30 kilometers (19 miles) to the east of Bangkok, space-age
Suvarnabhumi Airport (สุวรรณภูมิ, pronounced "soo-wanna-poom", (IATA: BKK)
(ICAO: VTBS),  started operations in September 2006 and
is now Bangkok's main airport. There is only one terminal
building, which covers both domestic and international flights,
but it's huge (by some measures the world's largest) so
allow time for getting around.
All the facilities you'd expect are available (transit hotel,
ATMs, money exchange). The cheapest place to eat is the
Magic food court on the 1st floor, while perhaps the most
comfortable and relaxing of the airport's restaurants and
cafes is the Sky Lounge on the 5th floor. Here you can have
your latte while sitting in plush leather sofas and enjoying
a panoramic view over the runways - prices are also quite
reasonable with coffee around 70 baht a cup. There are a
few stores in the check in area, but the real shopping experience
awaits travelers the other side of immigration in the departure
Limousine taxis (which charge by distance, e.g. around 800 baht to central Sukhumvit) can be reserved at the limousine hire counter on the 2nd floor, and a limited number of ordinary metered taxis are available outside the exit on the 1st floor. If there is a huge taxi queue, consider taking a free shuttle bus to the satellite terminal, which has more taxis. There is a 50 baht surcharge on the meter, meaning that trips to the city will cost 300-400 baht (plus 65 baht highway tolls) and take 40-60 minutes depending on traffic.
There is also a stop outside the 1st floor exit for
airport express buses , which charge a flat 150 baht and operate hourly until midnight, covering four routes, each taking about 60 to 90 minutes:
- AE1: Suvarnabhumi-Silom
- AE2: Suvarnabhumi-Khao San Road
- AE3: Suvarnabhumi-Sukhumvit
- AE4: Suvarnahhumi-Victory Monument-Hua Lamphong (train station)
Local (Bangkok) public buses to/from Suvarnabhumi charge a flat 35 baht. To take a public bus, you must first take a free shuttle bus ride of several kilometers to the separate terminal. The lines are:
- 549: Suvarnabhumi-Bangkapi
- 550: Suvarnabhumi-Happy Land
- 551: Suvarnabhumi-Victory Monument (BTS)
- 552: Suvarnabhumi-On Nut (BTS)-Klong Toei
- 552A: Suvarnabhumi - Sam Rong
- 553: Suvarnabhumi-Samut Phrakan
- 554: Suvarnabhumi-Rangsit
- 555: Suvarnabhumi-Rangsit (Expressway)
- 556: Suvarnabhumi-Southern Bus Terminal
- 557: Suvarnabhumi-Wong Vean Yai (This route have been canceled and merged with route 558.)
- 558: Suvarnabhumi-Central Rama II
- 559: Suvarnabhumi-Rangsit (Outer Ring Road)
These line would take about 1 hour to 2 hours depending on Bangkok traffic and frequency of service is usually every 20 mins during day time and night time is raging from 20 mins to 1 hour depending on each route. Long-distance 1st class bus services connect Suvarnabhumi directly with Chachoengsao, Hua Hin, Nong Khai, Pattaya, Rayong, and Trat.
An airport express train to the future City Air Terminal at Makkasan (connecting to MRT Phetchaburi) and onward to Phayathai (connecting to BTS Phayathai) is under construction, but is not expected to be ready before the end of 2007 at the earliest. Die-hard rail fans with lots of time to kill can take bus 517 to Hua Takhe station (15 baht), a few km from the airport, and continue on any 3rd class train to Asok or Hualamphong (7 baht).
At present, there are only a few hotels located near Suvarnabhumi Airport, though with huge construction projects planned for the area this will change over the next few years. Day room facilities for transit passengers are now available at the 'Miracle Grand Louis Tavern' on floor 4, section G (Tel+66 6 317-2211, 2000 baht per 4-hour block, no reservations accepted).
Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel, Suvarnabhumi Airport. Tel:+66 2 131 1111 email@example.com . The only hotel in the airport itself, connected to the main airport terminal by a pedestrian bridge. Rooms: 3,500+ baht.
Royal Princess Srinakarin, 905 Moo 6, Srinakarin Road, Nongbon, Pravet. Tel:+66 2 728-400. Fax:721- 8432 - a 20-30 minute drive from airport. Rooms 3,500+ baht.
