Sky Train at Night

How to get around Bangkok – The Bangkok Skytrain (BTS)

There are many ways to travel around Bangkok and it is cheaper and more straightforward than you probably imagine. Of all the transport methods, including the river canal and the famous tuk-tuk (which I encourage you to try), the two rail systems provide the quickest way to get from one point to another. Here’s a quick guide to one of those train systems,  the Skytrain, intended to make you feel confident about stepping out in Bangkok for the first time.

This article was last updated in January 2024

How long to stay in Bangkok

Many people stop in Bangkok for 1 or 2 nights en route to beaches and islands, but I would encourage you to stay longer and visit before you fly out of the country rather than when you first come in. If you stay in Bangkok at the end of your holiday, you will feel braver and familiar with the heat, currency and fabulous ‘Asian’ vibe. The ultimate stay would be 3-5 nights, which runs over a weekend, with some time spent in a hotel easily accessible to the Skytrain, not far from the hub of Siam Square, and some nights spent near the Khao San Road.

A simplistic description of the geography of Bangkok

Bangkok is best segmented into two areas when you are a tourist; there is the central city with its nightlife, restaurants, shops and the Skytrain, and there is the other side of the city with the river, the Grand Palace and Khao San Road. Both areas of Bangkok have their glitz and glamour, and both have a seedy side, which most people are intrigued to get a glimpse of, which you can do relatively safely provided you take care.

For reference, Khao San Road and The Grand Palace (popular attractions for tourists) are further west of the centre and are located in old Bangkok, near the river and have no direct Skytrain access. Your best bet for getting around this area is to take a  taxi.

Easy ways to get from the Airport to the City

BTS SkyTrain - Artistic Photo

If you are flying into Bangkok from an international destination, you will most likely be flying into Suvarnabhumi Airport, which has simple and easy transport into the city. It is not too expensive to take a taxi from Suvarnabhumi to anywhere in Bangkok, but it can take a really long time in and around rush hour.

If you don’t have a massive load of baggage, use Bangkok’s newest public transportation system, The Express Line, which takes you directly into the city, skips all stations and brings you directly to the Phraya Thai Skytrain Station right in the city centre.

A Dark Redline has been operating since 2022, which runs from Bang Sue Grand Station to Rangsit and includes a stop near Don Mueang Airport station.

Getting Around Bangkok
 

There are two systems of Metro lines in Bangkok: the Skytrain, which runs elevated over the city (called BTS), and the MRT, the underground system. As a tourist, you are less likely to use the underground MRT, but If you do, note that it has a different ticketing system, so a Skytrain day pass won’t work on the MRT. However, it’s all so cheap and straightforward to use, so don’t worry about switching between the two.

Both systems are efficient, comfortable and air-conditioned. They don’t operate at night (there are night buses in Bangkok). Both lines serve the east side of Bangkok but generally don’t reach old Bangkok, where the Grand Palace and the Khaosan Road are located. 

The MRT (Mass Rapid Transit), which is Bangkok’s underground train service, has stations connecting with the overground BTS Skytrain. It connects to the city’s central train station at Hua Lamphong.  But here, let’s focus on the Skytrain. 

The BTS Skytrain

Inside of BTS SkyTrain

The Skytrain now has two main lines (accurate as of January 2024): the light green Sukhumvit line from Khu Khot to Kheha, and the dark green Silom line from Bang Wa to National Stadium. A short Gold Line also connects the Silom line to the Icon Siam shopping mall.

BTS Skytrain is modern and very convenient. I’d recommend buying single tickets because you will likely walk into one of the fantastic malls on your first day and not reappear for at least 3 hours! If you intend to do more than three trips, buy a one-day pass, which is cheap at 130 baht.

You can purchase a Rabbit card or a monthly/weekly pass for the BTS from the kiosks, but it often does not work out cheaper for short-stay tourists. Note that the trains stop at midnight, so I advise you to take taxis.

The BTS Skytrain operates daily from 6 AM to midnight.

How to buy a ticket for the BTS Skytrain

BTS SkyTrain Ticket for Bangkok

The most common method and most accessible for tourists is to insert coins into the ticket machines located before the barriers. Beside each machine is a map showing your present location and the rest of the BTS stations.

It’s available in English, so it is simple to follow. On the ticket machine, press the number of the station. Insert your coins (coins only) into the machine until it counts to zero. A thin credit card-sized ticket will then appear from a lower slot. If you only have notes, go to the kiosks located beside the barriers, and they will give you change.

Travel easily on BTS Skytrain

Easy Directions on the BTS SkyTrain

Now that you have the BTS ticket, proceed to the metallic barriers and choose one with a green tick. Place your ticket into the lower slot on the barrier, and the ticket will be taken in and pop out on top as the barrier pulls back. Take the ticket and walk through. Don’t delay too much, as the barrier only lasts about 5 seconds.

The platforms are named after the last station on the line. So, if you need a station before that one, go to a platform with the last name on that line. When you get on the train, a map above the doors will show you where you are and the following stations. There are also announcements telling you what station is next.

As the station you want approaches, an announcement will be made. Be prepared to leave promptly. First, insert the ticket into the slot in front of you at the barrier, which will be one level down to exit the station. Since this is a single ticket, it will not reappear this time, but the barrier will pull back so you can exit.

Easy walkways above the Bangkok Streets

One of the standout features of Bangkok’s urban design, particularly around the BTS Skytrain stations, is the extensive network of elevated walkways. These walkways offer a high level of convenience for pedestrians, allowing them to navigate large parts of the city without the need to walk on the busy and often crowded pavements below. These skywalks not only connect major shopping malls, office buildings, and other landmarks but also provide direct access to the BTS stations themselves.

Top 4 places to visit by the Skytrain in Bangkok
 

  1. Chatuchak Market at Mor Chit Station
  2. Patpong Night Market at Saladeang Station
  3. Terminal 21  at Asoke Station
  4. Siam Square at Siam Station

 

Featured Image courtesy of Anton Strogonoff of Flickr.com

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