Yanling's Blog

Article: How to efficiently navigate between busy traffic in Bangkok using Grab services

The first time I was in Bangkok, I was overwhelmed by the busy roads.
I had never seen anything like this before.
Roads were packed with cars and scooters.
They could not move smoothly without being stuck in the traffic.
Traffic jams were basically continuous the whole day.
Needless to say; the peak hours were the worst.
The benefit of the traffic was to let others transport your food and your other deliveries.
I had discovered Grab services, recommended by my Airbnb hostess.
In this article, you will read more about my experiences using Grab services.
It was an intriguing experience, I could not live without those while I was in Bangkok in the last weeks.

Busy traffic Bangkok China Town
China Town busy traffic

How busy is busy?

According to the statistics, drivers in Thailand spent around 61 hours on average in traffic jams during rush hours.
I had to catch a morning flight at 10:45 AM at Don Muang airport, leaving 7:45 AM during the rush hour.
I prepared myself for that this ride of 30 minutes will take one hour. It took indeed one hour.
It would be even longer if we did not drive on the toll roads.
Toll roads require you to pay some money.
But they have less traffic, so we could drive without having to stop every couple of minutes.
The traffic outside toll roads was indeed horrible.
We drove on roads in which we moved only 2 meters or so after waiting 5-10 minutes.
Sometimes even waiting 10 to 15 minutes before moving just a couple of meters.
I was worried it will take us two hours to reach the airport.
As the check-in of the documents counter was closing at 9:45 AM, this would be too late for me.

Cars busy traffic Bangkok Siam
Traffic jams in Siam Bangkok

What about walking?

Walking can be faster than driving sometimes.
Some bus routes I noticed, was longer by bus (54 minutes) than walking (45 minutes).
Due to detour and the high congestion.
But walking was also not the most favorable experience out there.
There are not many pedestrian crossings that function for pedestrians, to begin with.
As a pedestrian, you will find it quite challenging to just walk around safely.
Due to heavy congestion, some parts have crossing bridges built.
They are safe for pedestrians and benefit drivers to not needlessly stop for pedestrians.
However, not all roads have these convenient bridges.

Cars and motorbikes on the road
Bangkok roads full of cars and motorbikes

A lot of roads have either nothing at all, so it’s up to you to find some space to run through the traffic.
Or they have zebra crossings without traffic lights, which you still need to look carefully before crossing.
Cars just ignore zebra crossings and pretend they do not exist.
Not like in some European countries in which drivers patiently stop in front of zebra crossings.
It was a lucky situation if in the direction you crossed to also had cars going in the same direction.
So, if their lights turned green, you run as quickly as you could to cross the road.
Because some of those cars might make a turn without letting you cross first.
The rule that “traffic go straight through on the same road has priority” does not really exists here.
Or there are zebra crossings with traffic lights. These do exist but again not everywhere.

Walking long distances like 30 minutes or more is not really a pleasure in Bangkok.
I have done it many, many times and every time I needed to be alert on what is going around.

Grab car & Grab bike

If walking is not safe and walking in the hot temperature of over 30 degrees is not pleasurable.
Well, we have left with a better option: to allow others to drive us.
Although this will not avoid the traffic, it is more comfortable.
My Airbnb hostess recommended Grab app on the mobile phone.
There is Grab Car, Grab Taxi and Grab Bike to choose from.
Several times I used Grab Car and Grab Bike.
The difference between Grab Car and Grab Taxi is Grab Taxi uses a meter.
After having chosen your beginning address and end address the costs are displayed.
The Grab Bike is the cheapest option, followed by Grab Taxi and Grab Car.
With so many traffic jams, the costs of Grab Taxi can eventually be higher.
With Grab Car this is a fixed amount of price and traffic jams will not change this price.
You can see on the app who is the driver; what car they drive in and live update of his location.
Seeing the car moves on the road on the map is quite reassuring and eases up the waiting.

After a ride is finished, the system will send out a receipt to your email address.

