One of the things we needed to figure out early on in our Thailand adventure was transportation. We had heard about the "sky train" and "tok toks" from Thai insiders (you know who you are), but we hadn't bothered to look up pictures and didn't know know what it all meant. We've become fairly adept at navigating Bangkok over the past month, and thought we'd share our findings.
We're all familiar with taxis, but they hold a special place in our hearts here because of their unfailing reliability and incredible cost. It doesn't matter where you are or what time, you can count on a taxi picking you up and taking you home (the one exception we've found is when you get caught in a downpour, in which case EVERYone wants a taxi and you're basically out of luck). In BKK (shorthand for Bangkok) taxis are usually hot pink or yellow/green, and vacant ones have a bright red light displayed on the dashboard so they are easy to spot day or night. The ride is almost always metered and starts at roughly $1 USD. To get a sense for the going rate, you'll pay about $3 for a 15-18 minute drive. This is about as far as we'd normally go in a taxi to get around town (longer trips involve the train, subway or bus).
The public bus system here can be a bit dicey. Lots of people get on and off quickly, and many busses don't come to a complete stop (I tend to like the efficiency of the slow roll as people jump on and off, but it can be nerve-wracking for the uninitiated). There is a fantastic private bus that runs back and forth from the train station near our condo to one of the massive shopping malls, so aside from an unpredictable 5-15 minute wait we can get to and from our favorite "higher-end" restaurants and shops for free.
The city is massive. To go from one side to the other by car could take hours, even outside of rush-hour. Fortunately there is an elevated train system that hits about 25 spots all across the city on a single line (there are two main lines), and you can zoom from one side of the city to the other in only 45 minutes for a total price of $1.50 USD. We live 5 minutes (walking) from one of the main stops, so we really couldn't have asked for a better location as we get acquainted with our new home.
These little guys are a fast way to get a short distance. For about 50 cents you can hop onto the back of a Vespa and cruise through side streets (e.g. to get from our condo to the BTS station quickly). While not something we do often, it's a pretty fun option and handy in a rush. Many locals take these on the busy main roads, which is basically insane.
Last (and frankly, least) is the iconic tok tok. I'm not sure what the hype is about these things. From what we've gathered, they are reserved almost exclusively for tourists and the cost of every ride has to be agreed upon (no meters here). It's all relative, but they seem to be a very expensive way to get short distances, and we've always chosen walking over the hassle of the haggle (since only tourists take these, prices range wildly and you are required to negotiate aggressively for anything reasonable).
Among these, we can get pretty much anywhere easily and inexpensively. Michelle commutes to work every day in a taxi (a 10 minute ride for just over a dollar). We've taken to having groceries delivered so we don't have to cart them around on foot or by taxi. Though shopping for smaller furnishings and plants is frustrating without a car, anything larger than a toaster can always be delivered. Next year if we move to a townhouse we might need the extra option that a car would afford, but for now, these are the go-to options!