Transport in Thailand is cheap, reliable and hassle free to use, so there's nothing to stop you from exploring Thailand's six geographical regions, even if you don't wish to hire a car and drive yourself.
While Thailand's government owned bus and long distance train fleet are definitely aging, their planes, taxi's, and ferries are fine to use. Additionally, if you are staying within Bangkok you have the choice of using their excellent BTS Skytrain and MRT subway network.
While it is true that Bangkok experiences some of the worst traffic congestion of anywhere in the world it is still a surprisingly easy city to get around. Once you arrive in Bangkok at either Suvarnabhumi International Airport or the older Don Muang Airport you can utilise the excellent Bangkok Mass Transport System (i.e. the BTS Skytrain network), or the Metropolitan Rapid Transit system (MRT) or subway, which includes no fewer than 19 trains to service 18 stations and 20 kilometres of underground track.
My favorite mode of transport in Bangkok is the BTS Skytrain network, which sits high above the urban landscape and uses two railway lines to connect metropolitan Bangkok. Construction on the BTS began in 2006 and the system opened in 2009. Since its opening it has been upgraded and additional stations have been added. It currently (as of 2014) has approximately 36 kilometres of track. The trains are relatively new, they are efficient, cheap to ride, and always on time.
The Silom line which is approximately 14.5 kilometres in length and has 13 stations at present, stretches from Bang Wa Station (past the Chao Phraya River) to the National Stadium Station in Pathum Wan Disitrict in the heart of Bangkok (see image below).
The skytrain also connects with ferry services on the Chao Phraya River. Just exit at Saphan Taksin Station (last station before the river heading outbound from the city) and walk to the Sathorn Pier (i.e. Central) to catch a ferry.
Sukhumvit line which is approximately 22.2 kilometres in length, has
22 stations at present (as of 2014) and runs from Bearing Station to Mo Chit
Station (see image below).
The skytrain is a favorite of mine as it services the 2 larger shopping malls in Bangkok, (i.e. MBK and Siam Paragon) located in the Pathum Wan district, and provides a birds-eye view of the city. Services commence about six thirty in the morning and conclude around midnight. Tickets can be purchased from any station.
You do have to interchange with the Silom line at Siam Station if you are traveling into the city centre at Pathumwan district.
You can purchase tickets via the ticket machine (see image below). They are easy to use. If you don't have any coins then you just need to go the ticket counter.
I have used the BTS Skytrain many times and can recommend its ease of use and efficiency.
Another popular mode of transport in Thailand is the train. In Bangkok it's called the Metropolitan Rapid Transit system (MRT) or subway (see image below). It includes no fewer than 19 trains to service 18 stations and 20 kilometres of underground track. The system transports around 240, 000 people a day.
At present there is only one MRT line in use although in 2011 construction commenced on a further two lines. The current line is the Chaloem Ratchamongkhon or the blue line and construction began back in 1996 and was completed in 2004. It travels from Bang Sue Station to Hua Lamphong Station and is a great method of transport in Thailand; specifically in Bangkok.
I have used the MRT in Bangkok and can recommend its use.
The ticketing system uses round black tokens and these are purchased from the ticket office or from ticket machines at each of the stations (see image below).
DOMESTIC AIR TRAVEL
A great means of transport in Thailand is air travel. There are over 60 airports located across Thailand and domestic fares are quite reasonably priced. The two main airports are the newer Suvarnabhumi
International Airport (which opened in 2006, see image below) and the much older Don Muang Airport (which opened back in 1914 and is one of the world's oldest international airports) which are both located in Bangkok.
The major airlines that operate within Thailand include: Thai Airways (see image lower on page), Nok Air, Air Asia and Bangkok Airways (which airline owns Koh Samui International Airport).
I have traveled in Thailand using their domestic carriers on a number of occasions now flying between Bangkok and Nakhon Si Thammarat and also Phuket. I have found air travel in Thailand to be both easy and cost effective.
As noted there are a number of airports located outside of the central region of Thailand (i.e.Bangkok) including:
Buses are an important method of transport in Thailand because they are very affordable for Thai people. These buses are used to transport freight and people across the entire country. There are thousands of buses in Thailand (both government and privately owned) used for both short and long distance travel (I recommend the use of private buses for long trips, see image below).
