Metros in Thailand: Bangkok

Bangkok is the capital of the Kingdom of Thailand. This major city is located in the southeast region of the nation and due to its economic growth, it has come to be one of most important cities in Indochina. Social development and monetary expansion have allowed Thai culture to position itself as one of the most influential in Southeast Asia.

Bangkok covers 1568 square kilometers (605.4 square miles) in which a total of about 11,971,000 people live both within the city and villages. The city is characterized by its great diversity and its deep contrasts.

Among some of the most notable sites is the Chatuchak Market, which is one the largest urban commerce centers in the world.

The Bangkok Grand Palace is prominent among the city’s traditional structures. The palace is a building complex that served as the imperial residence between the eighteenth and twentieth century. The region is striking with its majority Buddhist population, which lends to the multitude of revered temples that can be found there.

Bangkok has a humid tropical climate, which is maintained throughout the year. In the warmer months, between February and August, the temperature is about 28 °C (82.4 °F), while it fluctuates around 25 °C (77 °F) during the colder months.

Transportation in Bangkok

The Bangkok Metro extends 45 kilometers (28 miles) throughout the city and some surrounding areas. Its official inauguration took place on July 3, 2004, with the unveiling of the Blue Line. The metro is complemented by the Skytrain, an aerial train system that covers 37.9 kilometers (23.5 miles) of the metropolis. A direct connection to the air terminal from the city center can be made with the Suvarnabhumi Airport City Line.

BTS station, Bangkok
BTS station, Bangkok

Most of the models used in this system are Siemens A-Cars and C-Cars, equipped with auxiliary supplies for air conditioning and lighting. These trains are characterized by four trains, each 88.6 meters (290.7 feet) in length.

The company responsible for operating these transportation systems is the Bangkok Expressway and Metro Public Company Limited (BEM). The private company developed from the merger between Bangkok Expressway Public Company Limited (BECL) and the Bangkok Metro Public Company Limted (BMCL), in 2015 and holds a 25-year concession agreement.

In 2014, the number of passengers exceeded 92.4 million annually, which translates into about 410 thousand per day.

  • Known as: MRT
  • Length: 45 kilometers (MRT) (28 miles), 37.9 kilometers (BTS) (23.5 miles) and 28.4 kilometers (ARL) (17.6 miles).
  • Rail width: 1,435 mm (4.71 ft)
  • Number of lines: 2 (MRT), 2 (BTS), 2 (ARL).
  • Number of stations: 35 (MRT), 35 (BTS), 8 (ARL).
  • Maximum velocity: 80 km/h (49.7 mi/hr)
  • Web site: www.bangkokmetro.co.th
  • Operator: Bangkok Expressway and Metro Public Company Limited (BEM) 
  • Daily ridership: 410,000
  • Founded: July 3, 2004

Brief history

Construction of the Bangkok Metro’s first line began at the end of 1996, followed by the Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand granting concession to BEM to carry out the city’s new transportation system. However, in 1997, Thailand would plunge into one of the largest economic crises in its history, which would significantly delay the construction of the subway.

Additionally, carrying out the civil engineering work that metro installation requires proved rather complex. The composition of the city’s soil made it difficult to make the structural modifications to install tracks. However, following six years of work, the Bangkok Metro’s Blue Line began to operate on July 3, 2004.

This section originally remained in a 4-month testing period, during which the final necessary structural adjustments were made. In June 2004, normal operations began. The subway would be complemented by the Purple Line in 2016, with service in the city’s northeast. Finally, came the extension of the Blue Line in 2017, which added stations towards the south of the city. A 1.2-kilometer (0.75-mile) stretch is covered by this last section.

Lines and stations

The Bangkok Metro currently has 35 stations divided among its two lines. They cover the metropolitan section of the city as well as some surrounding areas.

The first line was inaugurated on July 3, 2004 and the second opened on August 6, 2016. Completed in 2017, the two are connected via an extension, which runs from Bang Sue to Tao Poon. Both lines were constructed by the railway transportation subsidiary, BEM.

The Skytrain (BTS) adds two additional railways lines with a total of 36 stations.

Along with these systems, the Bangkok railway is complemented by the Airport Rail Link. It has two train lines connecting to the Bangkok Airport. The first is the City Line, which makes multiple stops while the second one, the Express Line, runs directly to the airport.

