Suvarnabhumi Airport (สุวรรณภูมิ, BKK IATA) is Bangkok's main airport and the busiest airport of Thailand. 39 km (19 mi) to the east of Bangkok, space-age Suvarnabhumi Airport started operations in September 2006 and is used by almost all airlines. However, several budget airlines (Air Asia, Nok Air, Orient Thai, Scoot and Thai Lion Air) use only Don Mueang Airport.
Suvarnabhumi Airport has a single huge terminal building serving domestic and international flights. It is already operating over the designed passenger capacity which can result in even 2 hours in immigration lines, slow baggage delivery and being bused to or from a remote stand. Annual traffic keeps increasing but the expansion project is proceeding at a snail's pace.
Suvarnabhumi was intended to be the only commercial airport for Bangkok but the booming traffic forced the Don Mueang airport to be reopened. Since then several budget airlines have moved their operations there, including Air Asia.
Most international flights arrive at Suvarnabhumi Airport, including those of foreign budget airlines. It is a hub for Thai Airways and its subsidiary Thai Smile, as well as Bangkok Airways for its domestic and international operations.
Departures are handled on 4th floor. 3rd floor has shops and services for passengers. 2nd floor is for arrivals. 1st floor has a rest area, bus ticketing counters, an inexpensive food court and the taxi rank outside but roofed over. Basement floor has the Airport Rail Link station, a convenience store and currency exchange kiosks that provide as good rates as the ones downtown.
Domestic check-in counters are at doors 1-3 which are immediately on the left when you drive up to the terminal building in a taxi. The rest are for international departures. Pay attention to the airline signs outside or the monitors to locate the correct check-in row. Flights open for check-in 3 hours before departure.
If you want to use the Tourist VAT Refund you must have your goods inspected and the refund forms stamped in the customs office before you drop off your bags at the check-in counter.
You will be asked to remove your shoes and belt for X-ray at the departing security checkpoint so be prepared.
When you are leaving Thailand you must fill in your departure card before going to the immigration desks. You got it back when you were stamped into Thailand. If you have lost the departure card, you just pick up and fill a new form in the immigration area.
If your international connecting flights are on the same ticket you can remain in the transit area without going through immigration. If you are connecting to a domestic flight on the same ticket, you can use the quick transit immigration and proceed to the departure gate after going through a security check (liquids rules!). If your domestic flight is on a separate ticket, you must go through immigration, collect your baggage, walk through customs and climb to 4th floor for a new check-in. In this case you should plan at least 4 hours between flights; if you have only 2 hours you are likely to miss your flight, because on bad days immigration takes up to 2 hours and domestic check-in closes 30 minutes before departure.
More time than money?
Thanks to the Airport Rail Link, Hualamphong train station can provide access to Suvarnabhumi Airport via exceedingly slow and frequently late 3rd class ordinary trains. Any train to or from Hualamphong on Thailand's Eastern Line (which runs to Pattaya or Aranyaprathet) will stop at Lat Krabang (1 hour, 6 baht), which abuts Suvarnabhumi Airport. Lat Krabang conventional train station is directly below Lat Krabang airport link station, from where the journey to the airport can be completed for a further 15 baht. If in a group, consider a taxi from Lat Krabang (about 50 baht to the airport).
There are plenty of ways to get into the city from Suvarnabhumi Airport. Many people opt for the Airport Rail Link as it's by far the fastest way to get into the city, although taxis are also reasonably priced.
On the basement level of the passenger terminal, the Airport Rail Link offers a speedy train service to downtown. It's also a way of avoiding Bangkok's horrendous rush hour traffic, particularly when it's raining. Trains depart 06:00-midnight every day. The City Line is a commuter rail line that stops at all stations. Trains leave every 10-13 minutes, and after Makkasan station they continue to Ratchaprarop and Phaya Thai stations. The ride to Phaya Thai takes 26 minutes from the airport and costs 45 baht.
