Suvarnabhumi International Airport, pronounced Saa-wana-poom, is Thailand's flagship international airport and is located about 30km east of Bangkok city centre. The international airport code for Suvarnabhumi is BKK. Suvarnabhumi processed an impressive 55 million passengers in total during 2016.
This airport guide is aimed at giving you all the information you'll need to navigate Suvarnabhumi Airport's passenger terminal which is the largest in the world at over 500,000 square metres.
A little know fact about Suvarnabhumi Airport is that due to it's unsual design and appearance it also holds the trophy for the world's most photographed airport!
The airport terminal has four floors and a basement. In the basement you’ll find a few restaurants and a 7-Eleven, plus access to both the Novotel Airport Hotel and the Airport Rail Link which is the quickest and cheapest way to get to Bangkok city centre.
The 1st Floor is where you’ll need to go if you want to take a taxi into Bangkok or buy a bus / minibus ticket to the city or elsewhere in Thailand – including Pattaya and the islands to the south east like Koh Larn, Koh Samet, Koh Chang. There is also a foodcourt on the 1st floor called ‘Magic Food Center ‘, which offers a wide range of Thai and Western food for reasonable prices but does tend to be busy most of the time, in our experience.
Arrivals is on the 2nd Floor and has a selection of taxi and limousine kiosks (which we wouldn't recommend using as they are generally overpriced), foreign exchange booths and also outlets for the three main mobile phone providers in Thailand – AIS, True or DTAC. If you need some to buy some Thai Baht then this is the best place in the airport to do that although we'd suggest only getting enough to get you into Bangkok where you'll get much better exchange rates.
The mobile phone providers all offer 4G in most areas of the country and all have pre-paid ‘Tourist SIMs’ that offer a package of calls plus data. The other option is to just buy a SIM card at any 7-Eleven or Family Mart and then buy pay-as-you-go top ups when you need them. If you work on 50 Baht a day in phone and data charges then you shouldn't be too far out. Getting a Thai SIM card will make your life much easier during your stay in Thailand and help you avoid expensive data roaming charges but you do obviously need an unlocked phone. Personally, we use the AIS 1-2-Call service which we find very reliable and reasonably priced.
On the 3rd Floor you'll find a few over priced restaurants along with a couple of convenience stores, a branch of Boots and the airport police station.
Departures is on the 4th Floor and doesn't really have much more than a few airline offices, a couple of shops, passport control (for departures) and the airline check-in counters.
Arriving in Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport is much the same as most international airports across the world. The signs in Suvarnabhumi are very clear and mostly in in English, Thai and Chinese so you shouldn't get lost! If in doubt as to where you need to go, then our advice would be to just follow the crowd!
Before you arrive at the immigration desks you will need to have completed an arrival / departure card which you should be given on the plane by the cabin crew. If you can, try and fill this in on the plane before you land as it will save you some stress when you get to Suvarnabhumi Immigration. Be sure to fill in both the arrival and departure sections as the Immigration Officer needs to see that you have pre-arranged onward travel out of Thailand, especially if you are looking for a tourist visa during your stay.
As mentioned above, it’s a large terminal but there are moving walkways to help speed up the long walk to Immigration. If you are travelling with someone elderly or someone who has difficulty walking, make sure your airline know you need assistance when you land in Bangkok, and they’ll have an electric golf cart waiting.
If are feeling the call of nature as you step off the plane, you’ll find plenty of toilets during the long walk to Immigration, we suggest you take advantage as it can take some time to get through Thai Immigration.
When you eventually reach Immigration you'll see that there are separate counters for Thai passport holders and foreign passport holders. Don't be disheartened though when you see the length of the queues for foreign passport holders! Thai Immigration at Suvarnabhumi Airport are usually fairly efficient at keeping the queues moving.
Once you get to the front of the queue, you'll need to hand your passport and arrival / departure card over to the Immigration Officer who will check your documents, ask you to pose for a webcam photo then most probably wave you on your way.
A note on visa requirements - if you are visiting from a country that is part of Thailand's Tourist Visa scheme then you'll be given a visa stamp for 15 or 30 days on arrival otherwise you'll need to ensure that you have a valid visa before your arrival. More details about visas for Thailand can be found here.
You'll find baggage claim directly behind the Immigration counters. As with arriving at any airport, check for your carousel number on one of the big screens and then go and get your bag. If it's of interest to you, then you can buy some Duty Free from the shops in the Baggage Claim area while you wait for your bags.
