Friday, October 15, 2010

Bangkok's BTS Skytrain: Tickets

It's been a while since the last part of the BTS Skytrain series, so here's part three. If you're just joining us or hadn't seen the first couple, here are the links to the introduction and overview and statistics and stairs posts. For other BTS-related posts you can always click on the "BTS" link under Labels in the right-hand column, too.

In the last post I mentioned how often you're likely to be faced with a few flights of stairs, and I only mention it again because there are precious few (only four) stations with elevators, so you need to be aware of this if you have any disabilities that would prevent you from climbing or decending them. By my counts it can easily be 70 to 80 stair steps from street level to the boarding platform. Some of the busier stations will have escalators going up, but most do not. I'm repeating a previously posted photo below to again illustrate the level of the street, walkways, stations and passenger boarding levels.

However, unless you absolutely can't take your time and climb I urge you to ride the Skytrain as often as possible, for a variety of reasons; it's dependable, it's cheap, it's air conditioned, it's fast, it saves you hours of time sitting in a taxi and it provides excellent opportunities to people watch. Oh - I forgot one more important thing: almost ALL of the signage is in Thai and English. I know that's not much of a comfort if you speak French,German or Swedish, but if you've gotten this far it's a safe bet you speak enough English to be having a fine time so far, right? You'll be fine.

Once you've reached the station level itself you'll see a scene like the top photo today. The people queuing up are waiting to put their 5- and 10-baht coins into the ticket machines, of which there are usually at least two or three. If you find you don't have coins you can walk over to the ticket widow (in the middle of the picture) and easily either change Thai currency into coins or buy a multi-ride card.

No cash at all on you? There are ATMs within a few steps of the ticket office. Be advised that there are transaction fees (in the neighborhood of 100 or 150 baht) and always be careful of entering your pin number if there's a chance of someone seeing what you're entering.

I invariably buy the 30 day adult Smartpass card and then pass it along to a friend before I leave. They're available for 20, 30 or 40 trips and cost 440, 600 and 800 baht, respectively. If you're planning a full day of use you can purchase single day unlimited ride tickets for 120 baht.

Simply purchasing a single-ride ticket is easy. As an example, to the right of the actual ticket machine in the vertical image above is a route map. In it we're at the Ratchathewi station, highlighted on that map by a yellow "you are here" dot. Look at the map, find the station you wish to go to, and note the number in the circle next to it.

For example, if you want to go to the Jatujak Weekend Market, you'd be going to the Mo Chit station at the Northern end of the Sukhumvit line, noted on the map with a "5". At the top of the map you'll see fare information, with a cost below the range of station numbers, charged by distance traveled. Below the 5 you'll see the fare is 30 baht.

Even simpler, just punch the "5" button on the vending machine itself (area 1 in the photo), and it'll tell you how much you need to put into it (area 2), counting it down on the screen as you insert coins, until it pops a ticket out of the slot (area 3). Remember to take your change if the machine drops any into the bin (area 4).

Again, remember to note the end of the line station name for the line you'll be riding, as this is how you'll know which side of the tracks to be climbing up to once you're through the entrance gates. From the example above you'd be looking for the sign saying "Mo Chit", with an arrow pointing to the stairway. If you went up the stairs on the other side you'd find yourself waiting for a train that would take you to the On Nut station. If you're like me, you don't want to have to go back down (and then up) any more stairs than you have to and you learn this lesson quickly!

Take your ticket, insert it into the automated gates, enter the station officially and head up the (hopefully correct) stairs to the boarding platform.

Trains arrive frequently, and if you get tired of admiring the city views there are plenty of video monitors showing commercials for everything from upcoming movies to food items to skin whitening creams. It's a hoot, if you can stay far enough away from a speaker because they're loud.

When the train arrives, note the lines on the platform and stand to the side of the doors as they open to allow exiting passengers to disembark before you board the train, find a seat or a spot to lean and enjoy the ride!

I didn't take the video clip below, but it's a great overview of today's post.


krobbie said...

BaoBao, that is one of the best pieces of information a new traveler to Bangkok could be armed with. Complete and concise.

There is no better way to get about Bangkok as you have described. The emotional and actual time savings are enormous given the land area of Bangkok.

I cannot believe the first time I came to Thailand I was so frightened that I didn't go into the the CBD (Silom / Sathorn / Surawongse) and stayed overnight at Raddisson @ Rama 9, Huay Kwang and then left next morning to Phuket.

Had I known a little more about the place I wouldn't have been so nervy. I mean, BKK is not for the faint-hearted but when I look back now I can't imagine anyplace less frightening. It was just lack of knowledge.

This brings us back to why your blog is a godsend for anyone thinking of coming to Thailand for the first time.


khunbaobao said...

Thanks - you're far too kind, but it certainly balances out the comment I didn't post from yesterday - HA!

I certainly hope it helps a couple of folks enjoy the time. I, too, was somewhat "lost" my first couple of trips.

John Farmer said...

A nice concise review of the BTS system. Having lived in Thailand in the late 1990s, before either the BTS or MRT systems existed, I think it can be difficult for new visitors to the county to truly appreciate the level of convenience that was hitherto unheard of.

I would add only one piece of information for new travelers. If you have a specific destination in mind after you have departed the train, be sure and note which of the (numbered) exits from the station is the one that will send you off in the right direction. Stations often have several exits that deposit you on various sides of major highways heading in various directions. If you take the wrong exit and do not know your way around the city, it is easy to get turned around and heading in the wrong direction.


khunbaobao said...

Yikes - you're right. I missed a key point in this post - that can save a lot of time wandering. I'd intended to mention it in this AND the next part about things around some of the stations, but I forgot. Thank you for pointing it out!