Archive for March, 2012

How To Fast Track Past The Long Immigration Queues At Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport And Get Through In Minutes Rather Than Hours

Three Ways To Beat Those Frustrating Immigration Queues

My excitement at packing my bag for another trip to my retirement house we built in Pakchong (Pak Chong) is tempered by the thought of suffering the long delays and waiting to get through the immigration checks at the airport on arrival. (And on departure but let’s not get ahead of ourselves!)

I started writing this post assuming that I would be in for the long queues at the airport immigration that we all know and hate.

Thinking about these delays, I recalled something someone had written on the Thai Visa wesbsite about fast tracking through immigration because he had a business class air ticket. I started to investigate the possibility of this fast track service and almost by accident discovered that anyone could fast track through the immigration, either the FREE way or by paying for it, whatever kind of air ticket they had bought!

This is the story…

Just How Bad Are The Long Immigration Queues At Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport?

I have been following with disconcertion the debate on the Thai Visa forum (Massive Delays Through Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport Immigration) about the long delays to get through immigration at the Suvarnabhumi Airport and as I pack my bag for my next trip to Thailand I’m not looking forward to it at all.

Some Comments From Disgruntled Travelers On The Waiting Times At The Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport

These are just a few of the many comments by travellers from the Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport Passenger Reviews and Customer opinions forum on the website.

“All I can say is the immigration procedure is farcical.”

“I’d rank such disorganised airports as Sydney, Ho Chi Minh and Denpasar as better run than Bangkok”

” I travel all round the world and this airport ranks as one of the worst major airports I travel through.”

“Transiting through this airport is nightmare.”

Fast Track Method No. 1. Get A Business Class Air Ticket?

Last time I entered it took me about an hour to get through (entering Thailand) and I was pretty fed up I can say. One guy on the Thai Visa forum said that if you have a Business Class ticket than you can go through the business channel and short-cut the queues.

It so happens that when I went to buy my air ticket earlier this year there were only one or two spaces left on direct flights near Easter and they were on Business Class on Thai Airways. I really had no choice but to cough up the £2,555.83 * ($3,322.58 or 122,679.84 Thai Baht) fare if I wanted to travel at that time (I did). Ouch!

Even so I could not get the exact flight I wanted and had to leave at lunchtime instead of the evening. Hence I lost a day at work.

* By comparison, my standard class ticket with EVA Air last Christmas was £1,149.73 ($1494.65, 551087.40 Baht). So Business Class is about double the normal fare. You’d expect a few extra perks for that apart from a wider seat and decent food.

Anyway I read this on the website and I perked up a bit:-

“My wife and I flew business class and we were given a premium pass to help us through security and immigration.”

Also I just found this statement on

“At Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, Royal Silk Class passengers have their own exclusive check-in lounge, with separate fast-track immigration channels, before they proceed to any of six Royal Silk lounges”

And this:-

Fast-Track Immigration at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International airport

Updated on July 14, 2010

“All Première guests traveling from Bangkok on all Jet Airways flights will be able to enjoy the new Fast-Track Immigration service at the Suvarnabhumi International airport at Bangkok. No need to wait in long immigration lines! This new privilege offers Première guests a special immigration channel which bypasses normal queuing.” on the website. (Admittedly not Thai Airways, but the principle is the same. i.e. it seems that a fast-track immigration service is available.)

So I concluded that Business Class travelers can short-cut the immigration queues on landing at Bangkok.

Can anybody comment on whether you can by-pass the immigration queues on entering Suvarnabhumi Airport if you are have a business class air ticket?

Fast Track Method No. 2. The Free Way To Beat The Queues – Cheat

How I Avoided Missing My Flight Due To Long Immigration Queues Leaving Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport

If the immigration queues on arrival at the Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport are terrible, they are nowhere near the terrible queues to get through the Thai immigration when leaving Thailand through the Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport.

I experienced this for the first time whan I left Bangkok in January, 2012 and I nearly missed my flight.

I arrived at the airport with plenty of time to check in and there was no check-in queue. Then when I went through to the immigration desks my jaw dropped when I saw the huge queue. I had been used to long queues at Heathrow airport in the UK after the liquid bomb scare, but Heathrow seems like a fast-track process compared to what I witnessed in Bangkok.

The queue was ‘controlled’ by those portable posts with black webbing tape strung between them. The posts were arranged in zig-zag back and forth across the immigration hall and about twenty lines deep to the front of the queue.

As I slowly (very slowly) moved along the queue I became quite alarmed at how slowly it was moving. As an engineer (engineers always count or calculate everyhting) I started to count how far the que moved in a minute. Then a quick calculation showed me that is would take two hours to get to the front of the queue. Then I would still have the long walk out to the terminal whch as you know can be half an hour.

In danger of missing my flight, this was unacceptable.

Always naughty, I slipped under the webbing tape and was in the next line. Nobody complained so I did it again. And again until I was at the front of the queue and ready for the first hurdle of the immigration process – no not the immigration desks – but security. Shoes off, belt off, lap top out, jacket off and through. Then it was straight on to the immigration desks where the queues’s were quite short.