Tourist visitors from Europe, Australia or the USA to Thailand very rarely to get pulled over at Thai Customs for an inspection - unless of course you look overly suspicious, guilty or you're overloaded with bags full of duty free cigarettes and/or alchohol!
Once you are through Customs you will enter the Arrivals area.
Welcome to Thailand, The Land of Smiles!
There are a couple of differing procedures at Suvarnabhumi Airport for passengers who are flying into Bangkok but then have an internal transfer to another of Thailand's international airports which include - Trat, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phuket, Hat Yai, Samui and Krabi.
Provided your onward flight is with a premium / partner airline (so not a budget airline like Nok Air, Lion Air or Air Asia) you will be able to transfer at Suvarnabhumi Airport without clearing immigration and then clear Immigration at your final destination. You simply need to follow the signs to the transfer desks and the staff at Suvarnabhumi will assist you from there.
If you have an internal flight with a different airline / budget flight operator then the chances are that you will need to clear Immigration and Customs at Suvarnabhumi before continuing your onward journey. We strongly suggest that you ensure you have at least 2-3 hours between your flights when you book your trip if you are going to take this route as Immigration at Suvarnabhumi Airport does sometimes get very busy.
After you've cleared Immigration and Customs, to get a taxi follow the signs from Arrivals down to Level 1 and you’ll see the taxi rank outside Entrances 4 – 6. Here you will find the automatic taxi kiosks. Simply press the button and you’ll get a printout which shows which taxi to take and where it is parked. If you're a large group of more than 4 people, there are a couple of machines specifically for larger taxis.
The taxi will have a meter and you'll also have to pay an additional charge of 50 Baht on top of the meter charge for using this service. Make sure the driver puts the meter on when you get into the taxi - it should start at 35 Baht. Also, in Thailand you have to pay any expressway tolls in cash so make sure you have some smaller notes in your pocket - 100 Baht notes are best.
It is always better to get a meter taxi and pay the extra 50 Baht especially if this is your first visit to Thailand as you do have some recourse should things not work out - although this is very rare and unlikely - taxis in Bangkok are in our experience very fair. Every licensed taxi in Thailand has to display a rate card similar to the one below which will give you a ball park idea as to how much your journey will cost dependant on the distance.
That said, if you're the adventurous type or a seasoned traveller to Thailand you can also grab a taxi from outside departures on Level 4 and save yourself 50 Baht as there will be lots of taxis dropping people off there but be aware that you're not supposed to do this and so you need to be quick and know where you need to go.
If you're looking for other ways of getting into Bangkok then using the trains could be an option for you. The City line runs from 6am and has trains four times an hour at 02, 17, 32 and 47 minutes until midnight.
From the airport to Phayathai station, which connects with the overhead BTS line, the cost is just 45 Baht / person. To Makkasan, for a connection to the MRT the price is 35 Baht and travelling time is only around 30 minutes because there are only 8 stations on the route.
The map above shows the airport rail link along with all the MRT and BTS stations and routes.
This isn't an option we would recommend as most buses go to the suburbs which is possibly best to avoid but if you’re on a tight budget then there are a couple of buses that might be of use if you are staying in the city centre namely,
Bus 551 – Chonburi expressway – Srirat expressway – Asoke-Dindang – Rachawithi Road – Victory Monument from where you can connect with the BTS.
Bus 556 – Democracy Monument / Khao San Rd – Thammasat University – Pata Department Store – Bangkok Southern Bus Terminal which is where the buses to south of Thailand go from.
It might also be worth a mention that if you need to get to Don Mueang Airport there are free shuttle buses from Suvarnabhumi Airport to Don Mueang every 12 to 30 minutes depending on the time of day between 05:00-23:00. Anyone can use these buses, you don’t need a boarding pass. You can catch the shuttle bus from the arrival level at Entrance 2 or 3.
So, now you know all you need to about Suvarnabhumi International Airport we hope that you have a great flight and and wonderful time in Thailand. If you haven't bought your travel insurance yet please do check out World Nomads, our travel insurance partner, who will make sure you get the best cover at a great price or if you need train, plane, ferry or bus tickets then our local Asian ticket partner 1-2-Go Asia have some great deals and you can reserve your seats online too.
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