Practical Life in Bangkok


Transport in Bangkok


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Public Transportation in Bangkok

Bangkok Transit System (BTS)

Bangkok operates both an over ground, underground and sky train system, as well as an airport rail link. Trains run 6am-midnight.

Often referred to as the Bangkok Transit System (BTS), this is a very quick and reliable service and there is usually a BTS train at each station so you never find yourself waiting more than a few minutes for one. Eating and drinking are not permitted on the BTS trains, nor is it allowed to carry balloons or durian fruit (due to their very strong and unpopular smell). There are two sky train lines:

  • Sukhumvit line - Runs from Sukhumvit to Mo Chit-Bearing
  • Silom line - Runs from National Stadium to Talat Phlu, although this line is currently being extended.

The two lines intersect at Siam station. The BTS and the MRT meet at Sala Daeng/Silom, Asok/Sukhumvit and Mo Chit/Chatuchak Parks.

The Thai National Anthem is played at 8:00 and 6:00 pm every day out of respect to the King and the Royal Family. You are expected to stand still until the Anthem has finished playing.

Bangkok's Mass Rapid Transit (MRT)

Bangkok's underground train system is known as the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT). There is only one line which runs from Hua Lamphong through to Bang Sue. Like the BTS, it operates from 6am-midnight. You can expect to wait up to five minutes for a train in peak hours, and up to 10 minutes in off peak times (9am-4.30pm)

The BTS and the MRT meet at Sala Daeng/Silom, Asok/Sukhumvit and Mo Chit/Chatuchak Parks.

Public Transportation Tickets in Bangkok

As would be expected, the longer the journey on the BTS the more your ticket will be. The most expensive trip is 42 baht and the cheapest is 15 baht. Most stations only have machines that have coins, so try and carry change if you know you will be using the skytrain to save time queuing at the counter. Tickets can be bought as one way, a one day pass.

You can also purchase a Rabbit card and store credit on it. You can either add money to it i.e. 200 baht, or you can add trips. If you add money to it, then you pay the same as if you had bought a one way ticket on the day, but it saves you the trouble of queuing up or ensuring you are carrying the correct amount of change. Trips alternatively can be added and then each journey works out to be a minimum fixed price. 50 trips is the most which can be added (1,100 baht) with each of those 50 trips working out to be 22 baht. The trips must be used within 30 days from the date they were added, but if you know you will be using this regularly then it can be a sensible way of saving a few baht. If you buy a rabbit card, discount is given to students, children and pensioners. Rabbit cards can also be used to buy goods from various fast food outlets, such as McDonalds.

Similarly, on the MRT a single journey token can be purchased, or if you intend to use this mode of transport on a regular basis, a stored value card may be more convenient. There are different stored value cards available: adult, child, elder, student, business, one day pass, three day pass, 30 day pass and premier pass.

Train Travel in Thailand

Train travel in Thailand is a cheap and safe way to travel, and some of the sleeper trains that are used for the overnight journeys can be a real experience. The State Railway of Thailand serves Bangkok with information on timetables, fares, routes, and more. Thai trains have three classes: 1st, 2nd and 3rd. However even 3rd class berths tend to be clean and acceptable by Western standards. Popular destinations from Bangkok include Chiang Mai, Ayutthaya, Hua Hin, Penang, Ubon Ratchathani, Kanchanaburi and Nong Khai.

The Bangkok Railway Station is in Hua Lamphong (Chinatown). This is Bangkok's main railway station. The station has been open since 1916 and the station itself is rather attractive with stained glass windows. There are 14 platforms, 26 ticket booths and two display boards showing departure information. Approximately 130 trains depart and arrive from Hua Lamphong daily. This is also where the Eastern and Orient express terminate.

A rail link between Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport and central Bangkok was opened in 2010. There are two trains leaving from the airport: the city train and the express train. The city trains are more regular and cheaper, but stop at more places making the journey longer. The express train leaves on the hour and the half hour and doesn't stop until its final destination 15 minutes later: Phaya Thai on the Sukhumvit BTS line. The city train takes about 30 minutes.

Tickets for Train Travel in Thailand

It is recommended you buy train tickets for overland travel in advance of your journey. For popular destinations, i.e. the sleeper train to Bangkok, trains can get booked up. In any event, all long distance express trains require a reservation. Reservations open 60 days (2 months) before departure. Reservations are computerised and your ticket will show your destination and berth number.

Tickets can be purchased at the station from two counters. The counters are open 8.30-4pm daily. (There was temporarily an online service at http://www.thairailticket.com/esrt/, but it is currently suspended with the site only sharing timetables).

Another option is to buy tickets from a reputable agency such as www.thailandtrainticket.com. This allows you to purchase tickets before your arrival for a fee. Shop around to find the best fees.

