Probably the least well known public transport amongst tourists in Bangkok are the boats that ply the canals and the Chao Phraya, but they are arguably one of the cheapest and most interesting ways to get around. You can glide along the river getting to see temples, houses and buildings that you would not have otherwise seen, whilst other tourists are stuck in Bangkok’s horrendous traffic. Indeed, combining the river taxis with the BTS/MRT is a cheap and efficient way to get around the capital, and also offers excellent photo opportunities.
The Chao Phraya Express
The Chao Phraya Express is a great way to get around Bangkok, if you happen to be on that side of the city. There are dozens of stops, from Pakkret in the north to Wat Rajsingkorn in the south, and with fares starting at 9 baht ($0.29), it’s well worth checking out. The majority of visitors staying on this side of the city will no doubt be in the Khao San Road/Soi Rambuttri area, which means that they are only a stone’s throw from the Phra Arthit pier where you can board the boat.
From Khao San Road, if you walk to the western end of the street (the police station end), then cross over the road and walk through Wat Chanasongkhram, you’ll come out on Soi Rambuttri near to a street-side restaurant with plastic chairs. Walk down the side street (you’ll see a sign for B Mode Tailors) until you come out at Phra Arthit Road, turn right then take the next left at Bangkok Bank and you’ll be at the pier, it’s under 10 minutes walk from Khao San.
To use the boat, simply hop on when it arrives (be careful because the boat will be swaying about), and pay the lady when she comes around to sell you your ticket. It doesn’t take long to whisk you down to the BTS station at Saphan Taksin (Sathorn), and you’ll get to see the famous Wat Arun on the other side of the river also. The boats runs every few minutes, you won’t have to wait long, and they operate from around 6am until 7pm.
Khlong Saen Saeb
A khlong is the Thai word for canal, and khlong Saen Saeb weaves through the other side of Bangkok, taking in Siam, Pratunam, Ratchaprasong and Thong Lo, giving you access to a whole world of shopping, eating and entertainment for a fraction of the price of a taxi. The khlong boats are incredibly handy, but the stops are not always that obvious as they are not very well signed, and there are two separate lines (but tickets are valid on both). Prices start at 10 baht ($0.33) and increase in 2 baht ($0.07) increments, depending on the length of your journey.
Very few people are aware of this but there is a khlong boat station at Panfa Leelard which is walkable from Khao San Road, and this takes you all the way to Bangkapi in the east, stopping at MBK, Nana, Thong Lo and many other places. The boats run roughly every 20-30 minutes from 6am until 8pm.
One important word of advice – khlong water is not clean by any stretch of the imagination and you should do your best to ensure that none splashes in your mouth. To be safe you can buy disposable face masks from 7-11 or a pharmacy for a few baht, don’t worry about looking silly because you won’t be the only one wearing one.