Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport is the main entry point for most visitors to Thailand, and the second largest terminal building in the world. The new and very spacious passenger terminal handles all domestic and international flights to Bangkok, with connections to all airports in Thailand, and most major regional and global destinations.
The airport is serviced by a large number of the world’s major airlines, including: Thai Airways, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, United Airlines, Japan Airlines, Singapore Airlines and Emirates, and is a hub for many visitors to Southeast Asia as well as a stop-over point for those continuing on to Australia and New Zealand. Accordingly, there are plenty of flights originating in Europe, as well as a number of flights either originating, or ending, in Bangkok that stop in Japan en-route to and from the west coast of the US and Canada.
Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport has one large passenger terminal, with seven levels and seven concourses. Level 1 houses the bus lobby; Level 2 is Arrivals, with Immigration and Customs, Baggage Claim and transfer services; Level 3 contains most passenger facilities and amenities; Level 4 houses Departures; Level 5 is occupied by airport and airlines business offices; Level 6 has restaurants; and Level 7 boasts an observation deck. The seven concourses are labelled A to G, with A and B servicing domestic flights, and C to G handling all international services.
Food and drink outlets abound and you’ll find restaurants offering fast-food and Thai specialties, as well as bars that are open round-the-clock. A mezzanine level (Level 3) is located between arrivals and departures levels, where there is a good choice of inexpensive restaurants, and fast-food and convenience shops. Duty-free shopping options are fair to dire, while shops specialise in Thai products and handicrafts, and others offer clothing, gifts, jewellery, and books, magazines and newspapers.
On arrival at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport, nationals of most countries will be issued a 30-day visa-exemption stamp (actually 29 days) – it’s best to check visa requirements beforehand to be sure about current requirements. Baggage Claim is located on the same level, immediately after the immigration point, while Customs is situated just beyond the baggage carousels, and only spot checks are conducted.
After leaving Customs, you will enter the Arrivals Hall and will likely be overwhelmed by the barrage of transport representatives and freelancers offering special deals on transportation to Bangkok or other destinations. It’s a good idea to ignore them and head to Level 1 for the shuttle bus that will take you to the airport’s Transport Centre, from where you’ll find a selection of express buses, public buses and taxis.
ATMs and currency exchange counters are located throughout the passenger terminal and are open 24 hours. There is also an internet service available with prepaid wifi connect cards, or a cafe in the far right corner of Departures as you approach Check-in. Tourist services are also on-hand to make onward arrangements for you.
Getting from Bangkok Airport to Pattaya
Government buses leave every couple of hours or so from the Transportation Centre near the main terminal from 07:00 to 22:00, approximate time two hours (tel: (02) 134 4097-8), while Bell Travel buses run hourly, 134 baht. From Pattaya to the airport, buses depart from the North Pattaya Road terminal every hour on the hour from 08:00-22:00.
Enquire with the tourist information desk at Arrivals, or elsewhere in the airport, for specific directions to the transfer pickup point outside the terminal building. If these times don’t suit you, you can hire a taxi, which will cost 1,200-1,500 baht. Negotiate with the driver and remember there are tollways on the way to Pattaya (60 baht) which the driver usually expects you to pay for. Ignore the Airport’s Limousine service as it is aggressively promoted, unnecessary and overpriced.
If you find yourself using the old Don Muang Airport in northern Bangkok, your most convenient option is a taxi (1,500 baht). Alternatively, catch a taxi to Mochit BTS Station (north Bangkok) and take the Skytrain to Ekkamai, from where buses run to Pattaya – naturally, this depends on the amount of luggage you happen to be carrying. You might find it easier and quicker to catch a taxi to or from Suvarnabhumi Airport Transportation Centre (250 baht) and hook up with the Pattaya bus, if the timing is right.
Car hire is also an option if you don’t mind trying your hand at driving in Bangkok’s traffic – it is also a suitable option for anyone planning to visit a provincial area.
SCAM ALERT! Airport taxis
When collecting luggage you’ll notice large signs warning you to avoid unauthorised taxis and use the AOT Limo Service for your own safety. In fact, all taxis at the airport are authorised Bangkok metered taxis and perfectly safe, while the AOT limos are marginally safer but three times the price! Even if you ignore their well-placed desk, an army of their reps will accost you when you exit. Just ignore them and proceed to the taxi rank in the basement or enquire about a bus. Negotiating directly with the driver for a flat fee to take you to Pattaya is the norm, and best option.