The first thing you should know about Bangkok is that this place is unpredictable. The city stimulates the senses, and it’s peppered with multiple personalities. With more than six million people calling Bangkok home, you can pretty much find anything to do at any time.
This place has a fearsome party reputation – in case you didn’t know, Hangover II was filmed here – and that movie is no exaggeration of life in Bangkok. There’s everything from Ping Pong shows – down somewhat suspicious side streets – to super plush sky bars. The city is a natural hub for all travelers landing in Southeast Asia as it serves as a hub that’s connected to, well, just about everywhere. So, if you are looking to start your trip here, it’s a great place to meet like-minded folks.
Thailand’s capital city has many historical, religious, and modern cultural sites to see. So, let’s start the adventure in Bangkok.
How to Get There
The international airport is on the city’s outskirts, so the easiest way to get into town is in one of the yellow taxis. However, you can also catch a train or a group bus if you feel confident. When you arrive, pick up one of the free city maps available at the airport.
INSIDER TIP: Locate your hotel, or another touch point, before you leave the airport. This way, you’ll look like you know what you’re doing, and it will be less likely that a local “guide” will target you.
If you’re leaving, tons of buses will ferry you to your next destination in the country or further out in Southeast Asia, with pick-up points dotted around the city. Local tourist shops are the best way to pick where you are off next, but be prepared to haggle. These little shops also serve day trips that will pick you up from your accommodation and take you to see the fantastic sites within a day’s drive. If you’d instead get a bit of a plan in place before you get there, and get a good deal, check out our range of day trips.
Where to Stay
With such a massive variety of travelers, Bangkok is renowned for having great places to stay at very affordable prices. The Khao San Road is set just west of the river. It’s toted as the party hub of Bangkok, but it’s also got everything from 12-bed dorms for pennies a night to three-star hotels with rooftop pools that won’t make your wallet weep.
You can also find places to stay at Sukhumvit Road, Prom Pap Sattru Phai, and Silom Road. These are good locations with excellent access to the Skytrain and hostels to five-star hotels. Ultimately, the city has an excellent transportation infrastructure, so you have the freedom to choose which sites you would like to be closest to and take it from there.
What to Eat & Drink
You can find mouthwatering treats around every street corner. From traditional Pad Thai to fresh coconuts to bags of crisped insects, yes, insects. You can find everything.
INSIDER TIP: Don’t drink the tap water. You’ll thank us.
Eating street food is safe; in fact, it’s encouraged. It’s cheap and where you’ll try some of the freshest, most authentic local grub. Just try and choose from a stall that looks busy. If it’s alive, it will have fresh ingredients due to the fast turnover of customers. You’ll be less likely to get sick from these stalls since their food won’t be sitting out.
As you will discover with most shop types in Bangkok, restaurants group together, snuggling next to each other and spilling out into the road with makeshift expansions. You can find this restaurant hub in various places across the city, including Chana Songkhram and Sukhumvit Road, where you will find the infamous Cabbages and Condoms restaurant. If you want to cram as much into your Bangkok time as possible, the night markets are all surrounded by restaurants so you can shop ’til you drop, then have a great local meal, too.
How to Get Around
There is an excellent travel infrastructure in Bangkok that caters to every kind of traveler. Take a yellow taxi if you want to escape the heat and zone out for a moment while you get whisked to your next destination.
The Skytrain is another option as it travels across the city for sites a little further out. It is clean and fast; it’s also an excellent way to see the city as you are up high enough to see most of the sites you pass.
River boats are another option as they run up and down the main river in Bangkok. It is a great way to see the city and enjoy some cool air as you speed down the river.
The cheapest, culturally authentic way to get around is by tuk-tuk. A little bit like sitting in a wheelbarrow with an engine and a roof, this small taxi will whisk you around the city, allowing you to stop and start whenever you see something you like. If you want to go exploring, you can hire one for the day, and more often than not, your driver will add in some hints and tips, too. Don’t forget to haggle on price. Include giving a cash tip to the driver at the end of your journey!
What Sights to See
As the capital city of Thailand, unsurprisingly, Bangkok hosts a feast of temples and Thai cultural hot spots. The Grand Palace, home to the kings and queens of Thailand, is an architectural wonder. Its ornate interior decor demonstrates extremely skilled Thai craftsmanship and the royal family’s history. All locals will recommend differing temples to visit. Two that are great fun and beautiful are Wat Arun and the Golden Mount. Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) on the river’s East bank is best viewed at sunrise as it takes on an ethereal quality.
Climb the spiral steps through waterfall features to get to the pinnacle of the Golden Mount, where you will be rewarded with beautiful statues, prayer bells, and gorgeous views. Bangkok is also great for shopping. Siam Square houses one of the largest Thai malls with a massive range in price bands and products. However, the night markets bring bargain hunting into their own, and each market has a unique specialty. Patpong Night Market stretches down a broad street, selling anything from fake bags to DVDs to ornate clocks. Exciting pubs and clubs also surround it. Saphan Phut sits next to Memorial Bridge and draws a young Thai crowd looking for deals.
If you have time to take a day trip, there are plenty of options in and around the Bangkok countryside. Tours can take you to the historic River Kwai, tiger temples, elephant sanctuaries, waterfalls, and floating markets.
What Type of Weather to Expect
Bangkok gets hot. It’s called the highest average temperature in the world, between March and August. There is also a long rainy season from May to September, picking up in June. During this season, you’d want to carry around a small umbrella to prepare for afternoon rain showers. You may also experience long periods of rain due to the city’s height above sea level.
Humidity is also pretty constant throughout the year so remember to drink as much water as possible to make sure you don’t accidentally dehydrate.