Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK)

Bangkok's flashy Suvarnabhumi International Airport

Bangkok's flashy Suvarnabhumi International Airport

Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport is the main entry point for most visitors to Thailand, and one of the largest terminal buildings in the world. This very spacious airport handles most domestic and all international flights to Bangkok, with connections to all airports in Thailand.

Bangkok 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. It 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. Some 80 airlines service more than 200 destinations and there are plenty of flights originating in Europe, as well as a number of flights from North America.

Best Flight options to Bangkok

Bangkok is a major Asian stopover and destination for numerous airlines from Europe, while passengers from the US connect via East Asian hubs. Direct flights on Thai and other national airlines are the most comfortable but not the cheapest deals. By stopping over en-route you can find much cheaper tickets, and the Middle Eastern airlines have really provided some excellent choices lately. From feedback we've found that Etihad consistently comes out tops as the most satisfactory choice, stopping over in Abu Dhabi. They consistently have some of the best prices (especially from London) and fly new, well equipped planes. Their service gets particularly good mention from our feedback.

Located about 30kms from Bangkok, Suvarnabhumi Airport (pronounced Su-wa-na-poom) has one very large passenger terminal, with seven levels and seven concourses. Level A (underground) houses the transport terminal, Level B is the Arrivals area, with Immigration and Customs, Baggage Claim and travel services; Level C is a mezzanine level comprising of restaurants; Level D houses the check-in area and Levels E, F and G are offices and an observation deck. Despite initial problems and controversies this modern airport is generally a hassle-free and pleasant experience.

Arriving and visas

On arrival at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport, nationals of most countries will be issued a 30-day visa waiver stamp. It’s best to check visa requirements beforehand to be sure about current requirements, however. Queues for passport control can be up to 20 minutes during the busy morning period, which is about the length of time it takes for baggage to arrive. Baggage Claim is located nearby, on the same level, and the Customs area is situated just beyond the baggage carousels - only spot checks are conducted.

Visitors can take the new airport rail link to town

Warning! Upon entering the Arrivals Hall, be prepared for a barrage of pushy freelancing taxi and tour operators, which the AOT authorities seem unwilling to deal with. It’s best to ignore them. We also don’t recommend the AOT’s heavily promoted limousine service as metered taxis are freely available, equally as reliable, and a third of the price!

ATMs and currency exchange counters are located throughout the passenger terminal, and are open 24 hours. There is also a wireless internet service on prepaid cards (100 baht for 60 minutes) and coin-operated terminals. An internet café is located in the far corner of the check-in level (international side). Tourist services, mobile phone rentals/SIM cards, and accommodation bookers are also conveniently on hand when you arrive.

Transport to and from Bangkok airport.

Facilities at Bangkok Airport

Food and drink outlets are abundant on the mezzanine level, along with a convenience store, bookshop, pharmacy, prayer room and medical clinic. Left luggage, reliably managed by Chubb, is located on Level B (Arrivals). In the departures areas, food courts are also located at the two concourse hubs (north and south), with strategically placed bistros and bars among the duty-free shopping area. The duty-free shopping isn't the best, though you can pick up Thai products and handicrafts, along with clothing, gift items, jewellery, electronics, books and magazines (see scam warning below).

At Bangkok Airport there is, however, limited seating and comfort areas pre-security. It’s advisable to pass through to the departures side of the terminal to relax and pass the time. VIP lounges are all situated here, and some more expensive eating options. Once you’ve reached your departure gate lounge, you’ll find very little in the way of refreshments on sale, and it’s a long walk back.

For departures, there’s no need to worry if you’re at the right terminal; when you step off the escalator on Level D digital signs will clearly indicate which concourse your airline uses for check-in, with Thai and domestic airlines to the extreme left. Along the length of this level are the airline service desks, with immigration check points to the rear right side.

Scam alert! Since its opening the airport has been plagued with poor management issues and a lack of will to deal with scammers and corrupt officials, resulting in some horrid experiences for selected visitors. The moment you step out of Arrivals you might be confronted with a barrage of ‘freelance’ taxi guides, who are unregistered and often overcharge (the metered taxis nearby are safe and cost about 300 baht).

Far more serious, but less prevalent, is the ‘zig zag’ scam in which some individuals have been accused of shoplifting by the King Power duty-free operator and turned over to the police. They are then ‘persuaded’ to pay a hefty admission of guilt ‘fine’ ($5,000-$10,000) or else be detained on bail in the country for several months waiting for a court hearing. The best remedy is to avoid stepping into the vaguely marked domain of these shops altogether. The prices aren’t particularly cheap anyhow.

The Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel is located in the airport complex, directly across from the passenger terminal, and is connected by a walkway. The hotel features over 600 rooms and business and conference facilities. 

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