What is your name? My name? Bangkok. No. Your real name. In Thai. Krung Thep. No. Your FULL name. Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit.
That’s not a meme or an exaggeration. Most foreigners know Bangkok only as Bangkok, but that is actually the city’s full name in the Thai language. It means: “The city of angels, the great city, the residence of the Emerald Buddha, the impregnable city (unlike Ayutthaya) of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn.” Quite a mouthful isn’t it? 😆
I’ve been to Bangkok five or six times over the last two decades, but I didn’t learn about its real name until our most recent trip. If that revelation says anything, it’s that there’s still so much more to be discovered in this city often regarded as one of the world’s best. Bangkok is as popular as it’s ever been, ending 2017 as the second most visited city in the world, behind only Hong Kong. With a laundry list of things to love about this city as long as its real name, it isn’t hard to understand why.
GUIDE TABLE OF CONTENTS
BANGKOK AT A GLANCE
Bangkok is the capital of Thailand and its biggest city by far. It’s a top tourist destination which is consistently ranked among the world’s most visited cities. In fact, so popular and beloved is Bangkok that it was voted the “World’s Best City” by Travel + Leisure magazine readers for four consecutive years. Spend a few days there and you’ll get its appeal.
Bangkok’s myriad attractions make it appealing to a diverse demographic of tourists. Are you into shopping? There are plenty of markets and shopping malls like Chatuchak Market and Siam Square to keep you busy. Do you like cultural attractions? Then spend the day exploring the Old City and its must-see sights like the Grand Royal Palace and Wat Pho. If good food is your thing, then you’ll be pleased to know that CNN declared Bangkok as the world’s best street food city. And don’t let budget concerns scare you away either. You can thrive on Khaosan Road, the backpacking capital of the universe, for as little as USD 10-15 a day.
In short, Bangkok has something for everyone. It’s an exciting, affordable city that’s much more than your gateway into Thailand. For many travelers, it’s the destination.
BEST TIME TO VISIT BANGKOK
Like Manila, Bangkok enjoys a tropical climate so it’s warm year round with just two seasons – rainy and dry. The dry season is from November-April while the rainy season is from May-October. March-May are typically the hottest months while August and September experience the most rainy days. Because of the dry and cooler climate, November-February is considered the ideal time to visit Bangkok. However, it’s also peak season so expect higher prices during that time.
NOV-FEB: Climate-wise, this is the ideal time to visit Bangkok. It’s cooler, it rains less, and it isn’t as humid. It’s also the height of tourist season so expect bigger crowds and slightly higher prices overall.
MAR-MAY: These are the hottest months in Bangkok. The temperature often exceeds 40°C (104°F) so it isn’t the most comfortable time to visit. However, Songkran or the Thai New Year happens every April. This three-day festival turns the city into a big water fight, making it a fun time to be in the city.
JUN-OCT: The rainy season in Bangkok typically begins in June and lasts till the beginning of November. This is considered the low season in Bangkok.
Climate: Annual Monthly Weather in Bangkok
To help you better understand the weather in Bangkok, I’ve included average temperature and annual rainfall graphs below. Suggested months to visit are indicated in orange.
WHAT TO WEAR
Bangkok enjoys warm weather year-round so you can pretty much wear the same thing no matter when you go. Comfortable summer wear is ideal. Just don’t dress like a bum lest you want to be treated like one. Dress casually but smartly, especially if you plan on dining at more upscale establishments or visiting the Grand Palace.
A dress code will be strictly enforced at the Grand Palace and some temples. You’ll need to cover up before entering so be sure to wear clothing that covers your shoulders and goes below your knees. Men must wear long pants. You should cover your heels and feet so wear socks if you come in sandals or flip-flops. Tight-fitting or torn pants are a no-no, as are see-through tops and any sportswear. This applies to both men and women. If you show up improperly dressed, then there’s a booth near the entrance where you can borrow proper clothing (a deposit is required).
TRAVELING TO BANGKOK
Bangkok is serviced by two international airports – Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) and Don Mueang Airport (DMK). The former is the primary airport which services more international flights, so the majority of tourists traveling to Thailand will probably enter the country through Suvarnabhumi. Here’s how you can get to downtown Bangkok from either airport.
From Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK)
BY TRAIN: This is the best way to get to downtown Bangkok from Suvarnabhumi. You can take the Airport Rail from Suvarnabhumi to Phaya Thai Station (THB 45). From there, you can can transfer to the BTS line and take it to the station nearest your hotel.
BY BUS: You can catch the S1 bus from Suvarnabhumi to Khaosan Road. Departing from Gate 7 on the first floor of the passenger terminal, the fare is THB 60 and it runs every 30 minutes from 6AM-8PM.
BY TAXI OR UBER: A taxi from Suvarnabhumi to downtown Bangkok should cost you around THB 400 (with airport surcharge and toll). Be sure that the driver uses the meter since taxi scams are quite rampant in Bangkok.
BY PRIVATE TRANSFER: This is the easiest and most comfortable option, but it’s also the most expensive. Kkday offers private transfers from Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK) to downtown Bangkok. Follow this link to book a private transfer through Kkday.
