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Bangkok

Getting there and away

Air

Bangkok's Suvanabhumi Airport opened in late 2007 and is already operating at close to (some say above) its intended capacity. The old Don Muang Airport serviced only domestic flights in the years following the opening of Suvarnabhumi, but in October 2012 AirAsia shifted its services completely to Don Muang. With Suvarnabhumi located far out in southeast Bangkok and Don Muang far to the north of the city, both airports take a solid 45 minutes to reach by car from central Bangkok, possibly more during rush hour. Despite the free 24-hour shuttle bus that now links the two airports, you'll want to plan on a gap of several hours if transferring from one to the other. Note that foreigners are no longer required to pay arrival / departure taxes at any airport in Thailand.
http://www.airportthai.co.th

Which route to Suvarnabhumi
The two most convenient routes to the airport are the north and south approaches, with the northern one being the better option. The northern route goes via the Rama 9 Expressway en route to the Bangkok to Chonburi expressway, while the southern route goes via the Bangna-Trat expressway -- traffic can be very heavy on this route.

Airport Rail Link -- getting to Suvarnabhumi
The Airport Link is an elevated train that runs from 06:00 to 24:00 daily and connects Suvarnabhumi Airport to central Bangkok, the BTS skytrain and MRT subway. The line begins at Phaya Thai BTS station in the heart of Bangkok. It's also possible to transfer to the Airport Link from the subway at Petchaburi MRT Station. There are two lines -- local and express. The express takes you straight to the airport without stopping but costs 90 baht, whereas the local takes longer but costs only 45 baht for the whole trip. With several local stops in east Bangkok, the Airport Link is also used as a commuter train.

Airport Rail Link -- departing Suvarnabhumi
The entrance to the Airport Link is found in the basement (B floor) of Suvarnabhumi. Signs leading to it are clearly marked throughout the airport. This can be a convenient choice after arriving in the city as it links to both the BTS skytrain or MRT subway. Keep in mind however that the Skytrain and subway can be packed during rush hours -- navigating the crowds when weighted down with luggage can be a struggle.

Taxis -- getting to Suvarnabhumi
All taxis are able to drop off passengers at the outer curb on Level 4 (Departures).

Taxis -- departing Suvarnabhumi
The main metre taxi stand is located at the outer curb on Level 1. There is a 50 baht surcharge for taking a taxi from here. A typical taxi fare from the airport to central Bangkok should cost anywhere from 250 to 350 baht, not including expressway tolls and the 50 baht surcharge. If you want to avoid the 50 baht surcharge, it's also possible to catch taxis outside Level 4 (Departures).

Taxi scams from Bangkok's airport aren't as widespread as in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, for example, but do make sure your driver actually turns on the meter so as to avoid getting scammed. For more information, check out our post on the "what meter?" Bangkok airport taxi scam.

Limousine -- departing Suvarnabhumi
There is also a "Limousine Service Counter" on Level 2 (Arrivals). Fares are set at around 1,000 baht for central Bangkok and 2,000 baht for Pattaya. These rates do not include tolls and the vehicles look more like glorified hatchbacks than proper limousines.

Buses -- getting to Suvarnabhumi
All buses drop off passengers at the Transport Centre, from where you'll need to get a shuttle bus (free) across to the Departures section.

Buses -- departing Suvarnabhumi
With the exception of the Suvarnabhumi to Don Muang shuttle, all buses will leave from the Transport Centre. You'll need to get a shuttle bus (free) from the ground floor of the airport to the Transport Centre. Bus fares to areas within Bangkok and Samut Prakan will cost 35 baht. Sample routes include:

1. Bus Number 549 - to Minburi
2. Bus Number 550 - to Happy Land
3. Bus Number 551 - to Victory Monument
4. Bus Number 552 - to On Nut BTS station
5. Bus Number 553 - to Samut Prakan

Of the above, routes 3 and 4 are the most useful to tourists -- both dropping passengers off at BTS Skytrain stations. There are also four dedicated "express hotel buses" that will run from 05:00 to 24:00, with a set fare of 150 baht. AE1, AE2 and AE4 take the expressway, so if you were planning on jumping off somewhere along the way, you'll need to rethink! The routes are:

AE1 to Silom
AE2 to Khao San Road
AE3 to Sukhumvit, Nana, Phloenchit, Central World and Pratunam
AE4 to Hualamphong train station

There will also be buses to provincial centres direct from the airport, including to Pattaya, Hua Hin and Nong Khai.

