How to get around Bangkok: Public Transport for Visitors
When you visit Bangkok, I guarantee you will have a better time if you understand how the city’s extensive network of public transportation works. After more than half a dozen visits and recently choosing to move to Bangkok later this year, I thought I would share a detailed beginner’s guide to public transport to help you hit the ground running.
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- First things first: transport from Bangkok’s airports
- How to get around Bangkok on the BTS Skytrain
- How to get around Bangkok using the MRT
- The SRT
- Map of Bangkok’s BTS, MRT and SRT Lines
- Licenced Taxis
- Rideshare Services
- Tuk Tuks
- Bangkok Motorbike Taxis
- How to get around Bangkok – Buses
- How to get around Bangkok – River Transportation Guide
I have to be honest it took me a couple of visits to fully master how to get around Bangkok by public transport. The BTS Skytrain is pretty simple, but it took me a little longer to master the MRT and a third trip to really discover the joys of exploring Bangkok’s waterways. In fact, I didn’t even contemplate taking a bus until my most recent trip.
These days, after extended visits, I am a bit of a public transport expert and I can work out how to get almost anywhere in the city pretty quickly. I created this guide to help you get your head around how it all works. I like to call it my cliff’s notes version of how to get around Bangkok like a local.
First things first: transport from Bangkok’s airports
Most visitors jump straight into a taxi when they land in Bangkok, but I am not sure it’s the best way to start your trip. While the city’s officials have set up a very organised taxi system at the airport, we have still had drivers try to get us to ride off meter or overcharge for our bags on recent visits.
You may also find yourself stuck in traffic jams for an hour and when you have spent 8 plus hours sitting on a plane this can be hard to take. It’s not the best introduction to the city. These days if you have enough energy (and are not travelling with kids!) I recommend you give the airport rail link a try.
Suvarnabhumi International Airport
The airport rail link is an easy way to reach the city centre and avoid traffic jams, especially if you arrive in rush hour.
Suvarnabhumi Airport is connected to Bangkok via the airport rail link service known as the city line. The city line travels just over 28km and has 8 stops.
You will find the station at basement level at Suvarnabhumi Airport. Tickets cost between 15฿ and 45฿ depending on the distance you travel.
You will probably get off the train at one of the two stops nearest Bangkok city centre:
- Makkasan Station connects to Phetchaburi MRT just a 200 metre walk away. From here you are one stop from Asoke. This is great for those staying in Sukhumvit or somewhere along the Sukhumvit line. If you are staying near Hua Lamphong Station, in Talad Noi or Chinatown, get off here and change to the Blue MRT. (35฿)
- Phaya Thai Station links to the Phaya Thai BTS station and is best for those staying near Siam, Ari or at a riverfront hotel. (45฿) It’s a simple change to the BTS to Siam. It’s also easy to get a taxi to your hotel in central Bangkok or near the riverside.
Services depart every 10 to 15 minutes between 5.30am and midnight and takes about 30 minutes to reach Phaya Thai Station.
Kids under 12 years travel free on the Airport link.
You can buy an Airport railway line smart pass from Klook before you travel if you like the peace of mind in being organised.
There are express buses from Suvarnabhumi, but I would only suggest these if the rail link does not stop near your destination. Find out more here.
Don Mueang International Airport
If you are arriving in Bangkok on a budget airline, you will probably land at Don Mueang International Airport. This airport is served by the SRT Dark Red Line and the State Railway of Thailand intercity services that depart from Don Mueang railway station. These connect to central Bangkok at the brand new Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal.
There are plans to connect this line with Suvarnabhumi Airport in coming years.
There are also a number of buses that will get you from Don Mueang Airport to the city centre. These are express services and are under 40฿. These can be an alternative to the train if they stop near your accommodation. The run at very frequent intervals. Check the latest details on the official site.
- A1 – Don Muang Airport to BTS Mo Chit
- A2 – Don Muang Airport to Victory Monument
- A3 – Don Muang Airport to Lumphini Park
- A4 – Don Muang Airport to Khao San Road
OK, so now you are in the city you will find it so much easier to get around in bangkok using public transport so keep on reading!
How to get around Bangkok on the BTS Skytrain
The BTS aka the Bangkok SkyTrain is cheapest and fastest way to get around this vast city. It’s also the most common form public transport visitors try.
There are currently two BTS lines with 64 stations connecting most of the places you will want to go.
