Does BTS Skytrain Policy Discriminate Against Foreigners?

May 6, 2013


Over the last few days there has been some letters in the Bangkok Post regarding racial discrimination of foreign senior citizens by the BTS. Here are the letters:

Un­fair fares on BTS – As a long-time foreign resident of Bangkok aged over 60, I wrote to the BTS asking them to explain the reasoning and justification behind their policy of offering the senior discount fare only to Thai citizens. Naturally, I received no response. Perhaps the management would care to respond on these pages? The MRT has no such discrimination policy.

– Barry Wood

No immediate reply from the BTS management but there was this letter of support the next day:

Bravo, MRT, Shame on you, BTS – In yesterday’s ‘‘PostBag’’, Barry Wood asks why the BTS is charging non-Thais over 60 more than Thais over 60, given that the MRT does not. I am also over 60, a resident of Thailand for 23 years, and would suggest a very straightforward answer: The BTS simply believes they can get away with such discrimination, exactly as national parks, museums, historic sites and many other attractions, not to mention tuk-tuks, taxis and some restaurants, also are extorting money from non-Thais with a flagrant double pricing strategy. I want to thank the MRT for not falling in line with this unscrupulous and unethical practice.

– Michel Barre, Nonthaburi


I asked on Twitter if anyone had experience of this and I got this reply:

RT @KristoferA: My father is 67 and can get a senior ticket on @MRT_BMCL, but @BTS_SkyTrain told him he has the wrong skin color for that

I also tried contacting BTS management but got no reply. But I did get a reply about the Rabbit Senior Card:

Senior Rabbit card can only be used by Thai Senior Citizens aged 60 years and over, according to date of birth as shown on Citizen ID, which must be presented upon request by BTS Staff.

So, what do you think? Racial discrimination or fair practice? After all, those senior citizens living on pensions are all rich people. Aren’t they?

30 Responses to Does BTS Skytrain Policy Discriminate Against Foreigners?

  1. Aaron
    May 6, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    I’ve never understood the Rabbit system with the BTS. I have an adult card, my daughter has a student card. We pay the same every time we travel.

  2. fred norris
    May 6, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    i not sure its any comfort, but this is probably not discrimination or racialism, but just beurocratic practice, i have trawled through a number of uk local authority websites and you have to jump through circus hoops to get concessionary cards there, including in london. some online applications require a passport copy or a driving license, which is discrimatory in itself, many also want your national insurance number or nhs number in addition to a permanent address and proof of ‘not living abroad” i could go on adnauseum, so its not just the thais being bad to the farang, the old story. it would be interesting to see this pursued however to see if the grumpy old long stayer, like me. would qualify for a pass.

  3. eggomaniac
    May 6, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    every country has 2 price systems for foreigners.

    • Aaron
      May 6, 2013 at 11:27 pm

      “Every country has 2 price systems for foreigners”? What are these countries then? Australia has had a Racial Discrimination Act since 1975, making just this thing illegal. Hongkong Disneyland has 2 prices? The Eiffel Tower? Tower of London? Does a Thai pay more to go watch Manchester United play at Old Trafford like a foreigner here does to go watch Muay Thai boxing in Lumpini?

      • wich
        July 28, 2014 at 7:50 pm

        actually in NSW, Australia , Only local citizens have the rights to apply for the concession card for the public transports not international students or tourists

      • Ian
        July 29, 2014 at 11:02 am

        Hong Kong Disneyland does have 2 prices. If you show your HK ID card you get a discount.

    • Robert Albritton
      May 9, 2013 at 12:25 am

      The statement that “every country has a two-price system for foreigners” is simply NOT TRUE. There is no such system anywhere in the US as far as I know.

      • som
        January 12, 2015 at 7:53 am

        hell sure is. try to get the concession card on the transit facilities in new orleans. the situation is different from state to state and some states do allow concession cards for foreigners.

    • J West
      September 17, 2015 at 1:45 am

      Not every country has a two tier system discriminating against foreigners. Canada does not discriminate.

  4. Chris
    May 7, 2013 at 5:29 am

    Thailand is an emerging country.. In ten years, all residents of Bangkok more than 60 years old will have the BTS discount. I hope for that!

