First off it’s good to know what kind of transport you can get in Bangkok. There are numerous kinds of public transport, but the average visitor or resident uses only 7 of these, Meter Taxis, Tuk Tuks, buses, canal boats, river taxis, motorbikes, and Taxis (with no meter).
Lets start with Tuk Tuks. Aren’t they cute, those little three wheeled taxis, brighly painted and featured so much on anything to do with Thailand. They are very cute until you get stuck in the traffic, behind the number 36 bus at about 2 in the afternoon and suck down more fumes in 10 minutes than the average smoker does in a lifer time… ho ho ho you’ll say to the kids, isn’t this fun….while your kids bury their heads in their Dad’s armpit because it smells fresh compared to the air around them. Okay Try a Tuku Tuk once, don’t go too far and then give them up as a bad idea. Out of Bangkok they’re much more fun. Tuk Tuk drivers should be haggled with, the price fixed in advance and generally you’ll always get ripped off, take a taxi.
Taxis (with 4 wheels) come in two flavours, metered and no meter, although a few non meters actually have a meter concealed behind a panel in the dash board below the radio…. Taxis are great, sit back in air conditioned luxury and watch the Smiths die of carbon monoxide poisoning in a Tuk Tuk. If the driver of a Taxi refuses to use his meter then tell him to take a hike, get out, do not be suckered. Check where you are standing, if it’s outside a nice big hotel , then walk up the road a bit and wave down a taxi. Unlike the US or Europe taxi drivers have to pass NO TESTS to become a taxi driver, within a few days of being inb Bangkok you will know Bangkok better than many Taxi drivers…. again if the driver seems to not know where it is you are going, get out….one other thing, make sure you know where you are going and have a rough idea of the route, else a less honest cabby will take you o a tour of the backroads “the short cuts”. If you’re going a long way, take the toll way, it costs between 20 and 40 Baht, (you pay) and will save you hours of travel time. Calling a taxi by phone costs ab extra 20 Baht, Taxis at the airport cost an extra 50 Baht. And yes there is a REGULATED taxi stand at the airport outside the main meeting zone. Don’t be suckered by taxi and limo touts. Oh yes then there are the taxis with no meter…. well if you want to use one feel free….it’ll cost about the same as a Tuk Tuk but at least you’ll get Air Con….possibly.
Buses, once upon a time there were red buses, blue buses, green buses and Air Con buses, then came micro buses and then came deregulation and now there are so many buses that I really don’t know what they all are…anyway if you are going to use a bus GET A BUS MAP. Then always use Air Con buses unless where you are going is not on one of their routes or your on such a tight budget that 8 to 15 Baht per person may cause you to have to go without food. Other buses vary from 3 Baht up to 20 Baht. Don’t bother asking the conductor about where you want to get off, to them you are a lower lifeform (all passengers are) ask another passenger. A word about getting on and off buses. Do it FAST, buses on occasions don’t stop at the bus stop they “slow” in the middle of the road and let off a stream of potential roadkill in the middle of the traffic, okay I exaggerate a little but when you get your stop make sure you are already near the door and can sprint for it. Don’t expect the people getting on to make way, that kind of common sense tends to fail people using the buses, their objective is to get on fast and get a seat before anyone else…which brings up seats…. don’t be fooled into thinking that being a “gentleman” will get you thanks…oh no, you’ll see pregnant ladies standing up while young school brats take up the seats, you’ll see old ladies burdened by shopping standing while teen sweathearts hog the seats…it’s a first come dog eat dog world on the buses and if you take one of the non air con buses you’ll eventually see some poor person pass out….then they get a seat.
Motobikes. Yea…. want to get somewhere fast, take a motorbike taxi, married with kids…get life insurance and a damn good helmet. The majority of MB taxi drivers will make it their sole intent to scare you to death, to see if they can squeeze their bike through a gap that is obviously closing up faster than they are moving and to see how fast they can go on a open stretch of road…they have no fear (or sanity)…. your life is in their hands and you’ll soon wish it wasn’t. It is the law in Thailand that all bike riders MUST wear a crash helmet…. some of the helmets you see wouldn’t project a toddler falling off a 3 wheeler. Thai law says you have to wear a helmet, but as far as the law is concerned…it can be made out of paper….if you intend to use MB Taxis a lot then get a helmet…I did, it saved my face when the inevitable eventually happened and I slide across the road after beeing side swipped by a pick up truck….if you can avoid MB taxis, then do. If you are in Bangkok for long enough you may eventually get to learn which MB Taxi Teams (yes they work in teams) are safer than others (or luckier than others). Check out the bikes they are driving, a scratched up wreck will be a good hint that the driver has kissed the tarmac a few times, a brand new bike , a green horn still waiting for his first brush with death…. if you’re on a bike and the driver is driving like a nut, tell him to stop and get off.
I have to admit I have very little experience with boat transport in Bangkok, but from what I am told, if you can take a canal or river taxi, then do, they are fast, generally clean, less pollution and of course there are less vehicles to hit. Prices vary depending on how far you are going.
In summary I would suggest that if you plan to travel in Bangkok that you :- get a map, take meter taxis, always know the general route and even price range to your destination…. oh and don’t travel between 8am and 9am, or 3pm and 4pm, or 7pm and 8pm…. you’ll get nowhere very very slowly.