They do vary in age and condition so it is best to have a look at what you will be traveling on before you purchase your ticket.
In Bangkok however, the buses are predominantly government owned and the fleet is old. For long distance travel there are large bus stations in Bangkok which connect passengers with the different regions of Thailand (i.e. Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal connects passengers with the southern region of Thailand including Phuket) .
The fares for long distance travel and for short trips in Bangkok are very affordable and bus maps are available from from book stores and Seven-Eleven stores.
In Bangkok, the bus fleet contains both air-conditioned and non-air conditioned buses. I have traveled on both, and believe me when I say it is definitely worth paying an extra 20 Thai baht (about 70 cents) to catch an air conditioned bus on a hot Bangkok day.
The main bus terminals in Bangkok for regional travel are:
To ride on a bus in Bangkok, simply get on and purchase your ticket from the bus conductor. However, be warned bus journey's around Bangkok can be very slow due to traffic congestion on the roads.
I have also traveled on the overnight bus between Bangkok and Hua Hin and can recommend travel on the both government and private buses. They are a cheap and easy method of transport in Thailand.
Taxis can be found in just about every region, town and district and they are a good choice of transport in Thailand. In Bangkok there are thousands of taxis and they are useful depending upon the time of day (i.e.
outside of peak hour) and whether the driver can speak reasonable English, or you can speak reasonable Thai. There are a couple of different companies that operate in Bangkok and the cars are painted either pink or yellow and green (see image below).
Taxis are quite cost effective too but be sure that the taxi you travel in has a metre and they turn it on. As a guide a 25 km journey in a taxi from the airport should cost between 300-500 THB ($10-15 AUD or USD) if they use the metre and depending upon traffic congestion.
Some unscrupulous taxi drivers will target foreigners by quoting them a high price for the journey instead of using the taxi metre (which is always much cheaper for the customer).
I have traveled by taxi on many occasions in Bangkok and can recommend their use.
Another popular method of transport in Thailand is the motorcycle taxi. Thai women use these in large numbers especially in Bangkok where there are a fast means of traveling over fairly short distances. Fares for a journey say over a 1-2 kilometres range average between around 20-30 Thai baht. The risk of injury on a motorcycle in Bangkok is much greater than in a car or bus. While the driver wears a crash helmet, the passenger does not.
The motorcycle taxis are easy to spot by the operators who wear orange coloured jackets.
I have traveled in Bangkok on the back of a motorcycle taxi and didn't encounter any problems.
tuk's are another popular form of transport in Thailand especially within the popular
tourist destinations (such as Phuket) and regional area's where metred taxi's are rare (see image below). They do not have a metre so the cost of the journey is negotiated before you get in the back seat. They are also open air vehicles so on a hot day they can get a little hot to travel in.
While I have seen them operating in Bangkok, I would recommend taking an air-conditioned taxi which has a meter. On a hot Bangkok day in congested traffic it is well worth paying a few extra Thai baht.
I have traveled in the back of a Tuk Tuk in Chiang Mai and Phuket and I can recommend their use.
FERRIES AND RIVER TAXIS
Watercraft, including river taxis and ferries (see image below) are a great way to travel around Bangkok and this method of transport in Thailand dates back hundreds of years, especially along the Chao Phraya River.
The Chao Phraya Express Boat Company offers day tickets on their boats for around 75 Thai baht and there are 8 piers along the river where you can get off the ferry and walk around. These include:
There are literally hundreds of private water craft in operation along the Chao Phraya River and apart from providing basic transportation, these water craft provide an excellent means of seeing the sights of Bangkok including the Grand Palace.
In Bangkok there are a number of old rice junkets that have been converted to restaurants and bars which provide river cruises up and down the Chao Phraya River. These cruises operate during the night and day providing fine dining and entertainment along with some of the best views imaginable.
My wife took me out for a dinner cruise in 2010 to celebrate my birthday and the package included dinner and a show. The show highlighted traditional Thai dancing and we were also invited to join in.