Beating the Traffic Jams in Bangkok

For those of us who have been to Bangkok before, getting around by taxi or tut tut is pretty convenient. But then you’d also have to make do with Bangkok’s famous traffic jams and air pollution. As the impact of over tourism starts getting felt and sustainable travel becomes increasingly popular, here is a great way to travel around Bangkok without worrying about the traffic jams while reducing your carbon footprint at the same time.

Of cause I’m referring to the metro system that serves Bangkok. The metro network has expanded over the years and makes travelling around the city much more convenient now, although it still has some quirks which travelers have to get used to.

I’ll start off from Sumvarnabhumi Airport since this is the main international airport that the majority of visitors will fly to when they visit Bangkok. From the airport there is an Airport Link train that brings you to downtown Bangkok in 30 minutes.

The Airport Link train is at the basement level of the airport. Just follow the signs and you will yourself at the entrance to the train station.
I bought tokens for the train ride from the ticketing machine which are recommended for tourists. They also offer stored value cards but these are only valid on the Airport Link line and unless you plan to commute from downtown Bangkok to the airport everyday, the stored value cards don’t really benefit tourists.
Waiting for the train at the airport. The train arrives every 10-15 minutes so the wait isn’t that long.
The The Airport Link trains do get crowded quickly since the locals also use it to get from the suburbs into Bangkok city.

The Airport Link line connects to the 2 main metro lines directly making it convenient to transfer between lines. The first connection is to the MRT (Blue line) at Makkasan City Interchange Station (MRT Petchaburi Station), and the final stop at Phayathai Station which connects to the BTS Skytrain (Green Line).

We arrived at Phayathai Station which connects to the BTS Skytrain. The 2 stations form a T-shape where you have to walk from one leg of the T to the other.

For ourselves, we decided to choose a hotel that is near one of the metro stations. In Bangkok there a ton of hotels to choose from, ranging from hostels to luxury hotels, so finding a hotel near a metro station isn’t that difficult.

The rail network in Bangkok has expanded and improved over the years making most of the major attractions accessible by train. So getting around by train is faster than getting stuck in their infamous traffic jams.

So here I get to one of the major quirks and it’s also a major gripe with me about the metro system in Bangkok. There isn’t a universal transport card for all the train lines like what you have in Singapore and Hong Kong which have their Easylink and Octopus Card respectively. The BTS Skytrain has it’s own card called the Rabbit Card. The MRT has their own card, and the Airport Link has it’s own. So deciding where you stay and planning your journey will determine whether you should buy a transport card. Otherwise, it’s also ok to buy tokens for each trip at the station. It’s just that it saves time using the transport card, instead of queuing up to buy tokens at the station.

We decided to get the Rabbit Card since we figured that we will be using the BTS Skytrain more often, as our hotel was located near one of the stations. You can also use the Rabbit Card to pay for purchases at selected shops. There is a THB 100 non-refundable deposit which is rather steep for short term visitors.

One of the other quirks about the Bangkok metro is that the interchange stations are not connected directly. The BTS Skytrain stations are all above ground, while the MRT is mostly underground. This means exiting 1 station and climbing up or down to enter another station, and then having to buy tokens again at the new station. So having a universal transport card would definitely ease over such inconveniences.

While taking taxis and tut tuts does have it’s convenience of bringing you to the doorstep of your destination, I’ve had a couple of bad experiences with dishonest drivers who were out to scam me. So taking the train does relieve me of having to haggle on prices (although taxis have to run on meters, some drivers try to make a fast buck with tourists by refusing to use the meter), or tut tut drivers who bring you to some shop so that they can earn a commission from bringing tourists there.

2 thoughts on “Beating the Traffic Jams in Bangkok

  1. I wonder why Bangkok has yet to adopt a single payment card for all of its public transport systems. Even in Jakarta although we don’t have something like Octopus or EZ-link, once someone has one of the payment cards provided by the big banks he/she can use it for the MRT, LRT, commuter trains, and TransJakarta buses.

    1. I guess it’s all about the cooperation between the separate transport companies. Even Tokyo didn’t have a single payment card for their various subway lines and JR train services until recently.

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