I'm travelling to Koh Samui and I have a 16-hour stopover in Bangkok, which I'm assuming would need to get onto a new plane. When we arrive in Bangkok, do I just follow the people on my plane? Not too sure where I would go. Will there be signs that I follow to the other gate where I would wait?

What do you do in general anyway during a stopover? It would be great to know for other countries I want to go, which involve having a stopover.

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    Gully, understand that 16 hours is an unusually long stopover. It's usually like "one hour". Usually (when it's like "one hour") you just go to the toilet and then walk to the other plane. End of story. (It is very, very easy to find the other plane, there are signs everywhere.) In your unusual case the stopover is incredibly long - 16 hours!
    – Fattie
    Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 18:03
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    @Fattie Long and even overnight stopovers are not that unusual if you fly long-haul between locations which are not both major hubs (and especially if you are a cheapskate). Sometimes you have to find your way to another airport after getting to a hub. Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 19:08
  • Hi @SpehroPefhany - I think out of every million stopovers, not many are 16+ hours - maybe 5,000 at worst. I wanted to make it clear to the OP, who perhaps has not flown before? Hey it's a good point about having to change airports sometimes - ouch.
    – Fattie
    Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 19:37
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    I always thought there was a distinction between a "stopover," where you intentionally stop for an extended period of time to see an intermediate destination, and a "layover," where you are only there because that's how the flights fell. Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 21:02
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    @Fattie Please stop making up numbers. A one-hour layover between international flights is unusual and unadvisable: there's a very high chance that delays will cause you to miss your connection. Indeed, even if your flights are on-time, it can easily take an hour to get through immigration. And it's easy to end up with long layovers if there are only one or two flights a day to your final destination. Indeed, I've travelled on routes where the airline I was using only had three flights a week. Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 10:37

6 Answers 6


If you're going to Koh Samui via Bangkok, you will change planes, indeed, and probably airlines: few airlines go to Samui (it used to be a Bangkok Airways monopoly, and PG still have the lion's share of flights). I'm also assuming you're arriving in Suvarnabhumi (since DMK also serves as an international airport for low-cost carriers, there's a small possibility that you don't arrive at BKK).

When you arrive in Bangkok you have two choices: enter Bangkok proper, and visit (16 hours is a long time to wait in an airport), or indeed go to the domestic terminal (it's all the way at one end of the airport), pass through immigration and security, and wait a long time for your plane.

The second choice would be stupid, even if you're on a budget -- nothing is cheap in Suvarnabhumi, and you'll be bored senseless by the time you board your next plane.

Here is the airport map: the Domestic area is all the way to the left. Immigration in the middle.

enter image description here

Anyway I'd recommend you go to Bangkok and visit. Follow the crowd off the plane (most of them will be indeed heading to Immigration), and keep an eye for the blue signs. enter image description here

Note that in many cases your luggage can be checked-in all the way to Samui (Bangkok Airways has many interline agreements), but this requires that you stay airside. Not ideal. If you wish to visit Bangkok, you'll have to pick up your luggage and check it in again later.

If you have a day-time layover, and don't want to pay for a hotel, you can store your luggage at the coin locker in Phaya Thai station, at the intersection of the Airport RailLink and BTS lines:

enter image description here

The Airport RailLink is the best and cheapest way to go downtown. 45 Baht, and zero traffic. The station is two floors below the arrival level. You go all the way to the terminus, Phaya Thai, and you're downtown. Plenty of things to do. Since you have a 16-hour layover, it means you really have about 12 hours: 1 hour to pass through Immigration, pick up your bags, find your way to the train. 45 minutes to Phaya Thai. And back. Arrive 1.5 hours before departure: that's 4 hours taken out of your 16. So you still have half a day in Bangkok. Not bad. Enjoy!

