Bangkok is a city of more than 10,000,000 people and one in which the population growth has skyrocketed over the last 30 years. It’s really no surprise, then, that there have been some challenges in adjusting the infrastructure to handle the growth in traffic. Getting around in Bangkok in rush hour can be either a breeze or almost impossible depending on where you are and, more importantly, what you are in!
Bangkok has many transport options that each serve a purpose and figuring out when to use what is part of being able to get around successfully. To begin with, the stories you may have heard about nightmarish traffic in Bangkok are indeed true, at least to a certain degree. There are times and specific places in Bangkok that almost always jam up into bottlenecks. Being stuck at one of these intersections can mean moving at a rate of 100 meters/hour.
Three things are to blame for Bangkok’s traffic problem: Lack of roads, too many cars and the traffic police.
Bangkok has grown too fast to be able to deal with the growth in cars. The middle class in Bangkok loves cars and will always prefer taking the car over public transport no matter how inconvenient it may be. Thus, there are simply too many cars on the road at any give time and it’s made worse by the traffic police who turn traffic lights on and off at some intersections. They are not very successful at directing the traffic and some speculate they may even be the cause of many jams.
On the other hand, the public transport system in Bangkok is excellent. It is often much quicker to take the metro or Skytrain than it would be to drive and it is also less expensive. Between both services, the whole of inner Bangkok is covered. Other options include buses and taxis, although both are subject to the same traffic jams that cars are. The metro and the Skytrain both cover different routes and rarely cross each other. The bus covers all areas of the city, but the trains are much quicker and buses should only be taken as a last resort. Separate tickets are required for each mode of transport.
The western part of Bangkok is also covered by the waterways and river ferries of the Chao Praya River. It’s a very scenic and relaxing way of travelling if you are going somewhere on the eastern or western bank of the river, such as Chinatown, Thonburi or Banglamphuu – home of Kao San Road.
If all else fails and you really need to be somewhere quickly, then a motorcycle taxi may be your only hope. These ‘motocy’ are by far the fastest way of getting around Bangkok, but they are not for the faint of heart.
Between the Skytrain, Metro, taxis, a very cheap personal luxury, and river ferry, you should never have to be worry about how you are going to get anywhere in the city.