Getting around Bangkok (and avoiding traffic!)

  • Posted onMarch 28th, 2013

Bangkok TRafficFor all its natural beauty, cultural exoticism, traditions and spirituality, Bangkok is becoming equally as world renowned for its horrendous traffic problems, with rush hours seeming to last around the clock on some major streets, and downtown traffic even spilling out on to the sidewalk in places. Unless you have experienced it first hand, it’s very hard to imagine how hectic and chaotic Bangkok traffic can be.

Fear not, with a little bit of knowledge and execution you can live like a local and avoid most of the bad traffic. Here are our tips for getting around Bangkok and avoiding the worst of the traffic:

Bangkok TRaffic 2

Know when to travel (and when not to travel)

Timing is the key. Like most major cities of the world there are peak hours for traffic when you really need to avoid travelling by road. Unless you want to sit in a traffic jam for an hour at a time try to avoid taking taxi cabs in downtown Bangkok between the hours of 7am and 10 am (especially when heading into the city centre) and between 4pm and 9pm (especially when heading out of the centre) on weekdays. Weekends tend to be a lot easier to get around, while on national holidays traffic can be busy on the roads all day long.

BTS & MRTBTS

The Sky Train (BTS) and Metro (MRT) systems have recently been extended and cover a large part of downtown Bangkok, open throughout the day and during peak traffic hours. Unlike many large metropolises these transport systems are cheap, clean, reliable and modern, leaving you little excuse not to use them. Most cross city journeys are likely to be far quicker using the BTS or MRT during rush hour. Get to know these systems well as even if you are not near a station, or there isn’t one close to your destination, combing a short taxi ride with a BTS or MRT route can cut down your journey time.

Bangkok also has a good Airport Rail Link which joins the airport to the MRT at Makkasan and the BTS at Phaya Thai leaving you a great alternative means of transport if you need to get to the airport during rush hour.

Motorcycle TaxiBangkok Girls on Bikes

You have no doubt seen plenty of motorcycle taxis but perhaps not be brave enough to even consider using one. Motorcycle taxis are the saviour for many local Thai and expats looking to travel quickly through rush hour traffic. Very often this is your fastest mode of rush hour transport. If you are not keen to travel far by motorcycle taxi it is still a great way of getting quickly to and from the nearest BTS or MRT station.

Motorcycle taxis tend to be very safe, especially during rush hour when most other traffic is at a standstill! It’s also a very cheap way to travel, not only cutting down your journey time but also the cost. And there are motorcycle taxis on almost every soi and street corner in the city!

Avoid travelling when it rainsBangkok Rain

If you think the traffic is bad during rush hour on a regular weekday, wait until you see it when it rains! During monsoon season it can often rain for an hour or so during the afternoon, at which point Bangkok becomes one giant car park. If it’s raining, or looks like it’s about to rain don’t even think about jumping in a taxi unless you want to spend the afternoon listening to local radio in a sweaty cab, instead consider going for a coffee or doing some shopping, or even grab a stress busting massage!

Learn the ShortcutsBangkok shortcut

If you are in town for a while get to know your local area and possible short cuts for avoiding traffic. Bangkok taxi drivers tend to only know a few key areas and the major roads of the city, and Bangkok has a wealth of backstreets and short cuts that can save you loads of time if you are aware of them. If you find yourself in a taxi near your home base and know an alternate route don’t be afraid to request the taxi driver to take your shortcut and save you both some time, or give him an alternative spot to drop you off from where you can take an alley or walkover to get home quicker.

Being stuck in a Bangkok traffic jam can be a sure-fire way to ruin a good day. Putting these tips into practise should help you to avoid any nasty traffic jams, saving you a lot of time getting around. Do all you can to avoid being sat in traffic, even if it means walking more than you normally would, it’s a great way to explore the city!

BTS Map and Time Table

MRT Map and Time Table

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