Monday, November 28, 2011

Travel Tips: Leaving Suvarnabhumi Airport

One of Suvarnabhumi's long departure gate arms
[Back on February 3rd of this year there was a post - primarily for newbies to Thailand - about arrival procedures at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok. Today's is intended to make heading out of Thailand a little easier for those same folks, and may or may not be helpful to seasoned travelers.]

Suvarnabhumi International Airport is around 40 minutes by taxi from the areas more commonly populated by most tourists, but it was protected from the past couple of months of flooding. The everyday folks living nearby weren't afforded that luxury, but that's another topic for another day. Let's just say Thailand is Thailand, and what would happen to Bangkok without entrance and egress by air and shelve the cynicism for the day.

The Departure area (Level 4), from Bangkok Airport Online

Arriving by taxi you either carry or roll your bag(s) or grab a free luggage cart and walk by crosswalk across the sidewalk and through one of the front doors of the the huge terminal. I stopped outside of one of them and took the four photos you see stitched together below:

You can see the ground level Arrivals area, where you might have caught your taxi into the city when you arrived. 

Once you're inside you can look at the lit sign boards for to find your airline's area and then make your way to their check-in area down one of the long rows of aisles . . .

The vast expanse of check-in counters, domestic and international

This is where you'd get up to the lounge
I took the above panorama of the airline check-in desks from one level above, near a fairly good sized (but somewhat overpriced) lounge where you can purchase light meals items and visit with a friend before going through passport control and into the area where only ticketed passengers are allowed.

It's comfortable, and has many small individual areas with chairs and sofas to sit and talk.  Of course, if you have membership in one of the airline frequent flier programs that allows you into one of the airline lounges you'll probably just want to go there, but they're past the security point.  Ask at the check-in counter for the location, as they're not all clumped together at Suvarnabhumi.

If someone's come to see you off you can sit and visit in comfort for a bit and just have coffee or tea, if you wish. Eventually I'll run across the photos I took there and post them, but I can't seem to find them today. Don't understand why - I only have 40,000 or so here to look through...

The yak statue seems to be guarding the exchange, passport control, and the toilets.

If you've still got Thai currency you'd like to exchange there's one last chance just to the side of the passport control area, although you're going to have to accept the exchange rate they have posted there that day. Normally they're not out to gouge you, and frankly I tend to just take home what I have in my wallet at this point; it's a safe bet I'll be back.

Once you've decided to go through the passport control area you enter the blocked off area and get in line to have your passport stamped with your exit validation. There are VIP services you may choose to look into that get you through the lines faster, but I've never felt that was necessary, myself.  Be aware, however, that you don't really have any idea until you've entered the area if the process is going to take 10 minutes or an hour, so be warned and allow plenty of time.  The fine forum ThaiVisa provided two links that I've found handy, so I'll share them here: Suvarnabhumi Arrivals Info and Suvarnabhumi Departures Info

I allow 45 minutes to an hour, and if I'm through there faster I can take my time making what seems to be a two mile walk past the shops and restaurants to the gates or settle in at the airline lounge.

More on those areas next time.

This empty space at passport control is a freak occurrence. I see it switch-backed like the lines in an amusement park most times.

[This is the first of two parts about flying out of Suvarnabhumi International. Part Two is HERE.]


christianpfc said...

The statue is a Yak (Yaksha in wikipedia English or German, ยักษ์ in Thai). Garuda has wings. (I have to admit I didn't know Garuda before reading this blog entry, but I know Yak because it is more common.)

khunbaobao said...

Thanks - I know better, too. Time has become somewhat of a precious commodity for me (as it will be until New Years now) and sometimes I hurry too much. Now corrected :-)