If you're wondering what's the deal with transportation in Bangkok, are you curious if you can manage on your own in such a large metropolis with a language and alphabet you don't know, then read on. We were just as confused before we left for Thailand. But we did fine with every form of public transport in Bangkok.
Let me tell you about each one separately. There are two BTS lines in Bangkok, an amazing Skytrain, very efficient and comfortable, with air conditioning inside. They also have two metro lines, super modern and also with air conditioning. At the other end of the comfort and technology are the buses, which I think haven't changed in a good few years, they're old cars that the locals use more. And of course, the famous tuk tuks, strong symbols of Thailand and I think of all of Southeast Asia.
Tip: Try to find accommodation near a skytrain (BTS) or subway (MRT) station so you don't have to rely on other means of transport. There are a few areas in Bangkok where you can stay, I'll tell you about each one below.
BTS Transport in Bangkok
Lines and schedule
There are two BTS lines (dark green and light green on the map below):
Silom Line – dark green line between National Stadium (Siam shopping area and malls) and Bang Wa (across the Chao Phraya River)
Sukhumvit Line – the light green line between Ha Yaek Lat Phrao (above Chatuchak Market) and far south of the city to Kheha
BTS transportation map Bangkok, Thailand
The two lines intersect at Siam station and connect in two places with the subway (MRT). Trains run every 3-6 minutes between 6:30 and midnight.
The cost of the tickets depends on the distance you travel and starts from 15 baht (€0.4). In each station, you will find a graph with the cost of the ticket for each station you want to reach. For example, in the picture below I took at Siam station, and to go on the light green line to Mo Chit (where Chatuchak Market is) a ticket costs 44 baht / 1.14€, or for Nana station (near Nana Plaza) it costs 30 baht / 0.8€.
You can buy a ticket from the machines in the stations, you have to select a price (which you get from the chart above), and you have to pay with 5 or 10 baht coins. But in order not to complicate things, you can go to the ticket counter, there you tell them the station where you want to get to and you can also pay in banknotes.
There is also a one-day pass which costs 120 baht. Calculate whether it is more convenient to buy it according to your route.
Everything is very modern, the trains run on the surface, above the traffic, they have air conditioning, and the stations have protective doors that open only when the train is in the station. What's more, they have cute messages in English that urge you to look up from your phone. Bangkok is truly a developed metropolis!
Subway (MRT) Transport in Bangkok
There are two subway lines:
- blue line – runs between Lak Song and Tao Poon (Bang Sue); it appears on the map below as a thin blue line
- purple line – runs between Tao Poon (Bang Sue) and Khlong Bang Phai; it doesn't appear on the map, it's further north
Metros run every 5-10 minutes between 6 am and midnight.
Tickets are bought at the station and come in the form of a token. I think there are also vending machines, but we bought everything at the counter. When you enter the subway, you insert the token into the machine, you take it back, and when you exit, you insert the token and it stays in the machine.
Tokens have costs based on the distance traveled, just like BTS. Below are the prices from the Chatuchak Park station on the Blue Line. When we returned from Ayutthaya the minibus dropped us right at the subway at Chatuchak Park and we took it to Sukhumvit station for 35 baht per person / 0.9€.
The stations and trains look extremely good, they have air conditioning and safety doors. And the people in the station lined up politely at the doors until the subway came, and when it came they waited for the world to get off first. I had only seen this before in Japanese subway videos. Very nice, we loved the experience!
And at the BTS and the subway, we managed in English. In fact, we didn't even need much, just tell the people at the counter where we want to go, they gave us the tickets and the rest and that was it. Then in the stations, everything was quite well signposted, and in the trains, the next station was announced and the next station was also written on the screens. Transportation in Bangkok is very fast and efficient with these two means.
Bus Transport in Bangkok
When we saw what the buses look like we decided to stay away from them. But look, the account at home doesn't match the one in... Bangkok. We had to take a bus when we went by BTS to Mo Chit and we had to get to the bus terminal (about 2.5km away) and the taxi drivers jumped on us to take us, but for 200-300 baht (a lot to distance surcharge).
Finally, we found a neutral person among all the taxi drivers and "guides" trying to sell us overpriced rides and tours in Ayutthaya, who told us we could take bus 3 or 77 to the bus terminal.
I didn't have as smooth an experience as the BTS or subway. When the bus came I got on, I told the driver where we wanted to go (I think I said terminal bus), somehow he understood and motioned for us to sit down. The bus looked like something out of Mad Max and nothing else, with ad hoc fan installations on the driver, with a terrible roar when it left the place, without windows (actually there were windows, but they were completely closed, after that we realized), full of locals who looked at us strangely, and with a driver who didn't speak English.
We sat down and the lady next to the driver came to take our ticket money. We didn't understand how much it cost, and he showed us that it says big up in the middle of the bus, 9 baht per person. We didn't even know for sure where we had to get off, we were following on the GPS, but they told us when we arrived. I think that was also the end of it.
All in all, it wasn't a bad experience, the people were nice, but we just didn't feel comfortable as we weren't sure we were going in the right direction and no one spoke English. But we got where we wanted, and with an unbeatable price 😃. For areas not covered by the BTS or subway, buses are very useful for transportation in Bangkok.
Tuk Tuk Transport in Bangkok
The tuk-tuk seems like that iconic experience that you can't miss when you go to Thailand. But let me tell you why I don't think it's an option for transportation in Bangkok. It's a three-wheeled vehicle with no seat belts, no doors, and a driver who is guaranteed to drive very dangerously (not to say stupidly). Add to that the infernal Bangkok traffic and you have the perfect recipe for a.. death trap, as I have read about tuk-tuk before.
