The many options of the public transport system in Bangkok can be bewildering to those not used to navigating the efficient systems of the large metropolis. In this two part article we share some information that may be of assistance:-
Train – BTS (Skytrain)
The BTS rail system; known as the Skytrain; is suspended over the city’s major roads. This elevated track is the quickest way to get around the congested roads of Bangkok. The modern carriages are clean and well air-conditioned and the trains run every 5 to 8 minutes.
The two lines [Sukhumvit Line (from MOR CHIT in the north to BEARING in the south-east) and Silom Line (which covers NATIONALSTADIUM to WONGWIAN YAI in the west)] cross at SIAM, this is where changes from one train to another must be made if ones destination is on the other line.
TICKETS: A variety of ticketing options are available from BTS, from several different places, from vending machines to the counters; from the prepaid SmartPass cards (only available at the BTS counter) to the single use tickets (magnetic cards) amongst other options.
Single Journey Tickets and One-Day Passes are ‘magnetic cards’ as the must be put through the magnetic ticket reader. 30-day SmartPass and Sky SmartPass cards are known as ‘SmartPass tickets’ as they must just be tapped on the card-reader which sits atop the barrier.
SCHEDULES: From 6am to 12 midnight the Skytrains run at intervals between 5 and 8 minutes, depending on whether it is peak or off-peak time.
FOOD & DRINK: It is not permitted to eat food or drink on the trains, although beverages and snacks are sold by vendors on the ticket level.
TOILETS & BABY CHANGING FACILITIES: Be aware that there are NO public baby-changing areas on the Skytrain system.
STATION SECURITY: Security staff man all stations, and the platforms each have at least one member of staff day or night. These are for the safety of the travelers and whistles are used to great effect when one steps too close to the edge of the platform (over the yellow line) when there are no trains in the station.
As with any journey in a crowded unfamiliar place, ensure the security of your valuables and guard against making yourself an easy target for pick-pockets and opportunistic thieves. The carriages and stations can get very busy, particularly during the rush and this can make the unwary vulnerable
GETTING ON & OFF: Arrows on the platform indicate where the carriage doors will be. As a courtesy to those exiting the train, please steer clear of the open doors once the train has stopped. At peak times the trains can get exceedingly crowded and you are best to use your own judgement as to whether you are able to squeeze into the train.
It can be a struggle to get off the train in peak hours due to the sheer press of people. Slowly and patiently, but firmly, work your way out along with the others trying to leave the carriage.
With the exception of SIAM most of the Skytrain stations will have their platforms on the left-hand-side , unlike other mass transit rail systems elsewhere.
ENTERING & EXITING: Between the ticketing levels and the train levels in all stations will be found electronic gates.
Single Use: A single use ticket must be passed through the ticket machine and be retained once it ejects. This must be kept for use at the destination station, although this time, in being put into the ticket machine, it will not return.
Multiple Use: The SmartPass or multi-use tickets must be tapped on the card-reader which is fixed to the barrier when both entering and leaving the stations. The machine should display the remaining stored balance on the card
Connecting downtown Bangkok with Suvarnabhumi International Airport, the keenly-anticipated Airport Rail Link (operating hours 6.00am – midnight) is a prudent alternative to the airports express bus or even a taxi. The transit time from Airport to downtown, or vice versa, using these SA Express routes is a mere 15 – 18 minutes, so precise planning is catered for. The City Line makes each run in just 30 minutes, encapsulating 6 stops between downtown and airport, making it ideal for those with little luggage and no particular time constraints.
Makkasan City Interchange Station (MRT Petchaburi Station) connects the Airport Rail Link and the MTR underground and also allows access to the Skytrain (BTS) at Phayathai Station. It is also a place where your luggage can be checked in if you are flying Thai Airways International or Bangkok Airways.
Access to the Airport Rail Link service from Bangkok International Airport (Suvarnabhumi) can be found on the First Floor.
Airport Rail Link Route Guide
The three Airport Rail Links all begin at different stations; the two Express lines come from Makkasan Interchange and Phyathai station respectively, while the City Line begins at Phayathai Station: -details below:
- Phayathai-Suvarnabhumi Airport Express Route Phayathai Station : Suvarnabhumi International Airport – non-stop service
Distance 28km, time to travel 18 minutes. Arrival interval: 15 minutes between trains.
- Makkasan-Suvarnabhumi Airport Express Route : Makkasan City Interchange Station > Suvarnabhumi International Airport – non-stop service
Distance 25km, travel time 15 minutes. Arrival interval: 15 minutes between trains
- SA City Line Phayathai > Rathchaprarop > Makkasan > Ramkhamhaeng > Hua Mark > Ban Thap Chang > Lat Krabang > Suvarnabhumi Airport
Distance 28km, time to travel 30 minutes. Arrival interval 15 minutes.
Fares and Ticketing
Two types of ticket are available – the prepaid SmartPass and single-trip tokens, the latter being more suited to short-term visitors. Automatic Token Dispensers are found in all stations and are a convenient way to proceed. Choose your destination and how many passengers there are and the machine will tally up your fare. Both coins and notes can be used in the machines. It is recommended that you choose to print the receipt – it may be needed later on.
SA Express: charges a flat 150 baht.
SA City Line: charges an incremental fare, starting at 15 baht rising to a maximum of 45 baht.
As well as using the dispensing machine it is possible to purchase tickets over the counter at the booth – again, it is recommended that you ask for your receipt.
The underground train (Metro)
A horseshoe track running from northern Bang Sue to Hua Lamphong in the South – near Chinatown – the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) network covers 20km and covers 18 stations with a speedy and convenient service. Connections to the BTS Skytrain at Sukkhumvit and Silom stations are available and the trains run every 5 to 7 minutes.
Stops to make note of are Kampaengphet with its access to Chatuchak Weekend Market, Rod Fai Market and Or Tor Kor Market; Sukkhumvit – which allows access to the Asok BST Skytrain; and Silom which leads to the Saladaeng BTS Skytrain, Lumpini Park and Pat Pong Night Market and finally, Hua Lamphong from which Chinatown and the Central Railway Station can be accessed. Petchaburi Station lies approximately 300m from the Airport Rail Links Makkasan Interchange Station through which you can catch the express train to Suvarnabhumi International Airport.