I’m not looking forward to doing that again.

Fast Track Method No. 3. Fast Track Airport Services

Fast Track Services To Avoid The Immigration Queues At Suvarnabhumi Airport

As I became engrossed in this issue of the long delays at the airport and the possibility of being able to fast track through immigration I started to do a bit of investigation on the Internet.

First I found this on

Danish-Thai Chamber of Commerce : Fast Track Immigration in Suvarnabhumi Airport

03 February 2011

Danish-Thai Chamber of Commerce offers Corporate Members to buy “fast track” tickets that will make it possible for the members to skip the long waiting lines at the immigration in Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport. Hours of waiting in the ordinary line for tourists can be cut down to 10 minutes at the Fast Track counter for only 200 baht per ticket that are sold by the Chamber’s office.

“If you travel from and to Suvarnabhumi Airport on a regular basis you will spend much time in the immigration process. The fast track service will save a lot of valuable time for our members and at a very competitive price,” says Stig Vagt-Andersen, Member of the Board at DanCham, who has arranged the special offer.

DanCham offers 10 fast track tickets at 2,000 Baht while pricing found on various internet sites shows prices more than ten times higher than the offer from DanCham. Usually, the fast track service will be provided if you got a Premium Class flight ticket or you can buy the service from several companies in the airport.

That sparked my imagination and very quickly I found that there are several companies in Bangkok offering a fast track service at the airport to circumvent the immigration queues. Of course there is a fee for this service. Here are some of the fast track services I came across, with examples of their services:-

Service: Meet and Assist and escort through formalities on arrival and departure First Class lounge access at airport on departure.

Price: One person 3,700 Baht

Service: As soon as you step foot off the aircraft, we will have staff waiting for you at the gate to escort you to the VIP fast track immigration line for your convenience. After immigration, our staff will escort you to the baggage carousel and assist you retrieve your baggage. After retrieval of your baggage, we will escort you to the fast track customs line to avoid long customs check saving you time. If you have relatives/friends picking you up, we will make sure you meet up with them.

Price: 1,400 Baht. (it doesn’t clearly say if this is just arrival only or arrival and departure. I assume arrival only)

Service: Our friendly Airport Hostess or host will meet & greet with you at the arrival gate, holding a sign with your name or a more discrete expression like a company name, logo, initials, etc.

She or he will help with carry-on luggage and lead you to the exclusive fast track immigration counters, where he or she will assist with immigration documents details to ensure that your official entry into Thailand occurs without any delays.

After collecting your luggage from the Bagage claim area, she or he will then guide you through customs and deliver your bags to one of our limousines that just then pulls up in front of the arrival hall at Suvarnabhumi Airport.

If you are traveling by other means of transportation, you will be taken to it instead. If the pick up vehicle does not hold green or yellow license plates, please ask the driver to park in the parking building and meet at outerdoor number 3.

Price: 1,100 Baht. (Arrival only, limousine not included)
Price: 2,100 Baht. (Arrival and departure, limousine not included)

Other Services Offered

These companies also offer other services, typically limousine transport to/from your hotel.

Which Method Will You Choose To Get Through Thai Immigration At The Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport?

Grin And Bear It?

There are those who hate being ripped off and see these fast-track services as being a rip-off. These people may take the view that the airport shouldn’t need fast-track services to get what is taken for granted in most other airports around the world.

Having spent many thousands of Baht on air tickets and other transport costs the last thing they want is to fork out for ‘services’ that fill in for the Thai immigration and airport planning and execution failures.

They may take a cynical view and see the immigration department deliberately creating long queues so that they can take a rake-off from the fast-track services. I personally don’t think this is true, but some people may think so and consequently get angry.

Pay For The Fast-Track Service?

I have no experience of the services, having only just discovered them.

If anyone has used them every reader would love to hear their comments, so please post your experiences below.

Get A Business Class Ticket?

Again, I have not flown Business Class to Bangkok (until this time coming), so I have no experience, but watch this space for a report in a couple of weeks time.

At around twice the normal fair, business class tickets are extremely expensive and most people would find the additional cost difficult to justify. I’m travelling alone but if you are travelling with your wife two trips (to the U.K.) would cost around £10,000. That’s $15,000 or 480,000 Baht! Half a million Baht!

That’s nearly as much as we paid for the brand new Toyota Hilux Vigo pickup we bought in Bangkok.

Whatever your views and experience please leave a comment below. Your email address will not be divulged to any third party and you have the choice if you want to be kept posted of further comment.

Can I Retire In Thailand With $630,000 Cash And No Other Income?

This question arises again and again just as the question “How much does it cost to build a house in Thailand”

The answer is always as long as a piece of string. But let’s try to do better than that and open it up for comments.

