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Crossing the street!

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Perth, Australia
posts: 565
reviews: 85
Crossing the street!

Hi everyone,

I'm off by myself to Thailand in two weeks' time for 24 days and will be spending 9 full days in Bangkok.

I've done lots of research over the past months on this forum and elsewhere, and although I feel a little apprehensive (and very excited), I feel reasonably prepared and forewarned (in some instances, e.g. scams).

I think my biggest concern is the traffic, not because of congestion, but because of safety. I can be a bit 'away with the fairies' sometimes and realize that I need to have my wits about me in Bangkok. Here, at home, I live in a semi-rural area with light traffic and road rules are very strict (e.g. traffic stops to let pedestrians walk at crossings).

I intend making full use of the BTS and am staying at the Holiday Inn opposite Chitlom BTS station. I also understand that there is an overpass opposite the hotel which leads to several large malls. However, how do people cross streets? I have seen pictures of streets jam packed with cars so I presume you wouldn't cross them at street level. Are there generally overpasses over the main roads or do pedestrians walk until them find traffic lights to cross at?

I realise some people might think that this is a silly concern, however a work colleague of mine was killed crossing the road in Bangkok a few years ago so I'm probably a bit more concerned than I would have been if this tragedy had not occurred.

Your comments and advice would be very much appreciated.

Kind regards,


Bangkok, Thailand
posts: 1,160
1. Re: Crossing the street!

Many times you have no option but to cross the road. Remember that the crossings are essentially a waste of paint. Cross with purpose and diligently, and even when the traffic is stationary look between the lines of cars as motorbikes still come through. Always, without exception look both ways, even on one way streets as vehicles will still come from both directions. We do drive on the left here, but at times this will appear to be optional. Motorbikes frequently use pavements.

Be attentive at all times, but, on the positive side, many, many Thai drivers are very considerate to pedestrians, in my experience.

Good luck


Edited: 4:19 am, October 08, 2012
Bangkok, Thailand
posts: 15,863
2. Re: Crossing the street!

In the city centre there are lots of footbridges and elevated walkways, but it can be a steep climb sometimes. Crossing the street at intersections has several hazards, not least motorcyclists which do what ever they want to, plus its often legal for traffic to turn left against red signals, and 'jumping' red lights is very common. Pick a place where there is at least a small crowd and cross with them. Where there are 'zebra' markings on the road it means nothing at all and you have no rights as a pedestrian - you're bottom of the food chain!

Edited: 5:23 am, October 08, 2012
Oxford, United...
posts: 2,865
reviews: 125
3. Re: Crossing the street!

I always use foot bridges if there is one nearby, or if you are travelling further a foot and use a taxi/tuk tuk, just make sure they drop you off on the side you want. Otherwise I am very careful at traffic lights.

I remember on my first visit to Bangkok there were some traffic lights which had a countdown to let the drivers know when it would go green, well it was at about 45 seconds and when it got to about 7 people just started going. Not everyone, but a fair few. Same when it was on green and going the other way!

If crossing the road, make sure there is an island in the middle, least it might give you a 'waiting' place to wait for another 'quiet' bit of traffic.

Bangkok, Thailand
posts: 1,160
4. Re: Crossing the street!

In today's new: bangkokpost.com/breakingnews/316000/woman-di…

This reinforces my point about "crossings"


Edited: 5:40 am, October 08, 2012
Victoria, Australia
posts: 172
reviews: 17
5. Re: Crossing the street!

Interesting, I assumed crossing the road would be much the same as in Vietnam. looking at the on coming scooters, walk at a slow pace a unbelievably they would all just go around you. It was very daunting in the beginning but we soon got use to it and we're able to cross the road with ease. Maybe there are more cars in Bkk than Vietnam. Guess I will find out in 5 weeks :)

posts: 5,279
reviews: 22
6. Re: Crossing the street!

Expect the unexpected is what you need to keep telling yourself....

Bangkok, Thailand
posts: 15,863
7. Re: Crossing the street!

The tricks to crossing the road in Vietnam and Thailand are a bit different. Thai motorcyclists will run into you.....

Melbourne, Australia
posts: 1,656
reviews: 159
8. Re: Crossing the street!

Ahhh the old "natural selection" of Bangkok! You'll be surprised how traffic-savvy dogs are in Thailand! And you should be too if you want to survive! It's not that hard but do just be aware of your surroundings. At major intersections cross on a green light and with the "critical mass" rather than running to catch the "flashing red man" as a single pedestrian.

At zebra crossings with traffic lights, traffic may (or may not) stop but will go as soon as you have cleared their path regardless of whether the light is still red.

When crossing at streets, just give way to all vehicles. Be alert but also realise it is not total chaos. There are usually a reasonable amount of pedestrian overpasses in central Bangkok.

Pawtucket, RI
posts: 10,298
9. Re: Crossing the street!

I have seen soi dogs have the sense to use a crossover and tourists duck and dodge cars on the road.

When I cross a road I will put a local Thai person between me and oncoming traffic! Not very gallant but a big tall white guy is a nice juicy target. While running a local Thai person down could cause more problems to the driver. I prefer to go with a large group of Thais when I have to walk across a busy road.

There are some roads (like Sukhumvit) where you can walk up to the Skytrain station to cross a busy road. Some of these stations even have moving stairs.

At least being from Perth you are used to looking in the right direction for oncoming traffic. More than once I have pulled someone back who was probably from Europe or N. America who looked in the wrong direction for oncoming traffic and would have been squashed. Your basic habit will be to look in the right direction first.

Nine days in Bangkok is a long time just for Bangkok! You can sign on to tours through local travel agencies. This will at least get you out of the city in a structured way. Just remember what your tour van looks like so you can find it for your ride back to the hotel! (Use a digital camera and photograph the van if you are a little "away with the fairies!" Keep your hotel card with you when you are out and about. Also some toilet paper and hand wipes in your walk-about bag will come in handy, especially on long tours!)

Edited: 9:37 am, October 08, 2012
Drinking in Dorset
posts: 150
reviews: 147
10. Re: Crossing the street!

You are right to be cautious and ask for advice and, fortunately, you've got some great responses already.

Personally speaking, common sense should keep you safe.

When crossing a double or triple highway I always use the pedestrian overpasses, even if I have to walk a bit to find one.

For the side streets cross with care and you'll be fine, bearing in mind two key pieces of advice already given. Try and cross with others if possible and always look around and keep your wits about you when doing so. Just because traffic is supposed to only go one way doesn't mean it always will!

One of the most dangerous situations is not the minor side street but the medium sized one, too small to attract lights but too big to nip across with ease.

For these junctions it is in your own interests to cross as part of a group of people because motorcyclists and a good few car drivers turn first and ask questions later. If you're ever in doubt about one of these junctions then simply walk 50 metres down the street to where you can see oncoming traffic clearly and cross there.