  5. Michael Chick
    May 7, 2013 at 9:15 am

    Bring this up to the TAT, and tell them to have their “Retirement Program for Foreigners” to “Kiss Off”…

  6. Gappy
    May 7, 2013 at 11:19 am

    Maybe there’s a more sympathetic, worldly-wise boss at MRT. BTS’s management structure is clearly different. So who will dare to approach the BTS boss on this ‘delicate’ issue? Face and patriotism are at stake.

  7. May 7, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    First, let me say that I think they should give the discount to everyone equally. But, I bet the discount would be given to a non-ethnic Thai with Thai citizenship. So, that’s not exactly racism, anymore than “overseas” student premiums are racism. Nationalism? Yup. Racism? Doesn’t seem so.

    • Realist
      May 7, 2013 at 9:36 pm

      Craig: you are simply supporting the xenophobic camp for some ignorant reason. Alien getting Thai citizenship. Many have/are trying but aliens don’t really fit in. Why not just make the same price for all eligible people without the racialist nonsense. You ever heard of “kreng jai”???

      • Tyler
        May 7, 2013 at 11:00 pm

        A white man with Thai citizenship could be half Thai and yet still be as white if not whiter than most Thai people, and he would be eligible at the right age. So it’s not the color of the skin they are discriminating against, it’s anyone who is not Thai.

        They are a Thai company, in Thailand. They have every right to give discounts to Thai’s. I don’t know their reasoning, and I’m not going to guess it, suppose they just don’t like non-Thai people, they have the right to, they are in Thailand.

        Besides, it’s a discount card, they aren’t raising the price for foreigners, they just are choosing to give discounts to only Thai senior citizens. We have that all over the states at Universities. Programs and scholarships offered to minorities or the school gives discounts to only skillful individuals. All of those things are based on the individual, and his attributes, whether he can change them or not.

        Also, Universities have instate tuition and out of state tuition. They are clearly choosing to give a discount to locals, which is exactly what the BTS is doing, giving a discount to locals and anyone who can’t prove they are a “local” is not allowed to have the discount.

        As of now I can only think of Universities, but I’m pretty sure there are quite a few other places that charge different prices depending on your attributes.

        • Thomas A
          July 4, 2013 at 12:23 pm

          Yeah yeah yeah…another white man trying to justify racial discrimination in Thailand. Look man, no matter how you put it, university tuition policies in the US etc. have nothing in common with Thai/foreigner dual pricing that is common in Thailand but doesn’t exist in America.

          Imagine the outrage if a black man were charged more than a white man for a meal at a restaurant or for a subway ride? No matter how you put it, it’s not acceptable.

          Sure, those few westerners or other foreigners that have managed to obtain Thai citizenship are entitled to the same prices as native born Thais but the burden of proof is often placed on these “newly minted Thais” or “farang/Indian/other foreigner Thais” to show their IDs when native born East Asian looking Thais often just have to pass the “Thai face” test to be accepted as Thais and obtain these privileges. This is discrimination in itself and is no different to an African American being questioned as to his/her citizenship compared to a white American.

          • Ian
            July 29, 2014 at 11:08 am

            You say its not acceptable, but clearly you accept it because you continue to live here.

            Its just the way things are man. You can either get upset about it, subject yourself to stress and suffering, or you can just shrug your shoulders and let it go.

            I’m with the Buddha’s way on this one.

    • Ian
      July 29, 2014 at 11:04 am

      You mean overseas student premiums like the ones in the UK?

  8. May 10, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    In fact, according to the highest law of the land, this practice is illegal. We hope some old, foreign sharpie will get in touch with BTS’ chief lawyer!

    Part 2, Section 30 of the Thai Constitution is titled, “Equality”. It states, “All persons are equal before the law” and “Unjust discrimination against a person on grounds of the difference in origin, race, language…[or] age…shall not be permitted.

    The section may be found in Thai here: and in English here: .

    My wife buys my purple rabbit and tops it up. I carry it in a discreet card folder. Be aware that when student or senior concession cards are used, a red light flashes. This enables alert security staff to catch fraudulent users.

    Although BTS claims it will fine people misusing cards, in practice, they confiscate the card and its remaining value. It is highly unlikely security staff would stop a brusque foreigner. To be safe, I carry a copy of the relevant sections of the Thai Constitution and a copy of my house registration, and passport with current visa stamp.

