Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok

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Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok

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Review of "Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok"

published 04/02/2015 | Silveryew
Member since : 01/06/2014
Reviews : 128
Members who trust : 17
About me :
A lady from the Nørth. During Mum's preoperative assessment in May 2016 it was discovered that the cancer they were going to remove is now too far advanced to treat. I'm back after a really rough half year, glad to be<3
Pro Big, clean, variety of outlets.
Cons Dishonest personnel perhaps.
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"One that other airports could learn from - Suvarnabhumi Airport."

A flower display at the airport^^

A flower display at the airport^^

(Not sure why this has been entered as an airport, but I will post my review anyway^_^)

I will be writing a review of this airport, based on my most recent experience of using it. I flew to it on the 27th of December 2014 and departed from Thailand using this airport on the 9th of January 2015.

Subvharnabhumi Airport is the successor to Don Mueang Airport which previously handled international flights. It lies on the outskirts of Bangkok, and fortunately you don't have to travel through the city to get to it as traffic in Bangkok is manic.

-------------My experience of leaving from the airport-----------------

I am aware that there are bus routes from Bangkok city centre to the airport and you can also take taxis there (be sure to take licensed ones that say Taxi Meter on top). When we go to Thailand we stay in a town called Cha-Am, three hours south of the capital, so I can't comment on what it is like to use these as I have never used them.

From Cha-Am you can take an air-conditioned coach service that departs from the neighbouring city of Hua Hin, stops in Cha-Am at the crossroads then travels non-stop to the airport. The coach leaves from 9am, every two hours until 7pm which is when the last bus leaves, so not for people who want to catch a night flight (unless you don't mind waiting), and it costs £6/300 THB for an adult single ticket. You get reclining seats, a bottle of water and there is an attendant onboard in addition to the driver. Something that makes the jouy very different to what you might see here in the UK is that the whole front section of the coach, so stairs leading on and driver's seat is separated from the rest of the coach with a wall and door made of reinforced glass, and the door locks from the driver's side (!). I have taken this coach once and was very pleased with it, it was on-time and got us to the airport for not a lot of money. Tickets have to be bought in advance from Hua Hin Bus Station, and when you book you are given an allocated seat.

If your flight is at silly o'clock in the morning and you can afford it I'd take a private taxi, especially if you are travelling as a group as it works out cheaper per person. Your hotel can arrange this, though this can be more expensive than if you know someone locally you can use. The hotel we stayed at can arrange a fetch or drop off service for 4000THB, but when I went to the airport, it cost me 2500THB for a car and a driver. Perhaps steeper but worth it, especially if you are travelling as an unaccompanied minor or lone female. It takes three hours to drive from Cha-Am to the airport, from other places it will of course vary.

Arriving at the airport, there are several entrances and it is clearly signposted next to the entrances what airlines are where. There are also several drop-off points for disabled people close to these entrances. Outside there are trolleys for people to use, not coin operated^_^ Even though there is technically only one drop-off lane, I have seen up to three of the four lanes filled with parked cars for people being dropped off.

Much to my delight and to my mother's annoyance, with the exception of the designated smoking rooms at the airport, Suvarnabhumi Airport is a smoke-free zone, this includes the entrances to the terminal. You can be fined 2000 THB for smoking in a non-designated place at the airport and while I have never seen anyone be fined for this it is quite strictly enforced - there is always a police presence at the airport who in our experience are helpful and polite but will promptly tell you to put your cigarette out if you are having a smoke. You can also see police travelling around on Segways within the building. All police officers carry weapons at all times in Thailand, mainly a pistol, so don't be surprised if you see police carrying weapons. (as an aside: it is illegal to photograph army or police buildings, personnel or equipment in Thailand and there are several notices in the building warning you that if you do so your equipment will be confiscated.) Aside from the police presence there is nearly at every row a customer service rep you can ask questions, in addition to the information desk at the entrance to the terminal.

There is also a VAT refund desk, a special assistance counter and some small shops in the check-in area such as Boots. Family Mart (sells food) and Asia Books. There is also an observation deck though I have never been up there. There is also a shop that for a fee can wrap your luggage in cling film if you feel so inclined. There are ATMs here though they charge 180THB in fees for each withdrawal so I try to take currency with me from home. More and more shops in Thailand accept Visa and Mastercard and this includes the shops and facilities at the airport, but like at home, never let your card out of your sight.

The airport itself is a huge airy building with support beams jutting from the ground into all directions in the air. It reminds me of the roof at Stansted Airport, except that the roof is curved and grey. The floor is white and in my experience it is all in all a very clean airport. The floors are clean, I have never seen any rubbish lying on the floor (and there are rubbish bins everywhere in the terminal building) and although it is always a busy airport it is my experience never so packed that you can't move around there. There are numerous cool air vents throughout the departure hall so you won't be hot and bothered while waiting, far from it.^_^ From my experience it is always quite full so lots of people are sitting, waiting, but I have never not been able to find a seat.

