Transport

Suvarnabhumi Airport Guide

Advice for visitors arriving at Suvarnabhumi Airport Bangkok. Transporet to Bangkok and Koh Chang
TIP: It’s pronounced ‘Suwanapoom’.  No one will have a clue what you are saying if you pronounce it the way it’s written in English. 
Suvarnabhumi Airport is the the main gateway to Thailand for tourists. The location of the airport, around 30Km east of the city centre, makes it relatively quick and easy for visitors to head straight to the island after arriving.  

If you’re already in Thailand and plan on flying into Bangkok or are taking a cheap flight from a neighbouring country, note that budget airlines now use the old airport – Don Meuang – to the north of the city centre.

This guide is aimed at helping you navigate through the airport and either to Koh Chang or into Bangkok city centre as easily as possible by your preferred means of transport.  

The airport terminal, which is one of the largest in the world, resembles a glass and concrete shopping mall.  It comes in for some criticism, partly due to the distances involved – you can walk for almost  a kilometre from an Arrival gate to the Immigration counters; partly for the lack of toilets  – a lot of space earmarked for WCs was taken by duty free shops and partly because it’s a bit bland.  Changi Airport, in Singapore, for example is far more interesting.

Suvarnabhumi Airport Orientation

The airport terminal has four floors and a basement.  ( Plus a couple of floors of offices and an observation deck which doesn’t have a such good view, not much point in going up there. )  Arrivals are on the 2nd Floor.  Departures are on the 4th Floor.   The 3rd Floor is a mass of over priced restaurants along with a couple of convenience stores and branch of Boots.  You’ll also find the airport police station on this floor.

The 1st Floor is where you’ll head if you want to take a taxi into Bangkok or buy a bus / minibus ticket to the city or elsewhere – including Koh Chang.  It’s also home to a good food court – called the ‘Magic Food Center ‘, that’s always packed and offers a wide range of Thai and Western food for reasonable prices.   The basement is where you’ll find more restaurants and a 7-eleven, plus access to either the Novotel Airport Hotel and the Airport Rail Link which takes you into the city centre of Bangkok for just 45 Baht.

If you’re planning on using the internet whilst on holiday, then getting a Thai SIM card will make your life a lot easier.  If you have an unlocked phone, then pick up a SIM card at one of the telecoms counters on the Arrivals level.  All of the three main providers – AIS, True or DTAC are fine.  They all offer 4G connection in most areas of the country and all have pre-paid ‘Tourist SIMs’ that offer a package of calls plus data.  Figure on 299 Baht for 1 week of 4G data plus 100 Baht of calls.  You can top these cards up at any 7-eleven.

TIP: If you need to exchange money then it’s better to head down to the Basement level currency exchanges located near the Airport Rail Link.  You’ll get a much better rate once you cross the invisible dividing line between the airport property and the train station.  These two photos were taken about 1 minute apart. Top is at Superrich near the rail link ticket office.  Bottom is SCB bank about 50 metres away in the airport. What do you prefer 34.92 THB for $1 or 33.08THB? 39.75 THB for 1EUR or 37.76THB?Superrich vs SCB bank at Suvarnabhumi Airport

Arriving at Suvarnabhumi

The arrivals process is the same as in any international airport.  The signage is good – in English, Thai and Chinese, so you probably won’t get lost. The process is straightforward.

  • On the plane you’ll be given an Arrival  / Departure card.  Fill this out on the plane.  If you already have a Tourist Visa for Thailand make sure you fill out those details on the form. Don’t leave it until you are at the immigration counter. And be sure to keep the Departure section safely in your passport.  You’ll need this when you leave the country.
  • As mentioned above, it’s a large terminal.  There are moving walkways to help speed you to Immigration.   But if you are travelling with someone elderly or 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 you need to go to the toilet, you’ll find plenty during the long walk to Immigration.  There are often long queues at Immigration, so pee first.
  • Once you reach Immigration you’ll see that there are separate queuing areas for Thais and Foreigners. The Thai queues will have 2-3 people waiting and a handful of smiley, chilled Immigration officers waving people through.  The Foreign counters will often have hundreds of people waiting and stressed officers who probably won’t cheerily welcome you to the Land of Smiles.
  •  TIP: There are three immigration areas at Suvarnabhumi.  For almost all flights Immigration 1 & Immigration 3 are the nearest to the gates so the vast majority of passengers use these. They often get crowded and have long queues. Immigration 2 – in the middle – is the smallest but is always the quietest. It’s adjacent to the Priority Immigration for Business Class and VIPs. 
  • When you finally reach the front of the queue, you’ll need to hand over your  Passport and Arrival card and stare into a webcam.  Assuming you don’t look too suspicious you’ll be stamped into Thailand for the duration of your Tourist Visa – 60 days.  Or , if you don’t require a visa 15 – 30 days depending on your nationality.  ( Some nationalities need to get a Visa on Arrival.  The forms and counter for this are located just before you reach Immigration and are clearly signposted. )
  • Baggage Claim is directly behind the Immigration counters.  Check your carousel number on one of the big screens and then go and get your bag.  You’ll also find Duty Free shopping in the Baggage Claim area.
  • If you’re arriving on a flight from Europe then it’s very rare to get pulled over at Customs for an inspection unless you’re struggling with a suitcase, carry on bag and several obvious carrier bags of booze and cigarettes.
  • Once you are through Customs you will enter the bustling Arrivals area.  If you need a SIM card then you’ll see booths from the three networks True, AIS and DTAC.  It doesn’t matter which SIM you buy, all have 4G coverage, all have ‘Tourist SIMs’ with a package of data, local and cheap international calls. These can be topped up at virtually any mini-mart in Thailand. Prices start from around 299 Baht for 1 week package.

