Public transport can be very hard to navigate in a foreign city. In Bangkok, Thailand, it is the opposite. The public transport system is perfectly thorough with a lot of English signage to make your travels around Bangkok easy peasy.
There are a number of public transport options to get around Bangkok easily: BTS Skytrain, MRT Metro, Ferry or River Boat, Bus, Taxi, Motorbike Taxi, Tuk Tuk, Rickshaw, and of course by foot.
We have outlined the most commonly used public transport systems in Bangkok – The BTS Skytrain, the MRT Metro and the River Boats below. Enjoy our videos explaining the transport systems.
It is worth going on Bangkok's BTS Skytrain just for the view alone. The train glides between tall buildings offering tourists and locals a chance to view Bangkok from above. This was our favourite means of transport while in Bangkok. The views, the cleanliness, and the ease of getting from one place to another, just made the BTS Skytrain perfect for us.
At the end of this post you will find a picture of Bangkok's Mass Transit System. The BTS Skytrain runs through most of Bangkok's city centre, with convenient stops at Siam for the shopping malls. It is important to know that there isn't a close BTS Skytrain stop near Koh San Road. You can however catch a ferry nearby and access the skytrain via Sathorn Pier.
To purchase a ticket for the BTS Skytrain, you will find two different types of vending machines at most stations. The first one is a vending machine that only takes 5 or 10 baht coins. If you don't have the correct coins, there is a “Change” booth just nearby where a lovely English speaking staff member will happily change your money for you.
Depending on the length of trip, tickets on the BTS will cost between 15 and 45 Baht per ride. To work out the cost, look for the name of the stop you are going to on the wall next to the vending machine. There will be a number in a circle next to it. ie. 15 or 20 or 45. Select the 15 button, put your coins in, and collect your ticket from the spot below. Easy.
The other vending machine can take notes. 20 Baht notes and 100 Baht notes are preferred. The machines seem to have a lot of trouble reading the new 50 Baht notes. Using the touch screen, choose your destination, and then you can choose the amount of tickets you require. Put your notes in, or coins if necessary, and then collect your tickets from the spot below. If you are expecting change, it will be all in coins. Easy.
If you are in town for several days, consider a rechargeable stored value card. The prices vary so check with the staff at the BTS Skytrain for information. As of March 2012, BTS had a 30 day special card that cost 375 Baht that you could use for 15 trips, the average price of a ride is 25 Baht. Could be worth it if you are staying further a field and come into the city every day. These cards do not work on the MRT, ferry or bus, just on the BTS Skytrain.
Once you have your ticket, have a look at both sides. One side has a handy map on it, so you know what station is coming up next. Walk up to the turnstyles, put your ticket into the slot on the right hand side, your ticket will come back up and the gate will open and you can walk on through.
Wait patiently on the platform taking note of the pictures on the ground. Leave room for people to get off the train first. Although, once it is peak hour, politeness leaves Bangkok just like it does in London.
Once on the skytrain, hold on tight and enjoy the view outside the windows. Bangkok really is a beautiful city.
When you get to your destination, get off the skytrain carefully, walk down the stairs following everyone else and take notice of the signs above you written in English. Most BTS skytrain stations with have four exits with a sign saying which exit is the best for landmarks.
Put your ticket card into the slot in the turnstyle on the right, the gate should come down and then you can exit. If it doesn't, and it beeps at you quite angrily and hands back your card, go to the staff at the booth and they will check your ticket for you. You may have to pay a little extra. But it won't be a fine. We never had to do this so we are unsure how much it will be.
And that is Bangkok's BTS Skytrain!
By Ferry – Chao Phraya Express Boat
There is something romantic about travelling on a boat on a river in a massive city with beautiful sites on either side of you. Even when the water isn't very clean, smells a little bit and there is constant smelly water being sprayed on to your face. The Chao Phraya Express Boats on the Chao Phraya River should not be missed.
There are five different boat lines that are run on the Chao Phraya River. The no flag, yellow flag, green flag, orange flag lines, and the Tourist Boat line. The difference between the flag lines are that the no flag line stops at every pier along the river, but only during peak hours. The yellow, orange and green flag lines stop at various piers along the way. The tourist boat is pricier and more comfortable but also provides an English audio guide pointing out all the important sites as you ride the ferry.
Surprisingly, it is very easy to catch the ferry boats in Bangkok. Some piers will have a person in a ticket booth who will happily sell you a ticket at a non-tourist price. At other piers, you will have to wait to get on the ferry and buy a ticket from the person carrying the noisy coin can. Again, at a local price.
Ticket prices vary between boat types. Generally, the no flag boat will cost 11 – 13 baht; yellow flag boat will cost 19 – 28 baht; orange flag boat will cost you 14 baht; tourist boat will cost you 150 baht all day or 25 baht per ride.
Not all the boats run all day so you will have to do your research thoroughly. For example, we believe te Tourist Boat only runs till 3 or 4 pm each day. You would have to ride that boat a number of times to get your money worth!
There are also a number of boats that criss cross the river for a cheap price of 3 baht per ride.
Metro MRT Subway
The Metro MRT Subway is still a very new addition to the public transport system in Bangkok. Presently, there is only one line that is in use, but it is still very useful for tourists coming to Bangkok.
Entering Bangkok's underground stations includes a walk through a metal detector. If you have a pacsafe in your backpack like Andrew did, be prepared to take it out of your bag and show the security man what it is and how it works and why you carry it with you. However, if you do cause a beep when walking through, the security staff will generally just have a quick look in your bag.
Buying tickets for the MRT Subway is very similar to purchasing the tickets at the BTS Skytrain Station. Choose the station that you are going to, put your money in the machine, but this time, you will receive a black plastic electronic token. Small enough for you to lose easily. Don't lose it. Walk though the turnstyle by placing the token on the metal post to the right of you.
Enjoy the cleanliness and modernness of a train station in the middle of Bangkok, Thailand. It is beautiful down there. Tickets start from 15 baht and are based on length of rides.
Airport Rail Link
We didn't have to catch the Airport Rail Link but we feel as though it deserves a gold star mention. Bangkok is certainly making it easier for people to travel around Bangkok. There is no need to fight to not get ripped off at the taxi stand at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport anymore.
It will cost you 150 Baht per person one way to go non-stop direct from Suvarnabhumi Airport to City Terminal. This ride will take 15 minutes in total. Otherwise you can catch a city commuter train that will stop at many stations and will cost you 15 baht to 45 baht per person. This ride will take 30 minutes in total.
And, there you go. Enjoy your stay in Bangkok. The city is really easy to get around on your feet and public transport. Enjoy!