Free shuttle bus to Don Muang Airport
A free shuttle now links the two airports. At Suvarnabhumi, the shuttle departs from near Gate 3 on Level 2 (Arrivals). The shuttle runs from 05:00 to 24:00 and departs every 20 minutes to one hour, running more frequently during the daytime and less so late at night. The trip takes 45 minutes with minimal traffic but can last well over an hour during rush hours.

Minibuses -- getting to Suvarnabhumi
Minibuses (vans) can be arranged from Khao San Road for around 150 baht per person. Several private companies offer this service, typically on an hourly basis from early morning until early evening. This can be a convenient way to save money on a taxi while avoiding the trains. Minibuses also run from the area around Victory Monument, near the BTS Skytrain station of the same name. These cost only 50 baht but can be frustrating to locate. For more information, see the "Minibus" subsection under "Bus" below.

Minibuses -- departing Suvarnabhumi
Like the regular buses and airport shuttles, you'll need to get to the Transport Centre to link up with minibuses.

Hotels near Suvarnabhumi Airport
The closest hotel is the Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel, with other nearby hotels including the Novotel Bangna and the Royal Princess Srinakarin Hotel, but unless you have some pressing need to stay near the airport, you'll be far better served by heading into central Bangkok.

Don Muang Airport
Bangkok's old airport has been granted new life since AirAsia moved all its operations there in late 2012. Don Muang also services domestic budget carriers Nok Air, Orient Thai and Solar Air. All other airlines, including Thai Airways and Bangkok Airways, have remained mainly at Suvarnabhumi.

Getting to Don Muang Airport
The airport is located between Vibhavadhi-Rangsit expressway and Phahonyothin Road to the far north of Bangkok. A taxi from Mo Chit BTS station will run 130 to 150 baht, or close to 300 baht if coming from central Bangkok.

Several minibuses go to Don Muang from Mo Chit BTS station for 40 baht or from Victory Monument for 50 baht. At least one Khao San Road agent now offers a minibus to Don Muang Airport for 150 baht.

Local bus #29 also runs from Mo Chit BTS station and drops off passengers directly at the airport and costs 30 baht. Other local buses drop off on the main road in front of the airport so you'll have to walk a ways if taking these.

Departing Don Muang -- Airport bus
Four express airport buses run from Don Muang to various parts of Bangkok. AB1 heads to the Silom Road area, AB2 goes to Khao San Road, AB3 to Sukhumvit and AB4 to Hualamphong. The fare is 100 baht and buses leave roughly every 30 minutes. Local bus #29 also picks up directly in front of the baggage claim section of the airport and runs to Mo Chit BTS station and Morchit bus terminal for 30 baht.

Free shuttle bus to Suvarnabhumi Airport
A free shuttle now links the two airports. At Don Muang, the shuttle departs from outside door 8 on the ground floor, near the taxi stand. The shuttle runs from 05:00 to 24:00 and departs every 20 minutes to one hour, running more frequently during the daytime and less so late at night. The trip takes 45 minutes with minimal traffic but can last well over an hour during rush hours.

Departing Don Muang -- Taxi
Both terminals have official metered taxi stands, which are outside and clearly marked by signs. As with Suvarnabhumi, there is a 50 baht surcharge for catching a taxi from the taxi stands. The stand was swamped with a very lengthy queue when we last arrived -- the local bus to BTS Mo Chit station is sometimes a better option even if only to reach an easier place to catch a taxi.

Departing Don Muang -- Train
Don Muang Railway Station is located across Vibhavadi-Rangsit Road from Don Muang Airport and provides service straight to Bangkok's Hualamphong Station, or northwards to Ayutthaya and so on. We wouldn't recommend this as a means to get into Bangkok as it will take a while, but if you are planning on heading away from Bangkok to the north then consider catching the train from this station.

