Not booking a package tour means you’re
(a) are most likely cheap and
(b) need to hustle.
One of the likely tourist traps you will fall into is having to get from the airport to the place you’re staying. When it’s your first time in a foreign city, it can feel rather intimidating as you just don’t know what to expect – so you end up going with the over-priced taxi. I’ve been scammed like this before (in Lilongwe and Seoul).
After loads of googling and advice by my travel adviser (aka my sister), we decided to take public transport from Bangkok’s international airport to the hotel (the Mercure close to the National Stadium BTS stop). I’ve heard that the taxis are reasonably priced but I thought I’d be adventurous and save my weak ZARs for massages.
Suvarnabhumi Airport is fairly simple to navigate. We arrived around lunch time and followed all the sheep through immigration (TIP: hold onto that little slip they put in your passport, you will need it at every hotel you go to). We asked the Info desk where to get our luggage and we were directed to the baggage claims.
We traveled fairly light – 1 suitcase and 1 backpack per person. I would not recommend taking the Airport Rail Link if you have a lot of baggage as no one needs that hassle after flying for a what feels like a million hours.
We picked up our luggage and exchanged a few dollars at the airport. Everyone knows that airports offer the worst exchange rates so just exchange what you need. USD 50 should be more than enough.
From there, we headed to the basement level of the airport. We walked to the Airport Rail Link information and they were really helpful. We paid about ZAR 45 (USD3.50) for two tickets to the last stop (Phaya Thai station) of the Airport Rail Link (City Line). The security guard directed us on where to stand and we waited about 5 minutes for the train. The guard made sure all the passengers climbed out before we were allowed in. He was friendly and seemed really patient for someone who probably deals with lost tourists everyday.
The Airport Rail Link was comfortable and everyone had enough place to sit. My neck hurt from craning it as I was excited to see what Bangkok looks like! There were announcements made at each stop on where we were. This may be a strange thing to write but in SA we don’t have Skytrains (well, we have trains but those could do with some upgrading).
As we got closer to the end of the Airport Rail Link Line, we noticed that the compartments were filling up. This is where it would get uncomfortable if you have a lot of luggage. Our last stop was on the Airport Rail Link was Phaya Thai. We lugged our luggage towards the Info/payment kiosk and explained that we wanted to go to the National Stadium station.
The staff were helpful and friendly. We took the BTS Silom Line from where we were (Phaya Thai) to the Siam stop (i.e. 2 stops away from Phaya Thai).
Siam is a transit point and is a very busy station. On all the stations there is staff everywhere to help and guide you so you never have to feel too stressed.
Siam was not our last stop. We had to change Skytrains there and it was one more stop to the National Stadium. The Mercure was at Exit 1 and it was a 2 minute walk there. There were quite a few steps going down which wasn’t great with the luggage but it was entirely manageable.
This might sound like a lot of back and forth but it wasn’t really. All the Skytrains run within minutes of each other and you never have to wait more than 5 minutes to get where you need to go (during the day). The entire trip took less than an hour and cost less that ZAR100 (USD8) per person.
So in summary:
– From the Airport we took the Airport Rail Link CityLine to the last stop (Phaya Thai)
– We transferred to the Silom Line (to Siam) and boarded the Skytrain headed for the Siam stop
– At Siam station, you can get off there if you need to but if you are staying at the Mercure Siam you will switch one last time to the the Skytrain headed to the National Stadium (i.e. the first stop)
– At National Stadium, go to Exit 1
*Bonus tip: we found the exchange rate booths at the Skytrain stops offered better rates than inside the MBK mall. Remember you are selling your dollars so you are going to look for the rate that gives you the most Bhat.
Ps- If I have any of the facts wrong then please correct me in the comments!