Exploring Bangkok Using the Chao Phraya River Ferries

Exploring Bangkok using the Chao Phraya River ferries

The Chao Phraya River is a lifesaver for tourists fed up of Bangkok’s epic traffic jams. Hop out of a tuk tuk or taxi and onto the ferries that ply the 21km river route and not only have you escaped the congestion, you’ve stumbled upon the best way to explore this chaotic but enthralling city. There are longtails for private hire, canal boat excursions along the klongs and romantic dinner cruises, but for a cheap and convenient method of getting around, you can’t beat the city’s workhorse ferries.

How do I know which boat to take?

There are five public boat lines in total, and they’re all operated by the Chao Phraya Express Boat Company. They’re colour coded, so all you need to do is look at the back of the boat as it approaches the pier and see if it’s the colour you need. The orange route boats charge a flat rate of 15 baht and runs all day at 10-20 minute intervals.

Is there a tourist hop-on, hop-off service?

Yes. Look for the blue flags of the tourist boats which run slightly less frequently but stop on demand. Tickets cost 150 baht for an all day unlimited ticket, representing excellent value. Stops will be announced in English and commentary is provided.

How do I get to the piers?

The easiest place to reach the river is at Sathorn (central pier) as this connects to the Skytrain network at Saphan Taksin Skytrain (BTS) Station. From there you can connect to all of the ferry lines. Buy your ferry ticket at Sathorn and selected other outlets.

What are the best places to get off for sightseeing?

Many of the piers are well placed for visiting Bangkok’s most iconic sights. For the Grand Palace, the city’s most famous landmark, you’ll need Tha Chang or Maharaj pier; it’s just a short walk from the river. Wat Pho, also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, is served by the Rajinee and Tha Tien piers (the latter is served by more boats). It’s also possible to catch a cross-river ferry to beautiful Wat Arun from these two piers. Slightly less central, the Phra Pin Klao Bridge stop gets you to the Royal Barges Museum. Those staying in the vicinity of the Khao San Road will wish to alight at Phra Arthit, from where it’s about a ten minute walk to this popular backpacker enclave. At the other end of the accommodation spectrum, Oriental is the stop if you want to take afternoon tea at the Author’s Lounge in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and enjoy the colonial architecture of the old Western quarter. Shoppers will be interested in the Chinese curios that can be found near Rachawongs pier, while the more upmarket River City Mall is close to Si Phaya pier. Finally, for something a little different, try Thewet pier where you’ll be able to see a crazy catfish feeding frenzy.