Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Beating Bangkok's Traffic - the Airport Link

If ever there was a misnomer, it’s “rush hour” in Bangkok: no one is ‘rushing’ anywhere, with traffic gridlocked and a 15 minute trip becoming a 45-minute epic. Even out of peak times, major thoroughfares such as Sukhumvit slow to a crawl, making any taxi journey a frustrating stop-start meter-ticking exercise.

Fortunately, cabs are relatively cheap in this city; and with luggage involved, it’s always been the easiest option for transportation from the airport into the city. But now there’s an alternative, and slowly but surely, visitors to Bangkok are realising that the simplest and least stressful way to travel to and from Suvarnabhumi Airport is on the new Airport Link train.

In just 22 minutes, the express non-stop train will whisk you from the air terminal to Phaya Thai BTS station, where you interchange with the BTS (Bangkok Mass Transit) Skytrain. Alternatively, you can take the Makkasan line, which links to the MRT line. Heading back to the airport, travellers on Thai Airways can check their luggage in at Makkasan (a la Hong Kong's awesome metro system).

Single tickets to both Phaya Thai and Makkasan cost 90 baht; a return is 150 baht, with a 14 day validity. Express trains leave on the half hour and the hour, with the 28.6 kilometre journey smooth, fast and hassle free. Alternatively, you can take the ‘city line’ train, which stops at all six stations into the city and costs just 45 baht one way.

A taxi, on the other hand, will cost you around 400 baht, plus 70 baht for tolls en route. Doing the maths, the train trip adds up to pretty good value, especially for solo travellers.

The most frustrating oversight in the Airport Link system is that Makkasan station – where you can check in your luggage – doesn’t link up with the BTS, which accesses most of the tourist hotspots. Someone wasn’t thinking straight in the planning stages, and as a consequence, Makkasan is somewhat of a white elephant.
However, the Airport Link is ideal if you are travelling light, or staying at a hotel within walking distance from a BTS station. If you have a lot of luggage, are travelling with a family, or don’t know where your hotel is located, it still may be more convenient to jump in a cab – just make sure you factor in the horrendous traffic and be prepared to sit ... and wait ... and wait...


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