After my 10 1/2 hour flight on Thai Airways from Zurich, we landed safely at Suvarnabhumi Airport, also known as Bangkok International Airport or Bangkok Airport. We then deplaned and boarded coaches that took us to the terminal and to Immigration.
Suvarnabhumi Airport is massive in size and is the twentieth busiest airport in the world, sixth busiest airport in Asia, and the busiest in Thailand. In 2012, this Bangkok airport handled 53 million passengers and is the main hub for Thai Airways International, Bangkok Airways, and Orient Thai Airlines.
TSG Tip: In case you were wondering what Suvarnabhumi means, it’s Sanskrit for “Land of Gold.”
Once inside the terminal of the Bangkok aiport, you’ll need to go through Immigration before collecting your baggage. Look for the correct line to enter for foreign visitors vs. Thai nationals. There are also special lines for First Class and Business Class customers, which basically puts you at the front of the queue. Since our flight arrived before 5 am, there wasn’t anyone anywhere and we were able to get right to the front of the line. Go to the correct line, wait behind the marked line on the floor until it’s your turn, and then present your passport and form to the immigration official.
TSG Tip: You’ll receive both arrival and departure forms on your flight into Bangkok airport. Don’t wait to complete the immigration forms inside this or any airport. Instead, always complete them on the plane when they’re handed out to save yourself time. If you wait until you’re in the airport, you could end up at the end of a long line. Hold onto the departure form as you’ll need it when you leave the country.As I approached the immigration official, this was the first time I was able to see with my own eyes the 'no buddha tattoo' signage I had heard about before arriving.Click To Tweet
As I approached the immigration official, this was the first time I was able to see with my own eyes the “no buddha tattoo” signage I had heard about before arriving. There are various forms of this sign, but it basically comes down to this: It’s wrong to buy or use buddha symbol as merchandise, decoration, tattoo, or to own buddha head. “Disrespect to buddha is wrong by law.” The signs are pretty much everywhere and the law was created in 2011 by the culture minister to to prevent offending Thai people.
Of course, Mr. TSG thought I was in trouble because if you haven’t noticed, I have a large Kwan Yin (Kuan Yin) tattoo on my left forearm. However, she is a bodhisattva or a being of wisdom destined to become a Buddha. For the record, not once during my entire time in Thailand did anyone ever say or do anything because of my tattoos or my hair. In fact, I felt like the only ones who ever looked at me (ok, stared at me) were Westerners.
Once through Immigration you’ll immediately see the baggage claim area. Grab one of the free to use Bangkok airport trolleys and load your luggage on it to go through Customs before exiting Bangkok airport.
As this is a huge airport, be sure to identify which carousel is for your flight and proceed to it. Our flight from Zurich was at carousel 14.
After grabbing our bags, we then could exit through the customs area with nothing to declare.
After exiting Customs, you’ll enter the lower arrivals area with departures up above you on the second level.
If you need money, this was hard to miss flanked by a few ATM’s and staff to exchange money.
TSG Tip: Everyone has a different opinion about how and where to get foreign currency. I like to order a little ahead of any trip with Bank of America as they deliver it directly to my home. This works out great if you need to get a taxi, buy something to eat or drink, etc. For extra money, I don’t visit the currency counters because the exchange rates aren’t so great. This is true whether you visit them at the airport or a hotel. I stick with ATM’s that are considered in network with my bank to avoid excessive fees. Take what you need if you plan on spending cash, otherwise use a credit card where accepted.
We finally exited the terminal and immediately felt the heat of Thailand, even at only just after 5 am. After nearly one day of flying, I was in Bangkok and ready to discover everything about Thailand. Stay tuned for my upcoming posts about Bangkok, Chiang Mai, then onto Hong Kong and Macau.
Have you visited Bangkok and flown through Suvarnabhumi Bangkok International Airport? What did you think? If you have a layover, consider a Bangkok layover tour guide to explore the city.