Grand Inn Come Hotel, 99 Moo 6, Kingkaew Road, Rachataeva, Bangplee, Samutprakan. Tel:+66 2 738 8191-3 - about a 15-20 minute drive from the airport. Bus 553 stops here. Rooms between 1,200 - 2,000 baht.
Ratchana Place. 199 Moo 4, Soi Wat Sirisaothong, Bangna Trad Highway KM 26, Bangbo, Samutprakan 10540 Tel:+66 2 313-4480-9 firstname.lastname@example.org - about 15-20 mins drive from the airport. Rooms between 350 - 700 baht.
The previous Don Muang Airport, 20 km north of downtown, now serves only general aviation and limited charter flights.
Bangkok's three official long haul bus terminals are:
Eastern Bus Terminal - also known as Ekamai, this relatively compact terminal is located right next to Ekamai BTS station on Sukhumvit (E7). Ekamai serves Eastern Thailand destinations, including Pattaya, Rayong, Ban Phe, Chanthaburi and Trat.
Northern Bus terminal - also known as Moh Chit (or Mor Chit or Morchit), this is the largest, busiest, and most modern terminal. The upper floor serves the North-East (Isaan); the ground floor serves the North, as well as sharing some destinations with Ekamai (including Pattaya, Rayong, Chanthaburi and Trat). It's a 30-baht moto hop (or a lengthy hike across Chatuchak Park) from BTS Moh Chit/Metro Chatuchak stations (N8/18), or take the 77 bus and pay the 7-baht flat fare on board.
See the Phahonyothin District guide for more details.
Southern Bus Terminal - also known as Sai Tai Mai, this older and relatively chaotic sprawling terminal serves all points west and south from its somewhat inconvenient location on the "wrong" side of the river. The terminal is scheduled to move to a new, even more remote location in Phutthamonthon Sai 1 in February 2007.
See the Thonburi District guide for more details.
when arriving in Bangkok...
...late at night, the easiest way from Northern or Southern terminal to your final destination will be by meter taxi.
...by tourist bus you may find yourself delivered to their favorite hotel or guest-house, otherwise you'll probably be dropped off in the vicinity of one of the long haul terminals, or if it's a service catering primarily for backpackers, somewhere near Khao San Road.
The three main stations in Bangkok are:
Hualamphong Train Station
Inside view of Hualampong train station, looking towards the platformThe main station and the terminus of the Bangkok Metro line. Located right in the middle of downtown Bangkok, it is a huge and surprisingly nice station, built during the reign of King Rama VI and spared bombing in world War II at the request of the Free Thai underground. The station has a good tourist office. (Only listen to the people at the Info desk - anyone walking around offering to help you 'find' a hotel or taxi is just a tout).
Tickets for trains leaving the same or next day can be bought on the counters under the red/orange/green screens (see photo). The Advance Booking Office is located to the right of the platforms as you walk towards them and is quite well organised. You can select your seat/berth from a plan of the train, and payments by credit card are accepted.The taxi pick up and drop off point is to the left of the platforms as you walk towards them, and is generally chaotic at busy periods with scant regard for any queue.
The left luggage facility is at the opposite end of the concourse, on the far right as you walk away from the platforms.
WARNING: The TAT Authorized Tourism Information offices in the second floor sell you a
private "VIP bus" ticket if there is no place in first and second class trains. They offer a direct trip to the destination with a VIP bus faster than the train. Although the trip starts with a VIP bus, it ends up with a "surprise" transfer to a minibus and extremely long journeys. Just refuse the offered private bus ticket and buy public bus tickets from the main bus terminals if you cannot find ticket for train.
Bang Sue Train Station
If coming from the north or north-east, connecting to the Metro here can shave the last half-hour off your train trip. This is not a very good place to board trains though, as there is practically no information or signage in English. However, this situation will doubtless improve as more and more long-distance departures are switched to here from Hualamphong.
See Phahonyothin District for more details.
Thonburi Train Station
Also known as Bangkok Noi, this station is located on the "wrong" side of the river in Thonburi District and is the starting point for services to Kanchanaburi (via Nakhon Pathom), River Kwai Bridge and Nam Tok.
