Bangkok, Thailand,  Expat Life

Demystifying the Bangkok Train System

Exploring public transit in another country can often be a bit intimidating. Having been to cities such as London and Tokyo, the train system back home in Vancouver pales in comparison. When I got to Bangkok, I was surprised by the vast expansion of their trains and everywhere it could take me both within the city and outside.

Surprised and almost overwhelmed. Now that I have lived in this city for over a year, I think I have a pretty strong grasp on all the different trains around the city. So let’s go!

In Bangkok, there are currently four* different train systems with two of them each having two different lines. 

Bangkok Mass Transit System or the BTS for short

This is the system I personally use the most. You can go almost anywhere by connecting with these lines at some point during your travels. There are two lines, the Silom line and the Sukhumvit line.

The Sukhumvit line travels from Mo Chit (which is in the northern part of Bangkok City in the Chatuchak District and where you want to get off to visit the enormous Chatuchak Market on the weekend.) to Kheha (which is technically in another province, Samut Prakan).

Then you have the Silom line which travels from MBK in central Bangkok to Bang Wa station (which is in the Charoen District but takes you quite close to Nonthaburi, Nakhon Pathom, and Samut Sakhon provinces).

Buying tickets at the BTS Stations can be a bit confusing at first. They have many different options and fares. The easiest way is to go right up to the counter and get the assistance of one of the attendants. Just say where you want to go, show how many people using your fingers and they will handle the rest.

If you are planning to take the BTS often, I would recommend grabbing a Rabbit card and connecting it to Line Pay. This is their transit card and you use it to store value or purchase a set amount of monthly trips. Connecting Line Pay to my Rabbit card has honestly been a game changer. I did it because one day, I had just loaded my card with 1500 baht, and then immediately lost it.\

I swear my card always ran out of money when there was a super long line to the counters, now I never have to worry as it is connected directly to my bank.

Fun Fact: The BTS was based off the Skytrain system in Vancouver but, in my opinion, with many system improvements.

Metropolitan Rapid Transit

Bangkok’s underground line, the Metropolitan Rapid Transit, otherwise known as the MRT, is similar to the BTS and the newer of the two systems (opening in 2004). This is system also has two lines with their third line currently under construction.  The MRT was the first time I was introduced to the use of a plastic coin or token as a transit pass.

Purchasing your transit token is very easy as they only have the automated machines with the touch screens that can be translated into many other languages. Then, you just scan your token and go. When you have reached your destination, just plop the coin into the slot as if you are about the play an arcade game and go explore.

The MRT and BTS currently connect at three stops: Asok – Sukhumvit, Sala Daeng – Silom, and Mo Chit – Chatuchak.

Airport Rail Link

Taking this train is the most painless way to get to Suvarnabhumi Airport, which is the main airport for most international destinations outside of Asia. As long as you leave enough time during peak hours, it is a very efficient and affordable way to get to the airport and avoid the dreaded Bangkok traffic. This system uses the token fare pass system, much like the MRT, and can be purchased through similar machines.

The Airport Rail Link conveniently connects with both the MRT at Makkasan (MRT station Petchaburi) and at Phaya Thai connecting at the BTS station with the same name.

Bus Rapid Transit*

Ok, so this is technically not a train, it is a bus, but I’ve added it this category as its still a different system than the regular buses of Bangkok. It stands for Bus Rapid Transit and has one line in operation.

It connects on the BTS Silom line at Chong Nonsi and Talat Phlu. It is not one of the most popular systems in the city which has resulted in many discussions about closing it altogether, however, it does cater to a handful of locals who still rely on it in their daily lives.

Hua Lamphong Station

I can’t talk about trains and not briefly talk about Hua Lamphong. This great, big station connects on the MRT line with the same name. This is where you want to go to take a train out of the city. You can go anywhere from Ayutthaya which is a two-hour ride to a 16-hour overnight train to Chiang Mai.

So as you can see, navigating the trains in Bangkok could be a bit intimidating, but after a few days you will be a pro! What other Bangkok topics would you like me to cover?

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