Bangkok's MRT Trains - A Quick Guide

BTS Sky Train and MRT Subway - Same Same But Different
BTS Sky Train and MRT Subway - Same Same But Different

Bangkok's MRT (Mass Rail Transit) is another answer to the city's notoriously congested vehicle traffic in central Bangkok.

The MRT is an advanced underground subway system currently running on one line. Just like its sister transportation system, the BTS Sky Train, the MRT is not extensive yet it serves an important role in transporting local Thais to work, social gatherings, shopping and back home quickly and conveniently.

And not only do the locals find the MRT useful, travelers too are taking advantage of the affordable fares, well air conditioned stations and passenger cars.

Like the BTS Sky Train the MRT is very easy to use. But to be quite honest most of the stops that the MRT makes are not anywhere near tourist attractions. However I will list places to see and points of interest near MRT stations below.

Bangkok's subway trains are increasingly becoming more popular through the years. It's safe and reliable but most importantly really affordable.

All MRT entrances have the same unique clam-shell look
All MRT entrances have the same unique clam-shell look | Source

Same Same But Different

"Same Same But Different" is a common terminology you might see often on t-shirts or hear from a shopkeeper trying to convince you to buy something of similar quality. It's also the best way to describe the MRT and BTS train systems.

Both trains look similar because it was constructed by the same German company Siemans. Both are easy to use, with station maps and station announcements in English.

The only difference between the two is the slight dissimilarity in the way the train fares look.

A Quick History of Bangkok's MRT

The MRT first started serving the public on July 3rd, 2004 with the King and Queen of Thailand presiding over the ceremony and everything went smoothly. Though it first took quite awhile for the MRT to even begin construction due to delays from a managing and engineering perspective, especially when you consider that construction first broke ground in 1996.

Ridership was expected to be low, just like the BTS Sky Train, but soon as more and more locals spread the word on how quick and easy it was to use the system the MRT soon reached the same popularity as the Sky Train.

Though there was one major accident one year later in 2005 when 140 people were injured due to an empty train rear ending a full train during peak hours. Fortunately no passengers were killed but the MRT completely stopped service for 2 weeks. Suffice to say Thais were weary of riding the MRT for awhile. Their fears were easily remedied though by fare discounts which worked and ridership went right back up to pre-accident levels.

The MRT is a major success regardless and lessons were learned and safeguards put in place. Today the MRT is expanding it's system to reach to provide service to more of it's citizens.

What times does the MRT operate?

The official time is 6am to 12am daily. However even though the MRT states that it closes at 12am it does not mean that you can enter a station at 11:59pm. The stations will usually stop accepting passengers around 11:30pm. So plan accordingly.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Besides showing Thai tourism ads these monitors also display when the next train arrives in minutes.Doors automatically slide open when the MRT stops. It's also great for protecting passengers.Not sure if the train is going your direction? Just take a look at the map. The train only goes in 2 directions. It's not easy to get lost on the MRT.
Besides showing Thai tourism ads these monitors also display when the next train arrives in minutes.
Besides showing Thai tourism ads these monitors also display when the next train arrives in minutes. | Source
Doors automatically slide open when the MRT stops. It's also great for protecting passengers.
Doors automatically slide open when the MRT stops. It's also great for protecting passengers. | Source
Not sure if the train is going your direction? Just take a look at the map. The train only goes in 2 directions. It's not easy to get lost on the MRT.
Not sure if the train is going your direction? Just take a look at the map. The train only goes in 2 directions. It's not easy to get lost on the MRT. | Source

Missed the train?

Plenty of trains arrive in 5 minute intervals. Waiting times are less during peak hours. Take a look at the monitors on the platforms. It shows the approximate minutes the next train arrives.

MRT Train System

As I mentioned before, the MRT train system is not extensive at all. In all there is only a total of 18 stops between Bang Sue to Hua Lumhphong (which leads to Bangkok's above ground railway system).

The MRT is not really meant to make sightseeing for tourists any easier. Though there are a few stations that will put you closer to points of interest, but you would probably have to hail a taxi. You can find a list of points of interest near MRT stations below.

