Navigating the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok is pretty straightforward. Use this guide to know what you should do immediately after landing in Thailand and what to expect in the airport.
- See some insider tips for booking cheap flights to Asia and ways to get over jet lag after a long flight.
Tip: The way locals pronounce "Suvarnabhumi" as "sue-wahn-ah-boom." The "i" is silent at the end.
Go Straight to Immigration
The first and longest queue that you’ll encounter will undoubtedly be immigration to get officially stamped into Thailand. Have your arrival and departure cards -- two perforated cards that should have been handed out on the plane -- completed entirely, both front and back, to avoid any potential delays.
If you didn’t receive arrival and departure cards, you’ll find them on tables near the start of the immigration queue. Having a folded, damaged, or incomplete arrival card is a sure way to get on the bad side of immigration officials!
Some tips for getting through immigration quickly:
- Don’t use cell phones or take photos.
- Remove your hat and sunglasses.
- Present your passport already turned to the page containing your visa, if you have one.
- Smile, answer any questions with simple answers, and face the camera.
To avoid hassle later, keep your departure card in your passport for when you exit Thailand.
Collect Your Luggage
Your bags will probably already be waiting and possibly even sitting off of the carousel by the time that you get stamped in through immigration. Luggage claim is located directly behind the stretch of immigration counters in Suvarnabhumi Airport.
Although there are some currency exchange kiosks around luggage claim, you’re much better off just waiting to use the ATMs located beyond customs.
- Read about some other mistakes that travelers make with money.
Pass Through Customs
Unless you have something to declare, and you shouldn’t, simply pass through the green channel at the customs checkpoint. Sometimes travelers are randomly pulled to have their luggage screened by the machine.
Once you pass through customs, you won’t be allowed to reenter the ‘passenger’ side of the airport again.
Get Local Currency
Now that you have officially entered Thailand, you’re going to need local currency -- maybe more than you think! Using local ATMs will give you a far better rate than exchanging actual currency. You’ll find several ATMs in the airport on the other side of customs; nearly all support Western bank networks such as Cirrus, Maestro, etc. The fee for each ATM transaction is an astonishing US $6 or more plus your usual bank fees!
Tip: Do yourself a favor by requesting baht in an odd amount to receive a few smaller-denomination banknotes. If you simply request 6,000 baht, you’ll receive six 1,000-baht notes that may be difficult to break. Instead, ask for 5,900 baht to receive a mix of smaller denominations.
- Read more about how to access money while in Asia.
Decide If You Want a Phone SIM
If traveling with a smartphone, you can go ahead and pick up a SIM card at one of the kiosks located near the ATMs. The big networks such as AIS offer week-long, unlimited-data plans and the like that cater to short-term visitors. Alternatively, you can simply purchase a prepaid SIM without an accompanying plan and add credit to it as you go. Credit can be purchased at 7-11 minimarts and in other shops.
If there’s a long queue or you don’t feel like taking care of your phone needs just yet, don’t worry: you’ll find plenty of other mobile phone shops outside of the airport. You can also purchase regular phone SIMs in minimarts, although attendants will be less likely to help if something doesn’t work.
- See these 12 frequently asked questions about traveling with technology in Asia.
Skip the Food
Although you may be hungry after a long flight, forgo the airport food. You’ll find much better -- and cheaper -- options once you get out of the airport!
- Try one of these four noodle alternatives to pad thai.
You’ll then walk to the right and take the gently sloping escalator down to public transportation. The quickest and most straightforward way out of the airport is to take a taxi. You’ll need to get in line at the taxi stand, get a coupon from the kiosks, then hand it to the driver parked in the appropriate spot.
You’ll have to pay the driver directly, as well as any tolls, plus an additional 50-baht surcharge.
Bus services to the airport ceased, however, you can take a complementary shuttle bus to a bus stand located outside of the airport, and from there purchase a ticket to get you closer to your hotel. Bus services from this stand are somewhat limited and you may still end up taking a taxi for the last stretch.
- Read more about taking buses in Asia and getting around in Thailand.