Screenshot Grab Car booking
Screenshot Grab Car booking information

Sometimes a driver can ask, to cancel the booking or you cancel the booking.
A driver can have problems with his car or in my case, the location I was in had many police cars driving around.
So they would not risk themselves of being caught, as Uber and Grab are illegal in Thailand.
This fact I did not know until I Googled about it after I left Thailand [1].

Cancellations are not limitless without facing consequences.
As of writing cancellations, up to 8 times within 7 days can cause blocking the account for 24 hours.

Grab bike is very convenient, not only cheaper but also quicker.
For example: walking 45 minutes, Grab Car took 20-25 minutes and Grab Bike just 12 minutes.
Motorbikes drive between cars and they drive to the front during a stop.
So once lights jump green, well off they go.
Their speed is the same as cars unless you request them to drive slower.
Most of the motorbike drivers are young men, between 20-35 years old.
They have helmets for you that you can wear during the trip.
Based on the driver, your own level of fearlessness this can be an awesome or fearful experience.

Bangkok road pedestrian crossing and traffic lights
Bangkok road with traffic lights and pedestrian crossing

Grab deliveries

Are there any benefits of such crowded roads, you might wonder?
We tend to look at the “negative” things only…
There are, but not until I got to know about deliveries using Grab.
It started with me going to the Chinese medicine clinic and having the bought medicine being boiled.
The boiling time and the packing time they did for me took about 3 hours.
As I did not want to wait, I went back home walking thirty minutes, planning to pick it up later.
Then to drive back home by Grab Car, as the boiled medicine was quite heavy (10 kilograms).
My Airbnb hostess said she could order a bike via Grab to get it for me, no need to go again myself.
I was astonished and let her do this.
I was full of admiration for having this possibility, how this made life easier.
So, after three hours, she put up a delivery request.
If the bike rider had to wait, it will eventually cost more money.
So, it was better to be there after the boiling was really finished.
Not long after, the motorbike driver arrived at our place; and we paid him cash.
He earned 10 baht for his service.
The Airbnb hostess explained to me that with heavy traffic, not many were eager to go on the roads.
So they let those motorbike riders who were on the road anyway do their deliveries.
I thought only deliveries from specific shops could be done.
Doing personal deliveries is really modern and innovative in my eyes!
In The Netherlands, we have supermarkets doing the deliveries.
But then that is a service from the supermarket.
Here it is a person, like you and me, doing the delivery.

Grab food

The same principle of deliveries applies to Grab food.
You can find a restaurant or a specific dish of choice amongst many restaurants.
Instead of going to the restaurant to dine, the driver goes for you.
Orders the dish for you, wait for the cooking, does the packing and the payment.
Then drives to you and you pay the driver the dish price plus 10 baht for the delivery fees.
The driver earns the delivery fees.

Grab food order summary screenshot
Grab food order summary screenshot
Grab food map with driver on the way
Grab food map with driver on the way

For me ordering food is really a luxury.
This makes me not to think of the heavy traffic as something negative.
But of new opportunities for everyone.
The person who orders the food can earn some money, maybe 10 baht is not much for us tourists.
For a local, it seems it is worth doing it.
One time I had delivered food by a middle-aged couple sitting on the motorbike.
They had their own groceries with them too.
So, they must have been around the area and went into the restaurant to take my order.
People can earn some money while they are outside on the road.
And we don’t need to get through in the traffic, causing more traffic and any other inconveniences.
So, all in all, this was a very good solution to make the best use out of what is there.

The downside was most of the menu items were in the Thai language.
There were some with English translations.
And most of the menu items did not have a picture attached.
So you do not always know what you will get.
This makes it for locals easy to use and not so much for foreigners.
With locals or Thai speaking people around, I could make the orders using Grab Food.
I was very pleased and used this service a couple of times already.

Grab services are a temporary solution to heavy traffic.
But one that is in my eyes enjoyable and that I can be very grateful about.

[1] Uber and Grab Are illegal in Thailand



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