If you’re flying through Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK) and find yourself with a layover of over six hours, it might be worth your while to pop into the city center for a taste of Thailand. Taxis make for an inexpensive and efficient means of reaching the city center in relatively little time. This should then leave you with just enough hours to fit in a bowl of noodles, a Thai massage, a tour through a temple or a peek at a palace before returning to the airport for your onwards journey. Details on what to do and how to do it follow in our Bangkok Airport Layover Sightseeing guide below.
BKK is often voted one of SleepingInAirports traveller’s favourite airports in Asia, so a layover of less than five hours is easily and happily spent here. If you’re unable to make the journey into the city center, you will still be able to indulge in many of the same activities. A great airport spa offers up classic Thai massages, while a multitude of restaurants serve a number of noodle dishes that are sure to give you an idea of local cuisine. Beyond that, you’re looking at a fairly standard set of airport amenities which will keep you busy and comfortable enough during your layover. For more information on the airport itself, check out our Bangkok Airport Guide.
Below are a few essential sights.
Your best (and least stressful) option will be to book one of the organzed transit tours offered at the airport tour desk. if you are in transit, you can book one of 15 tours ranging from 4-12 hours. Tours include: City & Temple Tour, Erawan Museum & Ancient City, Erawan Museum & Crocodile Farm, Grand Palace, Khlong Tour, Khlong Suan Market & Wat Sathor Wararam Worahihan, Shopping, Siam Ocean World & Siam Paragon Shopping Complex, Massage & Spa, Siam Niramit (Dinner and show), Aksara Theatre (Dinner and Puppet Show), Thai Dinner with Classical Dance, Golf Tour Kiatthani, The Rose Garden Thai Village and Cultural Learning Centre, Pom Phra Chulachomklao. Tour rates are unknown. Location: Arrivals Floor at the Concourse C/D and D/E intersections.
Khao San Road
This former rice-market has been transformed in recent years into a massive backpacker hot-spot which vies for the title of ‘backpacker capital of the universe’. During the day, shopping opportunities are endless with vendors setting up stalls that sell anything from local handicrafts and paintings to pirated CDs and DVDs. In the evening, the street transforms into a string of bars and pubs, filled with travellers discussing their adventures and misadventures. As you browse and wander, be sure to fit in a classic Thai massage and a bowl of noodles into your day’s activities – these are two of the most-essential activities on the street. Tattoo parlors, insect-frying street vendors, and bars that specialize in bucket-sized cocktails also sit among the street’s most notorious sites.
Time Required: Khao San Road can be explored for any length of time, depending on your time availability and preferences. We would suggest a minimum of two hours in order to fully appreciate noodles, an hour-long massage and a bit of wandering. Time traveling to and from the airport is not included in this quote.
How to Get There: Check out this Google Map for details on public and private transit options, and the associated time required. Conveniently, Khao San Road is located approximately a half-mile from the Grand Palace, described below.
The Grand Palace
The magnificent and elaborately adorned Grand Palace in Bangkok is likely one of the city’s most recognized landmarks. Since its original construction in 1782, this has been the home of the Thai King, the seat of the administrative government, the home of the Thai war ministry and even the country’s mint. The Palace also houses the coveted and ancient Emerald Buddha, which can be observed (though never photographed). As you move through the complex, you will get a strong sense of Thailand’s development and spirit through the paintings that depict the country’s historical and spiritual development. These intricate and colourful pieces of art make for a stunning introduction to this sensational country. Just be sure to pay attention to the dress code – displayed shoulders, skirts, sandals and shorts are all strictly forbidden.
Time Required: The Grand Palace is enormous. While you could get lost in it for hours, we would recommend a minimum of an hour for a brief tour. Time traveling to and from the airport is not included in this quote.
How to Get There: Check out this Google Map for details on public and private transit options, and the associated time required.
Wat Pho Temple
A visit to Thailand is, for many, incomplete without a visit to a classic Buddhist temple – a wat. Wat Pho Temple is the city’s oldest and largest temple, and is home to the Reclining Buddha: a 15-meter high gold leaf coated Buddha. Moreover, it happens to be believed to be the birthplace of the Thai massage and remains one of the most prestigious massage training facilities worldwide! It remains an active wat, with a large Buddhist residency in the southern temple. While the Reclining Buddha is typically the greatest attraction, be sure to spend time wandering between the chapels, admiring the murals, attempting to count the largest collection of Buddha images and passing through lines of golden Buddha statues. The surrounding courtyards are also worth a wander, which sprawl out over eight hectares.
Time Required: We recommend a minimum of an hour for Wat Pho. This provides you with enough time to see the Reclining Buddha, and wander areas of the compound more broadly. Note that guided tours are available for various prices and time periods.
How to Get There: Check out this Google Map for details on public and private transit options, and the associated time required. It is located directly beside the Grand Palace (10 minutes walking), making this an easy add-on to those with a bit more time.
BKK is located just over 30 kilometers from the city center, and is connected through a number of private and public transit options. Taxis are generally the most efficient way of reaching the city center and luckily, they are relatively inexpensive – provided you seek out one that has a meter.
Public transit options include:
- Bus Bor Khor Sor (Passenger Terminal): Buses depart from 5:40am – 9pm, connecting the airport with various destinations throughout Bangkok. Purchase tickets at the Public Transport Center in the airport.
- Bus BMTA (Passenger Terminal): A secondary bus system with alternate routes and longer hours. Purchase tickets at the Public Transport Center in the airport.
- Public Van (Pick-Up at Arrival Terminal, Gates 1 and 8): Vans connect the airport with various destinations throughout the city throughout the day. They depart generally when the van is full.
- Airport Rail Link: Service from Phaya Thai Station to the airport, with stops at 6 stations on route. Express routes and standard routes available, with total line travel time ranging from 15 – 30 minutes.
- Airport Transfer Bus (Departs BKK on Passenger Terminal 1st Floor): A FREE bus transfer service that connects Don Muaeng Airport with Suvarnabhumi Airport from 5AM to midnight daily.
Private transit options include:
- Taxi (Passenger Terminal, Gates 4 and 7): A 24-hour taxi service is available for travellers on the first floor of the Passenger Terminal. Be sure to seek out taxis with meters.
- Airport Limousine Service: A private luxury transfer service operated by the Airports of Thailand Public Company Ltd.
Before You Go: Layover Tips
Now that you are motivated and excited for your mini layover vacation, just make sure to check a few final logistical concerns off your list before you fully commit.
- Do you need to organize a visa to leave the airport? Requirements change frequently and for each nationality, so be sure to seek out current details on the availability, cost and procedures of obtaining a transit visa.
- When is your next flight’s check-in time? Make sure you double check with your airline exactly when you need to be at the airport – and plan your layover accordingly.
- What are security wait times like at the airport? Some airports are notorious for long security wait-times, so be sure to do a bit of research in advance and factor that into your overall time-budget.
- What’s happening with your luggage? When you check in to your first flight, be sure to confirm whether your luggage will be checked through or needs to be picked up between your connecting flights. Check out our Bangkok Airport Guide for information on luggage storage.
Other Useful Resources
Finally, here are a few handy resources to help you plan your layover even more thoroughly: