Love it or hate it, Suvarnabhumi Airport is one of Southeast Asia’s largest hubs. It serves around 100 different airlines and close to 50 million passengers a year, all of whom are ready to get the airport behind them and onto the city, beaches or mountains they came for. Suvarnabhumi is around 30 kilometres from the centre of Bangkok, and we’ve got a comprehensive guide to get you where you want to be. (If that’s giving Bangkok a miss all together, check out our guide to skipping the Big Mango).
Considering the traffic that can choke Bangkok, it’s hard to beat the Airport Rail Link, which opened in 2010. Local trains make the journey in 24 minutes from the airport station to Makkasan (transfer to the MRT subway) or 28 minutes to Phaya Thai (transfer to the BTS skytrain, Sukhumvit line) for a maximum fare of 45 baht. Local trains depart every 10 to 20 minutes and stop at several other points in east Bangkok. As of 2015, the old express airport link trains had stopped running.
If you're going somewhere not convenient to one of the Airport Rail Link stations (or the MRT/BTS system), it can still be faster and cheaper to take the train into the city during rush hour (07:30-09:30 and 16:30-20:30) and then catch a cab in the city centre. The Suvarnabhumi Airport Link station is accessed from the basement (B floor) of the airport, with signs pointing the way from the upper floors.
Metered taxis are found on the first floor, a quick escalator ride down from the arrivals area. Line up behind the taxi stand and tell the dispatcher where you're going — they will note your destination on a receipt and assign you to a driver. If the driver asks for a flat fare, politely refuse and ask for the meter (chai meter, in Thai). If they refuse, get out and go back to the dispatcher. Passengers pay a 50 baht surcharge on top of the meter rate, as well as any expressway charges (45-70 baht depending on where you are going).
Eastern Bangkok is around 200 baht, central Bangkok closer to 300-350 baht, and Khao San Road 350 to 400 baht. If the lines are long, taxis can often be caught (technically this is illegal for the driver) from the fourth floor departures area after they drop off passengers.
Bus and public vans
The old Airport Express bus services (including the one to Khao San Road) have been cancelled. It’s around the same price to take the Airport Rail link to Phaya Thai and then a taxi to Khao San Road, even for one person, so it’s not a huge loss. City bus service and public vans leave from the public transit centre (take shuttle bus Line A from door three or door eight on the first floor). Of particular interest to travellers heading straight to Southern Thailand is line 556 (to the Southern Bus Terminal, 90 minutes, 06:00-21:00, 23 baht). Both buses and public vans of the same number run the same route — public vans are faster but more expensive (usually twice the bus price), but both options are subject to the vagaries of Bangkok traffic. There's also now a free shuttle bus running direct from Suvarnabhumi to Don Muang Airport.
The representatives for Airports of Thailand Limos can be pushy as you leave immigration and customs – ignore them! Unless you really need to be driven around in a Mercedes (and if you do, you probably don’t read Travelfish.org), this option isn’t worth it, but it can be easy to be bullied into it if you aren’t careful, so be warned! Limos cost from 500-1500 baht for the first 15 kilometres, based on the quality of car you choose. Travelling all the way into the city will cost at least 1,500 baht or more.
Khao San Road on a shoestring
The absolute cheapest way to get to Khao San Road (apart from walking) is to take the public bus to Victory Monument from the airport (every hour, 05:00-22:00, 18 baht) and then transfer to bus line 201 (every 20 minutes, from the southwest corner of Victory Monument traffic circle, 04:00-22:00, 14 baht). Depending on traffic and connections, this can take as little as 90 minutes (you’ll be very lucky) or as long as eternity (consider how good your karma is: will the universe choose to repay you on this bus journey?). You’ve been warned.
By Brock Kuhlman
Last updated on 27th January, 2012.