Navigating the Bangkok Airport on Your Way to Bhutan
When you’ve arrived late at night after a long international flight to Asia, the first thing you probably want to do is get out of the airport and into a bed. If you are only spending a night or two in Bangkok, we highly recommend the Novotel Hotel at the airport. Not only is the location obviously convenient when you’re jet-lagged and have an early morning flight to Bhutan, but the downtown SkyTrain connection is adjacent, and the hotel’s restaurants and spa are superb.
Getting to the Novotel from the airport: Once you’ve cleared customs and walked into the arrival hall, there are two options. If you find Exit 4, you’ll see shuttles for the Novotel. It takes about 10-15 minutes, depending if the driver wants to wait for more people, and is a good choice if you have a lot of luggage. If you want to stretch your legs and get the blood moving again, you can walk using the clean and well-lit underground connection. This also takes about 10 minutes, and you’ll pass the SkyTrain station on your way—so you’ll know where to go if you have time to explore the city.
I found the signage in the airport to be lacking at times. I saw no signs for the Novotel until I was down on the lower floor, so if you want to walk, follow signs for the BTS SkyTrain initially. Head down two floors and walk towards the food counters. At that point, you should see signs for the Novotel, but if you’ve missed them, take a left when you see all the currency exchange booths which line the entrance to the underground corridor and keep walking straight. You’ll pass the Boxhotel (pod-like rooms for catching a nap between flights), the BTS station, corporate offices for airlines, and at the end of the corridor, exit through the doors, go up the stairs, and at the top you’ll see the glass doors to the hotel lobby and reception just across the landing.
Checking in for your flight to Bhutan: Head to the fourth floor for departures. When I was there, they were requesting you show a boarding pass to use the escalator, which was weird, since I was going up to check-in and get my boarding pass. Instead, I had to take the elevator at the far end of the building; you may, too. After you check-in, you’ll get to Security via the escalators at the back wall, then head down again for border control. Border Control Pro Tip: To expedite the process, put your boarding pass face up on the photo page of your passport and put the departure card (that was stamped when you arrived) face up in the page with your arrival stamp. That way, the agent doesn’t have to spend time flipping through the pages looking for the stamp, it’s all laid out for him in order.
Getting downtown from the Novotel or airport: If you have the time, I highly recommend spending at least a day (or two) in Bangkok. You’ve already come this far so why not make the most of it! You can take a taxi, but it will be expensive and probably take longer than the train due to the traffic. Bangkok’s elevated rail system is exceptionally clean and convenient. The BTS SkyTrain line runs to and from the airport and connects to the two other elevated rail lines on the system. It’s very easy to use, and the ticket/token machines have an English option.
From the airport station, you’ll purchase a plastic token to drop into the turnstile. To switch lines when you get downtown, it’s best to go to the information booth and buy a 1-day tourist pass. Then you can use it as you please instead of buying separate tickets each time you ride. The whole system is very inexpensive and safe—I saw police officers at every station, some even checking bags. Thai Rail Pro Tip: Check out the arrows on the platform. Locals line up to board trains to the side of the doors, thus creating a large space for those exiting. It’s very efficient, so it helps if you follow suit and wait in line to board.
Thai Culture Pro Tip: When greeting border control officials, check-in agents, hotel staff, and basically any other Thai, place your palms together with your fingers pointing up, hold them in front of your face, bow your head slightly, and smile as you say hello. This is a traditional Thai greeting (you’ll probably see other Thais doing it). As a foreigner in their country, doing this is considered very respectful, and you’ll probably be treated extra nicely. When I asked if it would be possible to get an exit row seat (with more legroom), the check-in agent offered one to me at no extra cost! I can’t guarantee it was because of my tradition greeting to her, but it couldn’t have hurt.
If you have any other questions about traveling to Bhutan, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 1-800-941-8010.