If you want to go shopping in Bangkok, you take the BTS elevated trains or the subway line. But if you want to see the city’s old charms and main tourist attractions, the best way is by the boat.

There are more than 30 piers along the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok, covering tourist attractions and historical sites such as the Grand Palace, Temple of the Reclining Budda (Wat Pho), Temple of the Dawn (Wat Arun), Pak Khlong Talad (the flower market), China Town and Khaosan Road.

However, the most popular pier for tourists to start the river tour is Sathorn pier. Located just a walking distance from the BTS sky train station (Saphan Taksin station) and Wat Yannawa pier, where our guests begin the Mekhala cruise, this pier is always busy with local people and tourists. Every commuter boat stops at this pier.

Sathon Pier

Boat Ticket Office of the Chao Phraya Express Boat

Additionally, shuttle boats of luxury riverside hotels, such as the Oriental, the Peninsula, The Millenium Hilton, Shangri-la hotel,  Chatrium hotel, Annantara Bangkok Riverside resort and Ramada Plaza Menam Riverside Bangkok Hotel, drop their guests off here.

Hotel shuttle boats dropping off their guests at Sathorn Pier

It could be confusing to tourists to figure out which boat to take and where to get off. The Chao Phraya Express Boat company, which operates commuter boats and ferries on the river, even hires staff to explain the routes to passengers to ease the traffic. Therefore, it is good to equip yourself with information before arriving at the pier so that you can pick the right boat to take you to the right destination.

There are 5 types of commuter boats, which are identified by different colors of flags placed on the rear of the boat’s roof.

Orange Flag Boat

Chao Phraya express boat, orange flag boat

An orange-flag boat

Route : Nonthaburi (N30) – Wat Rajsingkorn (S3)
Operation : Everyday (06.00 – 19.00 hrs.)
Fares : 15 Baht

The boat stops at most of the piers that connects to tourist attractions. So it is safe to say that tourists can take this boat to get around most of tourist sites along the river, including Koh Kred – an island and popular weekend getaway just outside Bangkok. The trip between Sathon pier and Koh Kred is about one and a half hour.

Green Flag Boat

Route : Pakkred (N33) – Nonthaburi (N30)
Operation : Monday – Friday
Morning Service 06.15 – 08.10 hrs.
Afternoon Service 15.30 – 18.05 hrs.
Fares : 13 / 20 / 32 Baht (Depends on distance)

The boat runs on the weekdays during the rush hours in the morning and the late afternoon only. It stops at the piers that link to business districts and office buildings. Thus, it is more suitable for local people and tourist who want to go to Koh Kred.

Yellow Flag Boat

Route : Nonthaburi (N30) – Sathorn (Centre) – Ratburana (S4)
Operation : Monday – Friday
Morning Service 06.15 – 08.30 hrs.
Afternoon Service 15.30 – 20.00 hrs.
Fares : 20 / 29 Baht  (Depends on distance)

Operating during the rush hour and on the weekdays only, this is another boat that serves local commuters who travel between their houses and offices.

Local Line Boat (No Flag)

Route : Nonthaburi (N30) – Wat Rajsingkorn (S3)
Operation : Monday – Friday
Morning Service 06.20 – 08.05 hrs.
Afternoon Service 15.00 – 17.30 hrs.
Fares : 10 / 12 / 14 Baht (Depends on distance)

This boat stops has the cheapest fares and stops at every pier. So you can take this boat to anywhere. The downside of this boat is that it is not running on the weekends and operates in the morning and late afternoon only.

Blue Flag Boat (Chao Phraya Tourist Boat)

A blue flag can be seen at the back of the boat

Route : Sathon pier – Phra Arthit Pier (N13)
Operation : Everyday (09.30-16.00 hrs)
Fares : 40 Baht (one-way ticket) and 150 Baht/per day (a full day pass)

The routing of this boat is designed for tourists. It stops at all of the main tourist attractions along the Chao Phraya river. The 40 baht fare is good for one stop only while the full day pass (150 Baht) allows you to get on and off any pier and take any boat (from Chao Phraya Express Boat company) until about 9 pm without extra fare. The boat has a tour guide on board to give information about each tourist attraction along the river.

You can buy a full day pass at the ticket office in front of Sathorn pier.

The blue Flag boat stops at these piers and nearby riverside attractions.

1. Sathorn Pier – connects with the BTS sky train line at Saphan Taksin station

2. Oriental Pier (N1)  – walking distance to the Oriental Hotel and Chareon Krung road, which connects to Bangkok’s business district at Silom road

3. Si Phraya Pier (N3) – Tourist attraction: River City, a riverside shopping plaza famous for selling antiques and old maps from Southeast Asia with great selection of handcrafts and silk clothing.

4. Rajchawong Pier (N5)  – Tourist attraction: China Town, a good place to find delicious Chinese food and buy Chinese herbs and medicines.

5. Tha Tien Pier (N8)  – Tourist attraction: Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha) and Wat Arun (the Temple of Dawn)

6. Maharaj Pier (N*)  – Tourist attraction: The Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha

7. Wang Lang Pier (N10)  – Tourist attraction: Patravadi Theatre (an open air playhouse), Siriraj Hospital and Museum

8. Phra Arthit Pier (N13)  – Tourist attraction: Khao San Road (Backpacker’s haven), Phra Sumane fort (one of the old forts left in Bangkok)

Click here for the Chao Phraya Boat Route Map.

Renting a private boat tour

You can also hire a long tail boat to tour the river and Bangkok’s old waterways. It costs about 1,200 Baht per hour for 4 persons. The service is run by local tour operators. You can the tour agents  near the ticket office of the Chao Phraya Express Boat.

Private boat tour, Chao Phraya River, Bangkok

A private boat tour on the Chao Phraya River, Bangkok

REMARK: As a plan to increase the travel speed between stations, the Saphan Taksin Skytrain station will soon be terminated to give way to a double track railway. A long elevated moving walkway will be built to connect Sathorn pier with the nearest skytrain station at Surasak.