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    How would the airline even know you've left the airside?
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 16:46
  • Would I not follow the transfer sign? Or is that only if I was with one airline
    – user67204
    Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 16:47
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    @JonathanReez Because if you decide to leave airside, you won't use the transfer desk. And you won't have your boarding pass -- which is given to you in Bangkok, at the transfer desk, not at your departure airport.
    – user67108
    Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 16:56
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    @JonathanReez nope. The transfer desk (for domestic) is right next to the transfer Immigration counters. You go to the transfer desk, and onwards to Immigration. They specifically mention that if you check in your luggage through, you stay with it, airside.
    – user67108
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 2:46
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    The left luggage service in Suvarnabhumi is on the second floor and costs 100 baht/day - quite reasonable. Not lockers, but you could put a lock on your bag. The Phayathai lockers are smallish, not for full-sized suitcases.
    – neubau
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 14:03

There two general variants on the stopover:

  • Connection without immigration: Domestic to domestic connections, many international to international (although rarely the US) and domestic to international (unless the country has exit immigration). Also international flights within the Schengen zone.
  • Connection through immigration: This includes almost all international to domestic connections (some countries have immigration outside of their own country such as US immigration in Canada and Bahamas)

Your case is of the second type since Bangkok will be your port-of-entry to Thailand.

The process is generally to disembark and follow the signs which apply to you. For most people these will be the same up to immigration:

  1. Follow the signs to immigration if you come from an applicable flight. Since this is usually required of all passengers, there will usually be no other option, meaning all other hallways and doors will be closed to you. There are generally staff on hand to ensure this and to assist minors, elderly and rare cases what are exempt. When in doubt, you can ask them what to do.

  2. Once passed immigration you may have to proceed to baggage claim if your luggage was not checked through to your final destination. They should have told you this at the check-in counter and this is the norm rather than exception now, as long as you have booked the trip as a single ticket. Even, if not, they sometimes can check it through if you ask.

    • In most airports, claiming luggage this will force you to leave the secure area. In this case you follow the signs to the right carousel or drop-off-location of luggage for your flight. When you have collected your luggage proceed to the luggage drop-off area. Some airports have one or more for all flights, some require you to drop it off at the check-in counter for your airline. If you do not see signs for baggage drop, go to the airline counter.
    • Since you left the secure area, you must go through security again. Now is a good time to check your watch and see how much time you have left to decide if there is anything you have time to do before your next flight. More on this further down.
  3. Look for Departure Screens scattered throughout the airport. There search for your airline and flight number. Often they are sorted by the destination city. When you find the row for your flight, read it and identify the gate and terminal your next flight will depart from.

  4. Follow the sings to the departure gate for your flight. If this is in a different terminal than you are, change terminals first, since gate numbers may repeat between terminals. There will be signs to each terminal. Once in the right terminal, proceed to the gate. You usually must be at the gate 60 to 30 minutes before departure, so make sure you go on time.

Now if you have extra time. Use the facilities. Bathrooms in the airport are much better, spacious and cleaner than those on the plane. Get yourself some snacks if you do not fancy the airplane food and its going to be a long flight. Probably this will not be the case for you going to your destination but on your way back it probably will.

There are variants all over the world on the above but it generally goes like that. Airports are rather serious places, so there are plenty of safety for people not to do the wrong thing although it is your responsibility to reach the departure gate on time.

With a long stopover, there are many things you can do, depending on where you are and the location of the airport. Ask about transport time to wherever you are headed and back to make sure you really have time. Some airports are 1h+ outside any major city, so that is easily 2 hours less.