There are two daily 3rd class trains:
depart Thonburi 07:45, arrive Nom Tok 12:20, return 13:00, terminate Thonburi at 17:36
depart Nam Tok 05:25, arrive Thonburi 10:05, return 13:50, terminate Nam Tok at 18:20
Note that the weekend-only 2nd class air-con Kanchanaburi/Nam Tok "tourist" trains depart from Hualamphong
Cruise ships visiting Bangkok arrive at Laem Chabang, about 90 minutes south-east of Bangkok and about 30 minutes north of Pattaya.
A taxi service desk is available on the wharf, but charges extortionate prices - a whopping 2600 baht to charter a taxi (4 passengers), or about 5000 baht to charter a minibus (usually 11 passenger seats), for a trip into Bangkok. Slightly lower prices can be found by walking out to the main road (about 4000 baht for a minibus), however even these rates are almost double the typical rate in the opposite direction. Better deals may be possible for round trips (even if returning the following day).
Frequent first and second class bus services directly connect Laem Chabang with Ekamai (Bangkok's Eastern Bus Terminal, on Sukhumvit); less frequent direct services run to Moh Chit (Bangkok's Northern Bus Terminal). A first class air-con bus (blue and white) to either will usually take 90 minutes or less; the fare is around 100 baht. A good way to make the most of a quick visit is to board an Ekamai bus and then disembark early at the On Nut Skytrain Station on Sukhumvit Road in Bangkok (the bus will always pause here provided a passenger requests it); in the opposite direction, use the Ekamai Skytrain Station and board the bus at the terminus. To get to or return from the Chatuchak Weekend Market, use the Moh Chit bus instead.
Buses en route to Pattaya (southbound) can be boarded at the traffic lights on Sukhumvit Road in Laem Chabang, are extremely frequent (at least 10 per hour), and charge less than 50 baht.
Bangkok has the full spectrum of public transportation methods. Buses and taxis operate everywhere in the city. The Sky Train (BTS) and metro are available only in the city centre. And vans generally operate only in more out-lying areas.
The Bangkok Skytrain (BTS, pronunced bee-tee-et in Thai but also rót fai fáa or just skytrain) deserves a visit simply for the Disneyland space-ageness of it. Built in a desperate effort to ease Bangkok's insane traffic and pollution, the Skytrain covers most of downtown and is especially convenient for visiting the Siam Square area. There are two lines: the light green
Sukhumvit line which travels along Sukhumvit road and then goes up Phayonyothin to northern Bangkok, where it terminates near the Chatuchak Weekend Market (N8), and the dark green
Silom line , which travels from the Silom area, interchanges with the Sukhumvit line at Siam Square (C) and ends at National Stadium, right next to MBK. There isn't, unfortunately, a station near Banglampu District (aka the Khao San Road area), but the river ferry connects between Tha Banglampu and Tha Sathorn, which is under the Silom line terminus at Saphan Taksin (S6).
You must have 5 or 10 baht coins to purchase Skytrain tickets from the vending machines near the entrance, so hold on to them. Fares range from 10 to 45 baht depending upon how many zones you are travelling. Consult the map (in English) near each ticket machine. If you do not have coins, queue for change from the staff at the booth. If you are in town for several days, weigh your options and consider a rechargable stored-value card (from 100 baht, with a 30-baht refundable deposit), a "ride all you like" tourist pass (from 100 baht/day) or a multiple ride pass of 10 trips or more. They will certainly save you time, scrambling for coins, and maybe even money. Check for information with the English speaking staff.
BTS Skytrain operates from 06.00 - 24.00 hours everyday with two main lines -- Sukhumwit and Silom lines.
Mo Chit (Northern Bus Terminal) - Onnut Line or Sukhumwit Line
This line is 17 kilometres in length covering 17 stations as follows:
Mo Chit – Saphan Khuai – Ari – Sanam Pao – Victory Monument – Phaya Thai – Ratchathewi – Siam Square – Chit Lom – Phloen Chit – Asok – Sukhumvit – Phrom Phong – Thong Lo – Ekkamai (Eastern Bus Terminal) – Phra Khanong – On Nut
National Stadium - Taksin Bridge Line or Silom Line
This line has a length of 6.5 km and covers only 7 stations as follows:
National Stadium – Siam Square – Ratchadamri – Sala Daeng – Chong Nonsi – Surasak – Saphan Taksin
Passengers can change their routes at the Interchange Station at Siam Square.
