. We mentioned the cheap thing, yeah?

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