Photo: Don Muang: Accidentally retro.

The old Don Muang (DMK) became a hub of low-cost domestic and regional flights after Suvarnabhumi Airport took over much of Bangkok’s international air traffic in 2006. Travellers using budget airlines like Air Asia, Nok Air and Lion Air will head to this fairly large airport in the Thai capital’s far northern reaches.

Getting to/from Don Muang

Airport buses
A handful of very convenient buses run straight between Don Muang and various parts of Bangkok, picking up in front of Door 6 at Terminal 1 and Door 12 at Terminal 2. These are usually our go-to options for leaving the airport.

Bus A1 picks up every five minutes from 07:00 to 24:00 and runs to Mo Chit BTS Station, Chatuchak Park MRT Station and Morchit (Northern) Bus Terminal for 30 baht. Heading to the airport, you can catch it at the main bus stop near exit 3 out of Mo Chit BTS Station. The ride from there to the airport takes around 20 to 40 minutes, depending on traffic.

Doesn’t get easier than this.

Doesn’t get easier than this. Photo: David Luekens

Buses A2, A3 and A4 all pick up every half-hour from 07:00 to 23:00. A2 runs to Victory Monument for 30 baht. A3 runs to Pratunam, Siam Square, and the Silom area, where it picks up airport-bound passengers on Witthayu (Wireless) Road outside the northeast corner of Lumpini Park. A4 runs to Democracy Monument and Khao San Road before parking across from the northern side of Sanam Luang in the Rattanakosin old quarter. A3 and A4 buses both cost 50 baht to any destination.

Privately run “limo buses” also run straight between Don Muang and Khao San Road or Silom Road. These depart every half-hour from 07:00 to 24:30 for 150 baht and can be arranged through travel agents if you’re heading to the airport.

Shuttle bus from Don Muang to Suvarnabhumi Airport
Transferring to Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) is relatively painless thanks to free shuttle buses, but do allow yourself a couple of extra hours to change airports. At Don Muang, the shuttles pick up between Doors 6 and 7 on the arrivals floor of Terminal 1. They run 24 hours a day, departing every half-hour at slow times and ramping up to every 10 minutes around rush hours. Travellers must show proof of a flight ticket out of Suvarnabhumi to use the shuttle.

Taxi
Taxi stands are located at the southern ends of both terminals, at Door 8 in Terminal 1 and beyond Door 15 in Terminal 2. Expect to pay a 50-baht airport surcharge plus any tolls, don’t be surprised to find long queues and insist that drivers use the meter. You could avoid the surcharge and queue by heading to the train station pedestrian bridge in Terminal 1 (see above) and taking the stairs down to Vibhavadi-Rangsit Road, where taxis can pull off near a bus stop just up the road. Expect to pay around 200 baht to/from Mo Chit BTS Station, 300 baht to/from Khao San Road and 400 baht or more to/from Sukhumvit.

Rental cars
Rental car companies including Avis, Budget, Thai, National, Chic and Asap operate booths on the arrivals floor of Terminal 2. Hertz has a desk on the arrivals floor of Terminal 1. Most likely you’ll need to provide a Thai or international driving license to rent a car from an airport kiosk.

Parking
Don Muang’s short-term parking garage is located below Terminal 1 and is usually full. The largest garage is found at the far southern end of Terminal 2—expect a long walk from there. There’s also a long-term garage to the north of Terminal 1. The parking situation at Don Muang is quite frustrating so try to avoid it if possible.

Train
The airport is located directly across the highway from Don Muang Railway Station and an elevated pedestrian bridge connects the two—find it via a stairway or lift near Door 6 on the arrivals floor of Terminal 1 (look for signs pointing to Amari Airport Hotel).

While the trains to Hualamphong Railway Station are not the fastest way to reach central Bangkok (they often run late), they’re not bad options if you don’t mind a cheap and leisurely ride, are staying near Chinatown, or otherwise need to reach Bangkok’s main long-distance train station. In theory, trains to Hualamphong depart from Don Muang hourly from 03:15 to 07:30, every two to three hours from 09:20 to 17:00, and three more times from 19:20 to 20:10.