Token for the airport rail link can be purchased at the station itself. The express train costs 90 baht one way or 150 baht for a return journey, and they city line fees are 15-45 baht depending on the distance travelled to the station.

Trains:

Bus Travel in Bangkok

Travelling by bus is an incredibly cheap way of navigating yourself around Bangkok. The Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) is responsible for running Bangkok's bus route and operates services around central Bangkok and the nearby provinces of Nonthanburi, Pathum Thani, Samut Sakhon, Samut Prakan and Nakhon Pathom. The BMGTA operates more than 100 routes around Bangkok with more than 3000 buses. Information about bus routes, which number to take, stop and a route planner can be found at Transit Bangkok website.

Bangkok buses typically operate on a daily basis 5:00 am - 11:00 pm, although there are night buses which run 24 hours a day. Bus lines with a 24 hour service are: 2, 4, 22, 23, 25, 29, 34, 59, 76, 91,145 and 203.

Bus stops have signs which display the number of which buses will stop there. Make sure just before your stop you stand so the driver knows you wish to get off.

Buses are differentiated by their colour:

  • The orange buses are air conditioned and a fare will be 11-24 baht depending on the distance you intend to travel.
  • There are also some more modern yellow buses. These are also air conditioned and charge a flat fee of 10-12 baht. However, they take the express way and therefore do not make as many stops as others buses.
  • The red buses do not have air conditioning and charge a flat fee of 7 baht. After 10pm, an extra 1.5 baht is added to the fee.

Fares are paid on-board the bus.

Bus Travel in Thailand

Buses also run from Bangkok to all over Thailand. Even though distance is greater, this remains a cheap way of travelling. There are first and second class buses. Do take care with your belongings as theft can happen.

The Ekamai Bus Terminal operates buses to the eastern part of Thailand such as Pattaya, Koh Chang or Koh Samet. A return bus far to Koh Samet will set you back 307 baht. Mo chit bus station (sometimes called Chatuchak bus station) is about a 30 minute taxi ride away from the BTS station of the same name and buses run here to the north and north east of Thailand: Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Laos are popular destinations). Lastly Sai Tai bus station operates services to the west and south of Thailand - i.e. the nice beaches!

Mini buses

Often called mini vans, these are another popular means of travelling around Thailand. Note that some people refuse to use them for health and safety reasons (they are notoriously prone to traffic accidents).

They leave from Victory Monument, Khao San Road, outside Central World and Mo Chit.

Boat Travel in Bangkok

The Chao Phraya River provides a popular means of transport for locals, foreign residents and tourists. There are four different types of boat, all identifiable by a different coloured flag. Tickets can be purchased either at the pier of the embankment or on-board.

Orange Flag Boats in Bangkok

  • Route: Nonthaburi(N30) to Wat Rajsingkorn (S3)
  • Operation: Everyday 06.00 - 19.00
  • Fare: 15 Baht flat fee regardless of distance

Green Flag Boats in Bangkok

  • Route: Pakkred (N33)-Nonthanburi (N30)-Sathorn (Centre)
  • Operation: Monday-Friday: morning service: 0.6.15-08.10; afternoon service: 15.30-18.05
  • Fares: 13/20/32 Baht depending on distance travelled

Yellow Flag Boats in Bangkok

  • Route: Nonthanburi (N30) - Sathorn (Centre)-Ratburana (S4)
  • Operation: Monday-Friday: morning service: 06.15-08.30; afternoon service: 15.30-20.00
  • Fares: 20/29 baht depending on distance travelled

Blue Flag Boats in Bangkok

This is known a "Tourist" Boat - it is bigger than the other boats, and there are more seats, but it is more expensive. Tourists unfamiliar with the different flagged boats will be told by the boat vendors this is the boat they must take, however it can often be a more enjoyable experience as it tends to be quieter than the cheaper boats.

  • Route: Sathorn pier (Central)-Phra Arthit Pier (N13)
  • Operation: Daily: 09.30-16.00, leaving every 30 minutes from Sathorn pier
  • Fares: 40 baht for a one way trip or 150 baht unlimited service valid for day of purchase

See the Chao Phraya Express Boat website for more details of route and piers.

There are also commuter boats located at most of the piers, which transport passengers across to the other side of the pier. Fares are typically 3-4 baht.

Boating Bangkok's Canals/Khlongs

Bangkok is often nicknamed the "Venice of the East". The origins of the waterways go back to the time when the original centre of Bangkok was created in 1782, and gradually the canal (khlong) system was extended so it became the main form of travel during the 19th century.