Departing Don Muang -- Public bus and minibus
Apart from aforementioned bus #29 which picks up directly at the airport, local buses and minibuses also pass by Don Muang International Airport along Vibhavadi-Rangsit Road. Bear in mind that these are not really designed for travellers with a lot of luggage, so if you are heavily laden down, following the local bus route can be a bad idea. Convenient bus routes include:

Non air-con buses
29 Airport to Mo Chit BTS
59 Airport to Sanam Luang (for Khao San Road)

Air-con buses
4 Airport to Silom
10 Airport to Sai Tai Mai (Southern bus station)
13 Airport to Sukhumvit Road (including Ekkamai bus station)
29 Airport to Hualamphong via Victory Monument

Minibus
Mo Chit BTS
Victory Monument BTS

Updates from Travelfish readers

  • Important update:
    In summer 2010 new BTS line has been opened. The line provides as an airport rail link from Suvarnabhumi Airport, via Makkasan city air terminal, to Phaya Thai station in central Bangkok.

    Update by fala (1)
    Written on 18th January, 2011

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Train

Hualamphong Station is Bangkok's central railway station. It can be reached directly by subway, or by bus, taxi and so on. Most destinations on all of Thailand's rail lines can be accessed from Hualamphong. If you're staying towards the northern side of Bangkok, trains heading in that direction can also be caught at Bang Sue Station and Don Muang Station.

Thonburi Station (aka Bangkok Noi Station) is on the west side of the river in the northern part of Thonburi and used only for trains to Kanchanaburi and Nakhon Pathom. The station is located a couple of kilometres west of Wang Lang Pier off the Chao Phraya Express boat line.

Thaksin Station is located further south in Thonburi and offers local trains to Samut Sakhon and Samut Songkhram (10 kilometres from Amphawa) southwest of Bangkok. It's located off Phrachao Thaksin Road, within walking distance of Wongwian Yai BTS station.

Full timetable information for all of the above can be found at the State Railway of Thailand's website. Note that online train ticket booking is no longer available except through a handful of travel agents that charge a premium and send tickets by post or meet travellers at the train station before the departure time.
http://www.railway.co.th

The BTS Skytrain
The BTS currently has two lines that connect several parts of the city. Expansion is ongoing and new stations open every few years. The Skytrains operate daily from 06:00 to 24:00, arriving roughly every 10 minutes. Compared to mass transit in many other cities, the BTS is clean and efficient, although it can get crowded during rush hours.
http://www.bts.co.th

The Sukhumvit Line of the BTS runs from the north (beginning near Chatuchak Market and Park), then shoots south through Victory Monument and Siam Square, eventually making its way to the city's far southern reaches along Sukhumvit Road. BTS stations on the Sukhumvit Line of particular interest to travellers include:

Mo Chit (for Chatuchak Market and Chatuchak Park, the northern bus terminal and interchange with the subway), Victory Monument (for bars, street food, restaurants, shopping and catching minibuses), Phaya Thai (for interchange with the Airport Link), Ratchathewi (for shopping at Pratunam and Panthip Plaza), Siam (for entertainment and shopping at Siam Square and the surrounding malls, and interchange with the BTS Silom Line), Chitlom, Phloenchit, Nana, Asok and Phrom Phong (all for guesthouses, hotels, restaurants, nightlife and shopping, and for interchange with the subway at Asok), Thong Lo (for restaurants and nightlife), Ekkamai (for the eastern bus station), and Bang Na (for closest access to the ferries to Phra Phradaeng).

The Silom Line begins at National Stadium in the Siam Square area and cuts briefly south then west along Silom Road in Bangrak and Sathorn Road before passing over the Chao Phraya River and terminating in Thonburi. Stations on the Silom Line of particular interest to travellers include:

National Stadium (for hotels, shopping at MBK, the Thailand Art & Culture Centre, the TAT office and National Stadium athletics complex; this is also the closest you can get to Khao San Road by BTS, though it's still three kilometres away), Ratchadamri (for high-end hotels and shopping), Sala Daeng (for Lumpini Park, hotels, entertainment and shopping along Silom Road, and interchange with the subway), and Saphan Taksin (for food, hotels and interchange with the Chao Phraya Express boats, including the free shuttle to Asiatique).

