We’ve all been there – stumble off the plane, jetlagged and hungry. Trying not to look like a criminal for the immigration officer, grab your bags, and then ask the big question: how do I get to my hotel?

As most airports are very different from one another, there are no easy answers that can be used across every airport. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some general rules that apply to most places, so let’s look at roughly what your options are when you land in an Asian airport.

The most important thing you need to remember is that Asian airports, in general, are rife with transportation scams. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it is. Most center around dodgy taxis who rig their meters, get “lost” on the way to your hotel, or even drive off with your bags still in the trunk! But if you keep your wits and know the landscape, you’ll be just fine.

Long taxi queues! | realities of airport transfers
Long taxi queues!

Taxi Queues

Most airports in Asia’s big cities have official taxi queues outside the arrivals hall, most often with a service desk that notes your destination and gives you some kind of receipt. You’ll almost always get a nice, boring ride into the city, which is just what you want. But what you should watch out for are people who approach you inside the airport asking if you need a taxi, as well as groups that wait inside the arrival hall for sucker fares to walk by. Almost all will try to get you into an illegal or unregistered taxi to get a bit of extra money out of you, so just ignore anyone who approaches you in the airport with an offer.

Airport Rail Link | realities of airport transfers
Airport Rail Link

Airport Train Links

The best way to get into the city is the train. However – and a bit surprisingly – Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok are the only two cities that have a train right to the airport. Saigon’s new Long Thanh International Airport (opening in 2025) will have one, and rail upgrades are planned for Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport for 2015, but until then, it’s KL or BKK for the rail win. While you do have to know where your hotel is relative to the train and what station to get off at, you won’t have to hassle with taxis or tollways or bad traffic. If you have just a little bit of luggage and can carry it for a few blocks, this is a good option.

Hire a Limousine

But you know what? You deserve to relax a bit. You deserve to put your feet up and know that you’ll get to your hotel safely and without a scam. Thankfully, Asian airports can also give you just what you need in this regard. To spoil yourself, hire a limousine into the city! But be aware – in Asia “limousine” is not a stretch car with paparazzi-proof blacked out windows – it’s just basically a really nice full-size car, usually a loaded Toyota Camry, but sometimes you can find a Mercedes or BMW.

These are usually available from a counter in the airport, and in most Asian capitals you can book a limo in advance online to pick you up. Of course, they cost more – sometimes 4 or 5 times the cost of a regular taxi, depending on which city you’re in, but if it’s a no-hassle ride to the hotel door, this is your best bet.

Ask a friend

And last, but certainly not least – if you know someone at your destination and they’ll go above and beyond by meeting you at the airport, buy that person a drink! It’s certainly the easiest option out of all of them for new arrivals.

Eak from Smiling Albino
Eak from Smiling Albino

Pickup from Smiling Albino

Of course, at Smiling Albino we strive to make your travel and transitions effortless and smooth. No need to worry about having local currency on hand, or lack of language abilities. Whether it’s from the airport to your hotel or from Chiang Mai to Chaing Rai. We take the anxiety out of getting from point A to point B. Will be waiting as you exit the luggage hall, with a smiling face and walk you right out to your waiting car, no queues, and no problems. Consider us your on the ground gurus for how to navigate around Southeast asia. Inquire with us for your travel plans.

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