Last night when the hordes of new volunteers arrived, I was asked by one of them, ‘What does a volunteer do if they don’t find the person to pick them up at the airport?’
I was thinking about this, and the fact that I have only ever had one person meet me from any of the airports that I have flown into. I have always been an independent traveler who organizes and does things on their own so not being picked up at an airport isn’t to worrying for me, but for new people, or those who haven’t traveled before, this must be a pretty daunting prospect.
Now all volunteers will be given an online handbook that will explain the process of being picked up but understandably you might forget or not read that bit, I know there were parts I read over when I got mine, so I am here to give you what I think it a pretty good version of it 🙂
The airport you fly into is called Suvarnabhumi airport and is one of the nicest I have ever flown in to. The one annoying and confusing thing about it however is that when you land you obviously have to go to immigration, the only thing is is that the airport have tried to make this more efficient by sending certain people, to certain areas of immigration dependent on their flight. I found this a bit confusing when I flew in but now I have done it several times I can tell you that it doesn’t really matter which section you go to. Just make sure that you have filled out your arrivals card that you will get on the plane then wait in line to be seen by a immigration officer who will probably not talk or smile at you, once you are allowed into Thailand you will need to pick up your bags. The same with any other airport the baggage belts are different for each plane so just remember your flight number and you will be fine, grab your stuff when it comes round and head for the exit 🙂
Hopefully yours won’t be the last bag on the belt
Suvarnabhumi airport is very well designed so I have no idea how volunteers get lost but they do, so hopefully you won’t! When you come out of Customs you will see some very large windows with cars on the other side and a sign that says ‘Meeting Point C’, when you see these two things you need to walk to the windows and then turn right and head down to the exit with a big 3 above it. Make sure you are on the side of the arrivals lounge with the windows directly on the left, this is very important as you will find either me, Nam or another member of staff called Charlotte waiting for you just after exit 3. We will be stood behind the silver metal barrier and will be wearing a Starfish shirt in either black or grey with signs showing the Starfish logo and name as well as our partner companies, after all we might be picking up another volunteer at the same time. Just walk over when you see us and introduce yourself and we will take care of you from there.
Once you have met the staff member who has come to pick you up and any other volunteers that arrive at a similar time you will be taken into Bangkok to the hotel that we use, this hotel is called Sawasdee Hotel, we use two of these hotels but both are found just off the famous Khao San Road.
If it happens that you have either not found the staff member that is waiting for you or you have managed to get lost then don’t worry or panic, all you need to do it go to one of the computers, email us and let us know where you are and if you have a Thai contact number. We will then call you and help you, if you still can’t find the staff member waiting for you then we will tell you to go down one floor in the airport to where the green and yellow taxis are, go out to the taxi ranks and ask them to take you to Khao San Road, they will charge you by the meter but will also ask for a 50฿ airport fee as well, this normally costs about 400฿ all together when you factor in all the tolls, which you will be expected to pay.
The famous coloured taxis that are found everywhere in Bangkok
Once you get to Khao San Road, you might be dropped off at either end of the road, this doesn’t make a huge amount of difference though as the signs for the Sawasdee Hotel are huge and purple so you won’t miss them! Wander down to the hotel and check yourself in, if you end up at the wrong one then the staff at the hotel will send you round to the other hotel where you will be checked in. Later on in the evening a member of staff will come to talk to you, if you aren’t in your room when they visit they will leave you a note that will tell you where to meet the next day and which room they are in if you have any problems.
I know that for some people this can all be very stressful and upsetting but I promise you that everything will be fine and we will find you eventually, even if we have to make several trips to the airport and each of the Sawasdee Hotels in Bangkok!! Just keep calm and keep us informed of where you are and any issues you are having, we will do our very best to fix any problems you encounter from lost bags to picking up the wrong bag entirely. This has happened to me before actually, a volunteer picked up an identical bag to hers and didn’t check the tags and got all the way back to Khao San and spent about 2 hours with someone else’s bag!! We traveled back to the airport and luckily found her bag and returned the one she had accidentally picked up; lesson to be learnt is make sure you check the tags of the bag you think is yours!!
I would always recommend volunteers to put something distinguishable on their bag so they can notice it among every other bag. This is what I normally have; matches my hair.
But no matter what happens somebody will find you and you won’t just be left to wander aimlessly in Bangkok, even though the first time I was in Bangkok, I did just aimlessly wander for several hours and it was amazing. I love getting lost in new places, I find you always find amazing and interesting places when you get lost!
Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto