Although the vast majority of tourists will only be familiar with Bangkok’s modern international airport, Suvarnabhumi, Thailand has dozens of airports around the country. Combined with a highly competitive domestic flight industry they offer a very cheap and convenient way to get around the country. Thailand is a reasonably large country and many journeys by bus can take more than 12 hours, especially when taking into account the various stops the driver may make. With the introduction of super-discount domestic carriers such as Air Asia and VietJet Air, you may well find that for the same cost of the bus ticket, you could fly and save yourself a lot of time and hassle. Some of the smaller, provincial airports are often not much more than a landing strip with an outbuilding but at all of the airports, you’ll be able to find public transport options or somewhere to rent a vehicle.
Bangkok – Suvarnabhumi Airport
Bangkok’s modern and sprawling airport was built in 2006 and has all the features you’d expect of an airport in the west, and is located around 30km east of central Bangkok. There are numerous shops and food outlets, serving everything from local Thai food to western fast food, and a 7-Eleven which always seems to be very busy. On the ground floor is a taxi rank where you can grab a taxi into the city center for around 600 baht ($20), or go down to the basement for the airport rail link that takes you as far as Phaya Thai for only 45 baht ($1.50). One thing to note is that the money exchange booths in the arrival hall give poor rates, whereas the ones in the basement offer the same rates as you’d find in the city center.
Bangkok – Don Mueang Airport
Before Suvarnabhumi was built, Don Mueang was Bangkok’s only international airport. Now primarily offering bargain domestic flights, the airport is north of the city center, however, you can easily get a taxi or bus into the city center cheaply. It’s notably less impressive than Suvarnabhumi but still has plenty of facilities including restaurants, car hire booths, and money exchangers.
Phuket airport is very convenient for international travelers who just want to hit the beach and avoid the congestion of Bangkok. You can expect to pay a little more for flights direct to Phuket compared to Bangkok, but if you’re short on time it is probably worth it. The third busiest airport in Thailand, it’s relatively small but has many transport options to get you to your accommodation including car hire services. Unfortunately, like elsewhere on the island the taxi/tuk-tuk fares are grossly inflated but you can get a shared minibus or the Phuket Smart Bus to save yourself quite a lot of money.
Koh Samui Airport
Koh Samui airport is small and basic but offers a convenient way of getting to the island with the minimum of fuss. However, because Bangkok Airways holds a monopoly on the airport, prices for flights to the island are about three times what you’d expect. To save money, you can get a bus down to Chumphon and take the catamaran to the island, which does take a long time but will save you at least 1000 baht. Alternatively, you can fly to Surat Thani and then take a boat to Samui.
Surat Thani Airport
Whilst Surat Thani itself is a rather quiet, typically Thai provincial town, having an airport there means that travelers from Bangkok wanting to visit the islands in the Gulf of Thailand don’t need the hassle of a 12-hour bus ride. With flights taking just over an hour and costing not much more than 500 baht, it’s a no-brainer and may even be cheaper than the bus tickets sold on Khao San Road. From the airport, you simply need to catch the bus to the Donsak Pier, and from there you can board the Lomprayah catamaran, which stops at Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, and Koh Samui.
U-Tapao International Airport
U-Tapao international airport is both a civil and military airport located in Rayong province. Located around 14km south of the capital, because of its location it is very convenient for travelers wanting to visit both Koh Samet and Pattaya. From this airport, you can catch cheap flights to Malaysia, Vietnam, Russia and from the end of 2021, even direct flights to the UK will be available. Of course, you can also find many domestic routes including Chiang Mai, Phuket, Koh Samui, and Udon Thani.
Chiang Mai International Airport
The fourth busiest airport in Thailand, Chiang Mai International Airport offers a convenient gateway to the north of the country, with its cooler climate and abundance of tourist attractions. The airport itself is only a few kilometers north of the city center and you can get from the airport to the old town in around 15 minutes. Flying to Chiang Mai means that travelers can avoid the grueling and painfully slow train journey from the capital or an uncomfortably long bus ride. 700 km north of Bangkok, flights take just over an hour and start from around 500 baht ($16) one way, a real bargain.
Chiang Rai Airport
Chiang Rai airport is a very small and basic airport with few facilities. However, you can fly to Chiang Rai very cheaply from Bangkok for only 500 baht ($16) with VietJet Air, one of the cheapest domestic carriers in Thailand. Chiang Rai is a great place to visit, with the famous white temple, though notably smaller and quieter than Chiang Mai. It’s convenient for crossing into both Myanmar and Laos, at Mae Sai and Chiang Khong respectively.
Ubon Ratchathani Airport
Although Ubon Ratchathani itself is a fairly unremarkable provincial town for most travelers, having an airport there is very convenient and allows travelers to avoid a 10-11 hour minibus ride from Bangkok. Again, it is a fairly small airport and only offers flights to Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi, but it is very convenient for people wanting to cross into Laos at Mukdahan to renew their visas at the Thai embassy in Savannakhet.