Trip Advisor, Reddit comment threads, and travel blogs list countless posts from travellers advising the best way to get from A to B when you land in a foreign country like Thailand. Both times I have landed in the bustling city of Bangkok via Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK), Bangkok’s huge international airport, I have been swept up into a whirlwind of hand written signs and broken English offers.
I set aside a decent chunk of an hour to research ‘How to get from BKK to Khao San Road’ before we left as I was still unsure of how to navigate the Arrivals chaos. Now after my second trip to Bangkok I feel I have a grasp on how much certain trips should cost, and when to remain confident in bartering to make it an economical and smooth experience.
1. Shuttle Bus
After going through the cues of Customs Arrivals you are standing on Level 2. On your left and right there will be elevators and lifts to take you down to Level 1, Gate 8 where you will find the desks of shuttle buses and locations. Make sure you know the suburb (or road name) to pick the right shuttle bus as there are 5-6 to choose from including Khao San Road.
This will cost between 100 to 150 BAHT (4 AUD!) per person to arrive on your hotel doorstep depending on your destination. You just have to visit the other passengers’ doorstep too. If you’re not the first to get dropped off enjoy the crazy traffic! The shuttle bus departs when the bus is full or every hour. Khao San Road is a very popular shuttle departing around 20 past the hour, charging 100 BAHT per person for a 30-45minute drive.
If you’re up for an adventure and want to dive into local life in Bangkok this is the option for you. There is a fantastic train line that will get you into the Bangkok CBD with 3 lines going North, South and West accessible from the airport and usually involving a transfer. Take the elevators from Level 2 down to Level 1 and follow the signs down further to the train. Purchase a ticket from the information desk by the station entrance or the machines. I generally go to the desk because it is easy and the lovely people can help confirm you are getting off at the right stop.
The train line doesn’t go all the way to Khao San Road because of all the old temples and palaces, so you need to catch a taxi or TukTuk depending on your luggage. Catch the train to Phaya Thai station for 45 BAHT keeping your ticket so you can get out at the other end. Follow the signs downstairs to a taxi rank. For between 10 and 45 BAHT you can get to Bangkok CBD and then either walk, catch a Tuk Tuk, or hale a taxi.
Ahh yes, the illusive Thailand taxi. Well, there is not really one price I can give you to expect. On Level 1, Gate 7 outside there are 4 standing computers where you select a people-mover, van, or sedan taxi. It will give you the number of your taxi driver’s lane where he will be waiting.
The staff on site will tell you it is around 350 BAHT plus the 50 BAHT surcharge for being picked up at the airport – and when going by the meter this is correct. On top of this 350 BAHT are tolls for the highway – the fastest and preferable means to get to your hotel. The first toll is 50 BAHt, and the second heading towards Khao San Road is 25 BAHT.
This makes it a total of 475 BAHT (19 AUD) but you may still pay more. We were asked to pay 600 BAHT (24 AUD) with no meter even though it is illegal to have the meter off. You will experience this if you are heading back to BKK airport so don’t fret too much. You can counter-offer 500 BAHT listing the meter fair, tolls, and let him know you are aware you are giving extra already, but it is up to you whether you go get another taxi that will run by the meter or go with the flow and give the driver a couple of extra BAHT.
Next time I fly to Suvarnabhumi Airport BKK I will head down to Gate 8 and check what time the shuttle buses leave for Khao San Road. If I have just missed one and need to wait longer than 20 minutes my next option is to take a taxi. I have taken my suitcases on the train to save money, but in future will catch a taxi for 500 BAHT to Khao San Road.
However, if I am staying in Bangkok CBD I will catch the train because it is cheaper and quicker because you avoid the traffic.
I am all for being cheap, but sometimes a girl just wants to get to the hotel and start enjoying the 3 C’s of Bangkok – culture, cuisine and cocktails!