Tuesday, May 22, 2012

New, Fast, Easy way to get in and out of Bangkok Airport!

Travelling to Bangkok?  Many of you have been here before or perhaps this is your first trip to this exotic Asian city and I want to make the experience easier, perhaps more enjoyable and even less expensive.  Let me first explain a bit about your arrival to Bangkok Airport, Suvarnabhumi  especially if this is your first time. Suvarnabuhmi  is a big airport with a spread out terminal divided into either international or domestic flights.  That is not to say that it not an easy place to get around, well designed with signs in Thai and English, as well as some other Asian languages, but its mire size can be some what imposing to the first time visitor. 

I will assume you are flying in from overseas, so you will arrive on the international side of the airport and need to clear immigration and customs.  After what seems like a very long walk (they do have moving side walks to make it easier) you will reach immigration.  Be prepared for long lines at immigration and be sure to have all relevant paperwork filled out, along with you travel documents and passport (this being the most important).  If you are travelling as a family, immigration will want to see all of you at the same time.  After clearing immigration with at least a thirty day visa in your passports you will proceed to baggage claim on the lower level.  Once you have all of your luggage, you must pass through customs, usually no problem. 

At this point you exit into a large lobby and are faced with getting ground transportation into the city since the airport is located in the western suburbs of Bangkok, about 26 kilometers from the center city area.   Now here is where my recommendation comes into play; just follow the signs to the Skylink station, by far the quickest, easiest, most comfortable and by far the least expensive method for getting into Bangkok.  Your other options are taking an expensive taxi (possibly getting scammed by one of Bangkok’s less scrupulous cab drivers), which could mean a long uncomfortable ride depending on time of day and traffic patterns, plus many of the taxis have limited space for large families or large amounts of luggage.  You definitely do not want to take one of the bus services, not with any sort of luggage, or multiple family members.  The local buses are definitely out of the question and the airport express bus will cost you more and take you far longer to get into the city, plus these are not very comfortable.

To get to the Skylink station you proceed to the B1 level after exiting customs, it will be in the center between the Domestic and International sides of the airport, so again assuming you just arrived from overseas, it will be to your right once you get to the B1 level (also quite easy, both elevators or moving side walks down are available).  Once at the entrance to the Skylink station, you will want to stay to you left to get to the express trains.  I would not recommend using the City Line service since it is a local type train and can get very crowded with locals and is pretty much like any subway cab in many other cities.  The express trains are much nicer, larger seats and more room for families and luggage, plus the express train gets you there faster since it is a direct run to a single station in downtown Bangkok.  There are two express trains and you should choose the best for your situation, depending on where you are staying in downtown Bangkok, although the two stations are not really that far apart.

The Makkasan Station is located closer to the center of Bangkok near Sukumvit area and the PhayaThai Station is a little further east, close to the Siam Shopping complex.  It might be best to ask you hotel which station is closer.  I mention these stations because they give there names to the express lines, i.e., if you want to go directly to Makkasan Station, you get on the Makkasan Express and to get to PayaThai Station you take the PhayaThai Express, logical.  Both trains will cost you 90 baht  per person one way or 150 baht round trip; travel time is under 20 minutes to PhayaThai Station and under 15 minutes to Makkasan Station.  Both trains run every 30 minutes and start very early in the morning and run until midnight.

Once at either station, you make you way to street level, a sometime daunting task if you can’t find the escalators down or the elevator, but both stations were designed with airport passengers in mind, so just ask if you have difficulty.  At street level, hail a taxi to your hotel, unless of course you chose a hotel right near the station.  I recommend you ask your hotel several questions when making the booking, before paying:
  1. Do they have an airport pickup service, eliminates all of this?
  2. Which station is closer, Makkasan or Phaya Thai to the hotel?
  3. Do they have a pickup service at either of these stations, again eliminates the need for a taxi?
  4. Direction from the station to the hotel to help prevent the Bangkok taxi driver from scamming you, something many of them will attempt.  To this end be sure and ask the approximate fair from the station to the hotel and then be sure the drive engages the meter.
Ok now you are ready to leave Bangkok and head home or your next destination and my recommendation is when you leave the hotel, take a taxi to the Makkasan Skylink train station.  I recommend this station because it is the city airport terminal and you can even check in for your flights there, including your luggage.  After checking in, buy tickets on the Makkasan Express train if you didn’t buy round trip tickets on arrival.  The express train leaves every 30 minutes and will get you to the airport in less than 15 minutes.  Once at the airport, you arrive back in the B1 level station, from there you go to the fourth floor for either domestic or International flight departures.   Since you were able to check in at Makkasan station, you can go directly to the gate,  if you failed to checking at Makkasan Station, then you will have to check in at the airport.

As you can see, the whole experience is quite easy and eliminates many of the hassles of getting to and from the Bangkok airport, no long traffic delays on the way, a common experience in Bangkok; fair inexpensive rate with no chance of getting scammed by the train operator; comfortable seating with plenty of room for you, your family and luggage  The train cars are air conditioned, a very important fact in Bangkok.

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