Bangkok Skytrain (BTS)

Floating above the traffic jams makes getting around much easier
Bangkok Skytrain (BTS)

Bangkok's Skytrain (รถไฟฟ้า) started operating in December 1999 and, for the areas it goes to at least, is an extremely useful way of getting about. There's a central station located at Siam square, and two lines: the 17km Sukhumvit line, which stretches from Sukhumvit Soi 81, all the way up to Mo Chit. The 6.5km Silom line from the National Stadium down south to Saphan Taksin along Silom and Sathorn roads. While the Siam station is undoubtedly the hub of the skytrain, the stations at Asoke and Sala Daeng are also main stations due to being interchange stations with the subway.  

After a somewhat slow start when passenger numbers were well below expectations and empty seats a common sight, the Skytrain today carries close to 400,00 passengers a day and it's usually standing room only. All signs and announcements are in English as well as Thai, so it's easy to use. There is no timetable, but the trains go very frequently, about every 5 minutes or so. It's open everyday from 6am to midnight.

Positives
Overall, the skytrain system is generally very popular with visitors staying near its stations. It makes travelling long distances substantially quicker than by road and is relatively inexpensive. Inside, it's clean and air-conditioned, and certainly compares very well to the mass transit systems elsewhere in the world. 

The skytrain has a good reputation for safety, having suffered nothing worse than the occasional power cut and stuck train since it started operating.

Many of the stations are gradually expanding and adding direct links to nearby hotels and shopping centers.

Negatives
The main disadvantage of the skytrain is the relatively limited areas it goes to at present - there's only two lines, and no station anywhere near the airport, railway station, the Grand Palace or Khao San road for instance. This is less of an issue now than it used to be though, as the newer subway system covers much of the central Bangkok area that the skytrain doesn't. However, although the skytrain intersects with the subway at its Asoke and Sala Daeng stations, there is no shared ticket system available.

 Long-planned extensions to the skytrain route sadly appear to be completely stalled for now as a result of political interests and an effort by the government to force the nationalisation of the skytrain.
 
The large flights of stairs that have to be climbed at each skytrain station make it inaccessible to the less mobile also. The odd station, e.g. Siam, Sala Daeng have up-only escalators and/or lifts installed but for now this is still pretty much the exception rather than the rule. This makes wheelchair access to many of the stations just about impossible, in contrast to the excellent facilities of the subway. 

Costs
Skytrain fares cost between 15B and 40B per person depending on the distance, about one third the cost of a comparable taxi ride. For one person, this is good value but if you're in a group then a taxi may represent a better option. If you plan to frequently use the skytrain, then it's well worthwhile buying one of the top-up 'Rabbit cards' sold at every station. Though no cheaper than regular tickets, they save the time and effort of having to queue for tickets and dig around for 5B and 10B coins (the only ones accepted) anytime you want to go anywhere.

Though these fares are cheap by western standards and for Bangkok's middle class, they are regarded as relatively expensive for the lowest income Thais when compared to a flat fare of 5B on Bangkok's ordinary buses. 

Thais themselves will generally refer to the skytrain system as the BTS, the name of the company that operates it.

The Sukhumvit line

The Sukhumvit line is considerably the longer of the two lines, and runs from On Nut all the way up to Mo Chit. The full list of skytrain stations on this line are as follows, and are listed with their location and the nearest things of interest if any.

Approximate pronunciations of the station names is given in italics, most are the same in English and Thai though a few aren't.

Sukhumvit Line (sai su-kum-wit)
Mo Chit
(mor chit)

This is on Phaholyothin road between soi's 18 and 20, very near the Chatuchak Weekend Market and the 'old' Mo Chit bus station (it's still a few km away from Mo Chit Mai/New Mo Chit bus station, though there are many buses that make this trip).

Saphan Kwai
(sa-pahn kwai)

This is south of Mo Chit on Phaholyothin road. The Saphan Kwai area is one of Bangkok's entertainment areas, but there's little other reason to stop here.

Ari Station
(ah-ree)

Located further south on Phaholyothin road, near soi's 6 and 7. This is really just a residential area, and is unlikely to be of any interest to the average visitor.

Sanam Pao
(sa-nahm bpao)

Also on Phaholyothin road, this station is also in mainly residential territory. It's near the Continental Hotel and the Phaya Thai 2 hospital.

Victory Monument
(anu-sah-waree chai-sanom-apoom)

Unsurprisingly, this is situated near the very busy Victory Monument area (where the Phaya Thai, Phaholyothin and Ratchawitihi roads meet). It's close to to Century Park Hotel, and the famous Saxophone pub.

Phaya Thai
(pa-yah tai)

On Phaya Thai road near Sri Ayuthaya intersection, this is near the Florida and Siam City hotels. Other than that, the only other real reason to stop here is to go visit the Suan Pakkard Palace.

Ratchathewi
(raht-cha-tay-wee)

Ratchathewi station is very close to (and will soon be linked to) the Asia Hotel, and it's also the nearest station to First Hotel, the Amari Watergate hotel, the Indra Regent Hotel, Phantip Plaza and the rest of the congested Pratunam district.