Apart from being the fastest means of transportation, the skytrain has two more
advantages -- it offers a panoramic view of Bangkok and it stops at several
prime shopping centres lying along Silom, Ratchadamri, and Sukhumwit roads.
Interchange stations with MRT are also provided at Mo Chit, Sukhumvit, and Sala Daeng stations.
The fares range from 10 to 40 baht based on the distance travelled. One Day Pass is available at the cost of 120 baht.
Bangkok Metro (MRT)
The long-awaited Bangkok Metro finally opened in July 2004. The Blue Line connects the central Hualamphong railway station (1) to the northern Bang Sue station (18), with interchanges to the Skytrain at Silom/Sala Daeng (3/S2), Sukhumvit/Asok (7/E4) and Chatuchak/Mo Chit (15/N8). You can also transfer to north/northeast-bound SRT trains at the northern terminus Bang Sue.
Metro tickets are not interchangeable with Skytrain tickets. Rides cost from 12 to 36 baht depending on distance; pre-paid cards of up to 1000 baht are also available. For single ride fares, a round plastic token is used.
The subway stop for the Chatuchak Weekend Market is not Chatuchak Park, but one stop further at Kamphaeng Phet (16). The latter drops you right inside the market.
The route runs from Hua Lamphong (Bangkok Railway Station) to Bang Sue with a total of 18 stations along the over 20 km distance. It connects with the Skytrain at Silom, Sukhumwit and Chatuchak stations. A train leaves the terminal every 5 minutes during peak hours: 06.00 – 09.00 hrs and 16.30 – 19.30 hrs. And it leaves every 7 minute during the off-peak hours.
The fares range from 15 baht to 39 baht.
MRT 18 stations are as follows:
Hua Lamphong – Sam Yan – Silom – Lumpini – Khlong Toei – Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre – Sukhumvit – Phetchaburi – Phra Ram 9 – Thailand Cultural Centre – Huai Khwang – Sutthisan – Ratchadaphisek – Lat Phrao – Phahon Yothin – Chatuchak Park – Kamphaeng Phet – Bang Sue
A ride on the Chao Phraya River should be high on any tourist's agenda. The cheapest and most popular option is the Chao Phraya Express Boat, basically an aquatic bus plying up and down the river. The basic service plies from Wat Rajsingkorn (S4) all the way to Nonthaburi (N30) is now 13 baht, with stops at most of Rattanakosin's major attractions including the Grand Palace, the Temple of Dawn, etc. Board at piers with a sign showing the route and pay the ticket collector who will approach you bearing a long metal cylinder. In addition to the basic service, there are express services flagged with yellow or orange flags, which stop only at major piers and should be avoided unless you're sure where you're going. The new signposting of the piers is quite clear, with numbered piers and English route maps, and the Central station offers easy interchange to the BTS Saphan Taksin station.
In addition to the workaday express boat, there is also a Tourist Boat which stops at a different subset of piers, offers commentary in English and charges twice the price. The boats are slightly more comfortable and not a bad option for a hop or two, but don't get bullied into buying the overpriced day pass.
Canal boats also serve some of Bangkok's many canals (khlong). They're cheap and immune to Bangkok's notorious traffic jams, but mostly used locals who use these water taxis to commute to work and school and shopping, so you get to see the 'backside' of the neighborhoods, so to speak. They're also comparatively safe -- just watch your step when boarding and disembarking and be wary of the water as it can be quite polluted, do not let it get in your eyes. Pay the fare (10-20 baht) to the crazy ticket collectors who hang onto the outside of the boat, ducking at bridges, as it barrels down the canal. One particularly useful line runs up and down Khlong Saen Saep, parallel to Petchaburi Road, and provides the easiest access from the city center to the Golden Mount. There's a boarding pier across from the WTC under the bridge where Ratchadamri crosses the khlong near Petchburi, and piers now even have (tiny) signs in English.
Finally, for trips outside the set routes, you can hire a long-tail river taxi at any major pier. These are fairly expensive and will attempt to charge as much as 500 baht/hour, but with haggling may be suitable for small groups. To circumvent the mafia-like touts who attempt to get a (large) cut for every ride, agree for the price of the shortest possible ride (half an hour etc), then negotiate directly with the captain when on board.
