Suvarnabhumi International Airport opened officially on the 28th September 2006 to replace the old Don Muang airport in northern Bangkok.
Although Bangkok's primary international airport is now Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Suvarnabhumi is actually located in the nearby Samut Prakan province which is roughly 25km to the east of Bangkok. Suvarnabhumi was named by King Bhumibol Adulyadej and is translated to "the golden land" in Thai. Its English spelling inevitably leads to mispronunciations by visitors and it's actually pronounced 'su-wan-na-poom'. While Don Muang airport has three terminals, Suvarnabhumi has only one (very large) terminal that deals with all international and domestic flights. At a size of 563,000sq m, Suvarnabhumi's terminal building is the second largest in the world.
The airport was a work in progress going back 40 years, amid a swirl of controversy regarding corruption, lack of safety, design and so on, at cost around $3billion US. It was rushed open just before the coup as a political move to boost public spirit, and was found to be falling apart. A few airport officials were fired as scapegoats, and the repairs began, with Don Muang being reopened to ease the burden. In the early months, up to 10,000 Thai would visit the airport for a picnic and a stroll, creating massive congestion problems. These problems have been reduced as interest has decreased.
There are four levels at Suvarnabhumi. Level one is the bus and taxi lobby where you can go to get downtown. Level two is the arrivals area. Level three is the "Meeting Center" level, where the majority of Suvarnabhumi's facilities are to found. Level four is departures.
There's the separate Public Transportation Center (PTC) building which is about 10 minutes from Suvarnabhumi terminal. Free shuttle buses regularly travel back and forth between them leading from level one. If you want to get a public bus downtown or to a destination other than Bangkok, you need to head to the PTC first while if you're getting a taxi you can get one either from the terminal building itself or the PTC. More details are on the taxi and other ways downtown pages.
Other facilities at the airport include bars, restaurants (mostly fast food with Pizza Hut, KFC, Burger King etc, and there's a good and cheap Thai food court on the walkway between the International and domestic terminals), a couple of decent 24 hour bars, duty free and normal shops, a small branch of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Thai Hotels Association, and car hire.
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