One of the most common questions we have been receiving recently in our mailbox and at the ThailandQA.com forums is how to go from the new airport at Suvarnabhumi to Pattaya. I had been planning to pay a return visit to the airport ever since people have been telling us about the limousine scams. Basically, what happens is that when you pass through Immigration and Customs and come out into the arrival lounge, you are accosted by this mob of people who want you to take their so called taxi to your destination. If you ask about public taxis they often say that there isn’t any. Back in April, the Airport Authority of Thailand announced that they will move the public taxis up to the second floor so that it is on the same level as the arrival lounge.Also in the newspaper recently, there were reports of security cracking down on unauthorized tour agents at the airport. I decided to head over there this afternoon to do some undercover work for our sister blogs at BangkokScams.com. I wanted to know whether the situation had improved.
I dressed up to look like a passenger who had just gotten off the plane. I even took along a small backpack to complete the image of a tourist. When you come out of customs you have a choice of turning left or right. On both sides you will pass through crowds of waiting people. My plan was to go in one of these exits, walk around and then walk out the other exit to make it look like I had just arrived in Thailand. They have security at these exits and you are not really supposed to walk through. However, I avoided eye contact and just kept walking. Usually works. In this no-man’s-land I saw some new signs which clearly said which direction to go for public taxi, airport express and shuttle bus. I then walked out the opposite exit. To my surprise, there wasn’t one single taxi tout. There only people waiting were people holding signs with names on and members of the public. Looks like there had been a clean up after all.
There a number of different ways to go to Pattaya. I first wanted to check out the taxi. The newspaper had said that the public taxi would be moved to the second floor by now so I made my way outside. Straight away it was “Hello sir. Where do you want to go?” I said Pattaya and they replied, “No problem sir. Only 2,600 baht!” I told him that was expensive. I asked about the public taxis but he wasn’t interested to help. So, I just kept walking. The problem is, once you stop for one tout, then the rest of the vultures start to circle and swoop. The average price for the limousine service to Pattaya seemed to be about 1,400 baht. However, one shady guy went as far as 800 baht as I was walking away. I asked him why so cheap and he said that Pattaya was his home town and he wanted to go home!
Back inside the arrival lounge, I decided to ask for help. I knew of course that the public taxis were on the level below. But, I wanted to see how much help I would get. I went up to a security guard and asked him where the public taxis were. He correctly told me to keep walking towards the escalators and then go down to level one. At least one honest person. There were a few signs around pointing the way, but I still saw other tourists looking lost and trying to find their way. Downstairs I went up to the official counter for the public taxis. This is the place where you have to pay a 50 baht surcharge. I asked if I could go to Pattaya by taxi. He said yes and that it would be 1,400 baht. I said that was a bit expensive and could I go to Pattaya by bus. He said yes, but I would have to take a taxi into Bangkok first. I asked him if there was any buses to Pattaya from the airport. He again said no and that I need to go to Ekamai bus station. Of course that was a complete lie.
Private Bus to Pattaya from the Airport
Again, I knew very well how to get to the bus terminal at the airport. But, I wanted to pretend I was a tourist fresh off the boat. Up in the arrivals lounge there were two signs for buses. One said “Airport Express” and the other “Airport Shuttle”. Not too clear which one is which. So, I went to the desk for Airport Express which is next to the taxi rank. They provide a bus service into Bangkok for 150 baht each. I asked the lady on duty where I can catch a bus to Pattaya. She said she didn’t know and suggested I asked the security guard. Which I did and he said I needed to get on the Shuttle Bus back up on level 2 to the bus terminal at the airport. So, up I went to the arrival lounge again and then outside where I had to deal with the limousine drivers again. At first they didn’t want to help me find the shuttle bus stop, but in the end they did help me. Actually, they are easy to find. There are stops at each end of level 2 and also in the middle.
The ride to the bus terminal only took about ten minutes. Make sure you take the express bus and not the ordinary one. The former is not only quicker but has room for your luggage too. At the bus terminal there were buses for destinations inside Bangkok and also other cities. Walk to the far end where you will see bilingual signs above the coaches. The orange ones are for other cities in the country. The ticket office there has a big sign for a company called The Transport Ltd. I asked about Pattaya and they told me there was a bus about to go in ten minutes. How much? Only 106 baht! A big difference to my first quoted price of 2,600 baht for a limo. They have buses going at 6.30 a.m., 9 a.m., 1 p.m., 5 p.m. and 8.30 p.m. I was about to walk away when I noticed another sign in the same window for a different company called Pattaya Bus. These had buses at 8 a.m., 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. There is a 7–Eleven here if you arrive at the wrong time. I bought some hot dogs and sat and waited to see if the Pattaya bus would leave on time. While I waited, some public buses from Bangkok came and went. They were going to other destinations like Chonburi but I guess there would be some for Pattaya too. The disadvantage about these buses is that they all looked full. However, the private buses I mentioned before started at the airport and were empty. I think if you have a two hour wait then don’t rush to buy your ticket from the private company. Wait and see if a public bus comes and then pay the driver.
So, not too many scams after all. To summarize, when you come out of customs and enter the arrival lounge, follow the sign to the lower level if you want to go to Pattaya by taxi for about 1,200 – 1,400 baht. Or go outside and take the shuttle bus to the airport bus terminal for the private buses to Pattaya for only 106 baht. The third alternative are the limousines for 2,400 – 2,600 baht. I will do another blog on how to get into Bangkok from the new airport soon. If you have any questions then please DO NOT post them here as a comment. They will not be answered. Please use our forums at ThailandQA.com for questions.