The Garden at Suvarnabhumi Airport
Suvarnabhumi Airport, on the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand, has been open for just over a year now. During the first six months there was some intense scrutiny by both the press and the general public. Although it probably deserved a certain amount of the criticism, I think many people were just attacking the airport because it was a pet project of the deposed Prime Minister. Speaking personally, I actually like the airport a lot. Sure, it had a few teething problems, but overall it is much better than what we had before at Don Muang. I also think that it lives up to its slogan of “The Pride of Thailand”. I asked some friends, who had just flown to Thailand for the first time, what they thought and they said that they weren’t expecting such a modern and spacious looking airport. Like many people, they thought Thailand was more like a Third World country, and seeing the airport they were just bowled over. They said they changed their impression of Thailand for the better straight away.
Bags waiting at the check-in counter
I have flown in and out of the new airport half a dozen times now. I also visited the airport before it opened, the day it opened, and then a dozen or so times since to either pick someone up or to drop them off. I also go there sometimes to check it our for our guidebook websites and the Bangkok Scams website. So, what I thought I would do today, is to give you an overview and perhaps some useful tips for using the airport. To start with, departing Thailand. Unlike the old airport, the new one only has one terminal building. So, you no longer need to know which terminal you will be leaving from. As your taxi arrives, you will see signs outside each of the entrances with the names of the airlines. However, you can get out anywhere you like. Get one of the free trolleys and enter the building. They normally say for international flights to be there two hours beforehand. I would say these days that 180 minutes would be better so that you don’t need to rush. When I flew to Luang Prabang recently there was no-one waiting at check-in and I was processed within a few minutes. However, it can take thirty minutes or more.
The Immigration counters
Once you have finished, and if you think you have enough time, then you can go down one floor to eat at one of the restaurants. I usually do that if someone has come to see me off. It also helps to pass the time. If you like, before you go down, you can check to see how long the lines are in the Immigration Hall. If it is full, then expect to take 30 minutes to pass through here. A little tip, if you are running short of time you might be interested to know that there are in fact two Immigration Halls. Check them both out. Officially you are supposed to go to the one nearest to your gate, but they both exit to the same wide corridor on the other side. If the guard on duty tries to stop you, just walk around the block and come back again. Hold your passport and departure card in your hand and just walk in quickly without making eye contact. The immigration Hall in the center has the desk for applying for re-entry permit. Even if there is no queue, this will take them at least 30 minutes so make sure that you leave plenty of time. If you overstayed your visa, you have to speak to the officer on the other side of the Immigration counters. I don’t think you need to queue up if you need to pay the fine. Just walk to the front and say “overstay visa”.
On the other side, you will find all the usual shops and restaurants. Don’t buy anything just window shop. Even though it is duty free it is more expensive than the shops in Bangkok. Also be careful not to mistakenly take something without paying. Even if you say it was a mistake and you are willing to pay, they will prosecute. Trust me. I have visited enough foreigners doing 6 months at Samut Prakan Prison to know this for sure. Once I have finished window shopping I usually find a quiet restaurant with comfortable chairs and just order whatever is the cheapest! It is far more comfortable to wait here than at the departure gate. Only go there AFTER they announce boarding. The metal seats in departure are cold and uncomfortable. However, do check how far it is away first as the airport departure gates are spread out. You might need a 10–15 minute walk. No big deal if you have plenty of time.
Click here for part two of this airport guide >>>