Water taxis or long tailed boats are a helpful and useful means of avoiding Bangkok's busy roads, which are often stationary during rush hour. There are many different routes that can be taken including two lines along the Khlong Saen Saeb route:

  • Western (terminating at the Golden Mount)
  • Eastern (terminating at Wat Si Bunrueang, which is near the National Institute of Development Administration)

It operates 05.30-20.30 and prices are between 5-20 baht depending on the distance you intend to travel. This route stops at many familiar places around Bangkok, such as Pratunam, Chitlom, Wireless, Nana, Asok, Thong Lo and Bangkapi.

Tourism by Boat in Bangkok

Other options for travelling along the river include hiring a long tail boat, which will then often take you along Bangkok's multiple a private river cruise, or a dinner cruise - this is a great way to see the famous sights along the Chao Phraya River all lit up at night.

Bangkok Airports

Bangkok has two airports: Suvarnabhumi (pronounced "Suwannaphum") and Don Muang.

Suvarnabhumi Airport

Suvarnabhumi Airport is Bangkok's main airport, opened in 2006 and is used for international and domestic flights. The airport is the main hub for Thai airways International, Bangkok Airways and Orient Thai Airlines. Suvarnabhumi means "The Golden Land".

Situated about 25 km outside of Bangkok, the impressive airport is 8,000 acres in size. The airport has 7 floors: the first floor is the bus and taxi service, the 2nd floor is domestic and international arrivals, the 3rd floor is shops, restaurants and CIP rooms, the 4th floor is domestic and international departures, the 5th floor is used for business, the 6th floor is the one stop service centre and lastly the top floor houses view point basements arranged for Airport Express Station, Airport Express Platforms and luggage conveyor transport systems.

Suvarnabhumi has a wide range of services to offer passengers: airport lounges, restaurants, a spa, a salon, tour services, duty free, shops, medical clinic, prayer rooms and smoking rooms. There are also left baggage areas, ATMS currency exchange, VAT refunds for tourists and a police station.

The airport has 2 runways, with 51 contact gates and 69 remote parking bays. The aviation control tower is the tallest in the world.

There are hotels like a Novotel located about 300 metres away from the airport.

Don Muang Airport

Don Muang re-opened in October 2012, and is predominantly used for budget and domestic flights. Presently Air asia, Nok Air, Orient Thai, Solar Air and P.C. Air all have hubs and fly in and out of this airport.

Much smaller than Suvarnbhumi, Don Muang has two levels. The departure lounge is on the second floor, and all of the airlines who use the airport have desks here. Arrivals are on the first floor. There are fast food outlets including McDonalds, Subway and Starbucks, an internet café, money exchange, ATMs, souvenir shops, a taxi rank and a limousine service.

Despite only recently having undergone refurbishment, Don Muang retains a very dated feel, however it does have a couple of fun features: the toilets are famous (we won't spoil the surprise) and secondly in the departure lounge there is a screen with sliding images of famous world landmarks. Stand in front of the screen and your image will appear, and suddenly you are no longer in Don Muang airport, but in Japan or Paris! It's a fun way to waste five minutes!

Transport to/from Bangkok Airport

Bangkok Airport Trains: There is a city and express train available from central Bangkok to Suvarnbhumi airport. The city trains are more regular and cheaper, but stop at more places making the journey longer. The express train leaves on the hour and the half hour and doesn't stop until its final destination 15 minutes later: Phaya Thai on the Sukhumvit BTS line. The city train takes about 30 minutes.

Token for the airport rail link can be purchased at the station itself. The express train costs 90 baht one way or 150 baht for a return journey, and they city line fees are 15-45 baht depending on the distance travelled to the station.

Trains are infrequent to Don Muang, but an overland train can be caught from Hua Lamphong station and will take about an hour. This line is busy as the airport station is located on the popular Chiang Mai line. A skytrain link is due in 2016.

See the section on Train Travel for more details.

Bangkok Airport Bus: There are many different buses that leave from central Bangkok to Suvarnabhumi. They do not stop directly at the airport, but at the Public Transportation Centre which is a few kilometers away. From there, a free shuttle bus runs to the airport. The main bus routes are 551 from Victory Monument, 552 from On Nut, 550 to Bang Kapi or 555 to Rangsit. The journey will take anything from 40-90 minutes. The fare from Suvarnabhumi to On Nut is 32 baht.

The fare to Don Muang airport should be no more than 20 baht. You will need to take Bus No 29, which leaves from the Siam area. The length of the journey will be dependent on traffic, but it will probably take anything from 40-90 minutes. Please remember there will be very little room for your luggage.

Bangkok Airport Taxi: Both airports are about 25km outside of central Bangkok in opposite directions and the journey should take anything from 30-60 minutes depending on the time of day and traffic. Your journey should probably cost you 250-400 baht.

Drive to the Bangkok Airport: The times to both airports will be the same as in a taxi due to the traffic, however you will obviously only need to cover you fuel which will be cheaper, and you will not have the inconvenience of flagging down a taxi.

