In the old days before the canals were filled in to be used as roads, Bangkok used to be known as the Venice of the East.
The principal mode of transport and commerce for the capital of Thailand were boats and vessels.
The Chaophraya River was the center of life and the natural and man made canals of Bangkok created a transport and distribution system based around water that was far more extensive than its better known sister off the Italian coast Venice.
The main artery of the Maenam also called the Chaophraya River has Express boats, Normal ferry services, river taxis, longtail boats and river crossing boats that traverse the main waterway from one side to the other.
Chaophraya Express Boats
The Chaophraya Express Boat service is one of the best and most fun ways of getting out and about or moving around Bangkok.
It travels from Rajburana all the way to Pakret though most people will want to hop on and off between Sathorn and Phra Arthit.
The service commences from 6am in the morning and operates from around 6am to 8pm at night depending on which service you use. There’s an excellent website that explains the difference between the ‘no flag service’ and the green, orange or yellow flag services.
They all use the same waterway though so their main difference is how far up and down the river they go. The Chaophraya Express Boats are the best way to connect from the Skytrain to Chinatown and journeys like these. They’re not just a functional trip either but are part of a fun day out if you have visitors in town.
The fares range from a very modest 10 Baht up to 40 Baht for the longest journeys.
There are also day pass options if you wish to spend a full day exploring the rivers edges. A highly recommended day out that we endorse. The Express boat service stops at both sides of the river as it makes its way up and down the main waterway of Bangkok.
The River Taxis are the longtail boats that traverse and cruise the Chaophraya River as well as the Khlongs of Bangkok.
These can be hired for a day or an hour or two, to explore the main artery but also serve as fun for peeling off to discover the byways and minor rivers and canals of Bangkok.
There’s plenty of space for up to 18 people but they are just as comfortable ferrying 4-8 people around and the price is the same to hire. These boats are called Hang Yao and they can be secured for around 500 Baht an hour near the Grand Palace or Tha Chang Ferry pier.
The guides on these longtail boats are experienced at filling up an hour or two with the major sites of the Chaophraya River and are also great at exploring the lesser known Thonburi sides of the river where you will come into intimate contact with real Bangkok river dwellers of houses on stilts where a glimpse of a bygone time can be seen.