MRT stations all have escalators leading up and down the station. Every station has elevators but I've noticed the elevators leading to the Silom MRT station seems to be down all the time. So if you need the use of elevators then it's probably best to have someone check to see if the elevators are functional.

Currently there are 3 MRT interchange stations which you can change to the BTS Sky Train system:

  1. MRT Mo Chit station to BTS Mo Chit station
  2. MRT Asoke station to BTS Sukhumvit station
  3. MRT Silom station to BTS Sala Daeng station

The ride-time from one station to another is usually around 2-3 minutes.

Finally keep in mind that purses and knapsacks will be checked by security, after you walk through a metal detector. There will be a check point right next to the escalator you took to go down to the station.

And food is also not allowed to be eaten in the station as well as on the train.

Bangkok's MRT Train Map
Bangkok's MRT Train Map | Source
MRT station booth - All attendants are able to communicate in English
MRT station booth - All attendants are able to communicate in English | Source
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Fare chart found in all stationsTouch screen ticket vending machine - Accepts coins and small bills - English instructions are available on the machineSingle Journey TokenMRT 30 Day Unlimited Ride Smart PassChildren under 14 and not over 90cm. ride for free
Fare chart found in all stations
Fare chart found in all stations | Source
Touch screen ticket vending machine - Accepts coins and small bills - English instructions are available on the machine
Touch screen ticket vending machine - Accepts coins and small bills - English instructions are available on the machine | Source
Single Journey Token
Single Journey Token | Source
MRT 30 Day Unlimited Ride Smart Pass
MRT 30 Day Unlimited Ride Smart Pass | Source
Children under 14 and not over 90cm. ride for free
Children under 14 and not over 90cm. ride for free | Source

Cost of Riding the MRT Trains

Currently the rate fares for riding the MRT ranges from 15 baht to 40 baht and the amount you pay depends on the distance traveled.

Remember the MRT and BTS runs on separate train fare systems. So your MRT fare will not work on the BTS and vice versa. Supposedly both train systems are in the works of combining the 2 to make things easier for commuters who frequently ride both on a daily basis.

Anyway, there are 2 types of fares for the MRT:

  1. Single Journey Token - These are one time use black round plastic tokens, electronically embedded with your destination. Fares range from 15 baht to 40 baht depending on the distance traveled.
  2. Stored Valued Cards - Also called smart cards. There are several varieties of stored valued cards. For instance the Adult Card works like a debit card. You can top it up from a minimum of 100 baht to a maximum of 1000 baht, kind of like a prepaid debit card. Then there are the One Day unlimited ride pass that cost 120 baht.

Children under 14 years of age and not over 90cm. tall can ride free.

Check out MRT's website on ticketing and pricing for up to date information.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
MRT station entry gateTap the single journey token or smart pass onto the panel to open the entry gateTo exit insert the token in the slot or touch the smart pass onto the panel and the gate will openMRT Silom stationEach station has a map numbering all points of exitYou can even shop inside certain MRT stations. This one is in Chatuchak station. To be quite honest though these shops don't see too much business at all.
MRT station entry gate
MRT station entry gate | Source
Tap the single journey token or smart pass onto the panel to open the entry gate
Tap the single journey token or smart pass onto the panel to open the entry gate | Source
To exit insert the token in the slot or touch the smart pass onto the panel and the gate will open
To exit insert the token in the slot or touch the smart pass onto the panel and the gate will open | Source
MRT Silom station
MRT Silom station | Source
Each station has a map numbering all points of exit
Each station has a map numbering all points of exit | Source
You can even shop inside certain MRT stations. This one is in Chatuchak station. To be quite honest though these shops don't see too much business at all.
You can even shop inside certain MRT stations. This one is in Chatuchak station. To be quite honest though these shops don't see too much business at all. | Source

Shopping by MRT

MRT Station
Shopping Mall or Market
Mo Chit
Chatuchak Weekend Market
Thailand Cultural Center
Esplanade Mall
Huay Kwang
Huay Kwang Markets (great place to see how local Thais shop a night)
Silom
Patpong Night Market (6pm - 1am)
Lumphini
Lumphini Night Market (6pm - 1am)
Kampheng Phet
Wet Market

As you can see on BTS Sky Train - A Quick Guide, the MRT isn't really ideal for die-hard shopaholics. But it will still take you to some pretty interesting places that are not mentioned in the guide books. The MRT can take you to places that are slightly off the beaten path. Take for example the Wet Market near Kampheng Phet MRT station. Loads of fresh exotic fruits are found here.