Trains are labelled within each BTS station by way of the station at which they terminate, so if going north on the Sukhumvit Line, you'll want the "Mo Chit" train. If south on Sukhumvit Line, it's the "Bearing" train. If west towards the river on the Silom Line, it's "Bang Wa". And it's "National Stadium" if heading east towards Siam on the Silom Line.

The two lines intersect at Siam Station in the heart of Siam Square. Single fares depend on distance travelled, but the maximum fare is 55 baht and there are a range of passes available for frequent users, including an "all you can ride" single-day pass for 120 baht and monthly passes that allow you to top up as needed. These can be handy for avoiding long wait times for the change booths and ticket machines.

Explore Bangkok by BTS
We've written up pieces on points of interest surrounding the following stations: Ari; Chid Lom; Chong Nonsi; Phaya Thai; Phloen Chit; Phrom Phong; Ratchadamri; Ratchathewi; Sala Daeng; Sanam Pao; Saphan Taksin; Surasak; and Thong Lo.

The MRT Subway
Just as clean and efficient as the BTS and also with major expansion in the works, the subway begins at Hualamphong Rail Station near Chinatown and runs east up Rama IV Road past Silom Road, Lumpini Park and Sukhumvit Road, then northwards through Bangkok's less-touristy east side, and finally west for a short distance past Chatuchak Park before terminating in the north of the city at Bang Sue Station. The MRT runs daily from 06:00 to 24:00.
http://www.bangkokmetro.co.th

Stations on the MRT line of particular interest to tourists include:
Hualamphong (for Hualamphong Rail Station and access to Chinatown), Silom (for  Lumpini Park, hotels, shopping, food and entertainment along Silom Road, and interchange with the Skytrain), Sukhumvit (for hotels, restaurants, shopping at Terminal 21, nightlife and interchange with the skytrain), Petchaburi (for interchange with the Airport Link), Ratchadaphisek (for night market and nightlife), Chatuchak Park (for Chatuchak Park, Chatuchak Market, the northern bus terminal and interchange with the skytrain), and Kamphaeng Phet (for Chatuchak Market and Or Tor Kor Market).

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Bus

Within Bangkok
The Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) has a comprehensive bus system that covers the entire city. Fares are very low, so if you plan on exploring the city, invest in a bus map that marks all the main routes. Most buses are marked only in Thai, so it's best to go by the numbers as conductors will not often speak English.
http://www.bmta.co.th

The BRT (Bus Rapid Transit)
Set up by the same group that runs the BTS Skytrain system, the BRT is a single "rapid bus" line that uses separate lanes along major highways that are blocked off from other traffic. It's almost as quick as the Skytrain or subway, with buses picking up roughly every 15 minutes. The BRT runs in a loop southwards into the Sathorn area from Chong Nonsi BTS station before cutting westwards along the Chao Phraya and then crossing the river into Thonburi before terminating at Pho Nimit BTS Station. There are a few hotels in these areas, and Rama 9 Park (accessed from Rama 9 BRT Station) is worth a stop for a riverside picnic, but generally the BRT is used by local commuters and won't be of interest to most travellers. The BRT runs from 06:00 to 24:00 daily and it's a flat 10 baht fare.

Long distance bus stations
Bangkok has three main inter-provincial bus stations -- virtually all provincial capitals and countless other destinations can be directly reached from at least one of them. Popular destinations are often serviced by buses that run around the clock, though most typically run hourly from around 06:00 to between 18:00 and 20:00. Some bus timetables are available from the Transport Company website. http://www.transport.co.th/

Morchit Station to the north of the city is Thailand's largest bus station. While it mainly serves northern and northeastern destinations, buses to the east (such as Chanthaburi) and the west (such as Kanchanaburi) can also be caught from here. Popular destinations, such as Chiang Mai, are serviced by many private companies as well as government buses. It can be worth shopping around to find a bus with fewer seats, air-con and a toilet if going for a long haul. Morchit is a sprawling complex with different wings servicing different parts of the country -- the 1st floor has ticket booths for northern, central, eastern and a handful of southern destinations while the 3rd floor is entirely devoted to northeastern destinations. After purchasing a ticket, you'll need to first locate the correct wing, and then the correct numbered bus parking space that aligns to the number on your ticket. If you get lost, just ask someone for help -- many Thais are happy to practise their English and help out a foreigner.

