One of the best ways to see Bangkok, Thailand is by river boat. Taking a river trip on the Chao Praya River, which runs the length of Bangkok, is wonderful as you avoid Bangkok’s terrible traffic, and you also get the river breezes, which makes the world’s hottest city more bearable. There are many ways to take a river trip up or down the Chao Praya but these four are some of the most popular.
The Chao Praya Tourist Boat – One of the most fun ways to take a river trip up the Chao Praya River in Bangkok is to take the Chao Praya Tourist Boat. It’s only 150 baht ($4.30) for an all-day pass and you can get on and off the boat at any pier along the way. The 150 baht charge also gets you a bottle of water, a small guide book and every tourist boat has a guide that will tell you about the history of Thailand and what you can see from the boat.
Tourist boats run every 30 minutes and you can hop on board one at the Saphan Taksin pier (take the sky train to Saphan Taksin and then walk to the river from the sky train station). The tourist boats carry at least 150-200 people so there’s plenty of room for everyone.
Chao Praya Express Boats – The express boats are the most popular way to take a river trip on the Chao Praya River in Bangkok. You’ll know which ones they are as they are large, and are white with red strips along the side of the boat. You can get on the express boats at certain piers (they don’t stop at every pier) and you’ll have to check at the pier you’re at on the posted schedule, to see if the express boat stops there.
Fares start at 8 baht (around 25 cents) and go up to 25 baht (75 cents) depending on how far you are going. If you want to take an express boat and there’s no-one on the pier when you get there, if you see a boat just wave it down and, if the pier you’re on is a stopping point for it, the boat driver will pick you up.
Long-Tailed Boats for Hire – If you want to take a private tour around the klongs (canals) of the Chao Praya River, one of the best ways is to hire a long-tailed boat. A long-tailed boat will seat 1-8 people and will take you anywhere you want to go. Average price per hour is anything from 500-1,000 baht but you can always bargain. The last time I took one, we ended up paying only 800 baht (around $22) for an almost 3 hour boat ride and visited the Royal Barge Museum, an orchid farm, a market, an old temple and got off at Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn).
The great thing about hiring a long-tailed boat is you can go at your own pace and, if you want to stay out longer, just tell the boatman and he’ll be more than happy to take you further. Best place to hire a long-tailed boat is at Tha Chang pier or Tha Si Phraya pier, where you’ll see the long-tailed boatmen waiting for fares.
Shuttle Boats – The shuttle boats are large white boats with a flat bottom. They have railings around the side of them and just go backwards and forwards from one side of the Chao Praya River to the other. One of the most popular goes from Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn) across to the pier and the little market at the other side. Prices are as low as 3 baht (8 cents) as the trip is only 2-3 minutes, but they’re a fun way to take a quick river trip.
All of these ways to take a river trip on the Chao Praya River in Bangkok are exceptionally fun. The water isn’t very choppy and you’re never far from the bank (although the river is very wide) and the best thing is you get to see the real Thai culture from the river, something you don’t always see in the mega shopping malls or when you take the sky train or underground.