Suvarnabhumi airport is Bangkok and Thailand’s main gateway. It is an attractive airport. Opened in 2006 it features a mix of post industrial grey steel and what looks like white canvas but probably isn’t. Combined with a lot of natural light it feels spacious even when it is busy. Which it usually is,
Unless you arrive at concourse D you will have a long hike to immigration. A good walk has never really phased me after a few hours cooped up in an airplane. Providing, of course, there is a trolley to throw my hand luggage into. The availability trolleys though, is hit and miss.
Queues at immigration can be very long depending on time of day and season. It is a good idea to expect a long queue with waits of over an hour at times. Do make sure you have your arrival/departure cards filled out or you will be sent to the back again.
Once immigration has been cleared you pass directly into the baggage claim area. There are also some currency changers here but recent experience suggests you should change only the minimum needed to get into town and change more there for better rates. Beyond customs you will find more money changers, sim card vendors, airport limousine and hotel booking counters, taxi touts and people milling about every which way. It is a horrible airport for meeting arriving passengers.
The easiest way to get into town is by taxi. For public metered taxis go down one level and aim for exit 7. There are machines outside where you get a ticket to tell you which bay your taxi is. There should also be English speaking staff nearby to help if you need. Make sure the driver turns his meter on. You will need to pay an airport surcharge of 50 baht on top of the meter and you will also need to pay for two highway toll fees. The fees vary depending on which part of Bangkok you are going to but each gate seems to be either 30, 50 or 70 baht.
The airport express train is fast and cheap but it will only take you as far as a Phaya Thai. If you are heading to Rattanakosin/Khao San Road area you’ll need a taxi from there. If you are heading to the Chinatown area you could change at Makkasan to the MRT which will take you as far as Hua Lamphong, the main railway station. From Phaya Thai you can transfer to the BTS skytrain for the Sukhumvit and Silom areas. Both the skytrain and the MRT can be pretty crowded but if you know where you are going and don’t have too much luggage it is a good, cheap option.
The check-in aisles A and B serve domestic flights. They are to the left as you face the terminal building. Departure gate concourses are also A and B.
Check-in aisles from C to W serve international flights. There are also self check-in terminals which can be used for about eighteen different airlines.
After checking in you go up the escalator to clear security. Then after you have your shoes and belt back on go back down another escalator to immigration. Queues at both can be quite long so give yourself plenty of time.
Once immigration has been cleared you will pass into the airport’s main thoroughfare. Here you will be confronted with a huge diorama of the ancient Hindu myth of Churning the Sea of Milk. It is a popular spot for selfies. Departure concourses C and D1-4 are to your left, D5-8 E, F and G are right. Before you get to any of them though you will have to pass through the duty free areas.
It is quite a long walk and the availability of hand luggage trolleys can be quite hit and miss. This is not because the airport doesn’t have many it is just that it is a busy place and passengers leave them where they had to relinquish them. You will occasionally see long columns of them being marshalled back to the starting place.
King Power owns the duty free concession at Thailand’s airports. They also own English football club Leicester City but unless you are a fan looking for a new replica shirt the duty free shopping is much the same as at any other major airport. Beyond the duty free you will find the food court areas. Though the outlets are slightly different at either end there is a wide range of Asian fare along with international chains such as Burger King, Subway, Starbucks, The Pizza Company and Dairy Queen.