Suvarnabhumi Airport Rail Link (SARL) from Bangkok International Airport
The Airport Skytrain Link is finally open for commercial traffic, which started on August 23, 2010 (after many rescheduled opening dates going back to 2009, and originally planned for a 2006 opening date).
However, the stations are minimal at the time of this writing in late August 2010.
The Airport Skytrain Link line is 28.6 km long and connects to the Phayathai BTS Skytrain station at its opposite end.
Officially known as the Suvarnabhumi Airport Rail Link (SARL), it has also been called "the pink line" or "the red line", though I will continue to call it the Airport Skytrain Link.
However, the main station of the Airport Skytrain Link is the Makkasan Station located in-between, a huge station where you can check into your flight and check in your baggage so that you don't need to do so at the airport. This station is also called the City Air Terminal (CAT). It is located on Asoke-Ratchadapisek Road near the Petchburi MRTA subway station, discussed later on this page.
There are two kinds of trains: the nonstop Suvarnabhumi Airport Express which will take 15 minutes between Makkasan station and the airport, and the Suvarnabhumi Airport City Line commuter services which will stop at 8 stations altogether whereby the run all the way to the airport would take 30 minutes, as they've built 8 stations altogether to also serve commuters along the same line.
The express train departs from Makkasan station only, and does not go to the Phayathai station.
Unlike the BTS Skytrain and the MRTA Subway, the Airport Skytrain Link doesn't feel as well planned and managed.
The trains are not spacious as you might expect for people having any carry on luggage (and again, luggage can be checked in for your flight at Makkasan station, so large luggage need to enter the train). There are two rows of seats plus hand rails for standing room passengers as well.
At the airport, follow the signs to the train on the lowest floor.
The vending machines for tickets were not working yet when the train opened up, but you could buy a ticket at the booth there. It was just 15 baht for the city line, any destination. For the airport express, which does not stop an any stations after Makkasan and goes at high speed, they told us 100 baht for a round trip ticket and apparently 100 baht for one-way, too, for tourists exiting Thailand who just toss their return ticket. Trains were departing every 15 minutes, but this was just one of the first days it was open, and the trains didn't have many people in them, so perhaps the wait between trains will go down as it becomes more popular. (I took the 15 baht line to see stations along the way.)
The main, Makkasan station was still deserted as of the opening date, no vendors or much of anything inside.
Transfer to/from Subway at Makkasan Station
The Airport Skytrain's main Makkasan station is located on Asoke-Ratchadapisek Road, which is one of the most traffic jammed roads in Bangkok. (When I had an office on Asoke, it took me an average of 30 minutes to go less than 1 km around there.) There is also an expressway exit there, but the traffic flow from the exit ramps doesn't completely suit the station.
Therefore, if you don't want to risk getting stuck in traffic, then you may want to do what many other people plan to do: Transfer from the MRTA subway, at the Petchburi station located almost right underneath the Airport Skytrain's main Makkasan station.
Unfortunately, there is no link between the MRTA subway station and the Airport Skytrain. You must exit the subway to the street, then find your way along the street, including crossing a couple of roads with considerable traffic.
Coming from the subway, it is confusing because there are no signs inside the subway pointing you in the direction of the Airport Skytrain. There are 4 exits at the Petchburi station for the four corners of the major intersection of two main thoroughfares there, so you must take the right exit, with is exit #3. Again, there are no signs telling you this, and there is no mention of the Airport Skytrain link at all in the subway station (as of its opening in August 2010). That is such a simple and cheap oversight.
When exiting from the escalator onto the sidewalk, you must do a U-turn (obvious since the skytrain is in full view right behind you) but must then cross another fairly busy road with no zebra crossing marks nor pedestrian light, plus the multilane exit for cars leaving the Airport Skytrain station.
If you're coming in the opposite direction -- from the airport to the Petchburi station -- then when you exit Makkasan station, turn right on Petchburi Road, cross the two immediate roads there and the Petchburi station will be within about 20 meters further.
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