The question was:-

 Hello Alan,

My name is P, I am formerly from Scotland but now live in Australia. I am 59 Years old and I am seriously considering Retiring to Thailand. I have Approx $630,000 and wondered if this was enough to live on ? I have nothing else, only this amount of money. I would be grateful if you could help me with this Question.

Thanks, P

This Is My Short Answer To The Question Of How Much Money You Need To Retire To Thailand

Hi P,
Thanks for the email and the question. Sorry about the delay in responding – been on a business course.
You don’t say whether that $630,000 is US or Austrailian dollars. Actually doesn’t really matter, US $1 = 30 Baht , AUS $1= 33 Baht. Not a great deal of difference in the scheme of things.
My first answer would be a resounding YES, if you’ve got that money why aren’t you in Thailand already?
This is based on if I had $630,000, but then my circumstances and yours may well be very different. For example I own land and a house and a new car in Thailand. If you don’t have a house then you need to figure out where you are going to live and the cost.
A lot also depends upon any extravagant habits you may have.
Last time I was in Thailand (last Christmas) I was spending about 1,000 Baht a day on living expenses, made up of a meal out for myself and Kanyah, my wife, costing 500 Baht, plus a bottle of wine around 400 Baht plus 100 Baht on other meals and etc.
So we were living on 1,000 Baht/day. (Excluding my very expensive model engineering workshop set-up costs)
Let’s say you are a bit more adventurous. Say you need 2,000 Baht/Day.
2,000 Baht/day is 60,000 Baht/month. The Thai Government have set the requirement for a Thai retirement visa at a monthly income of not less than 65,000 Baht. So those two figures tie up.
Of course, we live in Pakchong (Pak Chong), and not in an expensive area. If you live in a condominium in one of the seaside holiday resorts (e.g. Phucket) you could be spending a lot more.
Your $630,000 would bring you 189,000,000 Baht or 9,450 days at 2,000 Baht/day. That’s 26 years, you are 59 years old now so you could last until you reach 85 years old.
But it’s not that simple. There are other factors to take account of.
1) Inflation
This is running at around 5% in Thailand. So your income would fall by 5% a year. (Unless you are a savvy investor and can invest your money wisely to offset at least some of the inflation effect.)
I haven’t run a spreadsheet to model how this would erode your income. My suspicion is that it would seriously reduce your income after around 10 years. (But see below)
2) Your Needs Reduce With Age
As you get older, your needs reduce. If you drink fine wine (as I do) for example, you’ll be drinking less or not at all. You’ll have fewer meals out and travel less.
Whether you can survive on a 5% reduction on your income year by year needs some thought and a calculator.
3) Accommodation Costs
I have mentioned this before. If you are paying rent, then obviously this is an extra cost. If you want to buy your house then it reduces your capital.
4) Emergencies
For me this is the killer. What would happen if in old age you needed serious medical treatment?
Would you have it in Thailand or pay for a flight and accommodation in Australia to get your treatment?
How much of your capital would you put aside for this?
5) Other Expenses
The 2,000 Baht/day is plenty for normal everyday living. But what about other costs that may crop up, in addition to those mentioned above?
  • Travel costs. Maybe you want to go home every year. Or maybe you want to travel around Thailand or overseas. Hotels, even in Thailand, will soon make a big dent in your 2,000 Baht/day.
  • You haven’t mentioned anything about a Thai companion. Thai wife? Ouch!
  • Car repairs. I bought a brand new Toyota Hilux Vigo pickup in Bangkok a year ago and it’s a fantastic investment. It will probably last 26 years. But it will need repairs and maintenance.
6) Calamities
Call me a pessimist, a realist, or just cautious, I fear some major disasters on the way in the next 26 years. And not without good reason. Just look at the mess the world is in:-
  • Global recession cause by the financial collapse.
  • Global warming.
  • Oil running out and getting more expensive.
  • World war three looming. (Iran)
On a less gloomy level look at what could happen in Thailand:-
  • Your house burns down.
  • Your wife kicks you out.
  • The Thai government won’t give you a visa.
  • Your money is embezzled.
Sorry to be such a downer, but my advice is:-
“Have a Plan B”

I’m not burning my boats to retire to Thailand. I’m keeping my house in the U.K. I am developing not one but several other income streams in addition to my pension.
Of course some of these calamities could apply whether you retire in Thailand or retire in Australia.
Which brings me to the point and perhaps you asked the wrong question.

Your question was “Is $630,000 enough to retire on in Thailand”

Now it’s my time to ask a question. If you’re not going to retire to Thailand, where are you going to retire to?

Perhaps your question should have been “Can I get a better standard of life retiring on a lump sum of $630,000 in Thailand that I can in Australia with the same amount of money?”

P, I hope this helps.

There are so many things to consider, so many different situations, it’s really impossible to answer your question.

But my advice is “Have a Plan B”.

Dear Reader Please Add Your Comments Below

Many of you already live in Thailand. Some have lived in Thailand for many years.

Please give us the benefit of your experience of what it costs to live in Thailand, and what the risks are with your retirement budget.

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