Bangkok Airports: What You Need to Know (Getting Downtown Explained)

Bangkok Airports Overview

Bangkok, the vibrant capital of Thailand, is served by two primary airports: Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) and Don Mueang Airport (DMK). To help you navigate your way through the city and choose the right airport for your travel needs, let’s take a closer look at each airport and discuss their key features, transportation options, and how to access various destinations.

Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK)

Interior of Bangkok airport BKK

Suvarnabhumi Airport, also known as Bangkok International Airport, is the main hub for international flights in the region. It is located about 30 km (18.6 miles) east of the city center, making it the further airport from downtown Bangkok. BKK is well-connected to the city, offering several transportation options for reaching the heart of the metropolis.

Don Mueang Airport (DMK)

Don Mueang Airport, Bangkok’s older airport, mainly serves domestic flights and low-cost carriers. DMK is situated closer to the city center, approximately 24 km (14.9 miles) north, making it a more convenient option for travelers wishing to save time on transportation.

For flights within Asia, DMK is an excellent choice, as many low-cost carriers operate from this airport. However, if you’re flying to destinations in Europe or North America, BKK is likely your best bet due to its larger number of international connections.

Transportation to City Center

Female traveler at train station in Bangkok

Let’s look at which Bangkok airport is closer to the city center, better connected, and the best choice for flights to various destinations.

From Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK)

As the primary international gateway, Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) is located approximately 30 km (18.6 miles) east of the city center. There are several options to reach the city from the airport, and each offers a different balance of cost, convenience, and travel time.

  • Airport Rail Link (ARL): The fastest and most convenient option is the Airport Rail Link, which will bring you to the heart of Bangkok in about 30 minutes. It runs from 6:00 AM to 12 midnight, with trains departing every 10-15 minutes during peak hours and every 15-20 minutes during off-peak hours. The City Line takes you to downtown in 25-30 minutes for a fare of 45 THB ($1.47), while the Express Line takes 15-20 minutes and costs 90 THB ($2.90).
  • When using Airport Rail Link, you can also easily connect to other city train systems of Bangkok – BTS SkyTrain and MRT (Metro).
    • Connecting to BTS SkyTrain:
    • From Suvarnabhumi Airport Station (ARL), take the City Line to Phaya Thai Station. Transfer to the BTS SkyTrain at Phaya Thai Station. You can then take the BTS SkyTrain to various destinations in Bangkok.
    • Connecting to MRT (Metro):
    • From Suvarnabhumi Airport Station (ARL), take the City Line to Makkasan Station. Transfer to the MRT at Makkasan Station. You can then take the MRT to various destinations in Bangkok.
    • Note: There is also a direct connection from Makkasan Station to BTS Asok Station via the MRT. This is a convenient option if you need to transfer between the ARL, MRT, and BTS in one trip.
  • Taxi: If you prefer a door-to-door service, taxis are available 24/7 at the airport. Metered taxis are available on the first floor of the arrivals hall. Follow the signs and always use a metered taxi for a fair rate. The fare ranges between 300-400 THB (about $9-12), including toll fees, and the journey takes around 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on traffic.
  • Public Bus: For a more budget-friendly option, you can take one of the public buses that connect the airport to various parts of the city. Bus routes 554, 555, and 558 are a few examples, with fares ranging from 40-60 THB (approximately $1.20-1.80).

From Don Mueang Airport (DMK)

Don Mueang Airport (DMK) is the older and smaller of Bangkok’s two airports, situated about 24 km (15 miles) north of the city center. It mostly serves domestic flights and low-cost carriers flying to other destinations in Asia.

In terms of connectivity to the city center, Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK) has more transportation options with its direct Airport Rail Link, while Don Mueang International Airport (DMK) offers primarily bus and taxi services.