If you're heading downtown, the Airport Rail Link has a good connection to the BTS Skytrain at Phaya Thai, though you will have to buy a new ticket. If Khao San Road is your final destination, you can hail taxis from the main road (around 70 baht), or hop aboard bus 15 (8 baht); this bus leaves from across Central World, BTS Siam, and BTS National Stadium and goes along Ratchadamnoen Klang Rd and Chakrabongse Rd serving both sides of Khao San Road.
You can connect with MRT metro trains at Makkasan station by walking through a roofed footbridge to Phetchaburi station. The metro provides the quickest rail connection to Asoke intersection on Sukhumvit Road, to Silom and to eastern Yaowarat (Chinatown).
A private express bus S1 runs from the airport terminal building to Khao San Rd since Jun 2017. The fare is 60 baht and departures are every 30 minutes 06:00-20:00 at Gate 7 on 1st floor. The bus uses the Sirat Expressway and has stops only at Yommarat Junction, Lan Luang Rd, Phan Fa (near Saen Saep Express boat pier), Democracy Monument, Wat Bowonniwet, Khao San Rd (near Chana Songkhram police station), and north end of Sanam Luang near the World War I monument. Going to the airport passengers are picked up at the stop near the Chana Songkhram police station. You can expect the trip to take at least an hour.
To take a public bus or minibus, you must first take the free shuttle bus from outside the second floor, gate 5 to the Public Transportation Center a few kilometres away. Use the Express shuttle if you do not want a scenic tour of the airport area. From there, The BMTA public bus lines are:
- 554: Suvarnabhumi to Don Mueang Airport
- 555: Suvarnabhumi to Rangsit (using the expressway)
- 558: Suvarnabhumi to Central Rama 2
- 559: Suvarnabhumi to Future Park Rangsit (using the outer ring road)
These services take about 1–2 hours depending on traffic; frequency is usually every 20 minutes during daytime. At nighttime, it ranges from 20 min-1 hr depending on the route. There are also privately-owned BMTA minibuses to many parts of Greater Bangkok, such as Don Mueang Airport, Bang Kapi, Rangsit and Samut Prakan. They charge a flat rate of 50 baht and go directly to the destination, so they are faster than public buses that stop frequently along the way. To get to Khao San Rd, all these services are inconvenient.
There are free transfer buses between Suvarnabhumi Airport and Don Mueang Airport departing 05:00-24:00. Departures are every hour until 10:00, every 20-40 minutes until 22:00 and again every hour thereafter. You are supposed to have an e-ticket receipt or boarding pass for a flight departing from the destination airport. However, this being Thailand enforcement is sporadic and you may get a ride without one. At Suvarnabhumi Airport, get on the bus at gate 3. At Don Mueang Airport, get on the bus at the ground floor arrival terminal. The transfer bus goes directly via the expressway, and does not stop during the ride. Typical travel time is about an hour so the bus is not much slower than a taxi.
Ordinary metered taxis are available on the first floor (one floor below arrivals). They use a multitude of color schemes but all of them have a TAXI-METER sign on the roof. Follow the "public taxi" signs that lead to a roofed area outside the airport building. The taxi rank is automated with two vending machines, one for standard taxis and another one for big taxis. Standard taxis can carry two adults with hand baggage and one piece of checked baggage each; big taxis can take more. Queue up and press the appropriate button. You will get a slip with the taxi details and the number of the parking bay of the assigned taxi. Walk to the indicated bay with your baggage. This slip is for complaints and is how the system is enforced: hold on to it to help avoid arguments later.
This system is no improvement on the old one in which the dispatcher could help in sorting out your address if the taxi driver had too limited English skills. You also have to move your bags instead of the taxi driver being able to do it for you.
Taxis accept only cash payments in Thai baht. They won't have much change so do not try to pay with a 1,000 baht bill. If you do not get small bills from the ATM or money exchange, you can buy something from a basement floor convenience store inside the terminal.
