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Flying into Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK): What you need to know
9 min read
Updated on Jul 02, 2024

This is part of the Been There, Done That series, where our expert globetrotters travel the world to get the insights and information you need for a seamless travel experience.

Flying into Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) can be exciting and overwhelming, especially if it's your first time. I recently experienced it and understand the anticipation and uncertainty of arriving at a new destination.

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Travelers make their way through Suvarnabhumi Airport | Source: iVisa

Keep reading to learn from my experience navigating Suvarnabhumi Airport, ensuring your arrival in Bangkok is as seamless as possible.

Arriving in Thailand: Know before you go

Renowned for its stunning natural landscapes and rich cultural heritage, Thailand is a historically Buddhist country, where jungles, mountains, islands, and cities are adorned with the gilded pinnacles of its numerous temples.

Many of the nation's most revered Buddha statues are in and around Bangkok, offering a glimpse into Thailand's spiritual heart.

No matter the purpose of my visit to this diverse and captivating country, proper pre-flight preparation is essential to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience. To make the most of my trip, I consider the following steps:

  1. Check visa requirements for Thailand: Depending on your nationality, you may need a visa to enter the country. Researching and applying for any necessary visas well in advance is important to avoid complications upon arrival.

  2. Get US dollars or Euros: Cash is widely used in Thailand, and it's wise to have some on hand if there are issues with ATMs or credit card acceptance.

  3. Unlock my phone or purchase an e-SIM or SIM card on arrival: International phone plans can be unreliable in Asia, so it's best to be prepared with a local SIM card or an e-SIM. I easily purchased one from various providers at Suvarnabhumi Airport.

Taking these precautions allows me to immerse myself in Thailand's unique culture, explore its breathtaking landscapes, and create unforgettable memories.

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View of Bangkok from the airplane. | Source: iVisa

Landing at Suvarnabhumi: First Impressions

Approaching Suvarnabhumi Airport, I was greeted by an aerial view of the sprawling city of Bangkok and the Chao Phraya River, which cuts through the city’s center. It’s a bird's eye view of the city I will enjoy exploring over the next few days, but first, I must get through Suvarnabhumi Airport.

The airport experience can set the tone for my entire trip, so being well-prepared and informed is essential. Understanding the airport's layout, the necessary procedures, and the various services available ensures a smooth and stress-free start to my Thai adventure.

Getting The Thailand Essentials: Wait until after Immigration

Disembarking from the plane, my journey began from the aircraft to the immigration area. Along the way, I noticed a variety of services aimed at making arrivals more comfortable.

Restrooms, ATMs, and SIM card providers are available before immigration, allowing you to freshen up, exchange money, or purchase a local SIM card for your mobile device.

Pro Tip: I advise waiting until after immigration to explore the services in the baggage claim area instead.

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While there are SIM card providers before immigration at Suvarnabhumi airport, it is best to wait until after imbibition. | Source: iVisa

Why? Suvarnabhumi Airport offers a wide selection of post-immigration money changers, ATMs, and SIM card providers, often with better rates and more flexible options.

Plus, it’s a more productive way to spend your time while you wait for checked luggage, as this can take some time due to the large number of people moving through this airport.

Moving through the immigration area at Suvarnabhumi Airport took me approximately ten minutes. I had to traverse a series of long hallways and take a tram to reach the immigration counters.

Unlike some airports, Suvarnabhumi does not have automated e-gates, so I had to join a queue to speak with an immigration officer.

Fortunately, numerous airport staff are available to guide you to the correct line if you have any questions, ensuring a smooth process. Thanks to the ample number of immigration officers, the lines move relatively quickly despite the lack of automated gates.

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Travelers at Suvarnabhumi airport wait for the train to transport them to immigration. | Source: iVisa

The immigration process in Thailand is generally pleasant, and my experience was no exception.

The officer did not ask the usual questions, such as my departure date or accommodation details.

Instead, they scanned my fingerprints, took a photograph, and stamped my passport, welcoming me warmly into Thailand. This efficient and friendly service makes the immigration process at Suvarnabhumi Airport a positive start to your visit.

Baggage claim: One-stop-shop or get ready to wait

After clearing immigration, you enter the expansive baggage claim area, which can feel somewhat overwhelming due to the large number of passengers.

I consulted the information board to locate my baggage carousel, which displays flight numbers and arrival times.

Pro tip: Know your flight details, as the display alternates languages every five seconds, making it challenging to find your flight information quickly.

Many passengers, including myself, spent a few minutes searching for our flight information on the board.

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Travelers wait for the luggage in the large Suvarnabhumi baggage claim area. | Source: iVisa

Once you've identified your baggage carousel, consider visiting an ATM or SIM card provider at this time if you're not using an e-SIM.

The baggage retrieval process can be time-consuming, so it's a good idea to take care of these tasks before entering the busy and chaotic arrivals hall open to the public.

