The Skytrain (BTS) and the Metro (MRT) system are the best way to get around town and beat the traffic, but both get very crowded during rush hour. The Skytrain and Metro systems cover mainly the central area of Bangkok and not the suburbs. There are also some parts of Bangkok that are impossible to reach from the BTS or MRT, such as the old area of Banglamphuu and Ramkhamhaeng areas.
The BTS and MRT systems are operated by two different companies and tickets are not transferable.
The Skytrain opened in 1999 after years of construction and has two lines that cover the main districts of Sukhumvit, Silom, Sathorn, and Ploenchit, where many expats live. Then it goes north past the Victory Monument area, another expat area and transport hub, all the way to Chatuchak, near the famous Weekend Market and the Mo Chit bus station. Trains run every day from 06:00 am until midnight, every 3 to 5 minutes.
The two lines intersect at Siam Station. You can go directly to MRT from Sala Daeng and Asok station.
You can find maps for the Skytrain at the BTS homepage (http://www.bts.co.th/en/index.asp). Fares range from 15 Baht for the shortest trips up to 40 Baht for the longest. It’s possible to buy prepaid cards and pay a fixed fare, at a lower rate, for each trip. These cards are easy and cost effective, particularly if you use the BTS everyday. Tickets are bought at stations only.
The Skytrain is very fast for getting around Bangkok during rush hours. It does get quite crowded at these times, but never so packed that you cannot board. If you don’t like to be crowded, you should rearrange your schedule.
A station to take note of is Victory Monument which is the Bangkok bus central and an area that has a lot to offer in terms of foreign restaurants and entertainment.
The Bangkok Metro opened in July 2004, and covers the areas of the city which are not served by the Skytrain. The metro is run by MRTA (http://www.bangkokmetro.co.th) which is a different organization than the BTS. The metro covers predominantly Thai neighborhoods. The line runs north from Asok along Ratchada Road trugh Lad Prao all the way to Mo Chit station. The southern line goes trough Silom, Sathorn and ends in Chinatown near Bangkoks main train station Hualamphong. Maps are available at the website above. There are additional metro lines planned, but it’s unlikely that they will be ready anytime soon. Construction has not even begun.
You can buy single ride fares for 16 to 40 Baht or buy prepaid cards which offer unlimited travel for a certain period of time (one day, one week or one month). Buy your tickets at the station. As BTS, the Metro runs from 06:00 am until midnight everyday. In peak hours, trains arrive every 5 minutes or less and in off hours, about every 10 minutes.
The Metro gets crowded during rush hours and is not used as much by expats as the Skytrain, but it’s very convenient if you are going near Ratchada or Sathorn.
For both systems, it’s best to let people off the train first before getting on yourself, though there can be quite a fight to get on in rush hours.
Something a bit different than in Western countries is that adults will actually get up to let small children sit down. Pregnant women, the elderly and monks should also be given a seat. It’s also not uncommon for someone sitting down to offer to hold grocery bags for someone while they stand.