Tuk-tuks to Songthaews: Interesting modes of transport you can hop on in Bangkok

A couple of months ago my husband’s family from Australia came to visit us in Bangkok, it was their first time in Thailand and we were excited to show them what the city has to offer. I was prepared to answer many questions about things they have never seen before, like what spirit houses or pink noodle soups are.

To my surprise, one of the first questions I received was about a songthaew that stopped in front of our street. “Is that some sort of a bus?”, they asked. This made me realise how the modes of transport I often see in Bangkok can be very fascinating to those who aren’t familiar with them. From the more well known tuk-tuk to the songthaew, let’s explore some of the types of transportation in Bangkok – and no, riding elephants to school isn’t one of them!

A typical songthaew on the roads of Bangkok (Image source | nice2002bkk)


Loud, fun and fast, many people put getting on a tuk-tuk on their list of things to do when in Bangkok. Although originally imported from Japan, over the years Thailand has modified the design to fit in with the needs of its people and now manufacture many versions of them, including the electric tuk-tuks in more recent years.

The classic Bangkok tuk-tuk (Image source | Yuya Uzu)

These small and colourful three-wheeled vehicles have become a bit of an icon for Thailand, featuring in many souvenirs and even as a national costume on the Miss Universe stage in 2015. It’s not hard to find a tuk-tuk in Bangkok if you are visiting famous temples or if you are in more tourist dense areas – many operators will also offer tuk-tuk tours around the city, taking you on a food or sightseeing adventure.

That being said, I still see tuk-tuks near markets helping people get large amounts of groceries to their homes or restaurants and students crammed in the back after school. Although they are private taxis, they do not have a meter and the price will need to be agreed on before hopping on.

Thailand’s tuk-tuk costume on the 2015 Miss Universe stage (Image source | The Nation)

Motorbike taxi

Sporting orange vests and weaving through traffic, you will often see motorbike taxis around rush hour helping people cut through stand still traffic. Their home bases are usually found near bus or train stations and also near long busy side streets. Because many side streets in Bangkok are over a kilometre long, many will use motorbike taxis to commute to and from their houses to the main road. Prices to certain places are displayed on a sign at the motorbike taxi’s home base (called win mortorsai in Thai) and start at around 10 baht for a short trip. Like the tuk-tuk, prices should be agreed on before starting the journey.

image presents motorbike taxi

(Image source | Post Today)

Khlong Saen Saep Water Bus (Canal Boat)

Just a 10 minute walk away from my house is Khlong Saen Saep, a 72 kilometres canal that runs from the Chao Phraya River (the main river in Thailand) to the east of Bangkok. A public water bus runs along 18 kilometres of this canal and is a great option for avoiding traffic on the roads.

When my husband’s family were here, we hopped on one of these from the Bangkapi district to The Golden Mount temple. This cost us around 18 baht each and everyone enjoyed looking out at the flowers, graffiti art walls, and life along the khlong (canal). Although the engine can be loud and there is a possibility of being splashed by the water (there is a cover on the side you can pull up to protect yourself), the canal boat was fast, affordable and a fun way to explore the city.

(Image source | Post Today)


One night after everyone filled up at a night market nearby, I offered to take my husband’s family on a songthaew home since there was quite a bit of interest on what they are and how they work. We flagged one down and quickly jumped onto the back of the ute (pick-up trucks for those who are not Australian). The songthaew moved quickly down the busy road picking up and dropping off passengers, only stopping for the shortest amount of time at each stop.

Once we got off we handed our fare of 8 baht per person through the front window to the driver before the songthaew zipped off to its next destination

In Thai, songthaew means two rows – describing the two rows of seating available at the back of these modified utes.  In a way this type of transportation is similar to a bus, the difference is that passengers can hop on and off outside of bus stops. Songthaews also usually run shorter routes that go back and forth along busy roads, making it a very quick and convenient form of transport.

The two seating rows at the back of a songthaew (Image source | Make My Bangkok Holiday)

Apart from these modes of transport that I have chosen to highlight, Bangkok also offers an array of other options from sky trains, underground trains, VIP vans and much more. Next time you’re visiting the city don’t forget to try hopping on something new!

Article by Oun V.