Formerly known as the 'Venice of the East', Bangkok still has an excess of waterways that offer a great way of getting around. River express and canal boats regularly ply several routes unaffected by the constant traffic on the roads, and are very cheap too. Often cited as one of the top bargains available in Thailand is the 1 hour 15 minute boat trip from the pier near the Oriental Hotel all the way up to Nonthaburi, a Bangkok suburb, for only 10B (0.25 US$) per person. The Khlong Saen Saep canal boats go across Bangkok for the same kind of price also.
The river boats go up and down the large Chao Phraya river, and there are around 20 main stops. They can be substantially quicker than the equivalent journey by road. For example, a trip from the Grand Palace to the Silom district could easily take over an hour by taxi, while the boat ride will only take around 15 or 20 minutes.
The boats are long, fast, and normally colored white with a red stripe. Fares vary slightly according to the destination, they're between 5B and 10B. Boats seem to come around every 20 minutes, start at 5.30am and the last boat leaves each end at 6pm.
It's very easy to get confused when trying to take a River Express boat. At each pier, there is a cross river service (costing 1B or 2B), these leave almost constantly throughout the day. These are much smaller boats and often fairly empty, and are normally waiting by the pier when you get there. When you see (or hear the whistle of) a River Express boat approaching the pier, don't hesitate as they only wait for a few seconds. Everyone scrambles to get on and off as quickly as possible, and a slight delay will cost you a place on the boat. Tickets can either be bought on the boat or at the pier. Piers are marked in English and Thai, so it's easy to know where to get off.
A description of the route the express boats run is shown on the next page.