Blue Line

Also known as the MRT Chaloem Ratchamongkhon, this line covers the city’s north-south corridor, though it forms a straight line across the city’s surface, as it slightly curves into an inverted C-like shape, at the ends. There are 19 stops, including the terminal stations Hua Lamphong and Tao Poon. Approximately 360 thousand passengers use the line daily and as its name indicates, the distinguishing color is blue.

Bts Bangkok: Ticket and map
Bts Bangkok: Ticket and map

Purple Line

Officially named the MRT Chalong Ratchadham, this is the system’s most modern line. Overall, it was constructed to cover a northeast portion of the city and the city center. It runs diagonally along the east-west corridor, from the upper left region of the metropolis. There are 16 stations that make up a total of 23 kilometers (14.3 miles). The terminal stations are Khlong Bang Phai and Tao Poon. 50 thousand passengers use the service daily and its distinguishing color is purple.

Skytrain: Green Line

This is officially called the Sukhumvit Line. Also known as the Skytrain or BTS, it refers to the city’s elevated train. There are two distinct routes that cover both north-south and east-west corridors, as the route forms an L shape across the metropolis. Mo Chit and Samrong are the terminal stops in a route that combines 23 stations in total. The length is 23.7 kilometers (14.7 miles) and the distinguishing color is green.

Skytrain: Dark Green Line

Officially named the Silom Line, this is the BTS’ second line. Service begins from Bang Wa station and ends at National Stadium station. The route runs throughout the city’s east-west corridor, forming a flat U shape over the metropolis. There are 13 stations distributed along its total 14.2-kilometer (8.82-mile) route and dark green is the distinguishing color of this section of the Skytrain.

Airportline: City Line

The City Line is integrated with the Airport Line, which provides service from the inner city to the airport. There is a total of 8 stations, running from Phaya Thai to the air terminal. The distinguishing color is blue.

Airportline: Express Line

Like the City Line, this line travels from the Bangkok city center to the airport. The only difference is that it doesn’t make any stops, except at Phraya Thai, which is located near the beginning of the route. The total trip takes about 18 minutes and it has a distinguishing red wine color.

Connections to other systems

Bangkok’s subway system is complemented by the city’s additional modes of railway transportation, of which the most significant is the Skytrain. This is an aerial train, run by the Bangkok Mass Transit System PCL (BTS), thanks to a concession granted by BMA.

This was one of the first modes of railway transportation planned for the city, and as a result, construction began in the early 90s. However, the official inauguration would not take place until December 1999. Since then, the system has undergone a series of structural expansions while the number of riders has risen from 200 thousand to 650 thousand.

The Skytrain has two lines which make up a total of 36 stations. Distinguished by the color green, the first is the Sukhumvit Line. The second is the Silom Line, with the distinguishing color dark green. A route of 37.9 kilometers (23.5 miles) is covered between the two which connects at Phaya Thai station to supplement subway service. Phaya Thai connects to this elevated green line train from the subway’s blue line.

Bangkok BTS Map
Bangkok BTS Map

In addition to the railway systems, the BMA provides bus lines, which mainly cover the routes that the metro does not cover. There are 100 routes provided on this ground level mode of transportation, which are served by over 3000 mostly air-conditioned vehicles. Among the buses’ main destinations are the stations on the Skytrain and the MRT.

With respect to private transportation geared towards tourists, the Tuck Tucks are a prominent transportation method. These motorized tricycles are equipped with a type of carriage in the back and they usually circulate around various city train stops. The ferries provide an additional transportation method to visitors, as they navigate the Chao Phraya River to access those destinations that can only be reached via water.

Connections to the airport

Located in Racha Tewha, the Suvarnabhumi Airport is 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) east of the city. Also known as the Bangkok International Airport, it contains one of the most modern air terminals in southeast Asia. It opened September 2006 and, from that point, grew to be the third largest airport in the world as well as the fifth busiest in Asia.

There are multiple methods to reach Bangkok’s city center from the Suvarnabhumi Airport. The most significant is the previously noted, Suvarnabhumi Airport Train, which consists of an elevated train, traveling from the city center to the airport. There are two lines, with the main one being the City Line, characterized by the color blue. The City Line includes eight stops and completes the trip in 35 minutes.

