With good planning, you will find that the neighborhoods of river are rather pedestrian friendly. Main roads have robust sidewalks while smaller side streets are hit or miss. You can easily navigate on your own with a physical or digital map. Should you get lost, head for the closest hotel to get your bearings from the concierge. Lastly, note the season before commencing your walk – preparations and appropriate gears for the sun or rain are necessary.
The easiest way to get around the city and to the river is by BTS Skytrain. There are two BTS train lines – Sukhumvit Line (light green) and Silom Line (dark green). These lines intersect conveniently in Bangkok’s main shopping district at Siam station. To get to the river by BTS, take the skytrain to Saphan Taksin station on the Silom (dark green) line. Head for Exit 2 at the station and that will take you straight to the central Sathorn Pier for transfers to public boats.
The mass rapid transit (MRT) system complements the BTS Skytrain and also reaches the river. There are two MRT train lines – Blue Line and Purple Line. The Blue Line connects to the BTS Skytrain lines at Sukhumvit, Si Lom, and Chatuchak Park stations. To get to the river by MRT, take the train to Sanam Chai station on the Blue Line. This station is right on the riverfront in the southern part of Rattanakosin Island, where the Grand Palace is. You can get on the public boats at Rajinee Pier next to the station.
Taxis are plentiful and affordable in Bangkok. You will find them on any main road. To tell whether an oncoming taxi is available or not, look for a neon red sign on its dashboard. If it is lit up, flag it down. Meters start at THB35 and make sure it is turned on for your journey. Taxis may become opportunistic at tourist heavy locations but you should never agree to a fixed price. Though illegal, taxis may reject passengers during rush hours due to heavy traffic or other reasons.
Tuk tuks are great alternatives to taxis. You will find them on any main road. These legendary auto rickshaws do not go by meters so you will have to agree to a price with the driver based on number of people and destination. Be aware – prices do go up during rush hour and at tourist destinations. Without a local negotiating for you, it may be difficult to get a great deal. The best way to gauge is to calculate the per person price. If you are comfortable with the amount, hop on for a memorable ride.
Top luxury hotels along the river have their own private piers and free shuttle boats to take their guests between the hotel and Sathorn Pier. Even if you are just heading to the hotels for their restaurants or bars, make use of this complimentary service. To board a hotel shuttle boat, head to the left end of Sathorn pier when facing the river. Look for hotel names on signs and board from the one of the two designated docks. Be sure to check for available schedules on the hotel websites- these boats on average run every 30 minutes.
At some point, you may find that you need to cross the river from the pier where the public boats have dropped you off. One prime example is getting to Wat Arun from Tha Tien. As such, you will need to look for a river crossing ferry. There are 32 piers that have these river crossing ferries with fees of approximately THB 3/3.50 per person per trip. Note that these ferries are operated separately from the public boats so you may need to walk to them on an adjacent pier.
Private long tail boats are available for tailored tours of the river and the canals. Representatives of the long tail boats are situated at major tourist piers. When dealing with these representatives, you will have to remember there is no regulated pricing system and negotiations are based on number of people, duration, and distance. There exist con men operating fake boat tours so beware. If you prefer a more systematic process and a definite outcome, search online for tour companies that provide long tail boats.
To avoid traffic, take the public boats. Public boats are differentiated by the colored flags tied to the back end of the vessel – no flag, green, yellow, orange, and blue. Head to the closest pier and look for the river map. Find your destination pier and note the colored triangles marked above it. The colored triangles, which represents flags, show you which boats stop there. You can pay at the pier or on the boat to the conductors. For those using the boats for the first time, the Tourist Boats (Blue Flags) are recommended. Their day pass allows you to hop on and off as many times you want and their English speaking staff point out interesting sights between piers.
A few establishments along the Chao Phraya River are ready to receive you by air should you choose to completely bypass all travel limitations on the ground. Helicopter services are available, with each departure and arrival location being able to help you coordinate your reservations. The Peninsula Bangkok and River City (also utilized by guests of Mandarin Oriental) have their own rooftop helipads. These flights can take you between the river and the international airport. A luxury aviation lounge is exclusively available to guests of The Peninsula Bangkok utilizing the helicopter.