State your destination or show the address written in Thai to the driver. Do not ask about the cost since that can be interpreted as an agreement to an inflated flat fee. Inside the Bangkok metropolitan area taxis must charge by the meter. However, if you are going out of town, e.g. to Pattaya, use of meter is not required and you must negotiate a fare as well as you can. In this case booking a car service from the web gives you a cheaper fare which normally includes tollway fees.
Once inside the taxi make sure the driver starts the meter and it shows the 35 baht flag fall. If you are going into the city the driver will say "tollway" to find out whether to use the faster tollway or not. It is safest to say "yes"; only past midnight you would not be bogged down in traffic and saving the typical 75 baht in toll fees would be worth it. The typical toll fees are 50 and 25 baht when driving into city. It is easier to keep track of the money if you pass the driver a 100 baht bill when the first toll gate approaches; use the change at the next one. You are supposed to get a paper receipt for each fee.
The ride into city takes about 45–60 minutes depending on traffic and destination. Note that the meter will switch from a distance rate to a time rate when traffic is very slow or stops altogether. Sitting in a traffic jam can get expensive so do not panic if the driver does not take the most direct route; usually he is trying to avoid congestion.
The meter is to be stopped when you arrive. You pay the shown metered fare and a 50 baht airport surcharge on top of the meter (not per passenger). The surcharge applies only to rides from airports. The approximate metered fare to Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort west of Chao Phraya River is 270 baht, to Khao San Road 240 baht, to Silom 230 baht, to Sukhumvit Soi 4 210 baht. The usual total cost is 250-400 baht but being stuck in traffic will inflate the fare.
It is rare, but there have been reports of rigged meters that make the ride cost more than 400 baht. These taxis usually appear highly modified and it is a good idea to avoid them, or record the licence plate number of the taxi. Each taxi is required to have a printed rate table. You can study it if you feel that the meter is running too fast.
Tipping is not required but Thais often round up the total according to the bills and coins they have available.
If there is a huge taxi queue, consider taking a limousine taxi, or take the free shuttle bus to the Public Transport Center, which has more taxis. Go straight to the "official taxi stand" and wait there.
So-called limousine taxis (which charge by distance, e.g., around 800 baht to Sukhumvit) can be reserved at the limousine hire counter on the second floor (just outside arrivals), and aggressive touts will try to entice you on board. If you allow yourself to be waylaid by one of these taxi touts, they might quote you more than double the fare than an ordinary metered taxi would charge (900 baht instead of 400 baht, for example). You'd be silly even acknowledging their existence — ignore and walk straight past them.
Suvarnabhumi Airport is huge. By some measures it is the world's largest airport, so allow time for getting around. You will find yourself walking long distances while inside the airport. There are travelators to move people faster in the corridors. The floors are connected with lifts, escalators and some travelators. Long concourses with boarding gates radiate from the main building and it can take quite a while to get to the gate from duty free shops and bars.
There are two immigration sections; if one looks very busy you may use the other one. Processing time can be lengthy, at least 30 minutes but on bad days it can reach 2 hours. Make sure you have the arrival card form filled in before joining the snake lines to the immigration counters.
Suvarnabhumi offers all facilities you would expect from a major international airport. There are a transit hotel, ATMs, money exchange, restaurants, tax-free shops, an observation lounge and even a "redemption booth", very reassuring for karmically challenged passengers. There is not much to see at the observation deck on the seventh floor, since the steel structure of the roof blocks most of the view.
Suvarnabhumi is not a fun airport. There is no entertainment for departing or transiting passengers apart from free Wi-Fi, an expensive spa, restaurants and shops. If you have a long transit there is no local entertainment which would be closer than downtown using the Airport Rail Link.
The air conditioning is fierce so be prepared if you plan to sleep rough inside the airport. The basement floor becomes pretty quiet once the trains stop running after midnight.
Any departing international passenger can buy access to a few lounges in the departure area after immigration from two providers. The cost is about 1000 baht for 4 hours but you must book in advance on the Web.
