Chao Phraya Express Boats . Much like BTS (Skytrain) and MRT (metro), Bangkok public river boats – Chao Phraya Express Boats – offer a great means of transportation inside the city, without being dependent on the heavy traffic or having to worry about traffic jams.
Beyond serving transportation needs, cruising is an exciting experience for both young and old. Going through different websites, including the official boat site, might be confusing due to the different line types, stop titles, timelines etc. In this article, I’ll try to make things simpler, even for a tourist who visits Bangkok for the very first time. I’ll focus on the 3 main issues, that are particularly important and useful for most tourists: the public river boats, the river boats for tourists and the river ferries.
Let me start with a general explanation on the public Chao Phraya river boats – this ‘boat-bus’ travels in different lines, at pre-scheduled times, and stops in fixed piers. You will recognize the different lines by the colour of the flag on the boat rooftop, at its back.
There are 5 different Chao Phraya lines: with no flag, yellow flag, orange flag, green flag and blue flag (not to be confused with the boat company whose yellow flag is located at the front of the rooftop). The relevant lines for tourists are the orange and blue flag lines, which I will refer to in my explanation.
Boat Stops (piers): the central boat station is called Sathorn Pier, and it is located right by Shangrila hotel, under the Saphan Taksin bridge. Here you will also find the Skytrain station (Silom Line), which is known as Saphan Taksin station, and located just dozens of meters away from the boat station (as you will see in the clip).
There are 33 boat stops north of Sathorn Pier (the last one is Ko Kret island which I’ve reviewed in a separate article), and 4 stops south of the pier (the last one by Big C Rat Burana). Every stop is both titled and numbered. Most tourists are interested in the northern stops which are numbered up to 15.
Most stops (piers) are in the eastern riverbank. In order to cross the river and reach its other side (to visit Wat Arun for instance), you should take a ferry which is located at the same stop, but in a different pier.
For your convenience, later on in the article, I will briefly review the most significant stops for tourists, their numbers, nearby sites and attractions.
The Chao Phraya public boat lines – There are 5 boat lines, 4 of which serve the general public and the 5th one, blue flag line, is designated for tourists and will be reviewed separately. Out of the 4 other lines, only the orange flag line is suitable for most of the tourists. The flagless boats stop at every station (pier) and are thus very slow, and the yellow and green flag lines skip over most tourist attractions, so I simply recommend focusing on the orange flag line.
You should pay close attention to 2 important things:
- Every boat stop has 2 piers – one for river boats and the other for the ferry to cross the river – so make sure you don’t confuse the two. In the attached clip, you will see Sathorn Pier and the opposite pier which belongs to the pier! You should turn left as the clip shows in order to get to the boat pier.
- At the boat pier, the boats stop on their ways to both opposite directions – so you should make sure you know which direction you’re going, or simply ask on-site.
The (orang flag) public boat costs 15 baht.
Operating times: every day from 6 AM to 7 PM, in 10-20 minutes’ intervals (depending on the hours).
The Blue Flag Line – Tourist Boat: a service line for tourists, with different-looking boats (as you can see in the picture and clip). The tourist boat travels between 8 stops that are popular among tourists. For 150 baht, you can travel freely, as much as you like, using this line as well as others. There’s also an English explanation (as you’ll see in the clip). Get on board at the same pier used for the other public boats.
The blue line cost: 150 baht
Operating time: every day from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM (depends on the stop), every 30 minutes.
The river ferry: most boat stops are at the western side of the river. In order to cross the river to its other side, you should take the ferry. Every boat stop has a pier designed for the ferry – which you will recognize by its square shape and green-white colors.
The (3 baht) cost is payed at one side of the river – sometimes at the entrance, and sometimes at the exit.
As I’ve promised – here is a short, partial list of the main destinations you can easily reach using the boats:
China Town – Ratchawong (N5) pier
The Flower Market – Memorial Bridge (N6) pier
Wat Arun I Wat Po – Tha Tien (N8) pier
The King’s Palace – Tha Chang (N9) pier
Kao San – Phra Arthit (N13) pier
Dusit – Thewet (N15) pier
Please note: I didn’t mention Saen Saep Express boat line since it is irrelevant for most tourists and imposes a health risk because of the canal’s highly polluted water, so I recommend to avoid using this line. Also, this article doesn’t cover the longtail boats, which you can take for higher costs in piers such as Saphan Taksin, River City and others. These are usually tourist traps and I personally recommend taking an organized canal tour which is cheaper, more effective, and allows you to see more views.
I’m attaching a clip which will hopefully help you get to know Bangkok river boats – Chao Phraya .