Most people have heard how bad the traffic is in Bangkok, Thailand.
Until you have spent any time in Bangkok, though, it is difficult to imagine how bad traffic really is. Stationary cars stretch for miles, getting through a red light can sometimes take over an hour and if you are giving birth, try not to do it at rush hour as you will definitely have your child in the car.
For long-time residents, many of us have learned how to avoid traffic jams or beat the traffic in Bangkok. For a visitor, follow these quick traffic jam avoidance tips and you will enjoy your stay in Bangkok that much more.
When Not to Travel on the Roads in Bangkok – Just like other cities around the world, traveling at certain times of the day in Bangkok and avoiding the roads at others makes beating traffic that much easier.
In Bangkok, if you want to avoid sitting in a traffic jam, don’t get on the roads between 7am and 10 am or between 3:30 pm and 9pm on the weekdays. This, of course, can change if it rains (traffic is jammed all day in that eventuality) or on holidays but, overall, if you can keep your travel times to a minimum during rush hour, you will be a lot happier.
Take the Sky train or Underground Train Where Possible – Bangkok has an excellent sky train and underground train system that covers about 25% of the city.
Particularly during rush hour, avoid taxis or driving and take the BTS sky train or MRT underground and, what could be an hour’s travel time in traffic, can be cut to 10 minutes on the train. Trains are cheap too and better for the environment.
Take a Motorcycle Taxi – Although not always the safest way to get around, in rush hour, motorcycle taxis are the fastest mode of transportation. They wend in and out of traffic and are always at the head of the queue when the light turns green. I have literally cut what would have been an hour sitting in traffic in a taxi into a five-minute motorcycle ride.
To get a motorcycle taxi, find a group of guys sitting at the end of a Bangkok street wearing vests with a number on it (see photo above with the driver in his purple vest) and with their motorcycles parked nearby. These guys are at the end of almost every street in Bangkok and on small sois (lanes) too. Just hop on the first available one and tell him where you want to go.
What would be a $2 taxi ride in a traffic jam can be as cheap as 45 cents on a motorcycle taxi. Just remember, don’t scream. The driver does know what he’s doing. Even if it does seem like he has a death wish.
Don’t Travel When it Rains – Bangkok has rainy season which lasts at least six months of the year. During rainy season, it rains almost every day (often at some point during 4pm-7pm) and, when it does, Bangkok’s roads are parking lots.
If it looks like it is going to rain or it is raining and you are stuck away from home, head to the nearest mall and grab a coffee or a meal (or go shopping). After all, there is really no point taking a taxi, a bus or driving as you will spend as much time sitting at a standstill on the road as you would enjoying a nice meal in the dry at your local mall.
Once it clears up, the traffic will too, and then you can get back on the roads.
Learn the Shortcuts to Your House or Work Place – Whether you are driving yourself or taking a taxi or motorcycle taxi, learn how to get to your house or work place the quick way.
If you know some of the back roads away from Bangkok’s horrendously blocked main roads, you can cut minutes and sometimes hours off your drive. Even if you’re in a taxi, Bangkok is so huge most taxi drivers don’t know every street.
In fact, I have surprised Thai taxi drivers quite often by showing them a shortcut to my house they had no idea existed. Even if you are just in Bangkok for a short time, knowing a shortcut can really save your sanity.
Just learning these quick tips on how to avoid traffic jams in Bangkok can mean the difference between having a typically relaxing Thai time and seriously wanting to kill someone.
I have sat in taxis in Bangkok for as long as two hours for a journey that should take less than 15 minutes.
Of course, sometimes being stuck in a traffic jam is unavoidable but, if you can avoid it, do so. Your time in Bangkok will be a lot less stressful.