Ok, maybe I'm too panicked. But you can't ignore the safety factor. In addition, the tuk-tuk has become so touristic that as you think, it is very expensive! Much more expensive than a taxi. Of course, there is room for negotiation, but if you insist that he take you to a lower price, he will make a small (or larger) detour to various shops where he gets his commissions.
I read a lot and convinced myself that especially in Bangkok it is not a good idea to take a tuk-tuk. If you really want to try it in other places, for example in Ayutthaya, where you don't really have other options. There we took a tuk-tuk for about two hours to take us to the more distant temples. We felt pretty safe, but it wasn't Bangkok traffic either.
Our tuk-tuk experience in Bangkok
We tried at one point to take a tuk-tuk from Wat Benchamabophit to the hotel (in Bangkok we stayed at Feung Nakorn, a very good hotel that I highly recommend), it was a distance of 3.5km. We had wifi at the temple, we checked and an Uber would have cost us 60 baht / €1.55, but we didn't order it because we thought we no longer had a signal in front of the temple.
So we approached a taxi, which refused to take us (either it didn't understand the address, or things are going well in Thailand and they don't need work...). We then headed to a tuk-tuk driver who said he would take us 200 baht / 5.2€. We told him "Oh my God, this race costs 60 baht", and he replied, "you say Oh my God, I say Oh my Buddha". Finally, he agreed to take us 60 baht, but with a stop. I knew what that stop meant, so I refused.
Taxi Transport in Bangkok
Taxi drivers also come with their spikes. They don't put the device on or if they do, they have mechanisms that charge the price. I had read before we went there that you must absolutely insist that he put the device on and if he doesn't put it on don't go up. You call him meter and he knows what he's talking about. But you mess with them, we didn't find one willing to put the device on us. Negotiate a fixed amount until the destination and that's it. In the end, you accept, what can you do? At our hotel they had this poster at the reception:
I didn't take many taxis in Bangkok. We only went with the device once, when we left for the airport and someone from the hotel called us a taxi. And when we came from the airport, we had to pay a fixed amount, which was communicated to us at the airport, before getting into the taxi.
Taxi drivers generally didn't use a smartphone or any other type of GPS, they seemed to know the streets of the city somehow. Although they sometimes struggled to decipher the address from the hotel (we had a printed map provided by the hotel with street names in their Thai alphabet), they always got us where we needed to go. Oh, and they had little fans in the car. And.. all kinds of bans in taxi 😅.
Tip: it would be good to have a map in Thai with the hotel, or at least the address in Thai; they will know how to take you to the main objectives, but maybe not back to the hotel. Ask the hotel by email, before you get there.
From Don Mueang airport to the hotel (about 27km) it cost us 331 baht / 8.5€. As I said, it's a fixed amount that they calculate for you at the airport when you give them the address of the hotel. I took a taxi about three times and they charged us once 100 baht (2km), once 300 baht (6km), and once as much as 300-350 baht (7-8km), I see I didn't write it down. On departure from the hotel to the airport it was 370 baht, with the device on.
Bonus: Uber or Grab Taxi
I think it is the most efficient way of transportation in Bangkok. There are applications through which you already know the cost in advance and you can make a decision accordingly. Unfortunately, we chose not to buy local sim cards for the internet. After looking for a whole day in Chiang Mai, we decided it was good to stay and disconnect. This did not hinder us for a moment.
Apart from the days spent in Bangkok. When it would have helped to take one more Uber each, to check the route of a bus. So I would recommend you to get your internet card, so you don't have to call taxi drivers and tuk-tuk drivers.
But even so, the surge intervenes. When we left for the airport we wanted to take an Uber because we only had internet at the hotel, but the rates were extremely high that morning, higher than a taxi. Grab works just like Uber, but you need to get the dedicated app.
And because you're in Southeast Asia you might feel adventurous and want to try a motorbike taxi, it's still a taxi but on a scooter, and of course, there's only room for one person, no luggage. If you're curious, you can try the GoBike app.
Transportation from Bangkok airports
From Don Mueang, the airport you will most likely arrive at if you have a domestic flight (as we came from Chiang Mai and then went to Krabi) it is more difficult to get to the city by public transport. There are some buses, but they are old ones, and they do a lot on the road, and the traffic is very bad at all hours. And with the luggage after you, it's a pleasure.
So we decided from the start that we would take a taxi. It cost us 331 baht / 8.5€ to get to our hotel in the old center, not a huge financial effort and totally worth it. Naturally, the taxi also hits traffic, but it manages differently. Taxis are regulated at Don Mueang, you communicate the address of the hotel at an office, they print you a ticket on which you have the amount to pay, and you give the ticket to one of the waiting taxi drivers.
From Suvarnabhumi Airport you have a direct connection to the city with the Bangkok Airport Link, a fast train that runs between 06:00 and midnight from the airport to Phaya Thai in the city center. It only takes 30 minutes between the two points, avoiding traffic. It has six stations, with MRT connection at Petchaburi and BTS at the end at Phaya Thai. A trip costs 45 baht / 1.2€. On the map is the red line going right to the airport.
Transport in Bangkok – conclusions
Bangkok has a highly developed public transport infrastructure. The BTS is great, it's used by both tourists and locals, the subway is also very useful, and together they cover quite a large area of the city. In addition, there is a dedicated train line for Suvarnabhumi Airport, the main international airport in the city, which makes it much easier to get to the center.
Buses aren't great, but they are useful in areas not covered by the BTS or metro. And with taxis and tuk-tuks, you have to be careful, because they are sure to try to trick you.
I hope I have given you enough details about transportation in Bangkok. If I missed something or you have any questions, write me in the comments.
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