Buses in Bangkok provide an incredibly cheap way to travel from one side of the city to another. It's also a great way to see the real Bangkok you don't often see if you're traveling by other means of transportation. Although buses give you a ringside seat to experience and observe the locals and the city, they're not the most favourite means of getting around. Obnoxious drivers, aggressive bus conductors, bad traffic, pollution and sweaty fellow passengers are some of the things you will inevitably encounter. But this is real, hardcore Bangkok.
The Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA), under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Transport and Communications, is responsible for providing bus services to people living and working in Bangkok and nearby provinces (Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Samut Sakhon, Samut Prakan and Nakhon Pathom). BMTA operates over 100 routes, served by more than 3,000 buses (regular buses and air-conditioned). There are also privately-owned buses, and minibuses (both private and operated by the BMTA).
Types of Buses & Fares
There are many types of buses available in Bangkok. Bus routes are very extensive too, and can be mind-boggling to first-timers. Make sure you first equip yourself with the MBTA map (available at most bus terminals). When in doubt, ask a local, or policemen, or call the '184' BMTA Hotline for assistance. Most buses (except for the all-night ones) run from 05:00 to 23:00 daily. Regular buses cost 7 baht (cream-red), and 8 baht (white-blue). Expressway buses costs 8.5 baht. Air-conditioned buses (cream-blue) cost from 9 to 19 baht (depending on the distance travelled). All-night buses (cream-red) are 8 baht. EURO II buses (yellow-orange) cost anything between 12 to 22 baht, depending on the distance travelled.
How to take a Bus: Useful tips
Since destinations on the majority of the city's buses are written in Thai, the best way for visitors to figure out which bus goes where is by the bus number, the type of bus and its colours. The BMTA bus map also comes in very handy. Don't be fooled by the buses with the same number but different colours; they don't always share the same route. Make sure you stick to the numbers that match the colours only. Things to keep in mind when taking a bus in Bangkok:
- The fare will be collected on the bus by the bus conductor.
- Prepare small change for the fare. A 100-baht note on an air-con bus is acceptable, but not so much on regular or smaller buses (500 and 1,000 baht notes are a big no-no).
- Keep the small receipt because sometimes it will be checked.
- On air-con buses, fares vary according to the distance. Just tell the bus conductor where you wish to get off, and he will tell you how much the journey will cost.
- On regular or smaller buses, the fare (around 7 - 8 baht, normally no more than 10 baht) is usually fixed.
- Be courteous and offer seats to small children, monks, the elderly and pregnant women.
- Once on the bus, keep walking inside. Don't stand at the door, or block the way in the middle of the bus.
- Make sure you hold on to the rail at all times because buses tend to be a bit 'jerky'.
- To alert the driver that you want to get off, press a buzzer in advance (before the bus reaches your stop).
- If you're not sure where to get off, ask the bus conductor to let you know.
- Always keep the name of your hotel and its address (or wherever you're staying) with you, preferably in Thai, in case you get lost.
- The newest, most efficient, and spacious bus is of the EURO II (yellow-orange). The drivers and conductors are nice and polite and, most importantly, the air-con works!