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With a population of more than 11 million, Bangkok is by far Thailand’s largest city, and one of the most cosmopolitan in all of Asia. Its key location makes it easy to reach all areas of the country, from the beaches in the Gulf of Thailand to nearby historical cities, national parks and the famous Bridge over the River Kwai. A car is not needed in Bangkok itself and is actually not recommended, but car hire is a fantastic way to explore nearby attractions and the city’s surrounding area. International car rental firms have locations in Downtown Bangkok, as well as at both Suvarnabhumi Airport and Don Muang Airport.
Who to Book With
Recognised firms, such as Sixt, Budget and Hertz, as well as local companies, such as Krungthai Car Rent and Ezy Rent A Car, offer a wide range of vehicles to choose from. Most offices are in the Siam Square and Silom areas, but they can also be found in the Arrival halls of Suvarnabhumi Airport and Don Muang Airport. Booking online beforehand is advised to ensure availability and to get the best rates.
Best time to go
Bangkok is busy year-round, although rates tend to increase during the Christmas and New Year holidays, as well as during Songkran (Thai New Year) in April. The monsoon months (August to October) are the least popular time to visit, while the cool season (December to February) is the most pleasant time. Still, Bangkok itself is busy throughout the entire year.
Need to Know Essentials
Upon vehicle collection, the following documents are needed:
- An International Driving Permit or valid driving licence
- Identification, such as a passport
- The credit card used when booking the vehicle
- Confirmation of booking
Driving in Bangkok proper should be avoided, as it is prone to heavy congestion and chaos. Parking is extremely hard to find, although there are plenty of Park and Ride car parks close to some of the city’s metro stations; rates are around 20 baht for two hours if riding the metro and 30 baht per hour if not. On-street parking is designated by painted curb sides, with the white rectangles on the road indicating car parking spaces and red and white lines against curbs being no-parking zones.
Most of Thailand’s major highways - which link Bangkok to all other major Thai cities, as well as to its bordering countries – terminate in the city. Major routes are toll-free, although some highways in and out of the city, such as motorway 7, motorway 9 and the 2nd State Expressway, are toll routes. Tolls are paid according to distance; they are usually paid at booths in baht, although some toll roads use electric collection through radio-frequency identification.
Bangkok and its surrounding suburbs are served by elevated expressways, while motorways connect the city with the rest of Thailand. Motorways have green signs with the route number, while toll routes and toll sections are marked with blue signs. Driving in Thailand at night can be dangerous, as there is a problem with drunk driving here, although the roads are in great conditions.
Bangkok’s BTS Skytrain and MRT Metro systems are the best way to get around the city, while a car is a great option for taking excursions farther afield. Other more scenic options include the Chao Phraya Express Boat, which runs along the Chao Phraya River, and the Saen Saep Express Boat, which plies the Saen Saep Canal. Transport options in Bangkok are endless, with all areas of the city easily accessible by skytrain, metro, bus, taxi or ferry.
Vending machines can be found in all BTS and MRT stations, with fares depending on distance travelled. Tickets and chips should be purchased before boarding and are needed to exit the station. A one-day pass, which costs just over 100 Baht, can also be purchased, while a three-day pass for the metro is a great deal at around 230 Baht.
Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Railway Station, the country’s main railway terminus, is run by the State Railway of Thailand. Trains travel to the north, northeast, east and south of Thailand, linking the city to most major cities throughout the country. Commuter trains also operate from here, connecting the outskirts to the city centre during common rush hours. The Airport Rail Link connects central Bangkok with Suvarnabhumi Airport, departing every 30 minutes between 06:00 and 24:00.
Tuk-tuks (motorised three-wheel vehicles) are a popular way to zip around the city, although regular metre taxis can often turn out to be cheaper. Tuk-tuks are great for short journeys, but prices should be agreed upon before setting off. Metred taxis are a dime a dozen, and start at 30 Baht for the first two kilometres and then 5 Baht for each kilometre thereafter. Motorbike taxis are another option for very short trips and are great for getting through traffic jams. Tariffs start at around 5 Baht.
Buses and trams
Buses are extremely cheap, although not a very convenient way of getting around the city. Still, those on a budget or in no rush will find that riding one of the Bangkok Mass Transit buses is a great adventure. The orange buses are the newest in the fleet and also the most expensive, although the maximum journey is still a mere 20 Baht. The cramped green buses are the cheapest and also the most uncomfortable of the lot.
Bangkok is situated in Thailand’s central plains, along the edge of the Chao Phraya River. Its central location means it makes a great base for exploring other sites close by, and there is a wealth of opportunity for those looking to do just that. Bangkok’s great road network and railway system makes it easy to get to any other destination in the country. There are also countless attractions within a couple of hours of the city.
Ayutthaya - The ancient capital city, located just over 52 miles southeast of Bangkok. It boasts numerous ruins, palaces and temples, as well as the UNESCO World Heritage site of Ayutthaya Historical Park, an attraction in its own right. This daytrip is ideal for those wishing to add some extra history and culture to their Bangkok holiday, and many opt to stay overnight.
Khao Yai National Park - Filled with stunning scenery, including waterfalls, mountains, evergreen forests and plenty of wildlife. It consists of over 31 miles of hiking trails and four picturesque waterfalls. Animals, such as gibbons, elephants, bats and hornbills, can be spotted, as well as a great number of birds. The national park is around 2.5 hours from Bangkok; those that wish to stay the night can bring along a tent.
Kanchanaburi - Offers travellers a wealth of attractions to offer day trippers, including the famous Bridge over the River Kwai, Wat Pa Luang Ta Bua (Tiger Temple), the amazing Erawan Waterfall and the Taweechai Elephant Camp. The area has a chilled out vibe and is great for those looking to get out of the city for a day or two.
Bang Saen - This is the closest beach to Bangkok, great for travellers wishing to escape the smog and heat and enjoy the sand and the sea. The beach town becomes very busy at the weekends, but during the week it turns into a sleepy town, the perfect spot for families, couples or a group of friends.