Thai Airways operates several lounges that are accessible to Star Alliance first and business class passengers, as well as those with Star Alliance gold status. These lounges, while huge, are generally not very highly rated, and eligible travellers may want to consider using the EVA Air Lounge or the Singapore Airlines Silver Kris Lounge instead.
Eat and drinkEdit
There are about 50 dining venues spread over the terminal building. The one that sounds most interesting probably is Panda Ready To Eat, but the cheapest place for a meal is Magic Food Point food court primarily serving airport staff on level 1, near gate 8.
The prices are higher than in downtown in the check-in area and even higher after immigration. The convenience stores before security sell beer any time except on holy and election days; it is more expensive than in a downtown shop but cheaper than drinking after security.
There are a few shops in the check-in area, including a convenience store and a post office; however, the real shopping experience awaits travellers on the other side of immigration in the departure area, where the number of shops and duty free outlets leaves you wondering whether you are in an airport or a mall.
The shops in the departure area have high prices compared to downtown. The Duty Free shops are poor value; many products including alcohol are cheaper downtown.
The rates of the currency exchange kiosks are worst in the baggage reclaim hall, better after customs hall on the 2nd floor and the best on the basement floor where Super Rich and Value Plus offer rates as good as in downtown exchange kiosks.
Arriving passengers can buy local SIM cards at the three mobile operator kiosks on the 2nd floor after exiting the customs hall. SIM packages including several gigabytes of data cost only a few hundred baht and you get also access to the operator Wi-Fi hotspots. Competition keeps prices and offerings very similar so if you are staying just some weeks you can as well pick the kiosk with the shortest queue. The advantage of buying at the airport is that staff will speak decent English and will set up your phone for you. You must show your passport to buy a SIM card so that the government can track you.
When you arrive you should buy something in the convenience store at the basement level so that you get small change for transportation because ATMs and currency exchange kiosks dispense 1,000 baht notes.
The airport offers a free Wi-Fi network using SSID “.@ AirportTrueFreeWiFi”. You must register using your browser to use it. The registration procedure obnoxiously demands your name, e-mail, nationality and passport number. However, it does not verify any of the information so feel free to make it up.
The airport has left-luggage counters on 2nd and 4th floor that charge 100 baht/piece/day and do not accept valuables; they X-ray the bags to ensure compliance and security.
The 3rd floor has a Muslim prayer room.
|This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:|
|Budget||Under 1,000 baht|
|Mid-range||1,000 baht to 2,500 baht|
|Splurge||Over 2,500 baht|
There are plenty of hotels near Suvarnabhumi Airport. The transit hotel offers to transit passengers day room facilities marketed as Louis Tavern Dayrooms. Travellers looking for a free quiet place to doze undisturbed at night can use one of the benches on the basement floor of the terminal, which seem to be a popular choice with tourists and locals.
If you want an overnight stay within 20 minutes of the airport, get a hotel along Lat Krabang Rd. The Tourist Authority of Thailand and other hotel and tourist agencies have counters on the arrivals floor of the main terminal. You can make reservations at plenty of hotels here. Check for special promotions and also whether the hotel offers an airport pick-up and drop-off service — especially useful for late night arrivals and early morning departures.
As Suvarnabhumi Airport is technically in Samut Prakan, there are also some accommodation options close to the airport in that province.
- 1 Grand Pinnacle Hotel, 444/4 Lat Krabang Soi 11/5 (Soi Maecham) (Taxis have a difficult time finding it, so instead call the hotel for a free pick-up from the airport), ☏ . This hotel is right at the edge of the airport, but surprisingly it has little aircraft noise. The staff at the desk speak English well. There is no lift, so you have to walk up the stairs. Rooms are air-conditioned and have a room bar fridge, but the bathroom is a little cramped. A Western breakfast is included in the price, and while it is basic, it is satisfactory. There are restaurants on the road outside to the right of the hotel within a short distance. 800-1,000 baht.
