Travelling in Bangkok using the BTS (Skytrain)

Bangkok as a city is known for two things, the exquisite architecture of the Grand Palace and the various Wats (temples) and the traffic. Every tourist that comes to Bangkok has the historical monuments on his/her TODO list and getting stuck in traffic used to be an unavoidable part of the journey.

The BTS (complimented by the underground MRT system) has dramatically changed this. The Bangkok LRT systems cover a lot of the tourist attractions and it is now entirely possible to stay in Bangkok and not use the taxis and tuk-tuks for transportation at all, if you’re fine with walking around a bit.

Coming to the city from the Airport still requires one to use a taxi or a bus, that also will change in the next couple of years once the BTS airport link becomes functional, work on which is going on at a rather frantic pace.

Now, coming to the topic this post is all about. Hordes of repeat tourists come to Bangkok every year and this post is not meant as a guidebook for them. This post is meant to direct first timers to Bangkok and help them make some sense out of this chaotic, yet, charming Asian metropolis.

The BTS system is divided into two lines, the main Mo chit to On Nut, Sukumvit line, and the smaller National Stadium to Saphan Thaksin, Silom Road line, with an interchange station at Siam.

The stations are divided into various zones and the rate of the tickets depends basically on the number of stations between your destination and the current station as well as the zones a traveller is travelling between. The rates for single journey tickets range from 15bt to 40bt, which is cheap, IMO, considering that metered air conditioned taxis in Bangkok start at about 35bt and for a distance which would require you to pay 40bt, a similar journey in a taxi would easily cost you upwards of 100bt as well as a lot of lost time in traffic. The chart below should give you an idea of the rates, which of course are subject to change :-)

Of course, if you are more than 4 people sharing a taxi and have no regards for your time, it probably makes sense to use the taxi instead.

The tickets can only be purchased through the vending machines which take 5bt or 10bt coins. Just press the button indicating the zone/station you want to travel to and put in the coins. If you don’t have the required change with you, you can go to the ticketing counter and they can give you the change you want in 5bt and 10bt denomination coins.

The BTS also issues a One day unlimited use pass which costs 120bt and can be useful if you are going to be using the BTS more than a couple of times in a single day. The pass is valid on the day of issue and can be purchased at the same ticketing counter.

Now, that we have you covered with using the Skytrain, lets see some of the attractions you can visit using the Skytrain to travel.

The grand palace and the Wat Pho, or the sleeping buddha temple, is on the itenerary of almost every tourist coming to Bangkok. To reach the palace, you can take the Skytrain to reach the Saphan Taksin Station which is the last station on the National Stadium/Silom line. From the Saphan Taksin station, one can take the river ferry to the Tha tien pier. From here the Wat Po and the Grandpalace is a short walk away. Wat Arun, another of Bangkok’s major tourist attractions can be seen across the river and a short boat ride will take you there.

Ignore any touts, however professional looking, who tell you that the grand palace or the Wat Pho are closed because of some ceremony. It is all a lie and the biggest scam going on in Bangkok. Both the grand palace or the Wat Pho are never closed and open on all days to the public. Even if there is a Royal ceremony happening in the palace, only a part of the palace is closed to visitors, the rest of the Palace is still available for viewing. More on this in another post.

These three attractions can be viewed in about half a day if you start early and when you’re done retrace your steps back to the Saphan Taksin station and take the skytrain to the Silom road, which is the Sala Daeng station on the same line. Silom road is one of Bangkok’s major touristy areas and shopping destinations. Have lunch at one of the many restaurants over here.

After this you can take the BTS again to go to the Siam interchange station for some shopping madness at one of the many malls that surround the area. The BTS station is connected by a bridge to the Siam Central mall which is next to the more upmarket Siam Paragon and Siam discovery malls. Take your pick and end the night with a nice meal and one of the gourmet restaurants in Siam Paragon.

If shopping is all that you want to end up doing take the Silom road line and get of at the National Stadium BTS station which is connected by a bridge to the MBK via the Tokyu department store. Now, Tokyu is an upmarket store but that is not what we’re looking for. Get out of Tokyu and you’ll be surrounded by 7 floors of shopping craziness called MBK. MBT or Mah Boon Krong used to be the biggest mall in Thailand at one point in time but has now been removed from that position by the even bigger Central mall connected to the Chit lom Skytrain station, which can be another destination to visit if you’re interested in some posh shopping.

If the night bazaar scene is your thing then take the Skytrain to the Sukhumvit interchange station and then the MRT to the MRT to the lumpini park station and you’ll be at the Suan Lum night bazaar which is right at the entrance to the MRT station. Of course, you can also take the Skytrain till the Sala Daeng interchange and then either walk to lumpini park or take the MRT to the lumpini park station.

No visit to Bangkok is complete without a visit to the JatuJak or ChatuChak or JJ weekend market. The market is located on a gigantic 35 acres plot of land and is more overwhelming to a first time than what most visitors can handle. I’ll be writing a seperate post on the weekend market for sure. But, to reach there you can either take the MRT to the chatuchak park station or take the BTS to the Mo chit station. The market is a short 5 minute walk away from both the stations.

So, you see, Bangkok traffic is not as difficult to get around if you know your way around the LRT systems. Just make sure you stay close to the BTS or MRT and you can see the whole of Bangkok with ease. Our preferred place to stay is the Abloom Serviced Apartments close to the Sanam Pao BTS station and then travel all around Bangkok using only the BTS or the MRT.

For more information see the official BTS site. Let me know if this information was useful to you guys.

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