Thailand is one of the most amazing, picturesque, and culturally astounding countries on earth. It’s also one of the most well-traveled destinations for tourists, backpackers, and business travelers from all over the world. In fact, Bangkok, Thailand is also a major hub for arriving or departing to any other part of Asia and even the world, and that usually means coming through Suvarnabhumi Airport.
What To Know About Suvarnabhumi Airport
Don’t worry if you can’t get the name right, because after flying in and out of there for years (Ok, decades!) I still can’t pronounce it. But for those of you who are sticklers for the language, it’s pronounced Su-wan-na-phum, which means “Land of Gold” in Thai, a name that was chosen by the late, beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
A funky name isn’t the only thing memorable about this airport, because it’s truly startling. In fact, it was built in 1973 on 8,000-acre site only 40 miles east of Bangkok, which is now a part of the city’s outskirts. The price tag for the shining jewel was a whopping $5 billion USD! They certainly built it with the future in mind, as it features two 200-foot wide and 12,000-foot long runways as well as two parallel taxiways to accommodate plenty of traffic. It has 72 jet bridges and 62 non-jet bridges, 120 parking bays, and can brag about having the 4th largest passenger terminals in the world at over 6 million square feet! (Only Hong Kong, Dubai, and Beijing airports have bigger terminals.) It’s also known for having one of the most beautiful feats of modern architecture with its curving wave-like roof and spaceage outdoor panorama, something that seriously makes you think you’re looking at a city on the moon in the year 2050.
These days, Suvarnabhumi Airport sees well over 55 million passengers walk through its terminal (55,892,000+ last year!), with Hong Kong, Seoul, Korea, Singapore, Dubai, and other stops in China, Japan, and the Middle East high on its list. But there also were about 750,000 passengers to London, 642,000 to Frankfurt, Germany, etc.
Unfortunately, there are no non-stop flights to the U.S. from Thailand, but most travelers either fly to Hong Kong, Japan, or Korea and then change flights directly to the West Coast or New York, or, like I did last time, fly west to Dubai and then on to New York (a brutal 13-hour, 45 minute flight!).
What else do you need to know about Suvarnabhumi Airport? You’ll find it modern, comfortable, spacious, and imminently civilized. There are plenty of staff who speak English to help you get checked in, and the security is thorough and professional. Once you check in, you’ll find a million money changers, ATMs, and souvenir shops. But because it’s so big and spread out, don’t expect a lot of cafes and restaurants in the terminals out by your gate – those are all located in the central hubs, where you can get just about anything to eat or drink.
When landing in Suvarnabhumi Airport, you’ll have to walk a LONG way to immigration (which is fine when you want to stretch your legs after a long flight). Don’t take too long because the line at immigration can swell to ridiculous numbers and go very slow, and it can literally take an hour or so of waiting there sometimes.
But once you get your Visa stamped and get your baggage, it’s easy to find a taxi to your destination anywhere in Bangkok (or Pattaya), or even jump on the modern inter-city monorail recently built. One more piece of advice – make sure you’re at the right airport when you depart because almost all domestic flights are out of the older Don Mueang International Airport in the same city!