The toilets are well kept at the airport and the disabled toilet is also good - plenty of space, well kept and clean, and there's always an attendant present. One thing about the disabled toilet in the ladies area that bothered me was that when we travelled with my mother is that there was no bin in the disabled toilet at all, so I ended up having to go and find a bin for my mum's bag when she had to use the bathroom, not cool.

The check in counters are set out in rows from A through to W, and each row has 24 desks. At the end of each row are screens showing the status of your flight, alternating in English and Thai. Like other airports you have to check in or bin any containers greater than 100mL and there are frequent reminders about this throughout the terminal. There are also several posters warning people not to buy live animals or products from parts of endangered animals, in particular ivory. This also includes products made from sting ray or crocodile hide. My sister once bought a crocodile hide bag at a crocodile farm and even with the proper paperwork, the customs people were iffy about it. You also need an export permit if you want to take antiques or Buddha images out of the country.

This is purely based on personal experience, other people may have been fortunate than us, but: I would strongly advise against putting anything that looks even remotely valuable in your check-in luggage when departing Thailand. We have been fortunate enough not to lose anything the last two times we have been to Thailand but we have had things disappear in the past. Dad had his shortwave radio stolen from his suitcase, they took the radio itself and left the case for it. We have also had DVDs, (fake) Rolex watches and jewellery stolen. If it dear to you I would carry it in your hand luggage just in case.

Check-in was uneventful; the usual weighing of luggage and issuing of boarding passes. There were queue busters at the beginning of the queues checking that you were in the right place.

Once you have checked in, you take the escalator up to the security screening and customs (unless you are a priority passenger, like disabled travellers or Buddhist monks). They have a body scanner here. Security is in my experience quick and efficient.
Thailand has very strict laws on drugs and drug possession. If you are carrying medicines with you, keep them in their original container and with the label easily readable. If you are carrying medicines such as strong painkillers, antidepressants or anything involving a needle (like an Epi-Pen), I would also recommend having a letter with you stamped and signed by your doctor, explaining that it is for your own use, what it is for and what the dose is. My mother is bipolar and has these types of medicines with her, so she always has a letter and the boxes with her. We have been asked about her medicines when leaving Thailand in the past, but with a letter and the medicine in their containers Customs have never had a problem with it.In addition to this, Thailand has despite seeming very laid-back in certain areas very strict laws on narcotics. It is strictly illegal to possess, sell or smuggle narcotics of any sort and the penalties for doing this are harsh. If you attempt to smuggle hard substances such as cocaine or heroin in quantities of 20g or more and you are caught, the punishment can vary from imprisonment to the death penalty. Prison in Thailand is 20 people to a room with a bucket in the corner, and people have actually died while in custody as the conditions in some prisons are so poor.
  • Never leave your luggage unattended at any time.
  • Never accept anything from friends or strangers that you don't know what is.
  • Never offer to smuggle anything out of Thailand.

It is not worth the risk no matter how much you've been offered and while I have never heard of a 'farang' or foreigner being executed, you only have to look to Bali where that British lady has been sentenced to death by firing squad for attempting to smuggle cocaine into the country. *ahem* Peptalk over^_^After security, you have to go through immigration before proceeding to Departures (yes, they've called it Immigration, even though you are leaving. Don't argue). I am not quite sure what had happened this time when I was going through it but there were only six desks to serve what must have been over 200 people queuing in a very small space. We had to wait 40 minutes to get through this, surprising as it is usually fairly quick. Though the other passengers were not helping themselves by not having their passports or departure cards available, not standing behind the red line to wait, or both. So when I escaped immigration, I had time to use the ladies', walk through the duty free, buy something for Burger King and then board my flight. Out of the ordinary as they are usually quick quick to process people.

Suvarnabhumi has a variety of shops, a duty free and food outlets after you pass security and immigration.
Like in the check-in section, the departures hall is clean and tidy and it is not hard to find a bin or a seat. There are also planters with orchids in them throughout - I think they are lovely and it adds a nice touch to the place. I did not spend more than five minutes in duty free as I didn't have the time and even though it is called Duty Free, it is in my opinion very expensive at this airport. For example a regular tube of the Rose hand cream from The Body Shop cost 2750 THB - that's £54!!!! (In England the same tube costs £11) So unless you are dying for a souvenir or you have a gift you haven't bought, I would not buy Duty Free here. They do have some unusual things if you like them like dried fruit pick n' mix, and boxes of edible birds nests that you can buy.

There are a variety of eating places in the departing lounge that serve hot and cold food, Thai food, sushi, pizza pastries and cot and cold drinks and of course, Burger King. When I got there they'd run out of burger patties (?!?) so I had the chicken and cheese sandwich meal. It cost me 360 THB so not unreasonable considering it's at airport prices.

