Bangkok is a huge city, filled with hurtling or traffic jammed cars, motorbikes, buses, taxis and tuktuks. (Plus one evening we saw an elephant strolling down the main road!) Getting around is easy if your base and your destination are near the main transport lines MRT, Skytrain or Klong. But walking far in a hot humid climate with thick smog, even in the winter cool of 34ºC is not recommended.
For short distances tuktuks are ideal, cool and fun, just agree a price (25-50 Bhat most often) in advance – in small towns bargaining beforehand is usually unnecessary, but in Bangkok or Chiang Mai it can save difficult post hoc discussions 😉 Their size and comfort varies more than the prices should. We’ve seen the extra large ones with two parallel facing seats, that might hold four Thais easily and even four farang with a squash, a luxury semi recliner, and at the other extreme the old small one we could barely squeeze into that, however, took us, without a serious breakdown, to the bus station in Lampang.
For longer trips especially if there are two (or three) of you, take a taxi. Ride in air conditioned comfort, and let the driver worry about the traffic. Bangkok’s taxis are metered and cheap, to or from the city centre and our hotel out near the Northern Bus Station was never more that 100 Bhat (NZ$4-5) even in the rush hour. For taxis don’t negotiate, just hop in and ensure the metre is turned on. (A negotiated price, even with cut-throat bargaining is likely to cost double the metered amount 😉
It does help to know a landmark near your destination, or to have the hotel’s card with the address in Thai and a small local map. Most of our trips have been hassle free and efficient, Bangkok taxi-drivers are easygoing and efficient. Most of them. The guy we got from the huge queue at the bus station, despite asking directions several times still managed to take us on a zigzag tour between Moe Chit and the city centre, gradually eastward till finally Barbara spotted the hotel on the other side of the street 😉 still it only cost less than 300 Bhat which at 5:30am with lots of luggage was probably better than a LONG walk 😉
The klong, and I think only one is still operating, is quick easy and “quite an experience”. Avoid the rush hour, as dozens of experienced commuters hop on and off in seconds and the boats are REALLY packed. But for a different view of Bangkok life traveling east-west along Petchburi Road (and down to the River) the klong is fun and convenient. Just avoid licking the spray off your face, because probably you won’t copy discerning locals and wear a mask 😉