Let’s say you’re in Thailand on a little holiday (ok, vacation for all of you Americans). If you’re a traveler, there’s a reasonable likelihood that you come through the Kingdom of Siam (Thailand) at some point in your journeys, since it’s one of the top tourist destinations in the entire world (behind Paris, France.).
There are two things I know: that you’ll probably fly into Bangkok from abroad, and that Thailand is a big country, of course, with lots to see and do, so you’re going to want to fly out of Bangkok pretty soon.
Flying into Don Mueng Airport
This is where it gets a little tricky. You see, the massive and dynamic city of Bangkok (also called BKK) may be a portal to the rest of Thailand, including all of the picturesque and tropical smaller islands, easily accessible by daily flights, BUT you may run into some confusions.
You see, Bangkok now has two airports. Suvarnabhumi Airport is the newer one, opened to domestic flights in 2005 and international in 2006. It’s also more modern, nicer, more practical, and eminently more convenience, as it’s located far closer for most travelers.
The other option is older Don Mueang Airport, and I’m going to tell you a little bit about it today – including some words of caution. With airport code DMK, Don Mueang was the first major airport in Bangkok since it opened to commercial flights in 1924.
Until it’s newer, more modern predecessor opened across town in 2005/2006, DMK was just as important, with about 80 airlines, 160,000 flights, and 38 million passengers in 2004 alone! However, it was too small, too old (obviously), with runways that were too short and narrow for larger aircraft, so the new airport was built.
But the Don Mueang airport is still in existence, despite the fact that it lost its main airline, the national Thai Airways International.
It still serves a good number of tourists every year, BUT that comes with a caveat. DMK usually serves as a hub for a lot of lesser-known discount airlines (Ok, crappy airlines – there, I said it!). In fact, it’s currently the hub for flight giants Nok Air, Thai AirAsia, Thai Lion Air, and Orient Thai Airlines.
Not exactly world beaters, right? You’ll find most of the super discount airlines like Air Asia (which flies EVERYWHERE in Asia for CHEAP but is pretty shoddy) and a lot of the terrible Chinese airlines (most of them are terrible) flying out of DMK. (Related, check out the airline safety ratings.)
“Somnana,” as they say in Thailand, which means sort of like “You got what you deserved.”
The only problem is that DMK is also really a hike from the better-located Suvarnabhumi Airport. For instance, from the popular Las Vegas-style tourist city of Pattaya, (if you want real Vegas tips, click here) a taxi or bus ride to Suvarnabhumi Airport will take 1.5 hours or less, while a taxi to DMK can take 3 hours or longer! You have to drive all through central Bangkok -which means sitting in traffic – no matter where you’re coming from.
While the new airport also has plenty of convenient and cheap bus services and even high-speed trains to take you around Bangkok and to Pattaya, you’re sort of stuck at DMK – there’s no good public transport (your best chance is to get a bus to Suvarnabhumi Airport and THEN try to escape Bangkok) and even taxis will charge you significantly more.
The problem is also that when tourists book flights in and out of Bangkok, they sometimes don’t check the airport because they don’t realize there are two, or just how inconvenient Don Mueang Airport is, usually costing you more in time and money as you think you’re saving on airfare.
So check your flights closely before you book or “Somna na!”