Welcome to my homeland airport, Suvarnabhumi (su, wan, na, pu, m) aka BKK!
Navigating any airport can be tough, but BKK can be a huge challenge. I’m a big believer that when you have a general ‘lay of the land’ you’ll be able to navigate it much better! In this post we’ll take a look at the airport, all the lounges and a few secrets about the airport built on what had formerly been known as a Nong Nguhao (Cobra Swamp).
OK, so I wasn’t kidding on that last part, a cobra swamp was drained and the airport was built on that land. Earlier this year a baby snake was found at the airport. As if snakes aren’t enough, a delay in construction was caused by a discovery the airport had been built over an old graveyard. Superstitious construction workers claimed to have seen ghosts there. The Thai airports authority held a ceremony where 99 Buddhist monks chanted to appease the spirits.
BKK, Suvarnabhumi, meaning “realm of gold” and designed to look like temples, opened after MANY years of delay on the 28th of September 2006. All flights from the old airport, Don Mueang, were moved to Suvarnabhumi.
My first point, when booking flights, make sure you know the difference between the airports in Bangkok. BKK (Suvarnabhumi) is the main airport housing almost all international flights. DMK (Don Mueang) was the old airport and was to be closed in 2006, however, with the amount of traffic coming into BKK, the Thai government ordered DMK to reopen to low cost Asian carriers. Booking some domestic flights will give you the option to leave from DMK. Make sure you know the difference and what you are booking.
BKK is BIG! Designed to handle 45 million passengers per year. The airport is the heart of Thailand.
When you first arrive at the airport, it doesn’t feel that big. The departure level can give you a false appearance of a smaller size airport.
As you drive up, you arrive at the departure hall. ALL airlines departing from BKK have a check-in counter in this area. Simply find the board and it will direct you to the correct check-in counter.
Once checked in, it’s important to note that ALL domestic flights depart from the A & B concourse. Unless you have a connecting flight continuing to an international destination you will be unable to access the rest of the airport.
Why is this important to know? A few reasons. There are NO Priority Pass lounges in the A or B terminal. In-fact, there is only one lounge, that’s the Bangkok Airways domestic flight lounge. Unless you are flying on Bangkok Airways, you won’t have access to any lounge.
The domestic terminal does have everything else you may need. Shopping, drugstores (Boots), food and souvenirs.
When coming inbound from a domestic flight to BKK, you’ll need to connect through what they call C.I.Q.
In fact, just so you don’t get lost, they give you a clever little sticker that you must wear when you transit.
Once you transit to the other side you have full access to the rest of the airport.
Once on this side you have access to ALL the priority pass lounges at BKK, (click here for info).
I’ll be honest. They are all, just OK. Nothing special. They provide a great space for relaxation and some refreshments, but only one of them have a shower and most don’t have toilets. This can be a problem if you are making an international connection and need bathroom facilities. Check on the priority pass app to see what amenities each location has.
An option to keep in your back pocket is the Louis Tavern CIP lounge. They offer hotel services, day rooms, showers and more. If you have more than 3 hours ground time between international connections at BKK, I’d seriously look into getting a room there.
The better lounges at BKK are the One World (Cathay) or Star Alliance (Singapore/Thai) lounges. In fact, Singapore Airlines has my favorite business class lounge at BKK. Offering a WIDE selection of food and comfortable seating.
When arriving at BKK and terminating your travel, you’ll need to clear the Thai immigration and Customs. Baggage claim is one big hall with all baggage belts/carousels housed in the same area.
Once you collect your bags, you’ll clear customs and are free to go.
The complaint I hear the most about BKK is the amount of walking that it takes to get from a gate to baggage claim or to your departure gate. I’ve timed it before and it can be well over a 15 minute walk from gate to baggage belt. The other problem I tend to run into is the frequent use of remote gates.
At the lower level of the airport, you’ll find all ground transportation, metro line to the city and the taxi cue. The taxi cue is automated now. Simply walk up, push the button and it tells you where your taxi is located. One final note, make sure the taxi runs the meter! If they offer you a flat fare, walk away. They are required to run the meter and a trip into the city (with minimal traffic) should cost you anywhere between $300 – $400 Thai Baht.
Arriving or departing BKK airport can be overwhelming. Hopefully, I’ve been able to walk you though the main layout of the airport and you have a better sense of what is where.
Have you flown into or through BKK? How was your experience? Let us know in the comments!
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