Taxis in Bangkok

It is very easy to hail a taxi around Bangkok. Taxis that are available for hire have a red illuminated sign on the bottom left hand side of their front window. Simply stand at the side of the road, and stick your arm out. The driver will usually then wind down his front passenger window, tell him where you want to go, and if he nods, then climb in the backseat. Technically, taxi drivers are not legally allowed to refuse fares in Bangkok, but this is virtually impossible to police, and many still do.

Always ensure the driver is willing to use his meter. If he tries to negotiate a flat standard rate fee with you, simply refuse, get out of the taxi and wait for a more amenable driver. It is particularly common for taxi drivers who hang around tourist places to try and charge a hugely inflated price as a means of scamming unknowing tourists.

Taxis in Bangkok are air conditioned.

There are no named taxi companies in Bangkok, but taxis are differentiated by their colour: blue, yellow, orange, red, green and yellow and pink. The green and yellow taxis are privately owned by the driver, the coloured pones are all owned by companies and are rented.

Motorcycle Taxi in Bangkok

Motor cycle taxis, more commonly called "motor cycs", are another popular form of transport. Whilst it does take a certain amount of courage to use one of these, they are a much quicker way of travelling by road around Bangkok as they are able to weave in and out of the traffic and maneuver themselves to the front of traffic light queues.

Identifiable by the orange jackets they wear, they tend to corrugate in groups near BTS stops and at the beginning of main sois. If you are going to be living in Bangkok, it is worth taking the time to get to know your local group of drivers - they are worth their weight in gold if you have any trouble.

Fares & Tipping of Taxis in Bangkok

Taxis in Bangkok are very cheap as they usually run on natural gas. There is a standard flat fee of 35 baht for every journey. They will only accept Thai baht. If your trip involves travelling on the highway, then you are responsible for paying the tolls. On the whole, taxi fares around Bangkok will be less than 100 baht.

With motor cyc drivers, it is up to you to negotiate a price. Make sure you agree on a price before starting on your journey.

Tipping is not generally expected in Bangkok, as with the rest of Thailand. But thanks to the influx of tourists from western societies, it is now becoming more common. Try and have small change on you if you know you will be travelling by taxi. Taxi drivers are renowned for not having change on them in the hopes of receiving a big tip! However some drivers will sometimes round down fares too - if the final total is 51 baht, most will be happy to accept 50 baht.

Car Hire in Bangkok

Thanks to busy traffic, often gridlocked roads, and aggressive drivers, driving around Bangkok can seem intimidating and unattractive.

There are many online car hire brokers both in the city and for hire at the airport. Tipoa car hire are located both at the airport and on Wireless Road and are a recommended option.

Some companies will ask that you leave your passport with them for security. Do not do this. Instead, ensure you have previously photocopied it, and leave the copy instead if asked. You should be asked for an International Drivers Permit (IDP), although some companies may just ask to see a valid driving licence. However, it is your responsibility to ensure that you are driving legally in Thailand, and not the hire company. It is advised you obtain the IDP. They are easily obtained from local automobile associations (RAC, AA, NRMA etc). If you are a resident of Thailand, you will require a Thai Driver's Licence.

Payment will usually be by card, although some companies will accept cash. Payment by card is a useful means of protecting yourself should any disagreement arise when you return the car.

As in other countries around the world, you should be invited by the company to inspect the car with their representative before you leave their premises so you can agree any damage already on the car. It is a sensible idea to take your own photographs too.

Care should be exercised if hiring a motorbike. Motorbike hire companies will usually insist on cash only and will rarely ask to see any documents. A cash security deposit of 1000 baht is often required. However to ride a motorbike in Thailand you must carry a national licence with you at all times. It is also mandatory to wear a helmet.

Road Safety in Thailand

Please be aware that some road signs are written only in Thai if you are driving on local routes. It is a legal requirement in Thailand that all front seat passengers wear seatbelts. Familiarize yourself with local laws and customs. Refer to the WHO Guide to Road Safety in Thailand.

If - for whatever reason - you are stopped by the Thai police, stay calm and even if they are aggressive with you, do not enter into an argument with them as it is one you will never win. If you have followed the road rules, are not intoxicated and hold the proper documentation there should be no issue and you should soon be on your way again.

Private Drivers in Bangkok

It is also possible to hire a private car with a driver. Try: www.bangkoklimo.org, www.bangkoktransfer.net, and www.orientaltravels.com - or even better try and find a personal recommendation from friends or colleagues.

Bangkok Map: www.mappi.net/bangkok.php

Thailand Map: www.visit-thailand.info/information/political-map-of-thailand.htm


Update 15/09/2013





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