Believe it or not, it was only in 1999 that Bangkok got its first mass transit system in the BTS, the two-line electric train. Before that – as some of Bangkok’s older residents will tell you – the city was a nightmare of clogged streets and frustrated commuters. Indeed, in-car urinals called Ezee-Pees were must-have accessories. Seriously.
But getting around Bangkok in 2016 is – dare we say it – almost easy. Okay, maybe not always easy, but several recent additions have brought even more colorful transportation options to the Bangkok puzzle.
Bangkok Transport Evolution
Before 1999, Bangkok’s growing population had to rely on the creaky, dirty, noisy system of boats, tuk-tuk’s, taxis, motorcycle taxis, and buses. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked.
When it opened, the BTS completely changed the transportation landscape of the city (as did the addition of a subway line in 2004). In fact, as you read this, crews are working hard to complete a series of new above- and below-ground lines that will eventually bring the total length of routes to nearly 300km.
Recent years have seen the addition of Grab and Uber, two transportation giants that let you hail various types of cars to pick you up at your location using a phone. No time to wait for a car? No problem – both services also offer a motorcycle pickup option as well.
Technology is also changing how traffic operates as well. Many van and limo drivers these days use GPS navigation, helping them to avoid clogged roads, construction, and accidents.
In addition, this year will (finally) see the introduction of a single-use card for the skytrain and subway, which will eventually be rolled out to buses and boats as well.
And – hear us out on this one – bicycle is proving to be an increasingly popular way to get around as well. More and more locals are taking up pedal power to get around. New biking clubs have sprung up, and the city government has put in bike lanes at various points around the city.
And if that’s not enough, a recent report by the Airport Parking and Hotels website compared data from 28 top destination cities around the world and found that Bangkok’s air was the most breathable. It’s not Vancouver, but it’s a start.
Putting the puzzle together
You take all of these elements on their own, and it’s a nice way to get from A to B. But the magic happens when you start putting pieces together like a giant transportation Lego set. Motorbike taxi + boat. Uber +BTS. Subway + tuk-tuk. Cycle and walking streets. The character and vitality of Bangkok really shows up when this happens, and suddenly it’s fairly easy to get from A to B and onward to C, D, and E. However, some local knowledge and experience makes the whole package a lot more reliable and efficient.
Of course, this isn’t to say that Bangkok has rid itself of traffic jams, or that you can get across the city in 15 minutes, but a focus on user-friendliness and a quickly growing stable of options means that Bangkok is easier and more pleasant to get around than ever before.
We have tamed this transportation beast and turned it into a fun and efficient way to discover the best bits of Bangkok on our Multi Transport Adventures. Book one today!