Traveling by boat in Chao Phraya river in Bangkok Thailand is by far my favorite way of getting around the city. You can’t get everywhere by boat but if your destination is near the river, it’s a great way to travel. And many of Bangkok’s most popular attractions are near the river, and accessible by boat. Thailand boat travel is also incredibly cheap. However, there are so many different boats that it can be very confusing for first time visitors, so allow me to explain your options as simply as possible.
Boat Stops and Piers
The Central Pier, called Tha Sathorn, is conveniently located right next to Saphan Taksin BTS (skytrain) station. From here you can take boats both north and south, although the boats north are where most of the attractions are. All piers along the Chao Phraya River are clearly marked in both English and Thai, and also have the pier numbers marked on them. All piers to the south are marked with an S, and all the piers to the north with an N. Boats run from pier S4 (Rajburana) to N33 (Pakkret). The complete list of piers is as follows:
• S4 (Rajburana)
• S3 (Wat Rajsingkom)
• S2 (Wat Worachanyawas)
• S1 (Wat Sawetachat)
• Central Pier (Tha Sathorn) – this is also the location of Saphan Taksin BTS (skytrain) station
• N1 (Oriental Hotel) – as the name suggests, the stop for Oriental Hotel and OP Place shopping mall
• N2 (Wat Muang Kae) – for Old Customs House
• N3 (Si Phraya) – for Portuguese Embassy
• N4 (Marine Department) – for Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel, Holy Rosary Church, and River City shopping mall
• N5 (Rajchawongse) – get off here for the main part of Chinatown
• N6 (Memorial Bridge) – another Chinatown stop
• N7 (Rajinee) – for Chinatown vegetable market (Pak Khlong Market) and cross-river boat to Santa Cruz Church
• N8 (Tha Tien) – for Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha) and the cross-river boat to Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn)
• N9 (Tha Chang) – for the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaeo (Temple of the Emerald Buddha)
• N10 (Wang Lang) – for Siriraj Hospital and Thonburi (Bangkok Noi) train station
• N11 (Thonburi Railway) – also for Thonburi train station
• N12 (Phra Pin Klao Bridge) – get off here for the National Museum of Royal Barges
• N13 (Phra Arthit) – for Ratinakosin Island and the popular Khao San Road backpacker district
• N14 (Rama 8 Bridge)
• N15 (Thewet) – for the famous Thewet Flower Market
• N16 (Krung Thon Bridge (Sung Hi))
• N17 (Wat Thepnahree)
• N17/1 (Wat Thepakorn)
• N18 (Payap)
• N19 (Irrigation Department)
• N20 (Kheaw Khai Ka)
• N21 (Kjak Kai)
• N22 (Bang Po)
• N23 (Wat Soi Thong)
• N24 (Rama 7 Bridge)
• N25 (Pibul 1)
• N26 (Wat Khema)
• N27 (Wat Tuek)
• N28 (Wat Kien)
• N29 (Pibul 2)
• N30 (Nonthaburi (Pibul 3))
• N31 (Wat (Khaenok)
• N32 (Wat Klang Kret)
• N33 (Pakkret) – the last stop
Chao Phraya Express Boats
There are five main boats that run along the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok. These are the Blue Flag Chao Phraya Tourist Boat, Orange Flag Boat, Green Flag Boat, Yellow Flag Boat and No Flag Boat. As you have probably guessed, you can tell them apart by the color of the flag that they fly (or don’t fly in the case of the No Flag Boat).
The Chao Phraya Tourist Boat only runs from Tha Sathorn (Central Pier) to N13 (Phra Arthit), and only stops at piers CENTRAL, N1, N3, N5, N8, N* (Maharaj – between N9 and N10), N10 and N13.
All other boats travel as far north as pier N30, with the Green Flag Boat being the only one that goes all the way to pier N33.
You should note that none of the boats stops at all piers, so you’ll need to check which boat goes to your destination before you get on. The Orange Flag Boat is the best overall, as it runs all from 06:00 until 19:00 seven days a week. This is usually the only boat that we use.
Blue Flag Chao Phraya River Tourist Boat
If this is your first time to get a boat along the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, I would recommend the tourist boat, as you get a commentary along the way pointing out all the major attractions. This will help you to get your bearings more quickly, and then you’ll be good to go when you try a local boat.
You can purchase tickets for this boat at Central Pier (Tha Sathorn), N13 (Phra Arthit), Saphan Taksin BTS and Saim BTS.
Route: Central Pier (Tha Sathorn) to N13 (Phra Arthit)
Times: Daily 09:30-16:00
Frequency: Every 30 minutes
Fare: 150 baht daily ticket or 30 baht per journey
Orange Flag Boat
This is usually the only boat we get, as it is both convenient and cheap and runs all day, every day. Tickets for this boat are purchased on the boat.
Route: S3 (Wat Rajsingkom) to N30 (Nonthaburi)
Times: Daily 06:00-19:00
Frequency: Every 5-20 minutes, depending on time of day
Fare: 15 baht per journey (pay on the boat)
Green Flag Boat
Route: Central Pier (Tha Sathorn) to N33 (Pakkret)
Times: Monday-Friday 06:15-08:00 and 15:30-18:05
Frequency: Every 15-30 minutes
Fare: 13/20/32 baht, depending on distance (pay on the boat)
Yellow Flag Boat
Route: S4 (Rajburana) to N30 (Nonthaburi)
Times: Monday-Friday 06:15-08:30 and 15:30-20:00
Frequency: Every 20-30 minutes
Fare: 20/29 baht, depending on distance (pay on the boat)
No Flag Boat (Local Line)
If you want to stop at an obscure pier, then this is the boat for you, as it stops almost everywhere. But only during early morning and late afternoon.
Route: S3 (Wat Rajsingkom) to N30 (Nonthaburi)
Times: Monday-Friday 06:20-08:05 and 15:00-17:30
Frequency: Every 20-25 minutes
Fare: 10/12/14 baht, depending on distance (pay on the boat)
Cross River Boats
There are a few places where you will see cross river boats. There is one that goes from pier N8 (Tha Tien) to Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn). The cost of the cross river boats varies from 2-5 baht.
Hotel Shuttle Boats
Many hotels are situated on the Chao Phraya River, and each hotel has its own shuttle boat that travels back and forth between Central Pier (Tha Sathorn) and the hotel. Some hotels that have their own shuttle boat include the Anantara, Oriental and Peninsula. All these boats are free and usually run from early morning until very late at night.
I particularly enjoy getting the free boat to the Anantara Hotel, as it’s a nice and relaxing 30 minute trip. If you walk through the hotel you will come to a small shopping mall at the other side. This has a number of restaurants, cafes and massage shops. My favorite restaurant there is the vegetarian Loving Hut.
For full details of these boats, including exact times and fares, please visit the Chao Phraya Express Boat website.
As well as the above express boats, you’ll also see long-tail boats plying their trade along the river. They can take you anywhere you want to go, but are very expensive compared to the express boats. You might pay as much as 1,000 baht ($33, £20) for a 30-minute ride. If you want the experience of traveling the river and have a large enough budget, then this can be a great experience.
Conclusion | Experience Bangkok by Boat
As you can tell, traveling around Bangkok by boat isn’t just a fun experience, it’s also cheap and relatively fast. Instead of suffering through the congested streets of the capital, give yourself a break and try out the Chao Phraya River. I promise you won’t regret it!