- Sukhumvit line – light green line
- Silom line – dark green line
- The Gold Line* – connects with the Silom line for ICONSIAM
My one tip for using the BTS is to avoid rush hours, particularly at the busiest stations, which are Siam, Asok and Mo Chit. If you don’t have to be travelling at 9am or 5-6pm don’t!
The stations are well signposted with lots of English and plenty of maps. You will usually find a shop or two, there are however no public restrooms.
*The Gold Line is technically an automated people mover and not a skytrain service.
The Sukhumvit line
The Sukhumvit line currently has 47 stations and services operate every 3-6 minutes for most of the day. Each station has a number and a letter that represents its direction, (N) North or (E) East on this line). This comes in handy for helping you remember some of the more unusually named stops.
Interchange stations on the Sukhumvit Line are:
- Siam where it connects to the Silom line (aka shopping mall central)
- There are three stops you can transfer to the MRT: Asok in the east and Ha Yaek Lat Phrao and Mo Chit in the North.
Eight new stops are planned for the Sukhumvit line in the coming years.
The Silom Line runs between National Stadium (W) west and Bang Wa (S) in the south. There are 14 stops, including 6 after it crosses the Chao Phraya River. The National Stadium Station connects to MBK Shopping Mall.
Connections on the Silom Line:
- The Sukhumvit line at Siam Station, which incidentally is the busiest of all BTS stations.
- The Gold BTS at Krung Thon Buri for visiting ICONSIAM.
- The MRT at Sala Daeng and Bang Wa.
The Gold Line
This is probably the least useful of the current transport options in Bangkok for visitors. Its main purpose is to connect people to ICONSIAM shopping centre, which is more commonly visited via the free river shuttle from Sathon Pier.
BTS Tickets and Fares
When riding the BTS, you are charged by distance. There are three options for purchasing tickets:
- Single tickets – Machines are on all stations and most have manned ticket offices. You can work out the cost of your ticket here. Ticket machines offer English and are very easy to use. The staff are also really helpful and most seem to speak or understand English or bad Thai ;-). The biggest drawback to single tickets is that you are often faced with long queues to buy them at peak times.
- Day passes – Currently 150฿, a day pass allows you to unlimited travel and no queues. If you are only here for a couple of days, this can be the easiest option.
- Rabbit cards – These can be used for the BTS and the BRT and also small purchases in some food and convenience stores. If you are in Bangkok for more than 3 days I would recommend you get a Rabbit Card, it saves time queueing; you don’t have to think ahead about what you have planned and can change your mind with your mood. They are also really easy to top up and can be kept for 5 years – so perfect if you return regularly.
The system is a tap on tap off. A single ticket will be swallowed up as you exit.
The BTS website is a mine of information with fantastic station area maps that are really helpful in working out which exit you need to take to get to your destination
If you are someone who prefers to be really organised, you can purchase a Rabbit card or one day BTS pass before you leave home on Klook.
How to get around Bangkok using the MRT
Bangkok MRT or Metropolitan Rapid Transit system comprises two rapid transit lines (mainly underground train lines). There are three more lines under construction, one more rapid transit lines and two monorail lines.
Unlike the BTS, which often gets referred to by the name of the line on the MRT people tend to use the colour name instead. At this time there are 53 stations served by the MRT and each has a number and letter code e.g. PP for purple line and BL for the blue line.
- MRT Blue Line (Chaloem Ratchamongkon Line)
- MRT Purple Line (Chalong Ratchatham line)
The Blue Line
The Blue Line has 38 stations and travels is an almost loop shape around Bangkok taking in stops on both sides of the river. Trains operate from between 6am and Midnight and usually come every 5-7 minutes.
The most useful stations on this line for visitors are:
- Bang Sue Grand Station, the new central train station
- Chatuchak Park for the famous weekend market
- Phra Ram 9 for Jodd Fairs
- Wat Mangkorn for Chinatown
- Sanam Chai for the Grand Palace and the express boat.
There are also many hotels at stops along the way particularly near Lumpini and Sukhumvit.
You can interchange to the BTS at:
- Si Lom (BTS Sala Deeng)
- Sukhumvit (BTS Asoke)
- Chatuchak Park (BTS Mo Chit)
There are also four stations that are almost attractions in themselves.
- Wat Mangkorn station in Chinatown features Sino-Portuguese-style architecture and design
- Samyod Station is housed in a colonial style building and displays lots of historical images
- Sanam Chai Station feels more like a cross between a palace and a museum than a train station.
- Itsaraphap station in Thonburi is decorated in golden swans
There are so many other stops near interesting places that I have got an article planned about exploring the city via the Blue MRT.