The gates are numbered from 1 through to 7 and then a though f, so 1a, 1b, etc. The walkways down to the gates are broad and there is a lift and ramp in addition to stairs for each one. Perhaps this was because it was the protocol of the airline I flew with but at the gate our bags were searched a second time and I was searched before being permitted to enter the waiting area. The waiting areas have seats for passengers and TVs dotted around that show announcements and short films in English or Thai.

---------------My experience of arriving at the Airport-------------------------

When you have unravelled yourself from your flight, there are signs telling you where to go, interestingly they are black with the pictograms and writing in white or yellow - usually it is the other way around. If Thailand is your final stop you will be directed to immigration. Because it is an airport the distances can be great, so there are travelators placed several times along the way to help you along. You come out in the departures area, so if you have a connection you can find your gate, otherwise you can go straight across to immigration. Due to the current threat of ebola there is a checkpoint you have to pass before queuing at immigration where there are representatives from the Department for Health who screen people for the disease. You have to walk past an infrared camera there. There are several desks here, some for all passports, some for Thai passports and some for ASEAN passports. There are also queue busters at the beginning of the queues so to go through is usually quite quick.

In my experience of not travelling just to Suvarnabhumi but to Thailand in general, on board your flight or before you reach immigration you are given a Arrival and Departure card to fill in. It asks for your name, what flight you are arriving and leaving on, where you are staying in Thailand and what your reason is for visiting. It also asks for your home address, income and occupation. This card together with your passport is given to the immigration officer to inspect. They keep the arrivals section of the card and on departure they keep the departure card. Don't lose the departure slip as you'll need it when you leave! Visitors can stay in Thailand for 30 days without a visa and when you go through immigration they stamp in it what date you arrived in Thailand and what date you need to leave. To enter Thailand your passport needs to be valid for atleast six months after your departure. A little known fact is that you can actually be refused entry to the country if you are disagreeable or otherwise unsavoury to the immigration officers (this says for example in small print on your visa application). I know that you've come a long way and that child kept the entire economy class awake and it's hot, but always treat the immigration officers with the greatest respect. Be friendly and polite, do as they ask and don't be aggressive or a nuisance (or drunk. Again, from experience). Respect the red line and stand behind it when you are waiting to have your passport stamped, as officers will ask you to wait behind the line if you crowd in. One person at a time at the desk is also enforced, unless the person is very young or very old.

When it is your turn you are asked to stand within a yellow square marked on the floor; your passport is examined and stamped and they take a picture of you.

After this you come into the luggage hall, where there are conveyor belts numbered from 1 through 12 that bring your luggage out. What always impresses me is how pretty it is. Depending on on the time of year in the middle of each carousel they always have fresh flowers planted. For example they have pointsettas planted at Christmas. Perhaps a small detail and not significant but I like it^_^

After collecting your luggage you proceed through Customs. Neither my family nor I have ever been stopped in customs when entering Thailand so I cannot comment on how often it happens or what it is like there. You can go on either green or red.
After passing customs you come into the Arrivals Hall. There is a metal fence there where behind it are people holding placards with names waiting to pick up passengers. There are a variety of small food shops here and AVIS and Budget also have offices here if you are planning on hiring a car. The different exits from the arrivals building are numbered from 1 through 12, so what we have done in the past is have our driver meet us as a designated gate so we can get to the card park quicker. There are lifts and travelators in the arrivals hall and there are no thresholds, so we were able to wheel my mother in her wheelchair from the plane door through to the card door without a hassle.

If you have been to Thailand before and know where you are going and how to get there, super. If it is your first time arriving at Suvarnabhumi, avoid the taxi companies touting for your custom in the arrivals hall. We have never used these as we have been warned against them but we have heard of others who have been fleeced by these companies, paying extortionate prices for their journeys and then having the driver demand more money and becoming aggressive when refused. If you are arriving in Thailand for the first time I would have your transport booked in advance, your hotel or where you are staying can help you with this.

If you need a connection to the other airport there is a shuttle bus service between the two that leaves every six minutes, 24 hours a day. You can also catch a variety of buses and the Skytrain (goes to Bangkok) from the floor below Arrivals.

In conclusion this airport get a five out of five from me. It is an airport that is easily accessible, big enough to handle the volume of passengers it handles, can be managed by passengers who have a mobility impairment and it looks good. It has a variety of facilities and shops and in my experience it's always clean and tidy. I only wish they'd put a bin in the disabled toilet in the ladies', but that is the only criticism I have.

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Comments on this review

  • euphie published 03/03/2015
    e :o)
  • GeorgieH1994 published 25/02/2015
    great review
  • Pointress published 08/02/2015
    An E review.
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Product Information : Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok

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Continent: Asia

Country: Thailand


Listed on Ciao since: 16/01/2015