Morchit bus station is located a couple of kilometres from Mo Chit BTS Station and Chatuchak Park or Kampaeng Phet MRT stations. Walking from any of these entails crossing major expressways and/or finding your way through maze-like Suan Rot Fai Park, so most choose to take a taxi. Of course, Morchit can also be reached by taxi or tuk tuk from anywhere in the city. Expect to pay 150 to 200 baht if coming from Khao San Road and up to 300 baht if coming from Sukhumvit. Several local buses also stop near the northern terminal, including #3, 5, 26, 49, 96 and 104.
Phahonyothin Rd, Bangkok. T: (02) 272 0299

Sai Tai Mai Station serves all southern and western destinations. It's located west of the river, confusingly in the northern part of Thonburi. Taxis can get you here for around 130 baht from Khao San Road.
Boromrat Chonnani Rd, Bangkok 10700. T: (02) 435 1199; (02) 434 5558

Ekkamai Station serves eastern destinations (note: not northeastern destinations) such as Pattaya, Ko Samet and Ko Chang. It's located on Sukhumvit Road to the southeast of the city and is right next to Ekkamai BTS Station, making it the easiest of the three stations to reach.
Sukhumvit Road Soi Ekkamai, Bangkok 10110. T: (02) 391 2504; (02) 392 2521

Minibus (van)
If wanting to get somewhere in the general central Thailand region more quickly than by regular bus or train, minibuses can be a good option. Some minibuses run local routes, such as from Mo Chit BTS Station to Don Muang Airport, while others go as far afield as Kanchanaburi and Hua Hin. Keep in mind that minibuses are often cramped and so are not the best choice if you have a lot of luggage in tow. On the other hand, for day trips to places like Amphawa or Ayutthaya, they do come in handy.

Although minibuses depart from several points throughout Bangkok, the widest selection are available around Victory Monument, near the BTS station of the same name. Most minibuses run hourly from 06:00 to 18:00. For more information, see catching minibuses at Victory Monument. Many Khao San Road agencies also offer minibuses to popular regional tourist destinations. These are typically more expensive than those from Victory Monument but it's more acceptable to bring luggage.

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Boat

The Chao Phraya Express Boat
The express boat provides access to many of Bangkok's most popular riverside attractions and can be a fun way to explore the city. A handful of different lines are coded by the colour of the boat's flag, but the Orange Flag and Tourist Boat are most useful to travellers. The boats run from 06:00 to 19:00 daily and pick up roughly every 20 to 30 minutes. Express Boats connect with the BTS Skytrain at Sathorn Pier / Saphan Taksin BTS Station.
http://www.chaophrayaexpressboat.com/en/home/

The Orange Flag Express Boat runs all the way from Nonthaburi in the north to Wat Rajsingkorn in the south. It stops at most points of interest along the river and is used by both commuters and travellers. These boats are long and thin and are less spacious than the Tourist Boats. They can be uncomfortably crowded at peak hours and the disorganised boarding / disembarking process happens in a matter of seconds -- do use caution. The fare is 15 baht no matter where you're going. Though some piers offer the option to buy a ticket beforehand, the general policy is to pay once you're on the boat.

The Tourist Express Boat stops only at the piers that access major tourist attractions. It offers more space and stops for longer at each pier, but the fare is 40 baht for a single journey or 150 baht for a full-day pass. Note that when approaching the touristy piers, many travellers think the Tourist Boat is the only option as Tourist Boat tickets are purchased from a clearly marked desk while there's typically no such desk for the Orange Flag. You can always take the Orange Flag (or another flag) and pay on the boat. For more info on the Express Boat lines, see our post on catching the Chao Phraya Express boat.

