We thank Alyson, from Japan, for the presentation of this airport she knows so well…
Suvarnabhumi Airport or the New Bangkok Airport opened in 2006 and is now the main international airport for Bangkok. It is situated to east of the city, about 25 kms from central Bangkok.
It was opened with a great deal of fanfare and has quickly become one of the busiest airports in Asia. The number of people who travel through can be assessed as it rated one of the most popular places in the world for Instagram photos in 2012. This is also testament to the fantastic displays that the Thai tourist authority and the Thai airport authority exhibit around the terminal.
The old airport, Don Mueang, is still used by Air Asia, Nok Air, and One-Two-Go (at time of writing – April 2013) so if you are transferring between airlines check carefully which airport your carrier uses. It takes about an hour to transfer between airports, although it can be longer if the traffic is bad.
Suvarnabhumi Airport despite being new has suffered its fair share of problems. Initial subsidence with the runways and then a sit in by yellow shirt protesters has meant flights have been switched backwards and forwards between the two airports.
Charges of government fraud and corruption over luggage scanners and complaints about extortion by the duty free shops continue to dog the airport. As with anywhere in Thailand, it is necessary to exercise caution here.
How to get there
The easiest and fastest way to get to the airport is by taxi. This is probably the cheapest if there is more than one of you, as well. But when taking a taxi you need consider which direction you are approaching from and whether you are likely to run into rush hour traffic which could slow you down or stop you completely. And as ever with taxis, insist the driver puts the meter on. The metered fair is likely to be cheaper than the flat rate they offer you – they are obliged to put the meter on.
If you are arriving, there is an extra 50 baht charged to take a taxi at the taxi stand from the airport – again, insist your driver puts on the meter.
The best alternative to a taxi is the airport rail link opened in 2010. This has two main stops in the city – Praya Thai and Makkasan. The intention is to make Makkasan into a city airport terminal with check in and baggage facilities so that passengers can take the express line straight to the airport, but at the moment it is a strangely isolated place, difficult to find a taxi from there, and a two hundred metre hike to the nearest underground connection.
The Bangkok Mass Transit Authority offers a bus service from the airport but you need to take a shuttle bus to the public transportation centre’s bus terminal. The buses travel to various places across the city including Don Mueang airport.
Touts will offer you cars, limos and transfer services on arrival. Unless you have an arrangement with a hotel for pick up or a company previously booked it is probably better to use a regular taxi from the taxi rank.
The terminal is one single structure with the domestic hub at one end. The departures floor is on the top level. The floor below is for catering outlets and arrivals is on the ground level.
Much as you would expect at any airport.
Wheelchairs and assistance are readily available. Check with your airline.
Depends on the airline but there are usually several counters open and everything is done with a smile. If you have a problem however it is better to sort it out with the airline in advance. Things tend to be inflexible in Asia with little room for on-the-spot manoeuvring.
There are business class lounges in departures but very little seating for others after passing through immigration except in the cafes and bars. Even the areas at the gates do not always have enough seating for all those on the flight. However there are plentiful cafes and drinks are not expensive so be prepared to linger over a coffee.
Plentiful but can be busy, especially on arrival.
There are exchange, banking and ATM’s on the departure floor and on the arrival floor. Only foreign exchange facilities are available once you pass through immigration.
There are many cafes, bars and restaurants after passing through immigration, serving Thai and international cuisine. Reasonable prices.
On the middle floor between arrivals and departures there are cafes and restaurants for a final meal before friends depart. Again prices are reasonable.
There are many duty-free and souvenir shops in the departure areas. As you would expect the Thai gift items can be bought more cheaply in the city. Shops sell Thai orchids specially boxed up ready for a flight.
There have been warnings in the British press and on websites about scams in some of the duty free shops, so exercise caution.
Available in some cafes. You will usually need a sign in code.
The Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel is a ten minute walk using an underground walkway or the hotel provides a round the clock shuttle bus: www.novotelairportbkk.com
Appears on the belts in due course.
There can be long queues at immigration both arriving and departing. If you are unlucky enough to land at the same time as several other A380s and a 747 you can be queuing for almost an hour. On departure allow enough time for a possible delay here.
For some nationalities, visas are available on arrival: check with your Embassy.
VAT refund service
Fast and efficient