Inside the terminal at night

Suvarnabhumi Airport to Trat Airport

If you’ve just arrived and already have a flight booked on Bangkok Airways to Trat, you might be able to transit at Suvaranbhumi without clearing Immigration.   In 2014, Trat Airport was granted CIQ (Customs, Immigration and Quarantine) status, which means that if your international flight is on one of Bangkok Airways partner airlines, you, and hopefully your luggage, will be checked in all the way to Trat.  So you can clear Immigration and Baggage Claim when you land in Trat.

If you arranged the Bangkok – Trat flight separately, then you’ll need to go through Immigration in Bangkok and then head upstairs to the Departure level to check in for your flight to Trat.

Trat Airport is a sleepy place.  Bangkok Airways has just three flights per day: PG301 at 08:30; PG305 at 11:40 and PG307 at 17:10.  ( Flight times change a little in High and Low season, but only by 10 minutes or so. )   From Trat Airport, Bangkok Airways run a minibus service for passengers heading to Koh Chang. This is 500 Baht / person one way or 900 Baht return.  Buy tickets when you land in Trat.  ( If you want to book in advance, this is possible and will also save you money.   Private transfers from Trat Airport to hotels on Koh Chang or Laem Ngop ( for boats to Koh Mak ) and Laem Sok ( for boats to Koh kood ) can also be arranged. )

TIP: Whilst it’s possible to get to Koh Chang the same day if you are on PG307, it isn’t possible to get to the other islands.  If you want to go to Koh Kood or Koh Mak, you’ll need to take PG301 or PG305.  And in the Low Season ( mid-May to October ) the last boat to Koh Kood is at 12:30.  so you’ll need to be on PG301 in order to make it.  Or have an overnight stay in Trat.

Suvarnabhumi Airport to Koh Chang by Bus or Car

Private Transfers

If flying is too expensive or you don’t want to hang around the airport waiting for the flight to Trat, then this is a very popular option. The driver will be waiting for you in the Arrival area – at the Meeting point near Entrance 3. Driving time to the mainland pier is around 4 to 4 and a half hours.  Then you have 30 minutes ferry crossing ( ferries depart every 45 minutes or more frequently if busy ) and once on Koh Chang it’s anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour drive to your hotel. You’ll be able to stop on the way for a snack, drink, toilet break etc.  More details here.

Bus or Minibus

The Suvarnabhumi Burapha Bus Company run a  service that has three or four departures a day from Suvaranbhumi to Koh Chang. Go to Entrance 8 on Level 1 of the terminal building.  There you will see the Suvaranbhumi Burupha ticket counter.  There is a big bus at 07:50 and minibuses at 11:00 and 14:00.  ( There is also sometimes an 09:30 minibus. ) Ticket price is 600 Baht including ferry ticket and you’ll be dropped off at your hotel – if you are staying between the ferry pier and Siam Beach Resort where the service terminates.  * Note that tickets can’t be booked online in advance * A return ticket is 900 Baht.  This doesn’t include the pick up from your hotel for the return transfer, you have to pay 100 Baht extra for that when you are on Koh Chang.

The Government run ‘Transport Co., Ltd.’ provide a reliable service using modern buses twice a day from Ekkamai Bus Station to Laem Ngop.  This departs at 0745 and 0900 and the bus makes a stop at the Airport Transportation Terminal at around 0820 and 1020.  The early bus will drop passengers heading to Koh Chang off at Ao Thammachat pier and the later bus will stop at Centrepoint.  If you’re heading to Koh Mak, both buses will also drop off at Krom Luang pier, for boats to the island.  But be sure to tell the driver in advance.

