Yesterday I started my Guide for Suvarnabhumi Airport. I already told you some tips for leaving Thailand. Now for flying into the new airport. When you get off your airplane, there is always a mad rush for the people to get to immigration first. No-one wants to wait ages in a long queue after a tiring flight. So, here is a tip for you. There are in fact three immigration halls for arriving passengers. When I flew back from England the other month, I noticed that the immigration hall was full to capacity. So, I just kept on walking while my fellow passengers joined the long queue. The next hall was still full so I kept on walking. Finally, the last hall was practically empty. Now another tip for choosing which immigration queue to join. Sometimes there are two people on duty on the desk but only one queue. So obviously if that is the case don’t join the shortest queue, go for the one with two officers on duty! When you get there, stand on the spot marked on the floor. Then face forward as they will take your photo. Don’t expect them to smile or say “Welcome to Thailand”. According to the Bangkok Post, they have to sleep on the floor between shifts so they are understandably grumpy.
Once you pass through here you are now in baggage claim. There are 22 baggage conveyor belts altogether and you can easily walk between them all. So, that is why it didn’t matter which immigration hall you went through. Usually your baggage conveyor is the one nearest to your arrival gate. So, when I arrived the other month I had to walk five minutes back to the other end. However, I was the only person there as the bags started to come out. My fellow passengers were still lining up in Immigration. From here you pass through customs and out into the arrivals lounge. There are three exits labeled A, B and C. You can see “C” on the arrival board in the picture below. Exit “A” is Domestic and the other two are International. If you have someone waiting for you, tell them to look on the board as it says which gate is nearest for each flight. But, you can actually leave by any gate. If you want some tourist information, then exit through Gate C because there you will find the official Tourist Authority of Thailand. However, don’t expect much help from them. Many times there is no-one on duty and they don’t always have the tourist brochure that you need.
Arrivals at Exit C
The good news is that taxis are now on the same floor as arrivals. As you come out, ignore the people asking you if you want a taxi. They really mean limousine service which is double the price of public taxi. This service belongs to AOT who also run the airport. Obviously they want you to use their services as they like to make lots of money. Just smile and wave as you walk by. Follow the small, and partially hidden signs for the public taxi, to the exit doors and go outside. You will see a taxi queue. It is not usually long. If it is, just walk down to next taxi stand as there are three in total outside this building. The new system they have is to crack down on scams. You tell the first person where you are going and she will then give you a piece of paper. Give this to the next person five metres away who is waiting with the taxi drivers. He will exchange your slip of paper for a form that gives you details of who your taxi driver is. You can use this form later to complain about service. Also note that there is a 50 baht surcharge on top of the meter charge and any toll fares. A trip to city center would be about 200–250 baht.
Many people complain about these taxi drivers but so far I have never had any bad experiences. I always speak English to them when I first get into the taxi just to see if they will try and cheat me and not turn on the meter. But they always do without me asking. However, there are always rotten apples in most apple barrels around the world. We have received one firsthand report from a friend who said that after leaving the airport with the meter turned on that the driver drove for five minutes and then stopped in the middle of nowhere. He then turned off the meter. He told them that they had a choice. Either get out or pay 500 baht to get into the city! Obviously they were scared and agreed to pay. But really you have the law on your side and the taxi drivers know this. If you are not alone then call his bluff. Say you want to be taken to the nearest police station. By law he must turn on the meter. He knows that.
Wheelchair access for the Airport Shuttle Bus
Really, I feel sympathetic towards most taxi drivers. The starting rate for the meter is only 35 baht (US$1) and has been like that for many years despite the price of petrol going up so much. In addition, these taxi drives are members of the airport taxi pool. This means they can only operate from the airport. The taxi driver I had the other week said he had been waiting nearly three hours in the queue. He said he was hoping I would go to Pattaya as he would get at least 1,500 baht. He would then wait there for a foreigner who wanted to go back to the airport. He said for my local trip he probably wouldn’t find anyone for the return journey to the airport. He said that in one day he probably would only have 3 or 4 passengers at the most. As he was a honest driver, I made sure I gave him a good tip once we arrived at my destination.
These days, with the opening of the new airport, people no longer need to go into Bangkok for their first night in Thailand. Both the Motorway to Pattaya and the Outer Ring Road have access ramps near the airport. So you can quickly go to the beach either in Pattaya or Rayong, or go the other way to Cha-am or Hua Hin. In addition, from the airport you can take a free shuttle bus for five minutes to the airport bus terminal. From here you can catch long distance buses to many places around Thailand. With the opening of the Airport Train Link next year to the city, you can see that transportation in and out of the airport is much more convenient. When I used to go to Don Muang we always got stuck in local traffic. But Suvarnabhumi Airport is situated alongside some major highways which connect you to destinations all over the country. A holiday on the beach in Pattaya has never been nearer.