The Thai capital of Bangkok is one of Asia’s principle gateways and the centre of Thailand’s transportation network. The city boasts one of the largest airports in the world, the recently completed Suvarnabhumi International, as well as a litany of domestic flights, long-distance coaches plus a train network stretching to Chiang Mai or the Laos border in the north and south as far as Singapore.
Around 50 air carriers fly to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport from the four corners of the globe, making getting here a simple and relatively cheap prospect. There are direct departures to the east and west coasts of the USA, plus numerous European flights stopping over en route to Australasia.
Budget airlines such as Air Aisa connect Bangkok with other Southeast Asian hubs including Bali, Manila, Phnom Penh and Hanoi.
The Thai rail network is limited with just three main lines reaching out from Bangkok towards Udon Thani in the northeastern Isaan region, Chiang Mai in the northwest and south to Hat Yai and Malaysia. Although travelling by train is certainly more comfortable than even luxury VIP buses, the increase in price and longer journey times make this a less attractive option since the sudden proliferation of cheap flights to numerous regional airports. More on trains from Bangkok.
Bangkok by bus is mainly the realm of budget travellers and backpackers, and there are all-inclusive bus-and-boat transfers which depart directly from Khao San Road hostels to Koh Pha Ngan, Samui and Phi Phi amongst other destinations. The main Bangkok bus terminal is at Mo Chit Station, and VIP services leave here to major domestic destinations almost every hour. These are fast, comfortable and safe, costing less than 500 baht for an overnight service to Chiang Mai or Phuket. More on Bangkok by bus.
The vast majority of tourists coming to Thailand arrive first in Bangkok, and this is usually through Suvarnabhumi International Airport. Getting to downtown from here is quick and cheap via the Airport Rail Link which runs from 06:00 until midnight and costs 100 baht for the fast train, 17 minutes (50 baht for the longer one) to Phaya Thai BTS station. From here passengers can connect with the commuter Skytrain service to most of the city including the Silom and Sukhumvit neighbourhoods. More on flights from Bangkok.
The alternative is to take a ‘meter’ taxi into the centre, which is also reasonably priced at around 400 baht depending on traffic and final destination. This is a better option if heading to the Khao San Road area which is not served by the BTS or MRT commuter rail network. Visitors travelling to Pattaya can take coaches direct from Suvarnabhumi Airport – just head down to the floor below arrivals where hourly services depart.
Getting around Bangkok is relatively simply with metered taxis on every corner. But the city’s nightmare traffic can be problematic so leave plenty of time (at least an hour) for getting from one side of the metropolis to the other during daylight hours. Motorcycle taxis (where you ride pillion on the back) are great for those without bags and short on time, but always insist on wearing a helmet as accidents do happen. More on getting around Bangkok.
Tuk-tuks are also prevalent around the tourist areas but generally worse value than metered taxis as they involve bargaining for a fare before setting off. Do not accept any offers of free transport to tourist attractions or go-go bars as these are always a scam for getting commission from establishments en route, and you will inevitably end up out of pocket at the end. More on Bangkok transportation.