Bangkok Airport

All of the major commercial Bangkok airlines now land at the new Bangkok airport (BKK), since its relocation from Don Muang airport in 2006. The Don Muang (DMK) airport is now being used for all the low cost carriers like Air Asia, Nok Air and Orient Thai.

If you are flying into Bangkok and changing airlines to a low cost carrier, ensure you check which airport they fly out of and allow sufficient transfer time between the two airports.

Welcome to Bangkok airport

Bangkok International Airport is called Suvarnabhumi Airport (pronounced Soo-wanna-poom Airport).

It received its name from His Majesty the King and means the "Golden Land".

The foundation stone was laid in January 2002 and the new airport was opened for service on 28th September 2006 and work has already commenced to double the number of runways and terminals.

Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport is located about 25 Km from the centre of town and it is only a 40 minute car ride to get to one of the many Bangkok city hotels, although this journey may take as long as 60 minutes if you travel during rush hour periods or you have a Riverside hotel.

Landing at Bangkok Airport

Bangkok Airport terminal

When your plane first arrives at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport it can stop at any of the arrival gates.

If you are unlucky and all of the gates are full, you may have to disembark onto a bus in the middle of the tarmac.

Either way, once in the main building have your back-pack firmly in place and passport in hand, you should head directly to the immigration hall to go through passport control.

If you are changing planes and have a few hours to spare then you can explore more things to do on your short Bangkok layover or if you have a delayed connecting flight you may like to read about the attractions available to you inside the airport building, whilst you while away the next few hours.

Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport walkway
Bangkok Airport walkway

Depending upon which gate your plane docks at, you may have a long walk or a very long walk to the Bangkok immigration area.

Fortunately Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport is fitted with moving walkways that make this a journey a little less tedious.

Looks pretty quiet doesn't it?

Well it is not always like this, sometimes it is packed with people all rushing to the immigration desks.

At the end of the concourse you can exchange British Pounds to Thai Baht at any of the Banks currency exchange booths.

But if you really want to get the best exchange rate at Bangkok Airport then you need to go to the same level as the Rail link and use Renjit or Super Rich.

Bangkok Airport Immigration

The Bangkok Airport immigration hall is extremely large, stretching the length of the building and is split into three sections, each with its own entrance.

Very often, if one section has long queues then it is worth wandering further down a little futher as the other sections can have no people waiting. 

Thailand immigration at Bangkok Airport
Thailand immigration area at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport

As each plane lands, passengers disembark and go to the first immigration hall that they encounter, so it just depends on the plane arrivals as to how busy a particular immigration section is.

I have visited Bangkok airport many times and the majority of times I have waited in a line of four or less people and if I see a line longer than that they head to the next immigration hall.

Bangkok Airport Fast Track

Most times the immigration staff are just sitting waiting for me and I have to admit it is a little disappointing when they are not.

If you travel First or Business Class or have an APEC card then you are entitled to use the Fast Track booth.

This is usually located to the right hand side of each arrival hall near where the diplomats go. Or there is another gate used by crew as marked on the map below.

Fast track service at Bangkok Airport

Baggage Collection Hall

As you will most likely have some checked baggage, then it is often a little academic how long the immigration line is, as you will still have to wait at the baggage carousel for your checked baggage to appear.

At the other side of the immigration staff are 24 baggage carousels, with number 24 being on the left hand side as you come out of the immigration desks.

So after emerging from passport control, go and check the board with your flight number to find the correct baggage carousel and head off to await your luggage.

If you are wondering where carousels 1-7 are located, well they are in the domestic terminal on the other side of the wall.

Bangkok airport luggage carousel
Baggage carousel board in the Arrivals hall at Bangkok Airport

Whilst you are waiting for your bag to appear on the carousel, use the time to book your car from the airport to your hotel.

Using the AOT Limousines service is a safe and inexpensive option. I don't recommend taking a taxi from the airport, particularly if this is your first trip to Thailand.

Transfer to Bangkok

One common question is "should I pre-book my airport transfer", I would say that it is not necessary as there are plenty of cars at the airport and this is something you can do when you arrive.

You can read more about Bangkok Airport to Bangkok transfers as there are a number of options available to get from Bangkok Airport to Bangkok city.

If you are planning to go to Pattaya directly from the airport instead of going to Bangkok then you may be interested in where to catch the bus to Pattaya.

Along the back wall of the baggage hall are various booths for AOT Limousines where you can pre-purchase your limousine transfer, whilst waiting for your luggage to arrive.

Bangkok airport AOT cars stand
AOT limousines at Bangkok Airport

Tell them your destination hotel and select a car from the photograph. Depending upon your budget. 1100-1400 Baht will get you to most hotels in Bangkok in a well maintained and clean vehicle.

Put the receipt away in your wallet and keep the duplicate in your hand until after you have passed through Customs Control.

The list below is now outdated because of fuel price rises and general inflation and they no longer have a board with the price listed, as it is all computerised now. (The 1-15km Sedan price was 800-850 Baht in 2013)

As a guide if you add 30% to these prices below, that should be quite close. 

Bangkok airport limousine prices
Bangkok airport duty free

By now your luggage will have appeared on the carousel, but if it hasn't then you can still make a last minute purchase of duty free goods or get some currency exchanged. The exchange rate in the airport will not be as good as in town, so just change enough for your first night.

Collect your bags and pass through Customs, choose either the Red or Green channel. (If your bag does not appear on the luggage carousel then read the following account of how to handle lost baggage).

Bangkok airport terminal arrival hall

Immediately after passing through Customs Control and entering the airport arrival hall you will see another AOT Limousine booth. 

Give the duplicate copy to a staff member and they will whisk you outside to one of the waiting cars.

If you have booked a hotel car to collect you then they also wait in this general area with your name on a sign board.

You may find that it is written as 'Mr John, Mr Alex or Ms Sarah', as people are referred to by their first names in Thailand.

Bangkok airport arrival hall
Bangkok airport AOT limousines

Perhaps you have someone meeting you, if so then they will be located a little further along the walkway, waving and shouting to you, hopefully anyway.

If you keep on walking you will get to the point where the escalators are and around this point is the overhead sign labelled "Meeting Point".

Surprisingly it is where most people arrange to meet family and friends; there is a Boots the Chemist and 7-11 just at this place, so if your greeter is not here, pop in and do a bit of shopping.

As you walk to the exit there are other places that you can book cars, mobile phone rental etc. I have never used any of these so can't comment on what is available.

Mobile phone at Suvarnabhumi Airport

If you are from Australia or Europe where the phone system is the same you don't need to rent a mobile phone, you can purchase a local SIM card that you can top up at any 7-Eleven store.

If your phone is locked to your carrier you can even pick up a secondhand mobile phone from MBK or Pantip Plaza for less than 1000 Baht.

No matter what country you come from, you need to be aware that even though your home country mobile phone works, you may have to pay very high "roaming" charges from your service provider.

Be especially aware of devices such as tablet PCs and smartphones that can automatically connect to the internet.

Anyway I hope you find this brief overview of arrival at Bangkok airport helpful.

If you are coming to Bangkok on vacation or for a short layover then you may be interested in browsing a list of hotels in the various Bangkok districts or perhaps even staying closer to Bangkok airport at a Bangkok Airport Hotel.

When you are ready to leave Bangkok you can explore the duty free Bangkok Shopping stores in the Departure Hall.

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