Sawasdee … Welcome to Thailand. This is the sign that is welcoming all the passengers that arrive on Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, including me. I was quite familiar with the airport already since it was my 3rd time here. The location of the airport, around 30 kilometers east of the city, makes it relatively quick and easy for visitors to head to the city that is listed in the Guinness Book of Records, as the longest name for a capital city. All of these factors make this airport the main gateway to Thailand for tourists and backpackers, like me.
World’s Longest Name
กรุงเทพมหานคร อมรรัตนโกสินทร์ มหินทรายุธยามหาดิลก ภพนพรัตน์ ราชธานีบุรีรมย์ อุดมราชนิเวศน์ มหาสถาน อมรพิมาน อวตารสถิต สักกะทัตติยะ วิษณุกรรมประสิทธิ์ (Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit) – The ceremonial full name of Bangkok
We just started to descend to Suvarnabhumi Airport and I was just able to finish filling out the arrival/departure card. Foreign visitors arriving or departing Thailand are required to fill out this card. It is a two-part form that needs to be completed regardless of whether you are arriving/departing Thailand by air/boat/overland. If you are arriving in Thailand via an international flight it is usual practice for flight attendants to hand out the arrival/departure cards prior to landing. For this reason, it is always a good idea to have a pen with you. I wrote more about it here.
After the disembarkation from the plane, I started to remember, how big the terminal is. It is one of the largest in the world. I had to walk for almost one kilometer to reach the immigration counters. Note that there are actually two immigration area, not just one. The majority of people just go to the first one.
They do not know about the second one or are too lazy to walk an additional five minutes. To be honest, I was a bit lazy as well. It all changed when I saw the massive amount of people waiting in the line. I did not hesitate about going to the second area. The contrast here could not have been any bigger. There were just a few people in front of me and I was done with the immigration in just about 10 minutes, while those people in the first area were still waiting in the line.
When I was standing by the baggage belt to collect my backpack, I was already thinking, how will I go to the hostel. There were a couple of other things I had to do before going to the city. First I needed to exchange some money and secondly, I had to buy a Thai sim card. I always buy a local sim card, when I travel to Asia. I need data for my phone so that I can use navigation applications on my phone, contact local friends and family back home via Whatsapp or Facebook and order rides on Grab or Uber.
There are a few shops in the arrival areas of the airport that sell them. Make sure to check first which one is the cheapest so that you will not buy the most expensive one. All of the three main providers – AIS, True or DTAC are fine. They all offer 4G connection in most areas of the country and all have pre-paid Tourists SIMs that offer a package of calls plus data. I chose DTAC since it was the cheapest. I got a free 7-day unlimited internet package for just 300 baht. The staff there put the sim card in your phone and activate it, which is a good thing because it can get quite complicated to do that by yourself. I learned that last year, when I bought a sim card in a 7/11 store, instead.
Now that I took care of this, I was able to continue with my journey to the city. The airport terminal has four floors plus a ground floor. Arrivals are on the 2nd floor. The 1st floor is where you will head if you want to take a taxi into Bangkok or buy a bus/minibus ticket to the city or elsewhere.
The ground floor is where you will find the Airport Rail Link. This option takes you into the city center of Bangkok for just 45 baht. In that case, I would have to go to the last station, called Phayathai. From there I would need to take a taxi to the hostel. That option would cost me about 120 baht, but it would take me quite a while as well and I did not want to walk and travel with all of my things for too long, especially not on my first day.
That is why I decided for a taxi. To get one I had to go down to the 1st floor. When you reach this area, you will see a modern taxi kiosk, where you print your taxi stand number. There are a lot of taxi stands. You have to pay attention, where will your taxi park and that someone will not get in line in front of you. That happened to me, but with your ticket, you can prove your right because on them you can see the time when the ticket was printed.
It was finally my turn, after waiting on the sidewalk for about 10 minutes. Taxi drivers in Bangkok do not speak or understand a lot of English. It is important to point them and to tell them exactly what is your destination. I had the address of my hostel in Thai language just for these cases, so I showed him that on my phone. He said okay and we were already on the way. The trip to the hostel should have been around 30 minutes.
It did take a bit longer, due to a specific reason. He first drove me to a wrong hostel that is located on Siam Square, apparently, he had the wrong hostel name on his navigation. I arrived at the right hostel on the second try, after showing him the correct hostel one more time. In the end, I paid 350 baht, plus additional 70 baht for highway tolls. The additional fees are payable during the ride. I was not sure exactly if he drove me to the wrong hostel in the beginning on purpose or not, because I paid the same amount of money like last year and the same amount of money that I should have paid for this distance, according to the information that my hostel provided.
Anyway, it was about 3 pm already and I was finally able to check-in in the hostel. I was staying in Niras Bangkoc Cultural Hostel. It is one of the best hostels in Bangkok with a lot of guests coming and leaving every day. To my surprise couple of staff there recognized me and even remembered my name, because I stayed here last year as well. The hostel itself was still almost the same as I remembered it from last year. There were a few upgrades that made it even better (for my review of this hostel check out this link). I felt a bit tired after traveling for more than a day. I took a shower and rested for a couple of hours. After that, I decided to get some pad thai from a street food vendor across the street and after that, I called it a day.
TIP: The airport is pronounced ‘Suwanapoom’. No one will have a clue what you are saying if you pronounce it the way it’s written in English.