Getting into any foreign city after midnight can be a lot of hassle, and a city like Bangkok with its lack of English speakers and mediocre infrastructure especially so.
I’ve been catching late flights into Bangkok for years, so here’s my guide on making it safely and quickly to your hotel after midnight.
What should you do when arriving in Bangkok after midnight? The best option is to take a taxi. Taxi fares are astoundingly cheap here, both airports have taxi ranks with (usually) short queues, they rarely look to rip tourists off and traffic is minimal at that time in the morning so the journey will not take long.
In addition, you don’t have many options as the Airport Rail Link doesn’t run between 12am-6am and buses either don’t run or are infrequent and a logistical nightmare.
Depending on your location, a taxi will cost 250-500 baht to get to your hotel. This is roughly £6-12 or $8-15, hardly going to break the bank. This is assuming you are going somewhere central with a taxi journey of 20-30 minutes.
There’s a couple of tricks to taking a taxi here that I’ll get onto in just a second (or you can read my comprehensive article to taking a taxi in Thailand here). And if you’re a strict budget traveller then I’ll also talk through the super cheap options, too.
Is A Taxi Really The Best Option?
There are multiple options to get from both Bangkok airports into the city. If you’re hotel or Airbnb is on the BTS line then getting the Airport Rail Link is easy, quick and cheap. The issue we have is when you arrive to Bangkok from 12am to 5am or so. Here’s why I think taxi is BY FAR the best option at this time.
Everything else is closed. The rail service that connects Suvarnabhumi airport to Bangkok shuts at 12am until 6am. Bus services are vastly reduced at this time, too. On the other hand, this is the easiest time to take a taxi because there aren’t as many other people waiting to take them. Late at night, there’s a buffet of taxis to choose from and rarely a queue.
Taxis are cheap. Bangkok has some of the cheapest taxis in the world. For example, a 10-minute taxi costs just 50฿ (=£1.20 / $1.50). The airports are both a good 20-40 minutes ride into the city so you should expect to pay 250-500฿ (=£6-12 / $8-16) depending on whether you take the faster toll road and the exact location of where you’re going.
Traffic is non-existent. The congestion on the roads in Bangkok is as bad as anywhere else I’ve been. We’re talking 4-minute waits at intersections, cars moving slower than pedestrians rush hour. That kinda thing. After midnight, however, the roads clear up and you’ll enjoy a fast journey wherever you’re going.
In addition, you get all the other nice benefits of taking a taxi into the city. Not having to carry bags on public transport, getting dropped off at the door of your hotel and even having someone who’ll be able to call you hotel up to help get you there.
What If I Really Want To Save Money?
If 500฿ is still on the pricey side for you, there are ways around it. All that’s required is a brave face and some stoic mindset.
If you’re coming from Suvarnabhumi airport, which is the main international airport, then your best option is the Airport Rail Link. It’s frequent, quick, ignores traffic, connects to both major subway lines (BTS and MRT) and will cost a maximum of 50฿. It’s easy to find as it’s very well signposted around the airport.
It runs from 6am-midnight so if you’re arriving in Bangkok after midnight then you will need to wait until 6am to catch this. The airport does have restaurants, shops and other amenities open at this time for you to sit in, too. If you do wait though, the BTS and MRT will have started running as well so you can connect to them to get closer to where you’re going.
If you’re not willing to wait, then there are 24-hour bus services. The buses are fine and will be relatively fast at this time of the morning. The difficulty is understanding where you’re going. If you’ve never visited the city before you will struggle to understand the bus routes. You can try by visiting this webpage.
A better option is to go to the bus terminal and ask. While English is not well-spoken generally in Thailand, at the airport you’ll usually be able to find someone to help you. The conductor on the bus is the best bet. Tell them where you’re going and they’ll give you the number of a bus that goes near there. The issue then is do you know when to get off? And how do you get from where the bus drops you off to the hotel?
Honestly, I don’t recommend getting a bus into Bangkok after midnight at all for someone who is new to Bangkok. Perhaps only for the extremely brave / adventurous / insane.
Tips For Arriving Into Bangkok After Midnight
- Have the address and/or phone number of your hotel. Bangkok’s a big place and taxi drivers are not as clued up as in other countries. They’ve probably not heard of your hotel (unless you’re at one of the most prominent 5 or 10) and will be best directed by knowing the street name. For example, Sukhumvit Soi 51, which tells them to go on Sukhumvit Road and take the 51st sub-street off the main road. Even better is having a phone number. Most taxi drivers will happily call on their own phone, but the super-prepared among you will listen to my next point.
- Get a SIM card at the airport. When you come off your plane you will walk past hundreds of places desperate to sell you a weekly or monthly SIM card. that gives you data and calls for pretty reasonable prices. These are often labelled “Tourist SIM’s” can give you data and calls for a reasonable price. This is the kind of thing you’re looking out for. Having the ability to call your hotel is massively useful to help the taxi driver find where you’re going with a minimum of effort.
- Make sure the driver uses the meter. When you get into the taxi, there will a small box that the driver should press to start the meter, picture below. Scams are rare in taxis from the airport but they happen more to foreigners than most. So long as you make sure this meter is on you should be good. You know it’s on because the numbers are there. No numbers and it’s not on. Taxi drivers will all understand the word ‘meter’ as it’s the same word in Thai.
[pic coming soon :)]
- Expect the toll roads. When you get in your taxi from either airport, the driver will always say something like “hai weeeh” in a strong Thai accent. He’s asking if you want to take the “highway” or “toll road” which is a flyover that avoids traffic at the expense of 30-70 Baht. In the daytime, this is a solid option that will save you time. At night it’s not really necessary but will still be quicker. Do bear in mind that you will be paying and they will usually ask you to fork over the money yourself when you get to the toll rather than adding it on at the end.
- Expect the airport surcharge fee. A few years back, taxi drivers complained that they weren’t making enough money from airport trips for it to be worth it, so they stuck a 50฿ airport surcharge on all fares going to and from the airport. This means that whatever price is on your meter will be increased by 50 when you get to your destination. It’s normal, he’s not trying to rip you off.
What If I’m Coming Into Don Meuang Airport?
The old airport in the north of the city is called Don Meuang and has been superseded by the massive and ultra-modern Suvarnabhumi which is all the way out east. Most international flights come into Suvarnabhumi which is why I’ve centred this article around it. That said, you could still arrive at Don Meuang, particularly if you’re coming from destinations in South East Asia.
The big difference is that there is no airport rail link or any other kind of railway or subway. One is in the works and you may see the big construction on the BTS going up on your way there, but it’s still a few years from completion. There is actually a standard train station nearby that you can use to get to Hua Lampong station which is on the MRT line but you won’t find any trains running after midnight.
So the answer is… like above, get a taxi. All the same reasons still apply. It’s cheap, quick, convenient and you’ll have no trouble getting one. During the day, the buses are an option because there’s a service that can take you straight to the BTS/MRT line for 30 Baht but it stops running in the early hours though.
Are Hotels Usually Open After Midnight?
Bangkok is one of the most visited places in the world. Some reports have put it as the third-highest city in terms of total visitors, so it’s well set up for dealing with late arrivals.
What you’ll find is that the majority of hotels and hostels have someone on the desk 24/7 ready to let people check in or out. Sometimes that’s a happy face ready to take your bags with a smile and sometimes it’s some pissed off dude in a sleeping bag. Either way, I recommend checking first if you expect to arrive between the hours of 1am-5am.