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December 2021

Getting around Thailand

Thailand is a modern country with a modern public transport network. The country has an extensive range of airports and its domestic air routes make even the farthest flung corners of the kingdom accessible to the visitor. Thailand also has an excellent road and rail system complemented by a very cost-efficient urban bus services and an intercity bus and coach system that links the entire country and provides even the most advanced countries with a genuine definition of efficiency and convenience. But where the public transport system doesn't reach, the entrepreneurs take over and imagination kicks in. As a result, there are some pretty unique methods of transport on offer. What follows is an overview of some of the types of transportation you might experience on your trip to Thailand.

In Bangkok

Airport Rail Link

The Airport Rail Link provides with 2 kinds of services.

1. Suvarnabhumi Airport Express (SA Express Line)
This line provides transportation service between Bangkok City Air Terminal (BCAT) from Makkasan to Suvarnabhumi Airport within 15 minutes, which stops only at Makkasan Station (original terminal) and Suvarnabhumi Station (end terminal).

There are total of 4 trains providing services in SA Express. Each train has 3 passenger cars, which have 170 passenger seats, and 1 baggage car that makes up altogether 4 cars. It provides service from 06.00 to 24.00 everyday

2. Suvarnabhumi Airport City Line (SA City Line)
This line provides service between Phyathai Station to the end terminal at Suvarnabhumi Airport within 30 minutes, which stops at 6 stations along the way such as Rajprarop Station, Makkasan Station, Ramkhamhaeng Station, Hua Mark Station, Thab Chang Station, and Lad Krabang Station. It covers a distance of 28 kilometers.

SA City Line has 5 trains, each train has 3 passenger cars with the capacity of 745 passengers per train. It provides service from 06.00 to 24.00 everyday.
Automatic Token Dispenser is designed to provide prepaid pass service and single trip token. Passengers can select destination and number of required token. The machine will then automatically calculate the fair and give out change as well as print out the receipt. City Line’s fair start from 15 baht up to 45 baht, while Express’s fair is a flat rate of 150 baht.

Click here for the Airport Rail Link website

The 'BTS'

The BTS descended on Bangkok as would a divine entity, restoring order from chaos, and improving the life and conditions of all. Bangkok's traffic was always bad, and of course the years it took to build the BTS made the traffic even worse, but the inconvenience was worth it - the BTS is a godsend. Whereas once it took hours to arrive at certain destinations, it now takes minutes! Although the network is not extremely extensive, it's great for central Bangkok, and it's two lines (the Sukhumvit Line starting at Mo chit in the north and finishing Bearing in southern Bangkok, and the Silom Line, starting at Wongwian Yai and finishing at National Stadium) are enough to get you a short taxi ride away from pretty much anywhere you want to go. For the tourist or visitor, the BTS is an absolute must. Air-conditioned and convenient, the BTS gives you access to some of the best shopping, some stations having connecting entrances to the Emporium Department Store and MBK Shopping Complex. Paying is easy - either go to the counter and pay your fee or put coins into machines. Either way you end up with a charge card which you put into a slot at the barriers to gain access. 15 Baht between stations, going up to maximum of 40 Baht. If you buy a BTS Travel Card, you will get a small booklet of tickets - don't throw them away, as they are free BTS bus tickets! (You'll see the smaller BTS buses on routes between the BTS stations). A number of special deals are available for visitors, day passes, etc. Best to look at their website for up-to-date information.

Click here
for details…

The 'MRT'

The Mass Rapid Transit Authority (of Thailand), or MRTA (or usually just MRT) is a work of engineering genius. Although at present there's only one line, the MRT takes you from northern Bangkok (Bang Sue - near a railway connection) to just south of the centre (Hua Lum Phong - Bangkok's main railway station) at a phenomenal rate. The nearest MRT station to the airport is Chattuchak, which is next to Morchit, the starting point of the main BTS route. The other station where you can join the BTS from the MRT is Asoke. There is simply no aspect of this underground railway system that isn't impressive. One question you will ask yourself is why the stations need to be so big. They are genuinely big; absolutely enormous - akin to what most people imagine sophisticated underground nuclear shelters might look like! They are though ultra modern - MRT stations ooze glass, chrome, and steel giving them a very futuristic look. Payment for your journey is easy. Put money in the machines and you receive a small, black disc. Alternatively, you can purchase a smart card and continually recharge the card. Tap the disc or the smart card on a small window at the barrier and you gain entry into the station. Then take the escalators down into the bowels of the earth to pick up your ride. The MRT very much follows a Singaporean model - glass panels stand between the line and the people waiting for the trains. When the trains arrive doors slide open to allow people on and off. The cost of the MRT obviously depends on number of stations you visit. A 12-31 Baht rate will be effective 4 June to 3July 2005 with the full-price - 14-36 Baht - is effective 4 July 2005 onwards. Like the BTS there are a number of special deals available for visitors.

