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The Bangkok Subway System

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The Bangkok Subway System
The Bangkok subway, referred to as the MRT (Metropolitan Rapid Transit), serves parts of central Bangkok, extending as far as Bang Sue in the northern part of the city and the Hua Lumpong Railway Station in the southwestern part of the city. Although it does not cover all of the places you’ll want to travel to while visiting Bangkok, it does pass through the center of the city and cover some of the important places you’ll want to see, both in the center and outside the center. The subway is cool and comfortable, though it can get very crowded during rush hour.

Interchange Stations:

At Sukhumvit Station, the subway intersects with Bangkok’s Skytrain, so you can transfer from one to another. Follow the signs from one to another to change. Another interchange point is at Silom Station on the subway/Sala Daeng Station on the Skytrain. You have to exit and walk half a block to get from one station to another but it’s relatively quick. These are totally separate systems, so you cannot use an integrated ticket for the whole ride. If you’re traveling to or from Bangkok’s Suvarnabumi Airport, you can connect to the Airport Rail Link by exiting the subway at Petchaburi Station and getting on the rail link at Makkasan Station. Like with the Skytrain, the systems are not connected, so you have to leave one station, walk for a few minutes, and reenter to the other.

Other Stations of Interest:

Hua Lumpong Station is Bangkok’s main railway terminal and it’s where you’ll board most trains out of the city. It’s also the gateway to Bangkok’s historic and fascinating Chinatown. If you’re visiting Chinatown you’ll have to walk, taxi or tuk tuk about half a mile to get to the center of Chinatown (you can also take the Chao Phraya river ferry).

Chatuchak Park Station will take you right to Chatuchak Weekend Market, one of the largest outdoor markets in the world. Getting in and out of Chatuchak can be a zoo; unless you’re carrying many, many bags, you’ll be happy to board the air conditioned subway at the end of your shopping excursion (you can also take the Skytrain depending on where you’re heading after the market).

Lumpini Station and Sala Daeng Station will both bring you to different corners of Bangkok’s Lumpini Park, the largest public park in Bangkok.

How to Buy a Ticket:

Ticketing on the Bangkok subway system is not as easy as it could, or should, be. To buy your ticket, you need to know in advance where you will be getting off the train. Once you know that, head to one of the automatic ticket machines, select “English” for an English-language menu, and press the name of the stop you want to get off at. The machine will tell you how much your fare will be. Insert your money, coins or bills are fine and the machine dispenses change. What you’ll get in return is a black plastic coin a little bigger than the size of a quarter. When you go through the turnstile to enter the subway, TAP the plastic coin on the sensor but do not leave it on the sensor. You must hold onto the coin for your journey, because when you leave the subway system, you cannot get out unless you insert the plastic coin into the exit turnstile.

Since you’ve already paid for the journey, what happens if you change your mind midway through and decide you want to get off at a different stop? Don’t worry, you’re not required to get off at the original exit and re-board the subway. Head for the ticket office before you exit; let the clerk know that you paid for either more or less than you expected to. They will scan your coin and adjust the fare. Even if you can’t explain what happened, if you show them the coin the clerks will most likely be able to figure out the problem and sort it out for you. If you’re riding the subway for more than a few days, considering buying a stored value card. You can purchase these at any one of the manned stations and use it to tap in and out of the turnstiles. The benefit of these is that you do not have to wait in line to buy a coin and if you change your mind and decide to get off the train before or after the stop you had originally planned on departing from, there’s no hassle.

Hours of Operation and Frequency of Trains:

The subway system runs from 6 a.m. to midnight. The last train is as early as around 11:30 depending on the station. You will hear an announcement if you’re boarding the last train. During peak times, trains run every five minutes or less. At other times you can wait as long as 10 minutes between trains.

Subway Etiquette:

Eating and drinking are strictly forbidden on platforms and subway cars, as is sitting on the platforms (there are few benches or other places to sit).

Expansion Plans:

The MRT is currently working on major expansions of the existing single line subway system. If everything goes according to schedule, by 2015 there will be subway stations extending through Chinatown and as far as Wat Po and beyond.
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