As a long-term resident of Bangkok, Thailand, let me tell you I hate maps. I hate reading maps, I hate carrying maps and I abhor trying to find my way with one. However, on any visit to Bangkok if you want to see much of what the city has to offer, particularly outside the usual tourist traps, then there are five maps you must have. Some you’ll have to buy, a couple you’ll get for free but, before you set foot anywhere outside your hotel room or apartment, make sure these five maps are in your possession.
A Map of Bangkok (Map 1) – As obvious as it might seem, I’m amazed how many people visit Bangkok and don’t have a city map. They either lug around an outdated guide book, which includes a mini-map that’s worse than useless, or stand around on Bangkok street corners looking like typical tourists – lost but sans the map.
A good map of Bangkok is essential if you’re going to see all the fun stuff Bangkok has. As a resident of Bangkok, I always recommend two maps – Nancy Chandlers’ Map of Bangkok or the Groovy Map of Bangkok – personally, I’d buy both.
Nancy Chandlers’ Map of Bangkok was drawn by a local western artist who’s lived in Bangkok for decades. She knows every worthwhile nook and cranny of the city as well as knows what most western visitors to Bangkok love to see. As it’s a bit of an ‘artsy-fartsy’ map, it takes a few minutes to get used to her style, but once you do you’ll find all manner of cool Bangkok sights.
The Groovy Map of Bangkok is just about the best Bangkok city map out there. The Groovy Map not only includes sights, but also hotels and restaurants with a number of excellent recommendations of places to go on the reverse.
You can pick up either of these Bangkok city maps at any good Bangkok bookstore – but particularly at one of the branches of Kinokuniya Books or Asia Books.
Bangkok BTS Sky Train Map(Map 2) – If you’ll be doing any traveling in Bangkok, you’ll likely take the BTS sky train. It runs through most major areas of the city, is cheap, and is easy to get to many famous sights from most BTS sky train stations.
You can pick up a map, and this one is free, at any BTS sky train station. They’re either sitting in front of the ticket/change kiosk when you go to pay for your ticket or get change for the machine or, if not
there, ask one of the attendants for one.
The Bangkok BTS sky train map shows you where every sky train station is in Bangkok in relation to many of Bangkok’s famous places. With this map, you can map your way to places like the Grand Palace, Central World Plaza mall, Vimanmek Palace and Bangkok Zoo.
It also gives you the sky train timetable on the reverse.
Bangkok MRT Underground Train Map (Map 3) – Same as the BTS sky train map, the Bangkok MRT underground train map is free. It shows where every stop on the two tracks is, and what some of the interesting areas to visit are.
Even more importantly, the MRT map shows you where it links up with the BTS sky train, so you can hop from transportation to transportation system with the minimum of fuss and cover much more of the city that way. Also, like the sky train map, is available at every MRT station.
Bangkok Bus Map (Map 4) – If you’re even remotely adventurous, you must take Bangkok buses. They’re an extremely inexpensive way to see Bangkok (as cheap as 10 cents per trip) and they’ll get you to places the BTS and MRT can’t.
The drawback with Bangkok’s bus system however is many of the signs on the front of the bus are only in Thai. That’s where the bus map comes in. it shows the number of every bus, where it starts from, where it passes and where it goes to. So, just sitting in your hotel room for 10 minutes with a bus map before you set off, and you can write down the seven or eight bus numbers that will take you where you want to go. Go to the bus stop, when the right numbered bus comes along, flag it down and climb aboard. Simple.
You’ll find a Bangkok bus map at many 7-11s or at one of Bangkok’s many books (and they don’t have to be English-language bookshops, in fact there’s even more chance of you finding one at a Thai bookshop). Expect to pay around 120-150 baht ($3.85-$5). A cost you’ll make up on your first day traveling Bangkok’s bus system.
Bangkok Boat Map (Map 5) – Personally, I don’t think you’ve seen Bangkok if you don’t take the boat. Going up and down the massive Chao Praya River, on the boat you see the real Thai life, far different than anything on Bangkok’s crowded city streets.
Pick up a boat map at one of the boat piers (starting off at Saphan Thaksin is the easiest way to do it). Again, it will show you every boat pier and places of interest along the way.
There’s also a Tourist Boat where, for 120 baht ($3.75) you can get on and off the tourist boat as many times as you want in a 24 hour period, and the map with that one is a free map.