The aerial train also includes the Express Line which makes just one stop at Phraya Thai station. The Express Line route is considerably shorter than the City Line’s. However, the ticket price is more. To take either the City or Express Line, one must get off at the Skytrain’s Phraya Thai station or the Blue Line’s Phetchaburi station. Both lines connect to the subway via a pedestrian walkway between Phaya Thai and Makkasan stations.

Additionally, there are 4 bus lines that provide service to the private Airport Express company. Buses are available from the stations, Silom, Khao San Road, and Sukhumvit and from Hua Lamphong on the Skytrain.

Schedule and frequency

The Bangkok Metro runs on a continuous schedule from 6:00 a.m. to midnight. The frequency for each train arrival is 5 minutes during peak hours and 7 minutes during non-peak hours. These periods are relatively constant throughout the travel schedule. However, there are some slight variations, according to each line and the days of the week.

The Skytrain schedule is very similar to the subway, with some slight variation by departure times and frequency. Similarly, the Airport Line operates according to the system’s opening and closing schedule, but the train frequency is much less.

Blue Line

Service begins with the first train departing from Hua Lamphong station at 6:02 a.m. and ends at midnight, when the last train reaches Tao Poon station. The schedule remains the same on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.

Train frequency is usually every 10 minutes on weekdays. However, during peak hours (6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.), it is every 5 minutes. Trains run every 10 minutes, throughout the day, on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.

Purple Line

The first train departs at 5:30 a.m. from Khlong Bang Pahi station and the last train arrives at midnight at Tao Poon station. Service is from 6:00 a.m. to midnight on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. The purple line’s frequency is a consistent 10 minutes, no matter the time of day, nor the day of the week.

Skytrain: Green Line

The first train departs from Mo Chit station at 5:15 a.m. and the last train reaches Bearing station at 12:51 a.m. Service begins at 6:00 a.m. and ends at midnight on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Trains arrive every 3 minutes during peak hours (7:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.). Trains arrive every 5 minutes during non-peak hours.

Skytrain: Dark Green Line

The first train departs from National Stadium station at 5:30 a.m. and the last train arrives at 12:48 a.m. Trains arrive at 5:53 a.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, while the last arrival at the final station is as midnight. Trains arrive every 5 minutes from 7:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. During non-peak hours, trains arrive every 6 minutes.

Airport Line

Both the City Line and Express Line begin operating at 5:30 a.m., with service ending at midnight. The schedule is the same for Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. The City Line’s frequency is every 10 minutes during peak hours and every 13 minutes on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.

Fares, tickets and cards

The Bangkok Metro and Skytrain fare system is quite varied. The BMA prices vary according to the plan selected and the distance traveled. Payment types include tickets, in the form of circular shaped tokens or prepaid cards. The tokens are used for single trips while prepaid cards are more commonly used by frequent riders.

Single tickets costs 16 baht ($US 0.48), with a 2 unit increase for every station traveled. The maximum price is 42 baht ($US 1.29)

Ticket prices may be discounted, according to type. The BMA offers reduced rates based on age and rider’s category. The following table outlines the different discounts that may apply to a basic ticket plan.

Tarifas del BTS en Bangkok
Tarifas de BTS Bangkok

It is important to note that riders must be under the age of 23 and provide proof of their academic level, to receive the discounted student card. The Airport Line’s two airport arrival methods have two different fares. It is 45 baht ($US 1.35) for the City Line and The Express Line costs 90 baht 2.7).

Future expansions

The Bangkok Metro is undergoing a considerably large expansion process. There are 4 new lines currently under construction in addition to the extension of the blue and purple lines. The following details the BMA’s proposals for the upcoming decade.

Blue Line: A route, running from Hua Lamphong to Lak Song station will be opened in 2019. It will be 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) and include a total of 10 stations. A section from Bang Sue to Tha Phra is also expected to open in 2020, with a total of 7 stations distributed across its 13 kilometers (8.1 miles). Lastly, the section from Lak Song to Phutthamonthon Sai 4 will begin to operate in 2021 and 5 stations will make up its 8 kilometers (5 miles).

Purple Line: A Purple Line extension is planned for 2024. The route will pass almost completely through the east-west corridor by traveling from Tao Poon station to the Rat Burana district. There will be a total of 17 stations along 23.6 kilometers (14.7 miles)

Orange Line: The Orange Line will be one of Bangkok subway’s new routes. It is expected to open in 2023. The route will run diagonally along the east-west corridor and extend 21.2 kilometers (13.18 miles). This line will include 17 stations and run from Thailand Cultural Centre to Suwinthawong.