    If I am ever stopped, I will not let them confiscate my card but demand that Tourist Police be called so they can arrest me.

  9. Annie
    May 11, 2013 at 9:57 am

    I find its no point to argue or complain about the dual prices system, it’s our choice to work or live here. Whether we work and pay tax or under retirement program, we are not entitle for any benefits that local enjoy.Lots of foreigners flood into Thaialnd every year, do you think they care, forget about it. I am not passive, just accept the fact This is Thailand and we are foreigners, take it or leave it.

    • Thomas A
      July 4, 2013 at 12:12 pm

      There IS a point complaining but it must be done in the right ways – by taking it to the highest level or to social media, where people will find out about it (don’t just vent your frustrations on a website not many people know about). These days people travel all over the world and we are living in one big global village so such practices are NOT acceptable anymore. Just imagine the outrage if any institution in the USA attempted to charge foreigners more, or gave US citizens a discount especially if made only on physical appearance. Perhaps someone that runs a business in the west should try to charge Thai visitors more compared to all other visitors so they know what it feels like to be discriminated against.

  10. Disabuse
    May 16, 2013 at 12:24 am

    I doubt there’s malicious intent in this. Just a standard bureaucratic bungle for a start, and then Thais not wanting to deal with unpleasant questions.

    Senior discounts are intended to make things easier for people who cannot work and have limited funds.

    To retire in Thailand (get the visa), foreigners must prove a significant income/assets. This makes them certifiably wealthy by Thai standards, having income several *times* that of the majority of Thai senior citizens.

    BMTA is run by the Bangkok gov’t. While discriminating against foreigners seems unfair at the surface, I’m not convinced that subsidizing foreign retirees (who already *proved* they’re fairly wealthy by qualifying for their visas) is a great way to spend city gov’t money, nor much of a priority.

    • Thomas A
      July 4, 2013 at 12:16 pm

      Not subsidizing seniors fares for foreigners is not only racial discrimination but age related discrimination. If elderly foreigners are not working anymore, why should they pay the same as working age people? Also, given that foreign retirees (hell, even local retirees who are rarely afforded discounts anywhere, with the BTS being a rare exception) are treated much better in other countries in the region such as China where they are entitled to numerous discounts, why should they bring their money to Thailand? The weather is one of the main reasons why Thailand may be more attractive to them than China, but small pockets of southern China are just as attractive weather-wise, otherwise there’s always Malaysia with it’s “My Second Home” program.

      • Ian
        July 29, 2014 at 11:14 am

        Good luck with MM2H, if you think Thailand is discriminatory. The Malays widely discriminate against Malaysians of other ethnicities, foreigners are way down their list.

        You will be discriminated against in every conceivable way.

        And wow, you must hate Thailand if you would rather live in China!

  11. Rosa
    July 18, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    Isn’t it funny that people complain about things when they can just leave the country and go back to their ‘lovely’ country. If you can’t afford 50 THB ticket, I wish you luck for traveling in your own country. Let’s see how far the same amount of money can take you to.

  12. Jim
    August 30, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    Sure it is discrimination pure and simple! I asked for the senior discount and they said it is for Thai only!

    No surprise is it?

  13. Harvie
    July 28, 2014 at 6:59 pm

    Maybe they just didn’t think too much at the time of writing the policy? It should be changed though for sure. The BTS is already expensive as it after the last price hike.

  14. David
    July 28, 2014 at 10:21 pm

    “So, what do you think? Racial discrimination or fair practice?”

    Answer: Racial discrimination

    • Ian
      July 29, 2014 at 11:16 am

      I think it’s a bit silly listening to privelidged, wealthy white folk talk about being racially discriminated against, when white people get the rub of the green in so many ways.

      It’s like we feel we’ve missed out on something.

  15. David
    January 12, 2015 at 9:17 am

    A tale of two seniors living in Thailand:

    “I am a wealthy Thai retiree, I have more money than any foreigner can ever dream of having; I receive the BTS Senior Discount, which I use when my limo is being serviced.”

    “I am a wealthy expat living in Thailand for 13 years; because of my wealth, I spend more than most Thais and I pay more taxes as a result of my spending. I do not receive the BTS Senior Discount.”

    The argument that some fools make, that the discount is for the elderly poor; doesent hold because if that were true; then all recipients would be mean tested.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Richard Barrow on Instagram