Boats and ferries are a convenient and interesting way to get around Bangkok. They can be intimidating at first but once you figure out the routes and the rules they're very easy to use.
Bangkok has two boat systems -- the Chao Phraya river ferry system and the canal ferry system. The river ferry is operated by the Chao Phraya Express Boat Company.
The Chao Phraya Express Boat Company publishes the schedule and map on their website, but there is no canal ferry map or schedule available online.
River boats run express or local and travel either inside the city center or beyond it. Different colored flags let riders know which boat they are boarding.
There is also a tourist boat that runs from the Saphan Thaksin Sky Train stop to Phra Athit near Khao San Road. The tourist boat stops only at piers with major tourist attractions nearby and there is an announcer who narrates the journey. Tourist boats are more expensive but are also less crowded than commuter boats.
Most boats run from 5 a.m. to about 7 p.m. On the Chao Phraya river, the last boat on each route will fly a black flag indicating that the schedule boat service has ended for the day. There are no night boats.
Boats run as fast as every 10 minutes during peak times and as slow as every hour during off-peak times.
Canal boats, also called khlong boats, run on Bangkok's major canals. The most popular route is the San Saeb canal ferry, which runs parallel to Petchaburi Road all the way to the Golden Mount.
Canal boats and river boats make stops very quickly so there's not a lot of time to get on and off. Move quickly and follow the lead of the people around you!
Most trips on either the river or the canal boats cost less than 30 baht. A fare collector will come around to you to sell you a ticket.
River and canal boat stops are well-marked. Canal boat stops can be difficult to find because the canals are not always obvious from the street.