On Sunday I went to the new Suvarnabhumi Airport (click here for part one) in order to find out how people could catch local transport from the airport to their destination. I found Gate C first on Level Two but was curious to find the other gates. This is where people would exit after collecting their baggage. So, I went for a walk looking for B and A. I found Gate B in the middle of the main terminal building. It was packed with waiting people and it was very difficult to walk around them. Bad planning here. Upstairs there is so much space for departing passengers, but on the arrival level, there wasn’t enough space.
I checked the big board above Gate B. I was guessing that I wouldn’t find my fictitious inbound flight from Singapore. At the old airport, there were two terminals and you had to know which terminal the flight was landing at in order to meet your friends. The board would tell you which terminal. However, to my surprise, this board was exactly the same as the one above Gate C. So, it looked like the passengers would come out of either Gate B or Gate C depending on which was the nearest exit to their baggage claim. Good for the arriving passengers, but not so good for people coming to meet you.
I squeezed my way through the crowd looking for Gate A. “Do you want a taxi sir?” and “Where are you going?” I quickly realised that these touts thought I had just got off a plane. (My camera bag is a rucksack.) So, I backtracked and tried to put myself into the shoes of a passenger arriving for the first time. Confusion again. There was a sign saying to go down to Level One for the taxis but it was blocked by people standing around. Other people must have complained as officials had stuck up A4 pieces of paper on pillars saying about taxis on the first floor. I asked one of the touts how much for a taxi to Pattaya. He said 1,100 baht. Rayong is a little bit more expensive and Hua Hin 2,000 baht. and don’t have a meter.
I never liked the touts at the old airport. They try to pressure you to booking their taxi into Bangkok or beyond. But really, it is far cheaper if you go by public taxi into Bangkok. These people own private taxis which don’t have a meter. They are only good for going to places outside Bangkok. I decided I would go down to the lower level to find out the situation about the public taxis. But first, I continued walking to the far end, as I still didn’t know about Gate A. But, this turned out to be the arrival entrance for domestic passengers. So, if you fly into Thailand you will either pass through Gate B or Gate C.
From Level Two, I went down the stairs to the lower level to look for the public taxis. There are lifts here so there is no worry about your baggage. Outside the front door there was a reception desk for the taxi queue. You have to pay a 50 baht surcharge here before you can get into a taxi. Apparently this is paid to the taxi driver as a “reward” for waiting for passengers inside the terminal. There were about 15 people in the queue and more than enough taxis waiting for them. Originally the plan was for people to take a free shuttle bus to the nearby bus terminal in order to catch a taxi. But, too many people complained and they brought them here.
As I was looking around, I noticed a shuttle bus arriving. I wanted to check out the bus terminal so I decided to hop on. This is free. The sign on the bus said “Ordinary Bus 1”. As we drove along the front of the passenger building, I noticed another taxi rank in the middle and then another at the far end. I also spotted what looked like an Airport Bus to the city. As the shuttle was stopping here I decided to hop out for a quick look. Incidentally, there were a lot of taxis here but no-one waiting in a queue. So, if you want to catch a taxi and there are too many people waiting, just walk a few minutes to the next exit.
The Airport Express is a small bus that will take you into the city for a fixed fee of 150 baht per person. This is cheaper if you are by yourself. But, if there are at least two of you then it will work out cheaper to go by taxi. The Airport Express has four routes. Silom, Banglumphu (Khao San Road), Ploenchit/Wittayu and Hua Lumphong station. Obviously very good if your hotel is along one of these routes. If you want to do it cheaper than a public taxi or Airport Express, then you will need to catch an ordinary bus. To do this, you need to take the free shuttle bus to the nearby bus station.
While I was waiting for the shuttle bus, a tax that had just dropped a passenger off slow down near me and asked if I wanted to get in! Officially they are not supposed to do that, But, if you have a small bag and can get in quickly, then you will save on the 50 baht surcharge. Anyway, I didn’t have to wait too long for the next shuttle bus. And then it was a quick ten minute journey to the bus terminal. This is where the taxis will first go before being called to go to the airport terminal. There must have been a thousand taxis waiting there. Unbelievable. Certainly no shortage here. At the bus terminal, there was a sign above each of the bus bays with the destination written in both Thai and English. However, the big board with details of each route was only written in Thai. I asked an official and he said that there was no English available. He told me to look on the front of the bus as that gave details of the route. These buses will get you into Bangkok for no more than 35 baht.
One of the best things about the transportation is that you can catch Inter-province buses here. This means that you don’t have to go into Bangkok first. You will find buses here for places like Chonburi, Pattaya, Rayong, Chantaburi, Trat, Sa Kaeo, Khorat, Khon Kaen, Udonthani and Nongkhai. The bus for Pattaya is only 106 baht. You can also catch a bus to the bus stations at Mo Chit and Ekamai if you cannot see your destination listed.
For the people who arrive at the bus terminal and want to catch a flight the next step is quite easy. I came here on the Ordinary Bus Shuttle. However, I now could see that there were also Express Shuttle buses which are slightly quicker. These are white and have much larger storage areas for your luggage. My only complaint is that there was a piece of paper on the door that said in Thai “chan 2” and ‘chan 4”. This is saying the destination. Floor 2 is for arrivals and Floor 4 is for departures. They really need more English around this airport. After all, it is an international airport for people from all around the world. Not for just Thai people to use.
So to summarize. When you fly into Suvarnabhumi Airport you will exit the baggage claim area on Level Two. Your first choice of transport here is the private taxis for a fixed rate. The advantage of these cars is that they will take you outside Bangkok. There are also counters here for you to rent a car. If you want to catch an ordinary bus into Bangkok or to another province, then exit the building on this same floor. Outside you should find a white Express Shuttle Bus to the bus terminal. If you want a public taxi or to catch the Airport Express into the city then go down to level one. You will find public taxis at each exit. However, the Airport Express city bus is the same end as Gate C. You can also catch a shuttle bus here to the nearby bus station but it doesn’t have so much room for your luggage.
Overall I was impressed with the new airport. Sure there are teething problems but that was only to be expected. After all, this place is the size of a small city!
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