How to get around in Bangkok
Bangkok MRT | BTS Transportation | Airport Limousine Services | Taxi | Bus System
► Suvarnabhumi - Bangkok Transfers
From 6:00 to midnight, the Suvarnabhumi Airport Express Rail Link runs to a new terminal in Makkasan, which is not particularly central but connects to Petchaburi Underground (MRT). Travel 15 minutes | fare about 150 THB. A slower Suvarnabhumi Airport Cityline goes to the more central Phaya Thai station, which connects to Phaya Thai Sky Train Station (BTS). Travel 30 minutes | fare about 15-45 THB - depending on distance travelled.
For visitors going to Sukhumvit Road or the backpacker enclave of Khao San Road, an Airport Taxi, which rarely costs more than 300 THB, is more convenient – but insist on the driver using the meter. A 50 THB airport taxi surcharge must be paid on top of the fare.
Airport Limousines located at the airport charge about 800 THB.
A number of Airport Express Busses run to the city: AE1 heads for Silom Road | AE2 goes along Petchaburi Road to Khao San Road | AE3 serves Sukhumvit Road | AE4 passes via Siam Square to Hualamphong Railway Station. Tickets 100 THB.
► The BTS System
The SkyTrain and Subway are the best way to beat the traffic and pollution, but the trains get packed during rush hour. However, the skytrain and subway cover mainly the central Bangkok area, not the suburbs. The skytrain opened in December 1999 and has two lines covering the central business districts of Sukhumvit, Phloenchit, Silom, and Sathorn (many expats live and work along these 4 roads), and then going up thru Victory Monument and out to Chatuchak, near the Mo Chit provincial bus terminal. The SkyTrain maps and fares are at the Bangkok Transit System (BTS) web site.
The English language version is at http://www.bts.co.th/en/index.asp. The fares range from 10 to 40 THB. Another interesting website is www.ssBKK.com introduces entertainment and business places near the Skytrain stations and subway stations.
The skytrain is fast, but at rush hour in the morning and the evening, the trains sometimes get packed. You can usually squeeze on, but if you don't like crowded trains then you may want to adjust your schedule accordingly. (Same goes for the traffic in general, as well as the buses.) The skytrain company needs to add more cars. The platform and system is designed for it, and you can see lots of space on both ends of the trains plus the markings for the doors at some stations, but they just won't invest in new cars yet (though they are investing in expansion of the network).
A station worth noting is Victory Monument, which is the big central hub of bus transportation for Bangkok, and also where an elevated expressway intersects the skytrain route. Many smart people who live in the northwestern suburbs take expressway buses to Victory Monument, and the skytrain from Victory Monument. You can transfer at Victory Monument to buses going practically anywhere! For example, I work and live in Muang Thong Thani, a 20 minute minivan ride from Victory Monument, as noted at www.MTTBKK.com
The last skytrain leaves the first station around 12 midnight. However, if you plan on taking the last train, then you should get a ticket in advance. I have found that at some stations, the coin operated ticket machines go Out Of Order around 11pm and the staff won't help you. Thus, you can arrive at the station well before the last train(s), but can't get a pass to take them! This happened to me, and the staff were not helpful, unless I wanted to buy a 1 month pass or somesuch. Thus, if I plan to return on a late train, I buy an extra pass before I leave the station earlier that day/night.
► The MRT
The MRT Subway (Mass Rapid Transit) is run by a somewhat different organization, the MRTA. However, their website at www.mrta.co.th/en didn't have much information on their subway. The subway runs predominantly thru Thai areas, and intersects the skytrain at the Asoke station and at Chatuchak. The subway mostly runs under the road Ratchadapisek (aka Asoke when near Sukhumvit), then turns west down Rama 4 Rd. The subway has been of interest to only a small minority of foreigners, since there aren't any foreigner residential areas out there nor foreigner entertainment, and the shopping centers tend to be Thai dominated along the subway line. However, I will say that it's less crowded and the cool stations are appreciated in the hot season.
Most taxis in Thailand are metered, i.e., you don't need to negotiate a fare. Just get into a taxi that says "TAXI-METER" on the top. There are a few plain taxis still going around, but the vast majority are either the relatively new taxi-meter fleet or else have converted over. Taxis are economical in Thailand relative to western countries. As of new rates approved the fare starts at 35 THB and stays there for the first 1 Km, and then the rate creeps up slowly at these rates:
5 baht per km for 1+ to 12 km
5.5 baht per km for 12 to 20 km
6 baht per km for 20 to 40 km
8.5 baht per kilometer for 40 to 60 km
For example, a 20 km trip, which is long by Bangkok standards, would cost 35 + 55 + 44 = 134 THB. Typical taxi fares in town for going a few kilometers run around 50 THB. If traffic is bad, then the timer becomes more significant than the distance. There is a small charge per minute for sitting in traffic. Sorry, I don't know it, but it's small. It's still very cheap compared to Western countries, though to Thais it's another matter. A few leading companies with special concessions imported fleets of modern cars and equipped them with meters. This made taxis much nicer and easier for foreigners and Thais alike.
Notably, most taxis are fuelled by liquified natural gas, not the usual petrol of ordinary cars, and much of this gas is produced domestically, so the fuel costs of taxis are not as high as for most people. This conversion to liquified natural gas mostly happened after taxi fares were first established. It is a relatively minor conversion, and very standardized for the taxi fleet.
A difficulty with foreigners is that most taxi drivers do not speak nor read English. The taxi drivers generally come from the poor northeast. They are usually pleasant but just limited in education. They will usually recognize the names of places if your pronounciation is close, but be careful that they don't misunderstand you and take you somewhere else. Suggestions:
- If possible, have the name and location of your destination written in Thai on a slip of paper which you can give them, or
- Have a map with both Thai and English, and point to the place on the map.
- If one taxi seems to have difficulties, then say never mind and try the next taxi.