- 2 Sananwan Palace, 18/11 Moo 11, Sukapibarn Road 5, Bangpli Yai, ☏ . Check-in: 2 PM, check-out: 12 PM. Family-owned budget accommodation with swimming pool, gym and 24-hour restaurant. Rooms have TV and high speed internet. A/C optional. About 20 minutes drive from the Suvarnabhumi International Airport. 350-750 baht.
- 3 Boxtel, Suvarnabhumi Airport building, Basement floor (Follow signs to Airport Rail Link, next to station exit 2), ☏ . Check-in: At 4-hour intervals from midnight, check-out: After 4-hour stay. Boxtel offers single-person sleeping cubicles for short periods. The room equipment includes only the bed, an alarm clock, a stool , a writing desk and electric outlets. It is not a capsule hotel, though. About 1250 baht for 4 hours.
- 4 Great Residence Hotel, 1892/1 Lat Krabang Rd (Free pick-up from the airport), ☏ . This hotel is only a five minutes' ride from Suvarnabhumi Airport on the cusp of the airport grounds. Rate includes an American breakfast and 2-way airport transfers. 1,000-2,400 baht.
- 5 Mariya Boutique Hotel, 1627/2 Lat Krabang Rd (Corner of Lat Krabang Soi 11/5), ☏ . This boutique hotel has 37 rooms, which are branded as either "deluxe" or "superior". All rooms have air-conditioning, cable TV, a refrigerator, and wireless Internet, while only the superior rooms have a working desk and a seating area. There is also a restaurant attached to it. 1,200-2,000 baht.
- 6 Queen's Garden Resort (QG Resort), 22 Lat Krabang Soi 7 (There's a free airport pick-up for confirmed bookings; go to exit door 4 or 5 at the airport and look for the employee holding the green Queen's Garden Resort sign), ☏ . On the banks of a sleepy river, the resort has views towards Lat Krabang Temple. It features high speed wireless Internet, big screen TV, pool table, restaurant and beer garden. 1,500-2,500 baht.
- 7 Regent Suvarnabhumi, 30-32/1 Lat Krabang Soi 22 (Hard to find, so take the airport transfer), ☏ . This three-star hotel is very close to the airport, and is practical to spend the night before take off. It has been remodelled recently and looks very clean. Rooms are spacious with comfy beds, TV, a sofa and free Wi-Fi. Service is good too. There's a small shopping centre outside, but don't expect a lot for the rest. 1,000-1,800 baht.
- 8 Thong Ta Resort, 1888 Lat Krabang Rd, ☏ . This budget hotel is mostly used for stopovers due to its proximity to the airport. A big downer is that many services have extra costs attached to them, including the pick-up from the airport. It does have large, clean and air-conditioned rooms with a small bathroom. No lift, so you have to carry your luggage upstairs. It is near a restaurant/bar parade, but there is not that much to do for the rest. The rate includes an American breakfast and free Wi-Fi in lobby and rooms. 900-1,500 baht.
- 9 Miracle Transit Hotel (Louis' Tavern Dayrooms), Suvarnabhumi Airport, International Departure Hall, 4F, Concourse G (Go through security checkpoint), ☏ . Check-in: Any time, check-out: in 6,8,10,12 hour blocks. Located inside the secure departure area and can be used by transit passengers without going through Thai immigration. Rooms provide double bed, bathroom with shower, TV, minibar, Wi-Fi. Breakfast included. 4,000-7,000 baht.
- 10 Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel, 999 Moo 1, Suvarnabhumi Airport (Inside the airport itself), ☏ . This is the only hotel that is actually inside the airport compound itself, connected to the main airport terminal by a underpass in front of the hotel, which is also connected to Airport Rail Link train station . It's surprising how little airport noise you hear. It has been constructed together with the airport, so it is almost completely new and modern. It is very nice and, by Thai standards, very pricey. 5,000-7,000 baht.