You could also skip Bangkok by catching a northbound train from Don Muang to Ayutthaya departing at least once per hour from 05:00 to 23:25, or to Chiang Mai departing at 09:15, 14:35, 18:55, 20:20 and 22:50. These are just a couple of examples; all trains running up to Northern and Northeastern Thailand make a stop at Don Muang.

Inside Don Muang Airport

Terminal 1 is used for international flights and Terminal 2 for domestic. They sit side by side and are connected by easy-to-find walkways on the arrivals (ground) floor and up escalators from both of the departures floors. Restaurants, pubs and cafes line the upper-floor walkway between terminals, where you’ll also find an air-conditioned “observation platform” that’s a good place to stretch out and watch the planes take off and land if you have time to kill. The free airport WiFi is surprisingly fast.

Be sure to set aside some time for standing in queues.

Be sure to set aside some time for standing in queues. Photo: David Luekens

Terminal 1 (International)
Capturing the feel of 1975, the international departures floor in T1 is often jam-packed and long queues for both check-in and immigration are very common, so plan accordingly. On the departures floor you’ll find the VAT refund desk and a 24-hour “Left Luggage” office where you can drop a bag, no matter the size, for 75 baht per day. Major Thai cell phone companies offer SIM cards on the arrivals floor, where you’ll also find a “meeting point” near the taxi stand behind Door 8.

Terminal 2 (Domestic)
The domestic terminal reopened in 2016 with a slick new design and a lot more space than the international terminal. Take an escalator up from the departures floor to find a bunch of restaurants, full-service Thai bank branches, the Sleep Box Hotel and even a co-working lounge. The arrivals floor hosts more eateries and several tourist info desks.

The gates
Much of the airport was refurbished in recent years and you’ll find the usual cafes, bars and shops in both the domestic and international gate areas. This being a low-cost carrier airport, passengers for many flights are ushered from gate to shuttle bus and driven out to the runway before climbing stairs to board the plane.

Air bridges cost more money...

Air bridges cost more money... Photo: Stuart McDonald

Airport hotels

If you’re transiting and don’t want to leave the airport, Sleep Box offers tiny air-con rooms for 500 baht for the first hour and 300 baht for each additional hour during the daytime, charging 2,500 baht per night (20:00-06:00), which is darn pricey for what you get. It’s located in Terminal 2, just up an escalator near check-in pier 16 from the departures floor.

We reckon the better option is Amari Don Muang Airport Hotel, offering a wide range of rooms in the 2,000 to 4,000 baht range along with a swimming pool and spa. It’s located across the road from Terminal 1 and accessed directly via an air-conditioned walkway set alongside the pedestrian bridge to the train station.

Zleep63 and @Home Hostel are a couple of the budget accommodation options found on side streets across the highway from the airport, in the vicinity of Don Muang Railway Station. While these should do the trick if you have an early flight, we suggest staying in central Bangkok if you plan to explore the city at all.

Not-so-useful facts about Don Muang Airport

Opened as a Royal Thai Air Force base in 1914 and drawing its first commercial flight in 1924, Don Muang is the oldest operational airport in Asia.

The airport was not named after some guy named Don. In Thai, don means “to motivate” and muang (or mueang) means “nation” or “country.”

Japanese forces occupied the airport during World War II, attracting bombs from Allied planes. The US Air Force later used Don Muang as a command centre during the American-Vietnam War.

Don Muang closed for nearly six months in 2011-12 after a metre of water filled the runways during the worst floods to hit Thailand in five decades.

The Kantarat Golf Course has fairways and greens wedged between Don Muang’s runways, with red lights warning golfers not to hit balls when planes are approaching. Watching Thai golfers strut around while your plane is landing is one of those wacky “only in Thailand” experiences.


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