Getting Around: Bangkok’s Public Transportation

Travel Tips — By Kevin Revolinski on August 25, 2010 at 7:10 pm

Talk of Bangkok’s traffic nightmares is pretty common. Getting stuck forever in congested streets and highways, and then giving up, turning around, and getting stuck on the way home, isn’t unheard of. But find someone who lived in Bangkok before the advent of the mass transit system and you’ll hear some really unbelievable stuff. Kids staying overnight at school because by the time they got home, they’d have to head out again. Seriously.

Photo by Kevin Revolinski

Yes, traffic still can force you to pull your hair out, but two public transport systems and one recently added special bus system bypasses the whole tangled mess.

BTS Skytrain

Three stories up above the streets on a concrete platform is this magnificent modern train comprising two lines that meet in the center of Bangkok at Siam Station (where you’ll find Siam Square and Siam Paragon.

The Sukhumvit line runs from Mo Chit station in the northwest near Chatuchak Park to On Nut station in the east on Sukhumvit Road passing a plethora of good neighborhoods and attractions. (Four more stations are built and waiting to open and will continue that line all the way to BITEC (Bangkok International Trade and Exhibition Centre).

The Silom line starts at National Stadium and curves past Silom and Sathorn Roads, stops at Sathon Pier aka Central Pier (Saphan Taksin BTS station) to connect into Chao Phraya River transportation, and then crosses the river into Thonburi for two more stops (with four more planned terminating with a future connection to the subway).

Photo by Kevin Revolinski

The cost of a single trip depends on the distance traveled and ranges from 15 to 40 baht. Unlimited use day passes are available for 120 baht and you can also get a rechargeable Skytrain card and add 15, 25, 35 and 45 rides, each top-off amount making a single trip a bit cheaper no matter what the distance. (If you are going just one stop though, it is in fact cheaper to pay the 15 baht.) These SmartPass cards are great for long-stay travelers.

At each station are coin-op ticket machines; change can be had at the ticket windows at either platform gate but those lines get long during rush hour. The day pass is only available at the window though some stations are starting to introduce machines that accept bills.

For more information on Skytrain pricing and the SmartPass see the BTS website.

MRT Subway

Currently there is just one long subway line, the Blue Line, starting at Hua Luamphong Train Station and ending at Bang Sue. The MRT and BTS are separate systems but there are three connecting points where you can transfer (and use the other system’s payment – there is no transfer ticket or the like). Those three stations are Chatuchak (connecting to Mo Chit BTS station), Sukhumvit (connecting to Asok BTS Station) and Silom (connecting to Sala Daeng BTS Station).

The ticket machines in the subway stations do accept bills and coins but you can also still use the ticket windows at each gate. You will receive a plain black plastic token which is pressed against the sensor on the gate to open it. When you leave the station you insert it in the coin slot. The MRT also has multi-ride SmartPass cards. Currently the MRT and BTS are not compatible but plans are to make them so in the near future. A Purple Line is scheduled for completion in 2013.

Photo by Kevin Revolinski

BRT Buses

In May 2010 the first of five routes of a new bus system called the BRT was initiated. It utilizes a bus-only center lane and stations set between two lanes of vehicular traffic and connected to the outer sidewalks by pedestrian bridges. The first station is connected by a long pedestrian bridge to the Skytrain at Chong Nonsi station and has an air-conditioned waiting room.

Photo by Kevin Revolinski

The route uses Narathiwat Ratchanakharin and Rama III roads, heading south from Chong Nonsi and then curving west and then north to follow the river until it crosses the river into Thonburi stopping finally at Ratchaphruek. The bus only stops for traffic lights and with the exception of a few places where errant drivers are able to cross in and out, the lane is solely for the bus, thus making the trip much faster. Fees are 12-24 baht depending on distance. (**A flat fee of 10 baht is in effect until the end of 2010).

Find out how to use Bangkok’s public buses

Read about the new Airport Link train from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport.

Did you know Bangkok has a FREE BUS?!

Tags: bangkok, blue line, brt, bts, bus, metro, mrt, sala daeng, siam, silom, skytrain, subway, train