Bangkok Transport System
From Michelin star restaurants to mega sized international nightclubs, Bangkok has some of the best night spots in the world. The problem is how to get them. If you arrive in this huge, smoky city with the idea of “finding out as you go along” you run the risk of first exposing yourself to scams and of restricting yourself only to a small area. Understand the eccentricities and, yes, downright absurdities of its train, bus, boat and taxi services beforehand, and you will move relatively smoothly from one great time to another.
International and National Services
Bangkok has two major airports. If you are flying into Bangkok from outside Asia you will arrive at Suvarnabhumi – an airport that currently welcomes 45 million passengers a year. They had hoped Suvarnabhumi could cope with all domestic and international flights, but with the number visitors increasing by the year, the city have been forced to reopen Don Mueang airport in the far north of the city. Don Mueang is the base for such budget airlines as Air Asia and Nok Air.
Connecting Transportation from Suvarnabhumi
If you want to arrive at your accommodation in style you can book an Airport Authority of Thailand Limousine Service – usually a sparkling white western or Japanese car – at the arrival hall desk for 1,300 baht. Slightly less stylish, but far less expensive are either the metered taxis (250-360 baht) or, if you are in a large group, the VIP air-conditioned vans (1,400 baht for up to nine people).
For those on a budget the Airport Rail Link is by far the most convenient form of transport. The express train runs every 20 minutes, from 6 am to midnight, and costs 150 baht; the commuter train runs every 30 minutes, from 6 am to midnight, and costs 45 baht. Their ticket office is located at B1 in the basement of the Passenger Terminal Building.
– Only book your rides through official sources. It sounds obvious, but there are literally hundreds of drivers at the airport looking to rip off innocent tourists.
Bangkok National Coach Service
Bangkok has three major bus terminals, all serving different parts of the country. Mo Chit located north of Chatuchak Park off Phaholyothin Road serves the northern regions; Sai Tai, located on Borommaratch Road serves southern and western regions; Ekamai – the only bus station that is easy to get to – is located at the intersection of Sukhumvit Road and Sukhumvit Soi 63 and serves the eastern regions.
– To get to the bus station book a taxi through your hotel or guest house. Some of the bus stations are so new not even the tuk-tuk drivers know where they are.
– The Bangkok Coach Service has neither a website nor a reliable English speaking telephone service. If you want to make sure of a seat either arrive early or buy your ticket from the station a day or two before you leave.
– You can also catch cheaper long distance buses from the backpacking area on Khao San Road, but you do so at your own risk, although they are generally reliable.
The main train terminal at Hua Lampong Station runs fast and slow national and international services throughout Thailand and South East Asia. As an example it takes 2.5 days to get to Singapore.
– Like for the buses it is best to buy the ticket at the station.
Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS)
In its central areas Bangkok has an extensive and affordable integrated transport system that includes a sky train, a subway and a bus service. If you are staying for longer than a week you can purchase a mass transport pre-paid top up card called a rabbit card for 300 baht (150 for the card, 50 baht as a deposit and 100 credit) from any BTS office. These cards give you various discounts, including discounts at major stores and attractions.
With no route maps or timetables on their bus stops, Bangkok’s bus system can be very difficult for foreigners – and sometimes Thais – to comprehend. As a general guide you should know the price and luxury of a bus depends on its color. On the lowest scale are the red, cream and white buses. They have no air-conditioning, but cost only 8 baht and run 24 hours. The larger more comfortable air-conditioned Orange, blue-and-white, and yellow-and-white buses cost 12-50 baht and run until midnight.
– You can pick up a free bus map at any Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) office.
– Make sure you have change for a ticket.
Skytrains run on an elevated monorail train through the center of the city every three minutes from 6 am to midnight. It costs 15 baht- 40 baht on a trip-by-trip basis or 130 baht for a day pass.
– Machines only accept 5-10 baht coins. If you have anything bigger, or smaller, you will need to get change at the information booths.
– A map of BTS routes, one-day passes, and various other discount cards are available at the ticket offices of each station.
There is one subway route that runs 6 am to midnight between Hua Lamphong and Bang Sue every 3-5 minutes. A one day ticket costs 120 baht.
It is lucky Bangkok has many taxis because they are by far the easiest and quickest way to get around, particularly if you are on the outskirts of the city. As a general guideline you should only catch taxis with a meter taxi sign of its roof. Meters start at 35 baht for the first 1.2 mi/2 km.
– Few drivers know much English, so it’s a good idea to write down your destination in Thai.
– Carry small bills as drivers rarely have change.
– You can phone 1661 to order a cab. There is an extra pick-up charge of 20 baht.
If you are staying outside the sky train and subway routes the cheapest form of transport is a water taxi. They are easy to get the hang of; most piers (tha) have maps showing the stops and you can buy a ticket -only 15 baht – at a booth on the pier or from a ticket collector on board the boat. Their only downside is that they stop running at 7pm.
Other Forms of Transport
You will see plenty of cyclists wearing orange bibs offering you rides. This is perfectly legal and very cheap; just know that they will be weaving you in an out of traffic at silly speeds.
While the colorful golf cart shaped speedsters look and are great fun to drive around in, you should approach them with caution. If you don’t know their rates – and few people do – they will try to charge you prices that you wouldn’t dream of paying even at home. Of course you can bargain them down, but even then will still feel they are taking advantage