Here are some options to reach the city center:

  • Express Bus: The quickest and most affordable option from Don Mueang is the Express Bus service, with routes A1 and A2 connecting to the BTS Skytrain and MRT subway systems. The fare is 30 THB (approximately $0.90), and travel time is around 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  • Train: There’s a train station about 800 meters (0.5 miles) from the airport. The fare costs around 5-20 THB ($0.16-0.65) and takes 40-60 minutes to reach Bangkok’s main train station, Hua Lamphong.
  • Taxi: Taxis are available around the clock. You can find metered taxis just outside the arrivals hall. Remember to avoid touts offering flat rates and insist on using the meter to get a fair price.  Fares average about 300-400 THB ($9-12) and travel time is between 45 minutes and 1 hour.
  • Public Bus: To save even more on transportation, you can use public bus routes such as 29, 510, and 554, among others. Fares are typically around 20-50 THB (0.65-1.63 USD) depending on your destination. Travel time may exceed 1 hour due to frequent stops and traffic.

Choosing an Airport for Asian Destinations

When planning a trip to Asia, it’s essential to weigh your options between Bangkok’s two airports: Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) and Don Mueang Airport (DMK). Both airports, while serving different needs, can get you to various destinations across Asia.

Suvarnabhumi Airport is the primary hub for international flights and long-haul journeys. If you’re looking to fly to popular destinations such as Tokyo, Seoul, or Singapore, Suvarnabhumi is the better option. The airport is well-equipped with modern amenities, upscale lounges, and numerous shopping and dining options, ensuring an enjoyable travel experience.

On the other hand, Don Mueang Airport, the older of the two, is a go-to for budget airlines and regional flights. As a result, if you’re seeking low-cost flights to various Asian destinations – including Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, or Manila – you might find better deals flying out of Don Mueang. However, bear in mind that DMK is smaller and may lack some amenities found at BKK.

It’s important to consider factors like prices and travel time when choosing between these two airports. For example, flights to a location like Phuket from BKK might cost around 1,500 THB ($45 USD), while the same trip from DMK could be priced at 1,000 THB ($30 USD). Remember that prices can fluctuate, so it’s wise to keep an eye on fares and book early for the best deals.

Lastly, don’t forget to consider the connectivity aspect while making your decision. While both airports are accessible from the city center through a combination of public and private transportation options, the Airport Rail Link makes Suvarnabhumi Airport better connected than Don Mueang.

Choosing an Airport for International Flights

When considering international flights to Europe and North America from Bangkok, each airport has its own advantages and connections to popular destinations. Let’s take a closer look at which airport will best suit your travel needs.

Flights to Europe

Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) is the primary choice for most international flights to Europe. As a major hub in Southeast Asia, BKK offers numerous airlines and flight options connecting to Europe, including direct flights to cities such as London, Paris, and Frankfurt. Additionally, BKK is known for its modern facilities and amenities that cater to a more comfortable travel experience.

On the other hand, Don Mueang Airport (DMK) serves a limited number of European destinations, primarily through low-cost airlines. While flights from DMK may occasionally offer lower fares, it lacks the variety and conveniences of BKK. When choosing between the two airports for European flights, make sure to weigh the pros and cons of each, keeping in mind your budget and preferred travel experiences.

Flights to North America

Similar to flights to Europe, Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) is the favored choice for flights to North America. BKK has a wider selection of flights and airlines connecting to cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York. Through either direct flights or layovers in cities such as Tokyo or Dubai, BKK offers efficient and flexible travel options to North American destinations.

While Don Mueang Airport (DMK) also provides limited connections to North America, it’s primarily through budget airlines and less convenient layovers. Thus, BKK remains the recommended choice for travelers seeking comfort, flexibility, and more flight options for their journey to North America.

In summary, when choosing an airport for international flights to Europe and North America, Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) tends to be the better option due to its more extensive range of flights, airlines, and modern facilities. However, if budget is a deciding factor, Don Mueang Airport (DMK) may occasionally offer more affordable flights. Ultimately, the choice will depend on your specific travel preferences and priorities.