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 (DMK), which is located to the north of the city centre.
This guide is aimed at helping you navigate through BKK 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 bathrooms was taken by duty free shops and partly because it’s a bit bland. Changi Airport, in Singapore, for example is far more interesting, regardless of the waterfall.
I’ve also added real-time Arrival and Departure information at the bottom of the page, so you can check if your flight is on time.
Suvarnabhumi Airport Bangkok Layout
The airport terminal at BKK 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.
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?
Suvarnabhumi Airport Arrivals
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.
Thailand Arrival Card
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.
Assistance for Elderly / Disabled passengers
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. There’s no point holding it in and running to Immigration only to find you’ve a 30 minute queue.
Queuing at Suvarnabhumi immigration
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. Try to use that if it’s busy. It’s adjacent to the Priority Immigration for Business Class and VIPs which is signposted.
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 counters for this are located just before you reach Immigration and are clearly signposted. )
As you’d expect, Baggage Claim at Suvarnabhumi Airport is directly behind the Immigration counters. Check your carousel number on one of the large overhead screens and then go and get your bag. You’ll also find more Duty Free shopping in the Baggage Claim area.
Duty Free Allowance in Thailand
If you want to avoid any potential problems with customs officers, it’s worth remembering that the official limits are:
Personal belongings in reasonable quantity, which are worth no more than 20,000 Baht in total and are not prohibited or restricted goods or food. No more than 200 cigarettes or 250g of tobacco or 250g of all types combined. No more than 1 litre of alcoholic beverage.
In reality, virtually every tourist has more than 20,000 Baht worth of personal belongings on them. Which makes a bit of a nonsense of the outdated law. So it’s ignored. The customs officers are mainly interested in booze and cigarettes.
If you’re arriving on a flight from Europe or other western country, then it’s very rare to get pulled over at Customs for an inspection. The exceptions are when passengers are struggling with a suitcase, carry on bag and several obvious carrier bags of booze and cigarettes.
Where to buy a SIM card at BKK Airport?
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.
From 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. This requires you to have a single booking from your home airport to Trat with a change of planes at Bangkok international airport.
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 will be checked in all the way to Trat. So you can clear Immigration and Baggage Claim when you land in Trat.
However, if you arranged the Bangkok – Trat flight separately, i.e. you have two separate booking references for your trip from home to Trat, 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 a maximum of four flights per day: PG301 at 08:30; PG305 at 11:40: PG309 at 14:45 and PG307 at 17:10. ( Flight times change a little in High and Low season) From Trat Airport, Bangkok Airways run a minibus service for passengers heading to Koh Chang. This is 550 Baht / person one way or 990 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.
Suvarnabhumi Airport to Koh Chang by Bus or Car
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 Burapha ticket counter. There is a big bus at 07:50 and microbuses or minibuses at 11:00 and 14:00.
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. 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 bus company ‘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.
- Find the hotspot ‘AOTFreeWiFibyTrue and connect
- Open a browser window and Click “Get Free Wifi”
- Enter your name, Passport Number, Phone, email address and and country.
- You’ll then be given a username and password you can use to log-on.
Car rental at Suvarnabhumi Airport
Car rental services are available 24 hours on the Arrivals level near Entrance 8. All the major car hire companies have booths there. Avis, Budget, Hertz, National, Sixt and Thai Car Rental etc. 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 this Googlemap and directions for more details of the journey.
Suvarnabhumi Taxi Services
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 . . .
How to take a Taxi from Bangkok Airport to a hotel in the city centre
Just follow the ‘Public Taxi’ 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. It has been replaced by a much faster, more modern automatic ‘Taxi kiosks’ now in use.
The taxis are all lined up opposite – in numbered bays. Just press the button on the taxi kiosk and then match the number on your printout with the bay the taxi is parked in. The printout also has the registration number of your taxi on it. You’ll notice three different queues for the taxi ticket machines. One is for regular taxis. There’s another for groups of more than 4 people who need a larger SUV type vehicle. And for people travelling short distances, e.g. to airport hotels 10 – 15 minutes drive away, there is another separate machine to use.
Walk over to your taxi, show the driver your printout and tell them 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 or a phone number the driver can call for directions.
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.
Ride Hailing Apps – Grab (formerly Uber)
As of May 2018 Uber ceased operations in Southeast Asia and sold their business to their rivals Grab.
It is possible to use the Grab smartphone apps to get a private car from the airport to your hotel. They offer fixed prices for cars to or from the airport. Grab Car and Grab Taxi – available through the Grab app – have Economy and Premium cars ( the Grab Car Plus option ) 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.
If you order a Grab car or taxi, the driver will meet you on Level 2 at the airport NOT the Ground Floor (Level 1) where the regular taxis wait.
How to use Grab in Bangkok
Using the grab app is almost the same as Uber, download it from the app store. And then to order a driver, you can either use your current location or mark it on a map. Choose the destination and you’ll get a price. There will be a few options for Grab Car, Grab taxi or a Grab bike ( plus package delivery options ).
Don’t select the bike unless you really want a ride on the back of a motorbike taxi. Grab Taxi uses regular taxis.
Grab Car uses private drivers with their own vehicles. The same as Uber does. One difference is that you can opt to pay the driver in cash at the end of the ride.
Other limousine and taxi services
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 normal taxi and double a Grab Car. It’s aimed at first time visitors and business people with expense accounts. But if you have a large groups, say 6-8 people. Then the rates are 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.
Taking the train into Bangkok – 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 only 8 stations on the route, so you shouldn’t get lost .
Buses from Suvarnabhumi Airport to central Bangkok
On 1 June 2017 a new bus service from Bangkok airport to Khao San Road began. The air-conditioned S1 Airport 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
The old airport, Don Meuang Airport, was closed when Suvarnabhumi opened. However, due to the rise in budget airline travel it was 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 at Suvarnabhumi Airport.
Hotels near Suvarnabhumi 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.