Siam / Central Station
(sa-yahm)

This is located next to Siam Square, near the Novotel Bangkok and Siam Intercontinental hotels. Also in this area are several shopping malls, cinemas, restaurants etc...The station is connected to the Siam Center shopping mall, and is also the interchange station to switch to the Silom line.

Chidlom
(chit-lom)

This is on Ploenchit road, close to the intersection with Ratchadamri road. Near here is the World Trade Center, Gaysorn Plaza, the Siam Orchid Inn, Arnoma Hotel, Le Meridien Hotel and the Brazilian embassy. The station is also connected to the Central Chidlom and Amarin Plaza department stores.

Ploenchit
(plern-jit)

Ploenchit station is also on Ploenchit road, near to Withayu (Wireless) road. It's near to the City Inn, Imperial Hotel, Hilton International Bangkok and the many embassies round here (including the UK, USA and New Zealand).

Nana
(nah-nah)

This is near Sukhumvit soi's 5, 6 and 7. It's very close to the many hotels in this area, including the Landmark, Amari Boulevard, City Lodge, Nana Hotel, JW Marriot, Grand Inn and more. Stopping here lands you right in the middle of the Sukhumvit street 'market' and there's many tourist-orientated restaurants, tailors etc...in the area.

Asok
(a-sohk)

This is near Sukhumvit soi's 14, 16, 19 and 21. It also has many hotels close to it, including the Grand Pacific (and attached branch of Robinson's department store), Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit, Royal Asia Lodge, Manhattan and more. Also close by is the uninspiring Times Square shopping mall.

Phrom Phong
(prorm pong)

This is close to Sukhumvit soi's 22, 24, 31 and 33. In this area, there is the Novotel Lotus Hotel, Regency Park Hotel and the Imperial Queen's hotel. The station is connected to the fashionable Emporium department store, and is also close to the Benjasiri Park.

Thong Lo
(torng lor)

Further down Sukhumvit, Thong Lo is near Sukhumvit soi's 36,51 and 55 (Thong Lo road). In the Thong Lo area there are many decent restaurants and a few bars, though it takes quite a walk to reach them from the station (or take the free BTS shuttle bus).

Ekkamai
(ayk-ga-mai)

This station is near Sukhumvit soi's 42 and 63. It's mainly used for the Eastern Bus Station, known as Ekkamai, on Sukhumvit soi 63.

Phrakhanong
(pra kan-ohng)

This station is near Sukhumvit soi's 44/1, 46 and 69. It's also near the junction with Rama IV road.

On Nut
(orn nut)

This station is close to Sukhumvit soi's 50, 52, 77, 79 and 81. It's connected directly to the large Tesco Lotus supermarket, and branches of McDonald's, KFC, Pizza Hut etc...

The Silom Line

The Silom line is the shorter of the two lines, and runs from Saphan Taksin station up to the National Stadium. The full list of skytrain stations on this line are as follows, and are listed with their location and the nearest things of interest if any.

Approximate pronunciations of the station names is given in italics, most are the same in English and Thai though a few aren't.

Silom Line (sai see-lom)
Saphan Taksin
(sa-pahn dtahk-sin)
This is very near Taksin Bridge, just south of the upper-class river hotels, such as the Shangri La and Oriental. This is located right on the riverbank, meaning it's very easy to continue on to the Chao Phraya river express boats if you want to. It's also within walking distance of the GPO, French Embassy and fairly near the River City shopping complex.
Surasak
(su-ra-sak)
Surasak station is further east along Sathorn road. It's in a commercial district, located a little south of the Holiday Inn.
Chong Nonsi
(chorng non-see)
This is on a connecting road between Silom and Sathorn roads. It's in the heart of the commercial district and is also near a few embassies, the Russian, Belgian, Korean and Saudi Arabian. There's nothing of any real interest to tourists in this area.
Sala Daeng
(sah-lah dairng)
This is the main stop on the Silom line. It's not all that far from the intersection of Silom and Rama IV roads. It's connected to the Silom Center shopping mall and close to the Dusit Thani Hotel, the Montien Hotel, a few other decent department stores, Patpong and Lumphini Park. A large nightmarket takes place in this area after dark.
Ratchadamri
(raht-cha-dam-ree)
Located not far from the Ratchaprasong intersection of Ratchadamri and Rama I roads, this station is convenient for visitors to the Regent Bangkok and, to a lesser extent, the Grand Hyatt Erawan hotels.
Siam / Central Station
(sa-yahm)
This is located next to Siam Square, near the Novotel Bangkok and Siam Intercontinental hotels. Also in this area are several shopping malls, cinemas, restaurants etc...The station is connected to the Siam Center shopping mall, and is also the interchange station to switch to the Sukhumvit line.
National Stadium
(sa-nahm gee-lah hairng chaht)
This huge station is attached to the Tokyu/MBK shopping center, and is only a couple of minutes walk away from the Siam Station. It's the nearest station for the Pathumwan Princess hotel and for the guesthouses located on Soi Kasem San 1. Jim Thompson's house is also nearby, as is a pier for the Khlong Saen Saep canal boats.

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