Click here
for the MRT website.

The Canal System

All the handbooks tell you that Bangkok used to be the Venice of the East - in many respects that's still true as a significant amount of travel is done by canal. In Bangkok the main canal route service is provided on Khlong Saen Saep, but there really are a myriad of other routes to explore and canals are a favoured form of travel in both rural and urban areas elsewhere in the country. There are some issues related to travel by canal boat. Travel by canal is fast; especially at rush hour times - there's nothing faster. It's also cheap. A fare in Bangkok for a 20 min boat journey costs around 10 Baht. One downside of canal boats is the spray - in Bangkok in
particular, canal water is not the cleanest and when another boat goes past (particularly a long tail boat) there is a spray. It doesn't soak you but you do get wet. Another problem is of course the rain. When it rains hard the driver will pull a canopy over the sides of the boat and this keeps most of the water off you. However, the biggest problem for a foreigner is where to put your legs! These boats are just not designed for people with long legs and most westerners have to sit with their legs sideways. If you can put up with these inconveniences, the canal boats are great way to see bits of the city you'd never see any other way!

The 'Subaru'
The 'Subaru' is a generic name of small mini-vans that have been fitted with seats in the back so they can carry people. In much the same way 'Hoover' became the chosen name for the vacuum cleaner, so the fact that the manufacturer of choice of these vehicles is 'Subaru' gave them their name. Their job is similar to that of a
Motorcycle Taxi in that they buzz up and down sois picking people up on their way. If you are stuck at the end of a soi, and you don't have the resilience to travel by motorcycle taxi, they are a sight for sore eyes! Costs: minimal. 10 Baht from one end of an average soi to another. If you are in a hurry and don't want the driver to stop to pick other people up, you can hire the vehicle for your whole journey pushing costs into to the 20-40 Baht bracket (depending on the length of the soi).

In most areas
The 'Taxi-Meter'
Before the introduction of the 'Taxi Meter' you could spend 10 minutes arguing over the price of a journey. That's all changed, and Taxi Meters are standard as far as cost is concerned - prices start at 35 Baht (just less than a dollar) and it's 2
Baht a kilometre after that, all charged on a meter! However, these days you can be drawn into a discussion on where you are going - taxi drivers have the right to refuse a fare if it is not 'economically viable' and they often have a very broad interpretation of this rule! Whereas London is famous for black cabs, Thailand is famous for taxis sporting every colour under the sun. One thing to remember: Yellow and Green taxis are owned by the driver. As such it's their business and the likelihood is they will know what they are doing. Other colours are owned by taxi companies and although there has been a major push for educating taxi drivers recently, some may not have been in town very long and they might not really know the area. There are odd occasions when you might have to give them directions! Note of caution: if you pick up a taxi at the airport in Bangkok you will get a 50 Baht surcharge - this is legitimate. The airport isn't exactly in Bangkok and the surcharge is for intercity travel. In addition, you pay for any expressway and toll-way fees! Be warned! However, taxi travel is not expensive a good option for visitors. Enjoy it!

The Motorcycle Taxi
Not for the feint hearted - the Motorcycle Taxi is fast, cheap, convenient, exhilarating, and often, a bit dangerous! Get on the wrong one and you can be in for a white knuckle ride! You'll recognise a Motorcycle Taxi by the fact the rider is wearing a vest of some description (blue, orange, any number of colours) with a
number on the back over his shirt. The cost of the trip is entirely dependent on where you are going and sometimes how much you weigh! For short distances expect to pay 20-40 Baht. The standard price from one end of a Soi to another is 5 Baht. This form of transport is not recommended for long journeys! You should wear a helmet or the rider can be fined. Note of caution: most of the helmets they offer you will be cheap plastic affairs with little safety value! Don't expect them to save your life! If you are over 100 kilograms the fact is you might burst a tyre. If you do, you owe 150 Baht on top of your fare! It happens more often than you think. The cities, especially Bangkok, wouldn't work with out Motorcycle Taxis, but don't imagine if anything does go wrong you are covered by insurance - you aren't! This is a full-on risk-laden form of transport, but one you'll quickly get addicted to if you start using it.

