09 Nov (BKK) Bangkok Airport to City Centre
It’s been a long day (or more) of travel as you slog through the customs line at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK), you’re tired, hungry and want to stop moving (and probably have a long shower as well), there is only one problem, you still need to get to your hotel or hostel. Thankfully getting from the Bangkok airport to the city centre is not a difficult task.
Located 30 km (19 miles) from the city centre, the trip to your accommodations can take awhile depending on the time of day (Bangkok is notorious for its traffic) and the mode of transportation you choose; airport shuttle bus, Airport Link train or taxi.
AIRPORT SHUTTLE BUS TO KHAO SAN ROAD
Many 20-something budget travellers opt to take the bus from BKK to Khao San Road (an area known for its budget accommodations, cheap bars and even cheaper street food). Hell, I did it myself the first time I landed in Bangkok in 2010.
While the bus I took was nice, I managed to get off at the wrong stop and get lost on my way to my hostel. Thankfully a kindly older Thai man took pity on me and walked me to where I needed to go. You shouldn’t have that kind of trouble now as there is a new shuttle bus that runs between BKK and Khao San Road.
The S-1 air-conditioned shuttle to Khao San Road costs 60 THB ($1.80 USD, $2.30 CAD) and picks up from Gate 7 (first floor of the terminal) every 30 mins between the hours of 6 am – 8 pm.
The shuttle also makes stops at Yommarat, Larn Luang, Phan Fa, Democracy Monument, Wat Bowonniwet, Sanamluang.
AIRPORT LINK TO CITY CENTRE
Bangkok’s Airport Link is a popular option for locals, tourists and expats who want to get into the city centre quickly (and avoid the possibility of traffic jams). Once you arrive at Phaya Thai station, you can then take the BTS train along the Sukhumvit or Silom lines towards your accommodations then walk the rest of the way (or hop into a taxi, tuk-tuk or the back of a motorbike).
The Airport Link operations daily from 6 am – 12 am and departs from the first floor of the passenger terminal. The train from BKK to the city centre costs 45 THB ($1.36 USD, $1.75 CAD) and takes 30 minutes to get from BKK to Phaya Thai station.
The Airport Link also makes stops at Lat Krabang, Ban Thap Chang, Hua Mak, Ramkhamhaeng, Makkasan (you can connect to the MRT at this stop) and Ratchaprarop.
**The express line closed in 2015, this is now the only train into the city centre.**
TAKING A TAXI
Depending on where I’m staying, and what time I arrive in Bangkok, I will usually take a taxi to my hostel/hotel. There are a few reasons for this: I am tired and craving some personal space after hours upon hours of flying, and I’m craving a shawarma from my favourite vendor in Nana (Soi 3, near the 7-eleven and Sukhumvit Road).
On the first floor of the passenger terminal, you’ll find designated taxi stands at Gate 4, join the line and tell the attendant where you want to go (if your hotel or hostel sent their address in English and Thai, consider showing this for clarity). You will then be assigned to a taxi and the driver will walk you over to his car.
A taxi to Bangkok city centre will cost 400 – 500 THB ($12 – $15 USD , $15 – $19 CAD). The fare is based on tollway fees, final fare and a 50 THB surcharge for the driver. It is important to not overpay the taxi driver. The trip should not be more than 500 THB from BKK, so if your driver is asking for 1,00 THB, he is trying to scam you. Do not overpay, no matter how tired you may be.
While taking a taxi is significantly more expensive than the shuttle bus or Airport Link, it is worth the price after a long day –– especially if you’re like me and don’t mind chilling in the back of a taxi. I generally do not care about traffic as taxi time is ‘me time‘ when travelling in densely populated countries.
WHY YOU SHOULDN’T OVERPAY YOUR TAXI DRIVER
Many cities seem to have double standards when it comes to locals and tourists. One group is often treated differently than the other, sometimes out of prejudice, sometimes out of necessity and sometimes—in the case of scammers—out of greed.
“When I work until late at night, the taxi cabs in front of the hostel won’t take me,” Ngae Nor said to me one evening. “They want farang (foreign) passengers because they can make more money.”
This is a problem many Thais face in Bangkok. The hostel where Ngae was working was located on a quiet street in the neighbourhood of Silom, and while there is almost always a taxi parked nearby, they would refuse to take her as they could get more money from a farang. So, late at night when her shift ended, she would have to walk down darkened streets to the main road to hail a taxi. An inconvenience that nobody, Thai or foreigner, should have to face.
Part of the problem is the stigma surrounding skin colour. Many Thai people believe that if you have light skin, you have money and a very good job. If you have darker skin, you’re poor (this helps to explain the prevalence of whiting skin care products).
It can be easier as a foreigner to overpay and not know it. One way to ensure you’re paying the appropriate price is to ask the driver to turn on the meter and pay attention to the price as you near your destination. I once had a driver quickly turn it off and try to charge me more. I simply paid what the meter said before his little trick and walked away.
Another way is to ask hostel/hotel staff what they think a ride should cost. For instance, I took the taxi from the hostel in Silom to the sister hostel in Sukhumvit enough times that I knew the fare was 50 THB, which was handy when someone tried to charge me 100 THB.