The Purple Line
The Purple line serves 16 stations between Nonthaburi Province and Bangkok. There are not very many stops on this line that the average visitor would use, so we will skip this one today, but you can more details here.
Along with these, there are several new lines under construction ultimately giving Bangkok a rainbow of MRT lines. The Yellow Line is due to open in June 2023 and the Pink Line, and Orange lines are also expected to open in the first half of 2023.
Like the BTS, fares depend on the distance travelled. When you purchase a single ticket, you will receive a token that you insert into the gates to access the station.
- Single Journey Token – For one trip
- Bangkok MRT Stored Value Card
Just when you thought we were done with trains, there is more. The SRT is heavy rail or suburban rail. There are two SRT lines: the dark red and the light red.
These will become more well used by travellers connecting between Don Mueang and the new Grand central station. The station is officially called Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal, but also better known by its old name Bang Sue Grand Station.
- The Dark Red (Thani Ratthaya) – will get you from Don Mueang International Airport to Bang Sue Grand Station.
- The Light Red (Nakhon Withi Line) – with only 4 stations you likely won’t be using this one
Map of Bangkok’s BTS, MRT and SRT Lines
This map shows all the services and the interchanges.
Taxis are plentiful in Bangkok and most taxi rides we have taken have been problem free and you will find they are much cheaper in Bangkok than say Phuket or Koh Samui.
The cars come in a multitude of colours, I particularly love the bright pink ones, but the majority are green and yellow. While taxi drivers in Bangkok are required to use the meter for your trip, sometimes they ask not to and want to agree on a fixed fare. Be firm and say no.
Some days getting around Bangkok easily is more important than saving money!
Our top tip for road transportation is to download a rideshare app. It takes all the negotiating and language challenges out of taking taxis. Grab and Bolt are the two biggest apps used in Bangkok. Grab has the most drivers and is usually quicker in our experience but Bold can be a little cheaper. Personally, we stick with Grab just for convenience.
inDriver is another app available in Thailand and is good for long distance trips. You set a price you are prepared to pay for the journey and drivers accept based on this. It would be good for a trip to Pattaya, Hua Hin, Ayutthaya and Kanchanaburi.
If you are staying somewhere like Khao San Road where public transportation is pretty limited, Grab can be a lifesaver.
Tuk tuks are both loved and feared by visitors to Bangkok. Avoiding the Grand Palace scams and negotiating for a ride home from Chinatown are top of the list of the challenges for a first time traveller to Bangkok, but not all Tuk Tuk drivers are bad.
Riding a tuk tuk can be a fun way to see the city and a short ride will cost 100-200฿ depending on your negotiating skills. Don’t worry too much about what everyone else pays. Settle on a fixed price you are happy with and just enjoy the ride.
Prices will be higher when a rainstorm hits and everyone wants tuk tuks at the same time. Be reasonable in your expectations and if the price quoted does not appeal just walk away.
You can also do a street food tour by tuk tuk, which is loads of fun! They even have one that starts at midnight!
Bangkok Motorbike Taxis
Motorbike taxi drivers sit patiently on street corners by BTS stations and condos waiting for their next passenger. Especially those that are more than a 5-minute walk away from the BTS or MRT.
I have never used motorcycle taxis and I probably won’t because I am not confident on a bike and usually travel with my partner, but for solo travelers these will save you time and money. Just make sure your travel insurance covers you being on a bike.
How to get around Bangkok – Buses
Most visitors shy away from Bangkok’s bus services, but this busy city has dozens of bus lines that are a very cheap way to see and useful if you are on a tight budget. They are also excellent for people watching!
Types of buses in Bangkok
There are three main types of buses in Bangkok: express buses, air-conditioned buses and fan buses.
The BRT – An express service. If you are planning on visiting the brand new Terminal 21 Mall at Rama 3, this service runs from Sathorn to Ratchaphruek. Watch the video for tips on how to get here on the express bus to Rama 3.
Air conditioned comfort or buses with fans, this is your choice when you ride the bus in Bangkok. Hundreds of routes cross the city and beyond, and the price you pay much aligned to the speed and level of comfort.
The air-conditioned buses cost between 11-24฿ depending on distance, non air conditioned buses are 7-8. There is a 1.5฿ surcharge after 10pm. Be sure to carry some small change, as conductors can usually only change small notes.
Like Bangkok’s taxi, the buses come in a variety of colours. Air-conditioned buses are usually yellow or orange and would certainly be my recommendation. Fan buses could be red, blue, green or even pink. If the windows are open, it’s a fan bus.