If shopping is a must it's a better bet to use BTS station. Better yet I recommend staying in a hotel near a BTS station.

Sightseeing by MRT

MRT Station
Tourist Attraction
Hua Lumphong
Chinatown, Grand Palace, Wat Po - You will need to hail a taxi
Sukhumvit
Siam Heritage Society and Soi Cowboy Red Light District
Silom
Lumphini Park and Patpong Red Light District

Again sightseeing isn't really the MRT's strong suit either. But it can get you closer to places like Chinatown and quicker too, because vehicle traffic around that area is bad at all hours of the day. So I suggest taking the MRT to Hua Lumphong station and hop onto a taxi from there. You will save a lot of time.

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Comments 11 comments

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 6 years ago from South East Asia

Thank you for this brilliant hub. I have not looked at your others yet but I will when I get time. This is great information for both tourists and others. I rarely go to Bangkok and have used the MRT only twice. Although it was not complicated I would have done better to have read this first. Thanks again.


E Jay profile image

E Jay 5 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado

This is a great hub and resource for visiting or living in Bangkok. I have lived and/or visited Bangkok over the last 10 years. I have spent at least 15 months here and I use both systems several times a week. When I first came in 2000 neither system was available and I used a lot of songtow,tuk-tuk, taxi, motorcycle and good old fashioned legs. There will soon be an extension on Skytrain going all the way to the airport.


Edwin Clark profile image

Edwin Clark 5 years ago from Thailand by way of New York Author

Hi E Jay, the city's train systems are certainly the best ways to get around central Bangkok. They have already created the airport rail link which connects to Phaya Thai station and starting to expand the BTS systems. Hopefully they'll start adding more passenger cars too since it's getting too crowded during rush hour.


kurisu 5 years ago

i was in BKK two years ago and their train system was amazing. it's clean, fast, not too crowdy, efficient and safe. during that time, the airport rail link was still under construction. Manila's rail system may probably be the first in SEA but it is definitely way behind BKK's train system..


Edwin Clark profile image

Edwin Clark 5 years ago from Thailand by way of New York Author

kurisu, thanks for visiting and commenting! BKKs train systems are definitely getting more crowded today, especially during rush hour. Sometimes I even dread taking the trains during those times but it beats sitting in a taxi during traffic jam sessions that seem to last all times of the day.


Ler 4 years ago

I am going to stay in baiyoke suite hotel. How to get to asia hotel by mrt. Fm which station to which station. can anyone advise the distance, time and amount have to pay the mrt.


Edwin Clark profile image

Edwin Clark 4 years ago from Thailand by way of New York Author

@ler there is no MRT stations from your hotel to Asia Hotel. If you are able, you can walk to Asia Hotel, which is about 900 meters away. Or you can take a tuk tuk, might cost 100 baht but you can try and talk it down.


Ler 4 years ago

Thanks Edwin


robbinsm profile image

robbinsm 4 years ago from Chapel Hill

Excellent advice. I'll be in Bangkok next week, so I will bookmark this guide! Thank you for writing this.


TD 3 years ago

Hi, It's a very good read. And came handy for my upcoming trip to Bangkok. Only one clarification, how do you change from MRT to BST. both lines cross within same station or a walk or some sort of ride is required to the station??


Edwin Clark profile image

Edwin Clark 3 years ago from Thailand by way of New York Author

Sorry for the late reply, anyways, there are 3 transfer points:

1. Sukhumvit MRT and Asoke BTS

2. Silom MRT and Sala Daeng BTS

3. Chatuchak MRT and Mo Chit BTS

Cheers!

Ed

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