Bangkok: Notes For Bike Tourists
Thailand’s City of Angels is vast and it’s daunting to imagine writing a full guide to it.
We do, however, have a few tips to share.
Getting from the airport into the city centre isn’t so easy with a boxed bike and luggage. You have a few options. Whichever one you choose, ignore the touts who will be pestering you for business.
- If you’re alone, you might fit one boxed bike and your bags into a normal taxi. It’s certainly worth a shot. This will run about 300 Baht. Make sure the driver turns on the meter and you will probably be expected to pay the fees for the toll highway.
- If you’re two people or more, get a ‘limousine taxi’ from the clearly marked desks in the arrivals hall. These aren’t actually limousines for the most part but larger vehicles like SUVs and transit vans. Prices start around 1,200 Baht including expressway fees for a large van that can easily take two people with bicycles and bags. Our van could have taken at least four or even six cyclists!
- Take the bus for 150 Baht per person. There may be a small fee for your bike too. The bus is cheaper than a taxi but you will have to lug all your things to the bus stop and to a hotel on the other end.
- Assemble your bike in the airport and ride into Bangkok. The roads are busy but the drivers are courteous.
There are excellent bicycle shops in Bangkok and prices are cheap for servicing. Treat your bike to a good cleaning for about 300 Baht at one of the many bike shops. You can get Ortlieb bags and plenty of other goodies but anything imported is expensive. Basic products like chain lube and gloves may be cheaper than at home. There are some touring shoes around but they’re not always in stock and larger sizes are hard to find. Schwalbe Marathon XR tires are the one thing we tried and failed to find in Bangkok, or anywhere in Southeast Asia for that matter.
Pick your neighbourhood carefully because Bangkok is huge and getting from one end to the other is time consuming if you use public transport, especially if you have to switch between the Skytrain, subway system and river boats. To get from Khao San Road to Lumpini Park, for example, by a combination of walking, river boat and sky train takes about an hour. The tickets can also eat up a large part of your daily budget if you’re trying to watch costs.
For embassies and bicycle shops, we’d recommend the area around Lumpini Park, although rooms are more expensive than the rock bottom budget area of Khao San Road. Expect to spend from 400 Baht a night in the area around Lumpini Park. One mid-range place to check out is the Om Yim Lodge, across from Chong Nonsi Skytrain station with comfortable rooms from 800 Baht, breakfast and free wifi included (not always reliable on the upper floors). Another place to consider, but which we didn’t see ourselves, is Charlie House with rooms from 450 Baht.
A good summary of Bangkok accommodation options can be found on Travelfish.
Buy a pre-paid transport pass if you plan to stay a few days and travel around a lot by Skytrain or Metro. These pay for themselves over the course of a few days. You can get them at any station and all the information is in English so they’re easy to buy. You could also try to figure out the buses, which are very cheap but slightly daunting for the newcomer.
Try cycling around Bangkok because it’s quite bike friendly for a major capital. Drivers are exceptionally courteous compared with other cities we’ve cycled in and much of the time traffic is gridlocked so using your bike to get around rather than a taxi just makes sense. With a good sense of direction, you can often get from point to point faster than on public transport. There are bike lanes in some parts of the city centre and when you learn to cut a path through the back alleys or sois you’ll see a whole new side to the city. Pollution levels are high though so you may want to use a face mask and don’t forget a bottle of water. The humid heat can sap your energy levels quickly.