By completing these tasks in the baggage claim area, you'll avoid the chaos of the arrivals hall and have a more relaxed experience.

Getting connected: Where to get a SIM

There are several SIM providers throughout the baggage claim area at Suvarnabhumi Airport. Among the leading options are AIS, DTAC, and TrueMove H.

These providers offer tourist SIM card packages with data, talk time, and sometimes even discounts on attractions and transportation.

Each provider has its strengths, with AIS known for its extensive 4G to 5G coverage, DTAC for its affordability, and TrueMove for its local promotions and discounts.

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Telecommunications companies are situated throughout the Suvarnabhumi airport to get your traveler's SIM card. | Source: iVisa

Remember that some SIM card providers at the airport may only accept cash in Baht, USD, or Euros.

For convenience, consider providers like AIS, DTAC, or TrueMove, which usually accept cards.

If you prefer to avoid the hustle of purchasing a SIM card at the airport, consider buying one online or using an eSIM service such as Airalo.

These options allow you to have mobile connectivity as soon as you arrive in Thailand, without the need to visit a store or stand in line at the airport.

Getting Cash - A necessity in Thailand

Accessing cash in Thailand is convenient, with numerous ATMs, banks, and money exchangers located throughout the baggage claim and arrivals hall areas.

Having cash on hand is highly recommended, as many establishments in Thailand, particularly outside of Bangkok and in local markets, only accept cash payments.

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You can find ATMs and money changers throughout the baggage claim area at Suvarnabhumi Airport. | Source: iVisa

Although some places in Bangkok accept credit cards, the overall affordability of Thailand makes cash transactions more common.

The amount of cash you'll need depends on your intended activities; if you plan on extensive shopping or visiting local markets, you may require more cash than someone primarily focused on street food dining.

Once you have your SIM and cash in hand, your luggage should be moving on the baggage carousel shortly.

I waited a few additional minutes after getting cash and a SIM card before my luggage came out from my international flight.

Arrivals Hall - Get ready for chaos.

Upon collecting your baggage, you'll enter the large and somewhat chaotic arrivals hall if you have nothing to declare.

You'll find various services here, including restaurants, pharmacies, banks, and taxi drivers. If you don't need these services, you should proceed directly to your transportation area to avoid the hustle and bustle.

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Travelers walk past restaurants in the busy arrivals area at Suvarnabhumi Airport. | Source: iVisa

The arrivals hall can be overwhelming, especially after a long flight. Staying focused on your transportation needs can help you navigate this area more efficiently and reach your destination in Thailand with minimal stress.

To avoid potential scams from taxi drivers, it's advisable to use either a Grab (Southeast Asia's version of Uber) or the train to get into the city.

Both options are reliable and convenient. If you opt for the train, ensure your hotel is easily accessible via the Metropolitan Rapid Transit (MRT) system, which can be checked on Maps.

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A sign at Suvarnabhumi airport points travelers to the train in Bangkok's city center. | Source: iVisa

To take the train from the airport, follow the signs for the Airport Rail Link. You'll need to purchase a card or token, which will be necessary for boarding and exiting the train at your destination. Don't lose this token; you'll need it to exit the station.

Upon reaching the end of the Airport Rail Link, you'll need to purchase another ticket to transfer to the MRT line, which will take you to your final destination.

For those who prefer a Grab, follow the signs to the lower floor, where you'll find the green Grab container box. This air-conditioned waiting area provides a comfortable place to wait for your car. Bangkok traffic can be heavy, so expect at least a ten-minute wait for your driver.

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Travelers can wait in the Grab container for their driver. | Source: iVisa

Be cautious, as some Grab drivers at the airport are also taxi drivers. To avoid being overcharged or scammed (link here to the Thailand guide, which highlights scams), ensure that your driver starts the Grab drive on their app before you get into the car.

This will help prevent any attempts to charge a higher taxi fare once you reach your destination. If a driver tries to charge a taxi fare, you can cancel the ride and wait for another driver. I had a driver try this. I ended up canceling and waiting for another driver.

Departing Suvarnabhumi Airport - Get there early

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Travelers wait long at Suvarnabhumi airport to check in to their flight. | Source: iVisa

Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport (Suvarnabhumi) is a bustling hub, so arriving at least three hours before your scheduled flight time is wise.

This allows ample time to navigate the extensive check-in lines and complete the necessary security, immigration, and customs procedures.

It is suggested that you don’t have checked luggage to check in online, as no self-check-in kiosks are available at Suvarnabhumi Airport.

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Travelers wait in a long immigration line at Suvarnabhumi airport. | Source: iVisa

Upon arrival, you'll again engage with an immigration officer, much like the process you experienced when entering the country.

After completing these formalities, you'll find the airport terminals spacious and well-equipped.

There are numerous places to sit, eat, and charge your electronics, ensuring a comfortable wait before you board your flight out of Thailand.

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