The Khlong boats
Another fun and useful way to explore the city is by way of public khlong (canal) boats. These run from just north of Democracy Monument (a 10-minute walk from Khao San Road) through Siam Square and onwards to Sukhumvit and east Bangkok. Khlong boats run from dawn to around 21:00 and the boats are very inexpensive. For more information, see our post on how to catch a khlong boat in Bangkok.

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Getting Around

Taxis
For the money, Bangkok has some of the best taxis in the world. Affordable, comfortable and widely available at any hour, your biggest concern is likely going to be the aggressive driving habits of the often fun and friendly, though overworked drivers. There are a bunch of different taxi companies each with their own distinctive and very bright colour scheme -- sometimes Sukhumvit Road can look like it's awash with smarties as hot pink, bright yellow, violet, lime green and sky blue taxis fly past.

The metre starts at 35 baht and the price goes up in 3 baht increments by either time or distance (depending on the traffic situation). If you use expressways, the passenger (that's you) is expected to pay all tolls. If you pick up a taxi from the official taxi stand at either airport, there is a 50 baht surcharge.

Note that especially in touristy areas, taxi drivers are increasingly attempting to scam foreign travellers by offering inflated "flat rates" rather than using the metre. The metre will always be cheaper -- if the driver doesn't want to use it, simply find a different taxi.

Telephone bookings can be made by calling 1681 (there are other companies, but that is our favourite). There is a 20 baht surcharge for a telephone booking.

Taxis can also be hired for longer trips -- Bangkok to Ayutthaya, Ko Samet, Hua Hin and Pattaya are all common routes. In these cases you'll need to negotiate the price with the driver; expect to pay over 1,000 baht.

Tuk Tuks
If there's a single sensation that sums up Bangkok, it's sitting in the back of a tuk tuk at about three in the morning as the driver tries his hardest to reach terminal velocity while tearing down Ratchadaphisek Road. The high pitched scream of the vehicle's buzz-saw engine, the thrashing fairy lights hanging off the side, the oversized, perpetually flashing yet always ignored indicators and the frantic hunted-down look on drivers' faces are all endearingly common sights and sounds throughout Bangkok.

Ubiquitous throughout the city but especially tuned into the touristy areas, tuk tuks are something that most visitors to Bangkok try at least once, although expats and locals often try to avoid them. They can be cheap -- if you know where you're going and how much it should cost to get there. If you know neither, tuk tuk drivers are notorious for overcharging and dragging passengers off to jewellery stores. To avoid being "taken for a ride", we recommend avoiding the drivers who sit around on Khao San Road and near the touristy sites, instead looking for one that's actually driving by. Pollution is also a concern when sitting in an open-air tuk tuk surrounded by hundreds of idling vehicles in a traffic jam.

Tuk tuks are handy for those with oversized bags or oodles of shopping. Of course, if you're travelling around with a few wash pans full of live eels and a bag of freshly slaughtered chickens, then tuk tuks are certainly the way to go. Tuk tuks carry anything and everything -- including most things a cab driver wouldn't dream of letting into their taxi.

The number of people who can be fitted into a single tuk tuk is up for debate. Just remember the more people you cram in the more top-heavy it will become -- tuk tuks are pretty unstable when empty -- adding six drunk Westerners tends not to help matters.

Motorcycle taxis
Motorcycle taxis are easily the fastest and most dangerous mode of transport in Bangkok. As with tuk tuks, they do not have metres; be sure to agree on a fare beforehand. Always wear a helmet -- your driver should have a spare (normally of appalling quality) which he'll offer to you. There is a fine for not wearing a helmet.

Motorcycle taxis are fast -- very fast. They'll ride between cars, on the footpaths and on the wrong side of the road. There are a lot of accidents (and knee reconstructions) attributed to these guys -- buyer beware. But if you're in a traffic jam and need to get somewhere in a hurry, moto taxis can be a life-saver.

Private longtail boats
While more often used to go on tours of the Chao Phraya River and the canals of Thonburi, private longtail boats are sometimes caught by travellers as a sort of water taxi. You'll need to negotiate a fare with the driver; a ride from, for example, Ratchawongse Pier (near Chinatown) to Sathorn Pier should cost around 200 baht. If paying by the hour, expect to shell out 1,000 baht per.

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