( Heading back from Koh Chang to Suvaranbhumi, there’s just one bus that departs Laem Ngop at 14:00 and calls in at both mainland piers at around 14:10 – 14:20. )

To get to the Transportation Terminal ( airport bus station) , you need to take a free shuttle bus from the airport terminal.  Hop on at Entrance 5 on Level 2 or Entrance 5 on Level 4. Buses depart every ten minutes.

TIP: Use the free wifi. As soon as you get off the plane you can use the airport wifi.  Registration is easy enough.  You’ll get two hours free.

  1. Find the hotspot ‘AOTFreeWiFibyTrue and connect
  2. Open a browser window and Click “Get Free Wifi”
  3. Enter your name, Passport Number, Phone, email address and and country.
  4. You’ll then be given a username and password you can use to log-on.

Rental Car

Car rental services are available 24 hours Level 2 ( Arrivals ) near Entrance 8.  All the major car hire companies have booths there.  Avis,  Budget, Hertz, National, Sixt and Thai Car Rental.  Whilst it isn’t much fun driving in Bangkok city centre,  driving to Koh Chang from the airport is very simple.  There are good roads all the way and outside Thai holidays, usually light traffic.  As soon as you come out of the airport you just follow the signs for the motorway ( Highway 9 ) towards Pattaya and you’re on the way.  Then you want to take highways 344, 3 and 3156 to the ferry pier. Only four turnings to remember in a 300Km drive. See the Googlemap and directions for more details of the journey.

Taxi

Yes, it is possible to take a public taxi to the mainland pier for Koh Chang.  Most drivers don’t like to come onto the island so won’t bring you all the way to your hotel.  The hills put them off.  The price will depend on your haggling skills and it might take some time to find one willing to take you. But figure on around 3,500 Baht total.  I advise reading up on the directions to the island as you may get a driver who hasn’t been here before and takes you on the scenic route via Pattaya or Rayong, rather than the direct way.

Suvarnabhumi Airport to Bangkok

From Landing in Bangkok to the City Centre in Four Minutes . . .

Taxi

Ignore any touts that may approach you.  A tout is basically anyone who you’ve never seen before who approaches you in the Arrivals area.  Just follow the signs from Arrivals down to Level 1 and you’ll see the taxi rank outside Entrances 4 – 6.   The old system of queuing and having a member of staff write down where you are staying on a piece of paper which you then give to the driver has gone and has been replaced by a much faster, more modern alternative.  You’ll find automatic ‘Taxi kiosks’ now in use.  Just press a button and you’ll get a printout which shows which taxi to take and where it is parked. Walk to the parking bay and hand over the ticket to the driver.  For groups of more than 4 people, there are a couple of machines specifically for larger taxis. And for people travelling short distances, e.g. to airport hotels 10 – 15 minutes drive away, there is another separate machine to use. )

TIP: To avoid any excessive queues for a taxi head to the departures area and walk out road.  You’ll see taxis arriving there to drop people off.  You aren’t supposed to do this.  But it does save you the 50 Baht airport surcharge and there won’t be any queues.
The taxis are all lined up opposite – in numbered bays.  Simply match the number on your printout with the bay.  The printout also has the registration number of your taxi on it. Then tell the driver where you want to go.  If you aren’t staying in a well known hotel or are in an out of the way location, it will help if you have the address in Thai language.  Two things to bear in mind a) There’s a 50 Baht surcharge to add on to the meter reading.  ( Make sure the driver puts the meter on when you get into the taxi. The meter always starts at 35 Baht. ) and b) You have to pay for the expressway tolls.  And unless you’re landing in the middle of the night, I advise taking the expressway into the city centre to avoid traffic jams.

One thing you’ll need for a taxi is Thai Baht – so make sure you have some small notes.  Don’t give the driver a 1,000 Baht note and expect him to have change.

Uber and Grab Car

  It is possible to use both these smartphone apps to get a private car from the airport to your hotel.  They both offer fixed prices for cars to or from the airport.  UberX is 300 Baht and UberBlack is 1,000 Baht ( as of mid 2016 )  Grabcar – available through the Grab app  – has Economy and Premium cars for around 400 – 600 Baht.  I like these services as the drivers are accountable – you know who they are and have people you can contact in case of any problems.  Plus the rides are tracked by GPS, so it’s quite easy to see if your driver knows where he is going or not.

TIP:If you haven’t tried these apps, then download and give them a go next time you are on holiday anywhere in the world.  In many cities it can be way cheaper and more convenient than using a regular taxi.  I’ve used Uber in Europe and SE Asia and it works out cheaper than taxis, plus you get to meet some friendly drivers.  Use this code when you sign up to get a free / discounted ride: ianm9435ue 
The Airport Authority of Thailand also offers it’s own Limo service which you’ll see advertised at ‘Airport Taxi’ booths in the Baggage Claim area and Arrivals Hall.  This is quite expensive, around three times the price of a taxi, and aimed at business people with expense accounts.   One time it can be useful is if you have a large group and need a minibus for 8 passengers.  Then the rate is reasonable.