Local buses, mostly operated by the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA), are cheapest but also the most challenging way of getting around, as there is a bewildering plethora of routes, usually marked only in Thai. If you can speak Thai you can call 184 Bus Route Hotline. Bus stops usually list only the bus numbers that stop there and nothing more. They are also subject to Bangkok's notorious traffic, often terribly crowded, and many are not air-conditioned. The hierarchy of Bangkok's buses from cheapest to best can be ranked as follows:
- Small green bus, 7.50 baht flat fare. Cramped, no air-con, no fan, famously suicidal drivers, not advisable for more than short hops.
- Red bus, 7 baht flat fare. More spacious and fan-cooled (in theory). Unlike other buses, some of these run through the night (1.50 baht surcharge). These buses are BMTA run.
- White/blue bus, 8 baht flat fare. Exactly the same as the red buses, but cost one baht more. These buses are owned by private entities operated in conjunction with BMTA.
- Blue/Yellow and Cream/Blue air-con, 11 baht for the first 8 kilometers, up to 18 baht max. These buses are quite comfy. The blue/yellow striped buses are privately owned while the Blue/Cream buses are BMTA owned.
- Orange air-con (Euro II), 13 baht for the first few kilometers, up to 22 baht max. These are all BMTA-run, newer, and more comfortable.
- Purple Microbus, 20 baht flat fare. Skytrain feeder services used to use these, but the service has been terminated.
Buses stop only when needed, so wave them down (arm out, palm down) when you see one barreling your way. In all buses except the Microbus, pay the roaming collector after you board; on Microbuses, drop the money into a slot next to the driver as you board. In all buses, keep the ticket as there are occasional spot-checks, and press the signal buzzer (usually near the door) when you want to get off.
Two further pitfalls are that buses of the same number may run slightly different routes depending on the color, and there are also express services (mostly indicated by yellow signs) that skip some stops and may take the expressway (2 baht extra).
The best online resources for decrypting bus routes are the official BMTA homepage, which has up-to-date if slightly incomplete listings of bus routes in English but no maps, and the ThailandOnline bus route map (bus info only in Thai, the map itself is bilingual). As a printed reference, the Bus Routes & Map guide (50 baht) by Bangkok Guides is another option.
Recently they have changed the rules regarding luggage on local buses within Bangkok, with the exception of airport buses you cannot take large amounts of luggage (ie. backpacks or suitcases) on the local buses.
There are four types of public buses in Bangkok with a different ranges of fare, depending on the types of the bus.
Type Of Bus:
1) The ordinary buses:
- The red-stripe bus, 7 baht (whole route)
- The blue-stripe bus, 8 baht (whole route)
2) The air-con buses -- the normal blue buses and the Euro buses:
- The air-con blue buses, 11-19 baht (depending on the distance)
- Three types of Euro buses -- the light blue colour, the orange colour, and the white colours, 12-24 baht (depending on the distance)
3) The microbuses
The microbus, charging a flat rate of 25 baht, is the most favoured as it ceases taking up passengers once every seat is filled. During rush hours, however, it is rather difficult to get on a microbus unless you take it at or near its terminals.
4) The green minibuses
The fare of the green minibuses is 6.50 baht for the whole route.
Although travelling by bus is the cheapest, you should be careful with your belongings while riding, especially on a crowded ordinary bus.
If you plan to tour Bangkok by bus, you are recommended to consult Thaiways Maps of Bangkok, a free copy of which can be obtained from the TAT counter at the airport or from your hotel.
Taxis are a quick and comfortable way to get around town, at least if the traffic is flowing your way. All taxis are now metered and air-conditioned: the hailing fee is 35 baht and most trips within Bangkok cost less than 100 baht. There are no surcharges (except from the airport), even at night. A red lit sign on the front window means that the taxi is available.