The Bus System
The bus system in Thailand is well organised, cheap and efficient. In cities a bus ticket costs around 3.50 Baht for a standard bus without air-conditioning on a journey of up to 8 kilometres. This is amazingly cheap if you think about it, but they do pack them in, and you might on occasions be sharing a bus with a LOT of people! Air-conditioned buses on inner-city bus routes cost up to 20 Baht per trip depending on the destination and type of bus, smaller air-conditioned buses being the most expensive. These prices are likely to go up soon (as of 27 June 2005) as the price of oil goes up worldwide. However, comparing costs of public transport in places like London, you really are onto a winner!

The Tuk-Tuk
Thailand's ubiquitous form of transport. In London you have the Black Cab; in Bangkok you have the 'Tuk-Tuk' (meaning 'every' in Thai). Equally at home carrying a single tourist , 9 or 10 schoolboys or half the contents of a huge warehouse, the Tuk-Tuk is the all purpose, all terrain vehicle of Southeast Asia. There was a bit of a campaign a few years ago to rid
the capital's streets of the three-wheeled Tuk-Tuk, but as the campaign got going it became very clear this vehicle is very much a part of the national identity. The swing has gone so much in the Tuk-Tuk's favour that Thailand recently blocked moves to give a similar vehicle in the United States the same name. To hire a Tuk-Tuk you have to negotiate the price with the driver. Often, the Tuk-Tuk is not cheaper than a taxi, especially on shorter journeys. However, if you are coming to Thailand, and you don't have at least one Tuk-Tuk journey, you are missing out!

Intercity Coaches
Thailand is connected by an excellent bus/coach system for longer inter-province/intercity travel. Buses leave for most cities in Thailand from centralised stations (like Morchit in northern Bangkok) daily and round the clock. For an example of costs, Bangkok to Rayong (eastern Thailand) is a journey of 220 kilometres and costs around 90 Baht). Excellent way to see the country and genuinely efficient.

Long-tail speedboats
Long-tail speedboats are motorcycle taxis on water; sometimes a bit messy, they occasionally feel a bit dangerous, but above all, fast! Whether you want to cross the river or get to an island, these guys will be ready to give you a pretty exhilarating trip!

Transport specific to certain areas
The Bicycle Rickshaw
Yes, they still exist in Thailand… The Bicycle Rickshaw is still prevalent in the certain provinces, especially areas such as border towns where there are
reasonable numbers of people passing through but the area might not be as developed as major cities. Costs vary being a bit less than as motorcycle taxis, but obviously a lot slower. You might end up paying out a lot in tips - they work so hard! Have mercy; the average Samlaew driver is half the size of the average European or North American!

The 'Baht Bus'
The Baht Bus no longer costs 1 Baht; expect charges of between 5 Baht and 20 Baht depending on where you are and what you are doing. The Baht Bus is particularly associated with Pattaya where all major attractions are in a limited area and Baht Buses simply circle the area and pick people up. Round and round - they are always there…
Just climb in the back, and when you arrive at your destination, bang on the driver's window. Pay your fare when you get out. It couldn't be more convenient!

The 'Ferry Boat'
Like most cities with rivers in Thailand, Bangkok's has regular ferries taking people from one side of its main artery, the Chao Praya River, to the other. Of course in the south, where there's extensive travel between the mainland and Thailand's islands, ferries are bigger affairs, carrying passengers and cars.
Costs certainly vary - a trip across a river could be as low a cost as 1 or 2 Baht; a journey to one of the far off islands, obviously, much more.

The 'Express Boat'
Express boats run down rivers stopping at each quay and picking up passengers. With fares of only 4-10 Baht, if they are heading in your direction, they are the quickest way of getting anywhere, especially in Bangkok.

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