Likewise there are a lot of private taxi services that can be pre-booked online.  A simple search on Google for ‘Bangkok Airport taxi’ throws up dozens of companies.

Airport Rail Link

If you are travelling light and staying on or near a skytrain or subway station or just want to avoid the hassle of dealing with a taxi driver, then this is a very good service.  The City line runs from 06:02 and has trains four times an hour at 02, 17, 32 and 47 minutes until 00:02.  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 ( subway ) the price is 35 Baht.   Travelling time is just under 30 minutes.  There are onmly 8 stations on the route, so you shouldnt get lost .

Suvarnabhumi Airport rail link station and ticket office

TIP: If you have find yourself at the airport and have time to kill then heading into Bangkok on the train for dinner or some last minute shopping is easy on the train.  Phayathai Station is only a couple of BTS stops from Siam Square, where you’ll find plenty of malls and restaurants.   Leave your suitcases behind at the Left Luggage Baggage Service Center,  near Entrance 4 on Level 2 ( Arrivals ) or near Entrance 4 on Level 4 ( Departures ). The rate is 100 Baht / bag / day.
Earlier this year I decided to test the train vs the minibus with a friend.  Both involved starting on Koh Chang and heading to a hotel in central Bangkok.  We took the same minibus.  I got off at the airport and then took the train and BTS to the hotel on Sukhumvit Rd.  My friend stayed in the minibus and they dropped her off at the hotel.  Who got there first?  I did by about an hour.  The reason being the minibus lost time as soon as it got near the city centre and got caught up in traffic.  Plus the minibus had to drop other people off first.  So for around 85 Baht extra – train & BTS fares – I saved an hour.  Was it worth it? I think so.   But this was travelling light with no kids or large suitcases.

This map shows airport rail link along with all the MRT (subway) and BTS (skytrain) stations and routes.  And this PDF showing Public Transport at Suvarnabhumi might also be useful.

Bus

Route map and timetable for bus from Suvarnabhumi Airport to Khao San Road, BangkokOn 1 June 2017 a new bus service from the airport to Khao San Road began.  The air-conditioned bus runs from 06:00 – 20:00 daily  and the fare is 60 Baht per person.  Catch the bus at Entrance 7 on Level 1 of the terminal building.  It takes the motorway and the  expressway into the city centre.  Then the route runs along Rachadamnoern Rd, Larm Luang Rd, Phra Artit Rd and Phra Sumen Rd.  It doesn’t go along Khao San but drops off and picks up at either end of the street. 

It’s a little more expensive that taking the train into the centre of town but a lot less hassle if you are staying around the Khao San area of Bangkok.  You’ll only have a short walk to your hotel.  

You can also take a public bus from the Airport Transportation Terminal into Bangkok.  But these mostly go to the suburbs where you’re unlikely to want to go.  But if you’re on a tight budget then there are a couple that might be of use if you are staying in the city centre:

  • Bus 551 – Chonburi expressway – Srirat expressway – Asoke-Dindang –  Rachawithi Road – Victory Monument ( connect to BTS )
  • Bus 556 – Democracy Monument ( for Khao San Rd ) – Thammasat University – Pata Department Store – Bangkok Southern Bus Terminal ( for buses to south of Thailand )

Suvarnabhumi Airport to Don Meuang Airport

Don Meuang was closed when Suvarnabhumi opened but the rise in budget airlines led to it being taken out of mothballs and re-opened a few years ago.  Since then a new Domestic terminal has been built and the airport is as busy as ever.  There are free shuttle buses from Suvarnabhumi Airport to Don Mueang Airport every 12 – 30 minutes (depending on the time of day) between 05:00-23:00. Anyone can take these buses, you don’t need a boarding pass.  Take the bus  from the Arrivals level at Entrance 2 or 3.

Hotels near Suvaranbhumi Airport

If you are arriving late and don’t have time to get to Koh Chang the same day then just spend the night in one of the main airport hotels. The next morning either take a transfer from your hotel or the shared minibus or public bus from the airport to Koh Chang.

If you have the cash then the Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport hotel is by far the most convenient place to stay as it’s connected to the terminal by an underground walkway.

But there are far cheaper options available within a 10 – 15 minute drive.  And pretty much all these hotels provide a free shuttle service.  These are located in the Latkrabang area of Bangkok.  This is a suburb that you won’t find listed in any guidebooks to the city as, apart from a huge container terminal, there’s not much of interest.  But that does mean there are lots of good, cheap Thai restaurants and the hotels are far better value for money than those in the touristy areas.   You won’t have a problem finding a well-reviewed place to stay for 1,000 – 1,500 Baht / night.

Details & prices for airport hotels with shuttle services.

 

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