Pink Line: The official opening of this line is planned for 2022, with a 32-kilometer (19.9-mile) route running from Nonthaburi Civic Center station to Min Buri District. Its route will consist of 30 stations that provide service along the city’s east-west corridor.

Yellow Line: This line is also expected to open in 2022. It will cover 30.5 kilometers (18.95 miles) and run from Ratchada to Samrong and have 23 stations.

Brown Line: This line is included in future expansion plans but it is the only one without a planned opening. It will cover 22 kilometers (13.7 miles) from Nonthaburi Civic Center to Lam Sali and is expected to have a total of 20 stations.

Tips

  • Bangkok is one of the largest cities in southeast Asia. It is also one of the region’s least secure cites. As the transportation system remains crowded, it is important to maintain awareness of one’s belongings. Keep them in front of the body to deter theft and to facilitate movement throughout the system.
  • It is advisable to review the ticket calculator on BMA’s official website, since ticket prices vary according to the station and discounts vary according to the user type.
  • Most subway routes are complemented by the Skytrain. Therefore, it is recommended to have a system map on hand when getting off the metro.
  • Though station signs are also in English, learning to communicate in some basic Thai is recommended.

System regulations

  • Smoking is prohibited inside metro facilities.
  • The BMA does not allow eating nor drinking on trains or in stations.
  • Sitting on the floor is prohibited, even when the train car is empty.
  • Only service animals, assisting people with disabilities, are permitted in the system.
  • Riders with excessively large luggage are not permitted to enter.
  • Balloons are not permitted on the metro.
  • Carrying flammable objects on the metro is prohibited. Transporting foods with strong odors is also prohibited.

Notable facts

  • The Bangkok Metro is one of the few Asian transportation systems to have air conditioning.
  • The system is also notable for having some trains without conductors.
  • Bangkok’s Chautuchak station is located in the city’s municipal market.
  • Bangkok’s railway system is one of the few ones, fortunate enough to have a direct line to the airport.

Sightseeing via Bangkok Metro

Bangkok is one of the most diverse cities in Asia. The infrastructure is filled with variety, both stylistically and structurally. Preceding intense western influence, the sharply defined essence of Eastern customs remains vibrant. The streets stand out as the space for bubbling informal commerce, while the large modern buildings of globally renowned transnational companies provide an ironic twist. The following lists some places to visit, while using the Bangkok Metro:

  • Chatuchak Market: This is one of the largest markets in the world. Every product imaginable is available, from traditional Thai food to customary eastern religious items. One must simply take the Blue Line to Chatuchak station, which is actually inside the market.
  • Chinatown: A space dedicated to Chinese culture is never lacking in large cities. Although Thailand is an Asian country, it also includes a place, named Yaowarat, in which Chinese natives live and participate in culture-related commerce. Bangkok’s Chinatown is over 120 years old and is characterized as one of the largest traditional Chinatowns in the world. To visit this neighborhood, one must simply take the Blue Line to Hua Lamphong station and walk a few steps.
  • National Library of Thailand: Inaugurated in the twentieth century, this is one of the country’s first libraries. It operates under the country’s Fine Arts Department and additionally reserves all copyrights issued by the country’s writers. The library is the country’s main legal depository. It has a beautiful classical oriental structure, surrounded by a shrub-filled forest. One must take the Purple Line to Phra Nakhon station and walk a few blocks to reach the National Library.
  • Metro map of Bangkok

    Metro map of Bangkok Full resolution
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    Bangkok Skytrain, MRT map

    • Also Known As: Skytrain, MRT
    • Passengers/Day 564000
    • Fares: 0.64 EUR (2009); gates, smartcard, RFID token
    • 24h operation: No
    • Air Conditioning: Yes
    • Walk between platforms: No
    • Driverless trains: Green line (since 1999)
    • Screen Doors Platforms: Green line, Blue line
    • Average Speed: 35km/h
    • Max. Speed: 80km/h
    • Operator: Bangkok Mass Transit System Public Company Limited
    • 15 to 42 Baht (Skytrain)
    • Bangkok Metro Official Website
    • Tlf: +66 2617 7300 (Skytrain)
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