Along with the colours of the actual buses, there are also signs in the windows that will tell you if the service is an express or regular service. Blue is a normal route and yellow signs are used on express buses.
Bus stop signs are a mix of old and new, but in much of the downtown area they show large numbers highlighting the routes services by that stop and usually some timetable information.
Unlike the automated machines in the MRT and BTS on the bus, you buy your ticket directly on the bus from a conductor.
Google maps is a good place to check for bus information. It lists many bus routes if you use the directions to search between two places.
How to get around Bangkok – River Transportation Guide
Exploring Bangkok via the Chao Phraya River is a wonderful way to beat the traffic jams and see another side of city life. With 1,161 canals that cover 2,272km it makes sense that there are increasingly more water services available.
There are several services that operate along the river and it’s confusing to work out which on one to catch so a little research before you visit can help. Because once you get your head around it, this is possibly the most relaxing of Bangkok Public Transportation options.
You can choose from:
- Chao Phraya Bangkok Express Boats – 5 commuter services
- Chao Phraya Blue Express Boat – a tourist hop on hop off service
- Mine Smart Ferry – new energy efficient boats that operate 3 services along the Chao Phraya
- Hotel shuttles – private boats used to transport guests to Sathorn Pier
- Klong ferry services – explore the smaller waterways
- Long tail boats – easily found at the smaller piers
Being able to identify the different boats used will help you figure out which one best suits your needs
Chao Phraya Express Boat – Flag boats
Whether you call them express boats, Bangkok river ferries or river taxis, these boats service 30 plus stops along
The central stop for Bangkok’s ferry service is at Sathorn Pier. This wharf is the biggest and one of the newest along the river. It offers easy boarding, especially for anyone unsteady around the water.
Sathon Pier connects with the dark green BTS line from National Stadium.
The routes these ferries travel are determined by the colour of the flag on the back of the boat.
- Orange – All stops from Nonthaburi to Wat Rajsinkorn
- Yellow – The quickest service, it makes only 7 stops between Nonthaburi and Wat Rajsinkorn
- Green – Another quick service that makes 8 stops between Pakkret and Sathorn
- Red – 10 stops between Sathon to Northaburi
- Blue – This is the HOHO boat – check out our detailed tips for a day on the Bangkok HOHO ferry
If you are staying at one of the riverside hotels, the public riverboat service will be a godsend.
While many hotels have free shuttle ferries, these usually only go to Sathorn Pier or ICONSIAM, allowing you to connect to the ferry service.
The express boats that ply the river from about 6am till between 6-8pm depending on the service. If you want to be out on the water at night, you will need to book a river cruise or ride the ICONSIAM shuttle service, which makes its last trip at 11pm.
If you are planning a visit to Wat Arun, then you need to jump on the Orange flag service
Mine Smart Ferry
The battery operated Smart Ferry starting service in Oct 2022. They operate three services from 7:00am-5:30pm, with connections to the MRT and the BTS at 4 piers.
The word MINE stands for “Mission No Emission”
- City Line – from Sathorn Pier-Phra Pinklao Pier (7 stops only)
- Metro Line – from Sathorn Pier-Rama VII Pier (12 stops)
- Urban Line – Sathorn Pier-Phra Nang Klao Pier (13 stops)
Unlike the other river services, you can pay with your credit or debit card 20฿
Khlong Express Boats
Riding on these speedy boats along Bangkok Canals is one of my favourite things to do in Bangkok. It’s cheap, you get to peek into the lives and homes of many of the canals residents.
While it has to be the quickest way to traverse city traffic jams, I don’t recommend you ride them in rush hour, especially for the first time. The boats are heavily used by local workers and it can be pretty overwhelming for the uninitiated. Khlong boats operate from 5.30 a.m. – 8.30 p.m every day.
There are three Khlong services operating
- Klong San Saep – two routes depart from Pratunam Pier one down to the river and the other up into Sukhumvit.
- Khlong Phra Khanong – thirteen stops from Iam Sombat to Phra Khanong.
- Khlong Phasi Charoen – this service stopped during Covid and I am not sure if it’s back up and running, but you can explore the canal by hiring a long-tail boat for about 1000฿
There may not be any air conditioning on the Khlong Express boats, but the wind rushing by is certainly refreshing. I think they are a great way to get around in bangkok.
Take a tour down the Bangkok canals
A prebooked guided tour of the canals is the easiest way to see these without the stress of negotiating a guided tour with a local long tail operator.
Check out this private long-tail boat tour if you are keen to explore some of the smaller canals.