I still have my BTS Card from the time I lived in Bangkok. The teachers’ apartment in Piyapat were a 20-minute walk away from work so purchasing a BTS pass wasn’t necessary unless I was heading downtown.
The Bangkok Mass Transit System (BTS) has grown since my time living in Thailand. Two lines (Siloam and Sukhumvit) take residents and tourists where ever they need to go, or at least to connect to busses, a subway, or taxis. The Phaya Thai stop even connects to the rail link to the international airport. Talk about convenience for those traveling with just a carry-on/backpack. The end of the Sukhumvit line is Mo Chit where you can find the famous Chatuchak market. The Siam stop is where the two lines connect for busy but easy transfers. Siam is also where you can find the largest malls downtown, such as Siam Paragon. The National Stadium stop is where you can find its namesake, but also the MBK Shopping Centre.
For those who, like me, only used the BTS on weekends and enjoy exploring on foot, your best bet is to purchase a single journey ticket. This rate is calculated based on how far you have to go, ranging from 15 baht (about $0.60 Cdn) to 42 baht (about $1.60 Cdn). Tickets are issued via ticketing machines – great way to get rid of some coins. You need your ticket to get into paid areas of the track, and the ticket will be taken when you leave at your destination.
Another option and cheap travel hack to explore downtown Bangkok is to purchase a one-day pass for unlimited rides. My friend Julia and I joked about doing this as a self-guided tour…but lo and behold, we definitely did one day. The one day pass currently (2016) costs 140 baht ($5.20 Cdn). Monthly passes are also available for those staying longer.
The two lines are easy to navigate, and there is ample signage to get you to your destination. Both paid and unpaid areas of the BTS have roofed skywalks to get you in and out of nearby businesses and hotels. You can also opt to take the stairs directly down to the ground level.
Sukhumvit was an easy favourite where we discovered vast options for international foods, most notably, Bangkok’s Korean Town Plaza. Everything from tiny shops, a grocery store and restaurants were run by Korean folks living in Bangkok. My friend Julia and I chose to spend some Sundays after church exploring the dining and shopping options.
The break from Thai food was a welcome bonus – and for Julia, she was able to order and speak in the Korean language. Communication was a double bonus, since Thai was not our strong suit conversationally. Thank heavens for her ability to communicate fluently while in Korean Town! We were able to ask general questions and get answers from locals.
Don’t settle for taxi rates all the time while traveling. Learn the ropes and travel with the locals. The BTS is tourist-friendly and easy to follow. If you get lost, there will usually be a kind English-speaking local or tourist who will be able to help you. Best of luck as you navigate downtown Bangkok!