Essential Tips for Tourists in Bangkok - Transportation, Money & Emergencies
The need-to-know about Bangkok's BTS, ATMs, emergency numbers, VAT refunds and more.
The Airport Rail Link (ARL) is one of the fastest and cheapest ways to get to and from Suvarnabhumi Airport, especially for those traveling light. The line runs from Suvarnabhumi Airport to Phaya Thai (connecting to the BTS), stopping at six stations along the way, including Makkasan (10-minute walk to MRT Petchaburi). One-way fares are B35 to Makkasan and B45 to Phaya Thai, with journey times of 22 and 26 minutes. More information at www.srtet.co.th/index.php/en
The BTS Skytrain stops at Bangkok’s main districts and gives you a view of the city from up high. There are two main lines: the Silom line, which runs from across the river in Bang Wa to National Stadium next to MBK Shopping Centre; and the Sukhumvit line, which runs from Kheha in the eastern part of the city along Sukhumvit before heading up north to Mo Chit station by the Chatuchak Market. Siam is the interchange station between the two lines. Fares are B15-65. Unlimited day passes are B140.
The underground, or MRT, has two lines offering an extensive reach. The blue line runs from Hua Lamphong train station on the outskirts of Chinatown, down through the main Central Business District before turning north and heading up Ratchadapisek Road past Chatuchak Market and ending at Tao Poon station. The purple line runs north from Tao Poon and across the river to Khlong Bang Phai. Fares are B16-B70. There are three interchange stations: (1) BTS Asoke—MRT Sukhumvit, (2) BTS Sala Daeng—MRT Silom and (3) BTS Mo Chit—MRT Chatuchak. Tickets can be bought for individual journeys, or you can get special tourist passes or tickets that cover a specified number of trips. For more information, go to www.bts.co.th/eng and www.bemplc.co.th. Note that the BTS and MRT use different ticketing systems.
In Bangkok, metered taxis are readily available and very affordable, with fares starting from B35 for the first two kilometers. Despite their many colors, there’s no difference in prices or service. Some drivers speak limited English, so do get your destination written down in Thai to avoid any miscommunication. Taxis sometimes try to negotiate a price. Make sure to only pay the metered price. There are now also a number of mobile phone applications and services for those who want to hail a cab without having to hit the streets. The main app in Bangkok is Grab Taxi (www.grab.com/th).
While Bangkok used to be the Venice of the East, there is now only really one canal (khlong) still used as a means of getting around. Khlong Saen Saep has a ferry service that runs daily from Wat Sriboonreung in the eastern suburbs to Phan Fa Lilat pier, nearby Wat Phu Khao Thong (the Golden Mount) in the heart of the Old Town (Rattanakosin Island), stopping off at various piers along the way with an interchange at Pratunam pier near CentralWorld. Be warned though, the boats don’t wait long at the piers, making getting on and off rather nerve-wracking (and physically challenging). And, due to the unsavory nature of the canal water, any picturesque view is blocked by sheets of tarpaulin to prevent splashing. Fares are B10-B20.
EXPRESS RIVER BOATS
These fast and frequent ferries along the Chao Phraya River are a great way to get a different perspective on the city, as well as a good option for getting to many of the temples and palaces built along the river. The main Sathorn (Central) pier is located by BTS Saphan Taksin with boats heading upstream from here and stopping off at numerous piers all the way to Nonthaburi. Fares range from B15-B40 depending on your journey. You can also opt for a tourist ticket (B150), which allows one-day unlimited travel, including to Asiatique night market after 4:30pm, and comes with a guide booklet to some of the leading tourist attractions accessible from the river. From Sathorn (Central) Pier, you can also catch free ferries to many riverside hotels and Asiatique. www.chaophrayaexpressboat.com
Banking hours are generally from 8:30am-3:30pm, Monday through Friday except on public holidays and bank holidays. Banks in malls open daily, 10am-8pm.
ATMs are very common in Bangkok and can be found in most areas of Thailand, often located outside 7-Eleven stores. You should easily be able to use overseas cards to withdraw money, though ATMs charge a flat-rate of B200-220 for foreign card withdrawals.
Visitors to Thailand who make purchases of goods valued B5,000 or over from stores displaying the “VAT REFUND FOR TOURISTS” sign are eligible to receive a refund of the VAT paid on the item. At the time you purchase the item present your passport and ask the sales assistant at the store to complete the VAT Refund Application for Tourists form, attaching the original tax invoices to the form. Then at the airport, before you check-in, present your goods and the refund form to customs officers. After check-in and immigration, proceed to the VAT Refund Office in the departure lounge. Refund amounts under B30,000 will be made in cash (Thai Baht) or by bank draft or credited to your credit card account. Refunds over B30,000 will be made by bank draft or credited to your credit card account.
EMERGENCY SERVICES (FIRE BRIGADE, POLICE) 191
AIRPORT RAIL LINK 02-308-5600. airportraillink.railway.co.th
BANGKOK MASS TRANSIT SYSTEM (BTS) +662-617-6000 (daily 6am-midnight).
BTS TOURIST INFORMATION CENTER +662-617-7341 (daily 8am-8pm). www.bts.co.th
BANGKOK METRO (MRT) +662-624-5200 (Mon-Fri 7am-8pm; Sat-Sun 8am-5pm). www.bemplc.co.th
CHAO PHRAYA EXPRESS BOAT CALL CENTER +662-449-3000-2 (6am-7pm). www.chaophrayaexpressboat.com
SUVARNABHUMI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT +662-132-1888. www.suvarnabhumiairport.com
TOURISM AUTHORITY OF THAILAND (TAT) 1672 from Thai numbers or +662-250-5500. www.tourismthailand.org
TOURIST POLICE 24-HOUR CALL CENTER 1155 from Thai numbers.