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Suvarnabhumi airport terminal is approximately 30 kilometres (19 miles) east, half an hour from the broad Bangkok CBD area, depending on traffic and time of day. The most direct route is via the raised freeway between, which incurs toll of 70 Baht and airport tax of 50 Baht - total 120 Baht (approx $4.) There are alternative routes but they will take much longer in the Bangkok traffic, which can sometimes appear to be a permanent traffic jam as there are about 13 million vehicles in Bangkok.
Getting to your accommodation can cost a little or a lot, often depending on whether you have been to Bangkok before. As you leave the terminal with your luggage, it will be evident to locals from your clothes and face whether you are a new or experienced Bangkok traveller, and accordingly you will be targetted for all sorts of transportation offers ranging from small buses to limousines. You have the option of either a flat fee agreed up front or a metered taxi trip. A metered taxi trip is always going to be the cheapest. Thai taxi meters have a flagfall of 35 baht and operate mainly on distance - so if you are not moving in a traffic jam, the meter ticks more slowly. If you are waylaid by the "helpful" go-betweens in the terminal they will ask you to prepay a flat fee and provide you with a receipt - of course this means the actual taxi driver will get less and you will be paying a bit more, depending on how hard you bargained with the tout.
Public taxi stands are located on level 1 (one level down from the Arrivals level). If you select a metered taxi the driver may ask you to provide the toll fees en route - the booths have plenty of change. Alternately you should be able to negotiate a mini bus taxi which will hold about 4 people plus luggage for around 1000 Baht ($30) or a regular taxi for 2 people plus luggage which should cost no more than 600 Baht ($18) including freeway tolls and taxes, which is still pretty cheap door to door transport. Airport Express operates buses on four routes for 150 baht - there are hourly buses from 5:00 am in the morning to midnight. Airport Express Counter is located at Level 1, near entrance 8. If this is still more than your budget allows, a 24 hour bus service outside Arrivals on the second floor will transfer you to the Transport Centre for 35 baht, where you can choose from about 11 bus routes to the city areas.
Beware of a scam that was operating as recently as March 2011 - you may have negotiated a fee of say 800 baht for a particular "limousine" - late model Mercedes, right outside the terminal doors. You would get in to a nice clean car that was not a metered taxi. After travelling a couple of miles, the driver will turn into a car rental yard and proceed to swap your luggage to a different, much older car for the rest of the trip and try to increase the fare to $1000 baht based on "freeway tolls!" Just renegotiate the overall fee back down to 600 baht in total by firmly insisting - you rarely need to raise your voice in Thailand as it is considered impolite.
Cheaper and faster is the train. The Airport Rail Link City Line leaves every 15 minutes, takes 25 minutes for the whole distance because it makes 6 stops in between, and costs 45 baht per person. Then take a taxi from your stop to your final destination.