At the Airport in Thailand
There are four international airports in Thailand: Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Koh Samui, and Hat Yai. At this time, all flights from North America arrive at the International Terminal in Bangkok. For some reason, many of these flights arrive in the middle of the night. If you arrive at night, have your accommodations reserved ahead of time, since Bangkok can be a confusing place to a newcomer at 2am. Better yet, schedule your flight so that you leave North America at night and arrive in Bangkok in the middle of the day.
Immigration officials will ask you what your reason is for coming to Thailand. Unless you have a non-immigrant visa in hand, you should say that you are there as a tourist.
Banks in the airport exchange money at reasonable rates. A tourist information counter (TAT) and a Thai Hotel Association reservations counter are on the ground floor. The hotels they reserve are generally expensive, but if you are stuck, reserve one night’s stay and then find budget accommodations the next day. A 24-hour cafe is located on the fourth floor of the terminal. The airport also houses a 24-hour post and telephone office and a place to store luggage during the day.
Watch Out for Beggars and Salespeople
Fortunately, Thailand is not one of those countries where foreigners are constantly harassed by beggars or aggressive salespeople; however, one of the few places you will be approached is in the airport, right as you leave the baggage claim area. To avoid potential taxi and hotel rip-offs, have a plan to go to the bank, TAT office, or taxi stand, and walk past these sharks as though you know exactly what you are doing. Once you leave the customs exit area, no one should approach you.
Getting into Bangkok
The convenient airport taxi service stand is located to the far left of the arrival hall as you leave customs. When you state your destination in Bangkok, the taxi service personnel will write up a ticket with the amount of the fare and the name of the destination in Thai so that there is no question or haggling from the driver. Official airport taxis are white and wait in a line outside the doors of the hall. For a cheaper alternative to the airport taxis, go downstairs to the freeway and flag down a metered taxi. Be prepared to bargain for the fare, since the meters are not always used. In midday traffic, a taxi ride into town may take up to ninety minutes.
If you are booked in one of the larger hotels, you can take a Thai Airways limousine or Thai Airways shuttle bus to your accommodations.
It is possible to take the train from the airport to the train stations in town, but you must carry your luggage on a pedestrian overpass from the south end of the international terminal to the station. During the day there are trains every 15 – 30 minutes. Another cheap alternative is to find one of the buses alongside the freeway. Be sure to know your destination and bus number before your try this. Bus guide maps may be for sale in airport gift shops. Buying a current map should be a first priority if you plan on staying in Bangkok since bus routes change occasionally.
If you are transferring to a connecting flight within Thailand, you will need to take the free shuttle bus to the Domestic Terminal. Even though it costs more to fly to Chiang Mai or other cities than to go by train or bus, it is simpler and much more comfortable. If you have to wait for your connection, the Domestic Terminal is not an unpleasant place to sit in air-conditioned comfort.