I was posed this question by a visiting relative recently: “Should I get a travel pass?“
And I automatically answered, “No”. The mathematics calculation was done many years back, that I already forgotten the reason behind.
I set out to answer this question, backed with numbers to show (I am a media planner after all).
To those uninitiated, there are two lines in Bangkok: MRT and BTS Skytrain. They are under different companies – MRT is operated by Bangkok Metro Public Company Limited, whereas BTS is operated by Bangkok Mass Transit System Public Company Limited (BTSC). This explains the different fare system, and you will need to buy tickets and travel passes separately. BTS’s fares are also more expensive, vs MRT.
There was talk about ‘common integrated ticket‘ between both train systems, but it has been ongoing for ages. For now, life goes on as usual.
Above paints the background picture why travel pass might not be beneficial, as you might end up with different line. But, most tourist attractions in CBD are covered by BTS. So, if your journey is as such that you’ll be using either MRT or BTS throughout the day, then yes, it’s worthwhile to get a Day Pass, which is valid for unlimited rides on the whole day of issue.
The 3 Questions you need to ask before getting MRT and BTS Travel Pass:
- Your itinerary
- Your travel route
- Is MRT and BTS your only mode of transport?
Q1: Your Itinerary
Your itinerary will help you to determine whether you will be using the MRT or BTS, or both. And it can also help you to plan your itinerary by days, that’s is, if you would like to optimize your transportation cost.
Some tourist spots are covered by both systems, such as Chatuchak Weekend Market (BTS Mo Chit or MRT Kampeng Phet) and Terminal 21 (BTS Asok or MRT Sukhumvit). Some tourist spots are covered by either system, such as Train Night Market Ratchada (MRT Thailand Cultural Centre) and Siam area (BTS Siam). With your itinerary, you’ll be able to determine whether you will be taking the MRT or BTS.
Q2: Your travel route
After determining your itinerary, map out your travel routes. And do a calculation based on MRT and BTS fare system. Will you be making ‘short trips’, or ‘long trips’ .. if it’s long trips, how many trips, and will there be any short pit stops along the way?
Q3: Only MRT and BTS?
Even though MRT and BTS are the most popular public transportation systems in Bangkok, do remember these are not the only option. There are also taxis, tuk-tuks, buses and boats – Chao Phraya Express Boat here and Khlong Saen Saeb Express Boat here.
Will you be using other means of public transport, in addition to MRT and BTS?
I will now give you the comparison between Single Journey fare and Travel Pass:
Fare starts from 16 baht. And it jumps 2 to 3 baht, as per fare structure above. Fare is capped at 42 baht, as of to-date.
MRT has 1-day (120 baht), 3-day (230 baht) and 30-day (1,400 baht) time travel pass.
Assuming you take MRT from Silom to Kampeng Phet (for Chatuchak Weekend Market), it will cost you 42 baht one-way. Return will cost you 84 baht. If you make two pit stops along the way, then you’ll spend that balance of 36 baht.
Fare starts from 15 baht. And it jumps 3 to 10 baht. 7 stations away, and the fare increased from 15 baht (from BTS Mo Chit) to 42 baht (BTS Siam). Comparing with MRT, 7 stations ride only costs 30 baht! Fare is capped at 52 baht, as of to-date.
They only have 1-day pass (140 baht). Same principle applies. Worthwhile only if you will be using the same train system throughout the day, making stops along the way. Otherwise, single ticket is sufficient.
To make the 140 baht worthwhile, this means a return trip from Siam/Sala Daeng to Mo Chit (84 baht), then maybe another return trip from Siam/Sala Daeng to Saphan Taksin (74 baht).