Things to do on a layover

  • Sleep if you are tired. If you just came off from a redeye or are otherwise too tired for anything, find a place to sleep. Your true destination awaits. Many international airports have hotels right in the airport and there are options with free shuttles to transport people back and forth to nearby hotels. Usually the hotel at the airport is expensive but you save a lot of time, so get to sleep more and do not have to worry about return traffic.
  • Visiting is an interesting possibility if you are somewhere new. You can get onto one of those tour buses that leave the airport every hour or so and do a quick loop if time is limited and you don't want to risk unexpected issues. Otherwise, ask at the Tourist Information Counter and find your own way. That can be fun but give plenty of time. I tried it this year in Lisbon and got back to my gate only 10 mins before the flight because 2 trams broke down while I was on my way back!
  • Shopping. Again, it depends on the location but some famously cheap places often have shopping shuttles that take people from the airport to a mall or outlet center and back. Never tried this myself but I know people who just do that when they travel!
  • If you go (say) New York to Amsterdam via Heathrow, you would not need to clear immigration in the UK. However the US does require all incoming passengers to clear immigration even if they are immediately going to depart to an international destination. I think Coke's edit was correct (unless you can point to a specfic route which does not require clearing immigration). Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 18:39
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    @Coke: It is rude to make an edit for the second time which an author has already reverted. Please don't get into edit wars; if you think the author's wording is wrong, either discuss in comments or just down-vote. Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 18:40
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    @MartinBonner Why downvote when the answer is excellent Overall? Personally I think this should become a canonical
    – Crazydre
    Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 18:48
  • @MartinBonner - Nassau to Montreal (and back) via the US does not require immigration to be cleared in the US since it is already cleared in the Bahamas. Same for Montreal to Guatemala (but not the other way) via the US also does not need to clear immigration in the US since that is done in Canada.
    – Itai
    Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 19:53

Looking at the image in another answer, follow the white transfer sign, which essentially means transfer to domestic flights. This will lead you to border control, because you'll be entering Thailand in Bangkok, as you're continuing domestically (domestic flights are not subject to border control, which is why it's cleared in Bangkok).

After immigration, follow signs for the gate.

Alternatively, if wishing to visit Bangkok, follow the signs for the exit - however, if your baggage is checked through, it may be a hassle to retrieve it spontaneously.


Leave your luggage in a locker at the airport.

Take the skytrain to its terminal.

Right there you have the MBK mall on the south. A big mall on 6 stories full of small shops. It is a mix between traditional Thai street markets and modern malls.

MBK mall

Then on the north side of the sytrain terminal there is Siam Paragon, the luxury mall with all luxury brands. This place is beautiful. One hour to visit both malls is enough for me.

Then walk to the north and take the boat bus (20 THB) to the center.

Typical Bangkok boat bus

Visit some temple, enjoy street food, get a 2-hour Thai massage or a more relaxing oil massage then head back to the sky train terminal.

Use motorbikes taxi to move, never tuk tuk (noisy, smelly, slow as car, expensive). Always take the smallest portion of street food. You will always see another one you want to try, and if you're full you can't enjoy.


  • Unless something has radically changed lately, he would have to take the Airport Rail Link from Suvarnabhumi first. And even then, it connects to the Sukhumvit skytrain line, while MBK is on the Silom line (but easily walkable from Siam station on the Sukhumvit line). One hour for both MBK and Paragon would be very short! As a first timer in Bangkok you could easily spend half a day in MBK.
    – Magnus
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 18:30

Following the other people on your plane is not the best solution since they could have a connection to a flight different from yours.

There isn't a general solution to stopover. Sometimes if you book a single ticket for your journey you can get a night in a hotel close to airport. In some other cases you can visit the town or sleep in the airport.

(edit: In case you wish to exit the airport you need to be sure that you have all the documents needed to enter that country)

It's completely up to you.

Anyway you will not have any issue in the airport since you will find plenty of screens where it's written time and gate for your next flight. If signs are not clear you can ask to airport staff and they will help you.

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    If you try to get a hotel nearby, you need to make sure you have permission to enter the country. Also some airports will close for the night. Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 15:49
  • @DJClayworth you're right, thanks. I edited the answer
    – Val
    Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 15:54
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    Since the OP is going to Samui with someone, they need to have the proper documentation to enter Thailand. Whether they decide to stay airside, or go out and visit, they need to pass through immigration in Suvarnahbumi airport. Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 16:14

16 hours is nothing. Go to a coffee-shop with your laptop. Then walk around. Eat. Take pictures. Listen to the music. Go to coffee-shop again.

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