Riding the Rails of the Bangkok BTS
Bangkok is a big, exciting, crowded city with a ton of things to see. The upside- the atmosphere is electric. The downside- it can be a real pain to get around! Enter the Bangkok BTS Skytrain, your new best friend when it comes to public transport.
These electrified trains are a great way to get around, especially at rush hour when the city road network can grind to a halt. Here’s the lowdown.
What is the BTS?
The BTS, or Bangkok Mass Transit System, is a metro built high above the streets of the city. The stations are accessed by stairways that climb up from ground level to whole transport complexes suspended high up in the sky; crowds of commuters and tourists pack the platforms as the electrified trains glide in and out all day.
There are two main lines, the Sukhumvit (blue) Line which runs from Mo Chit to On Nut, and the Silom (green) Line which runs from National Stadium to Wongwian Yai. Siam Square is the big, bustling central point where the two lines meet and there’s an eastern spur towards Suvarnabhumi Airport which will be incredibly useful when complete. Check out the other local spur lines if you can’t see your station on the main routes, as new additions are under construction all the time. There are plenty of maps at the stations to help you plan your trip.
How to Use the Bangkok BTS
Tickets can be bought at any BTS station. Head to one of the many ticket machines and pick the option you need. A single trip ticket for a one station hop costs about 20 baht, or $0.60 US cents, but a trip along the whole length of one of the lines will only set you back 60 baht, or $1.80. If you’re out and about for a full day of sightseeing then consider a one-day unlimited travel card for the princely sum of 140 baht, or $4.25. Yep, the BTS is good value!
If you’re in town for longer then you could consider a pre-paid ‘Rabbit’ card. This works on the same basis as the Metrocard in New York or the TAP card in LA where you buy a card, pre-load it with credit and enjoy slightly cheaper fares.
Once you’ve got your ticket you’ll pass through the electronic ticket gates, and join the rest of the crowd on the platform. Trains come frequently but can be insanely crowded at rush hour so make like a local and squeeze on in. The good news is that the train carriages are very efficiently air-conditioned so even a full train can feel like a blessed relief from the heat!
Where can the Bangkok BTS take you?
The BTS can get you close to most of the main sightseeing areas. For Jim Thompson’s House, Madame Tussauds and the Grand Palace head to National Stadium station on the blue line, and for Khao San Road head for Ratchathewi station on the green line. If you’re looking for a great place to shop then jump on the BTS to Mo Chit, at the top end of the green line, to explore the huge Chatuchak market. Bangkok being the giant that it is, sometimes you might need to top off your BTS journey with a tuktuk to cover the last couple of kms but the train’s done all the hard work, and a bit more local transport is all part of the fun!
Most importantly (for many travelers), there’s a special line on the BTS that will take you straight to Suvarnabhumi Airport, also known as BKK Airport! It’s by far the cheapest way to get there, so if you’re short on cash after island hopping in Koh Samui, Koh Tao etc…and spending too much on buckets, this will be your saving grace! For most people, this is the airport you’ll fly out of to go home after your Thailand trip.
Closing Tips for Using the BTS
The BTS is useful, but pretty carefully controlled. Stay away from the edge of the platform when the train is approaching; they barrel into the station at quite a speed and the yellow warning line is painted on the ground for your own safety! Eating and drinking is banned on all of the trains and platforms but journey times are pretty quick so it’s not that much of a problem.
Our final tip is not to get stranded. The trains stop just before midnight, so make sure you don’t leave it too late to start your journey home otherwise you’ll be stuck like Cinderella without a carriage when the clock strikes midnight!