When the meter is switched on you will see a red '35' somewhere on the dashboard or between the driver and you. Be sure to check for this at the start of the ride, as many drivers will "forget" to start the meter in order to overcharge you at the end of your trip. Most will start the meter when asked politely to do so (poet meter na khrap); if the driver refuses to use the meter after a couple of attempts, simply exit the taxi. In some cases, late at night and especially near major tourist districts like Khao San or Patpong, you will need to walk a block away to catch a meter cab. The effort can save you as much at 150 baht. This is often also the case for taxis that park all day in front of your hotel. The only two reasons that they are there: 1) To take you places where they can get their commissions (Jewelry stores, massage parlors, etc) and 2) To overcharge you by not using the meter. Your best bet is to walk to the road and catch an unoccupied metered taxi in motion (easier than it sounds, as Bangkok traffic tends to crawl the majority of the time, and one car out of four is a taxi). Be sure to either know the correct pronunciation of your destination, or have it written in Thai; taxi drivers in Bangkok are notoriously bad at reading maps.
If you're pinching pennies or fussy about your means of transportation, you may wish to think twice before getting into one of the (very common) yellow-green taxis. They are owner-operated and of highly variable quality, and occasionally they have rigged meters. All other colors belong to large taxi companies, which usually enforce their standards better.
From the airport and on some routes in the city the driver will ask if he should use the Tollway. You should affirm this, it will save a lot of time. You have to pay the cost (20/40 baht) immediately. Watch how much the driver really pays, they may try to keep the change.
When getting out, try to have small bills (100 baht or less) or expect problems with change. Tips are unusual, but are certainly welcome.
When traffic slows to a crawl and there are no mass-transit alternatives for your destination, by far the fastest mode of transport is a motorbike taxi (or in Thai, "motosai lapjang"). No, those guys in the pink smocks aren't biker gangs; they're motosai cabbies. They typically wear colorful fluorescent yellow-orange vests and wait for passengers at street corners and near shopping malls. Prices are negotiable; negotiate before you ride.
WARNING: Motorcycle accidents are brutally common, and many (tourists and Thai alike)
consider transportation of this sort to be inherently hazardous. Motorcycle
taxis in Bangkok should generally be avoided except as a last resort.
For the unfaint-of-heart, a wild motosai ride can provide a fantastic rush. Imagine weaving through rows of stopped vehicles at 50km/h with mere centimetres to spare on each side, dodging pedestrians, other motorbikes, tuk-tuks, stray dogs and the occasional elephant while the driver blithely ignores all traffic laws and defies even some laws of physics. Now, do the same ride while facing backwards on the bike and balancing a large television on your lap — then you can qualify as a local.
The overwhelming majority of motorcycle taxis do not travel long distances, but simply shuttle up and down long sois (side-streets) not serviced by other transport for a fixed 5-20 baht fare. These are marginally less dangerous, especially if you happen to travel with the flow on a one-way street.
The law requires that both driver and passenger must wear a helmet. It is the driver's responsibility to provide you with one, so if you are stopped by police, any fine is also the driver's responsibility. When riding, keep a firm grasp on the seat handle and watch out for your knees.
Finally, what would Bangkok be without the much-loathed and much-loved tuk-tuks? You'll know them when you hear them, and you'll hate them when you smell them — these three-wheeled contraptions blaze around Bangkok leaving a black cloud of smog in their wake. For anything more than a 5-10 minute jaunt or just the experience, they really are not worth the price — and, if you let them get away with it, the price will usually be 4 or 5 times what it should be anyway (which, for Thais, is around 30% less than the equivalent metered taxi fare). On the other hand, you can sometimes ride for free if you agree to visit touristy clothing or jewelry shops (which give the tuk-tuk driver gas coupons and commissions for bringing customers). The shops' salesmen are
pushy, but you are free to leave after five to ten minutes of browsing. Visitors should beware though, sometimes one stop can turn in to three, and your tuk-tuk driver may not be interested in taking you where you need to go once he has his gas coupons.
In case you actually want to get somewhere, and you're an all-male party, be careful with the tuk-tuk drivers, they will usually just ignore your destination and start driving you to some bordello ("beautiful girls"). Insist continually and forcefully on going only to your destination.
There's also a less-heralded, less-colourful and less-touristy version of the tuk-tuk that usually serves the back sois in residential neighborhoods. They usually have four wheels instead of three and resemble a tiny truck / ute / lorry, and they run on petrol instead of LP. The maids and locals tend to use them to return home from market with loads of groceries, or for quick trips if they're available. Negotiate before you get in, but don't expect to go much beyond the edge of that particular neighborhood.