From Don Mueang International Airport (DMK)
BY TRAIN: There’s no BTS or MRT station at Don Mueang, so you’ll need to take a bus or taxi from the airport to the nearest train station, which is Mo Chit. If you’re going by bus, then you can catch the A1 bus just outside the terminal. The bus fare to Mo Chit BTS Station is THB 30 and it runs every 15 minutes or so from 7:30AM-11:30PM*. If you’re going by taxi, then the fare to Mo Chit should cost you no more than THB 200 (including a THB 50 airport surcharge). The expressway toll costs THB 70 but you can specify to your driver not to take the expressway. Again, be sure your driver used the meter to avoid getting scammed. Once you’re at Mo Chit Station, then you can take the BTS to the station nearest your hotel.
BY BUS: You can catch the A2, A3, or A4 bus from Don Mueang to Victory Monument (A2), Pratunam and Lumpini Park (A3), or Khao San Road and Sanam Luang (A4). The fare is THB 50 and it runs every 30 minutes or so from 7:30AM-11:30PM*. We’ve never taken a bus in Bangkok but a common concern seems to be that buses tend to get full. For that reason, you may be better off taking it to Mo Chit and doing the rest of the journey by train.
BY TAXI OR UBER: A taxi from Don Mueang to downtown Bangkok should cost you around THB 350 (with airport surcharge and toll). As advised, be sure the driver uses the meter.
BY PRIVATE TRANSFER: This is the easiest and most comfortable option, but it’s also the most expensive. Kkday offers private transfers from Don Mueang International Airport (DMK) to downtown Bangkok. Follow this link to book a private transfer through Kkday.
*Different websites have conflicting information on bus timetables so these are estimates based on what I’ve read.
From Other Ports of Entry
We flew to Bangkok but there are other ways to get there depending on where you are. I suggest checking 12Go Asia to find route options available to you. You can click on the link or use the widget below. 12Go Asia is a popular transportation website that services Singapore, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos, and the Philippines.
WHERE TO EXCHANGE CURRENCY
I read that SuperRich offers some of the best exchange rates in Bangkok and it seems to be true. I exchanged a small amount of currency at Suvarnabhumi Airport and got a rate of 31.28 on 25 October. Later that same day, I got a rate of 33.05 at a SuperRich branch. I suggest changing a small amount at the airport, no more than USD 100, just to get you into the city. You can then change the rest at SuperRich. Follow this link for a list of SuperRich branches.
Alternatively, you can also withdraw Thai Baht (THB) from an ATM. The rates are competitive. Just be sure to advise your bank you’ll be using your ATM card overseas so you don’t run into any problems. In my experience, my ATM card works in some machines but not in others.
BEST AREA TO STAY IN BANGKOK
Figuring out where to stay in Bangkok can be challenging. It’s a big city and the subway system, while convenient, doesn’t service as many areas yet. I think it’s best to stay in a commercial area which is as near as possible to a BTS or MRT station. That way you have easy access to the subway and not have to be so dependent on taxis or Uber to get around.
There are seven popular tourist lodging areas in downtown Bangkok: Sukhumvit, Siam, Silom, Pratunam, Riverside, Chinatown, and the Old City (Rattanakosin). Because of Bangkok’s notorious rush hour traffic, international tourists coming in and out of the city at odd hours often stay near Suvarnabhumi Airport, so you count that as the eighth. Of those eight areas, we’ve stayed in four over the years: Pratunam, Riverside, the Old City, and the Suvarnabhumi Airport area.
I’ll describe the hotels and neighborhoods we’ve stayed at below, but here’s a quick summary of each area based on this excellent in-depth post on where to stay in Bangkok. You can click on the names to browse through hotel listings in each area.
SUKHUMVIT: Good nightlife, lots of dining options, easy access to BTS, area is spaced out so walking is often required.
SIAM: Best shopping area in Bangkok, plenty of food options, easy access to BTS, limited nightlife.
SILOM: Great restaurants, Patpong Night Market, easy access to BTS and MRT.
PRATUNAM: Pratunam Market, plenty of cheap restaurants and accommodations, BTS is a 15 minute walk away.
RIVERSIDE: Beautiful views, relaxed, more expensive, a little far from downtown Bangkok.
CHINATOWN: Excellent street food, chaotic.
THE OLD CITY: Backpacker area, close to the Grand Palace and Wat Pho.
SUVARNABHUMI AIRPORT: Close to the airport, too far from downtown Bangkok.
PRATUNAM: Baiyoke Sky Hotel
Ren and I stayed here years ago on our first trip to Bangkok together. At 88 storeys tall, Baiyoke Sky Hotel is the tallest hotel in Southeast Asia. The room we stayed in was huge and we had an awesome view of the city. What I liked about this hotel is that it’s close to many air-conditioned shopping malls in the Siam area like MBK, Siam Center, and Siam Paragon. I remember walking to MBK nearly everyday and spending most of our time there, either to shop or just to get away from the heat.
Approximate Room Rate: USD 72 per night (as of Jan 2018)
RIVERSIDE: Ideo Mobi Sathorn
We stayed here on our most recent trip to Bangkok. Ideo Mobi Sathorn isn’t a hotel, but a residential condominium located right next to the Krung Thonburi BTS station. We rented a room here through AirBnB. What I loved about staying here is that it’s in a residential neighborhood far removed from the chaos of downtown Bangkok. Krung Thonburi Station is just a minute away from the building’s main entrance so getting around isn’t an issue.
The studio apartment is clean with a complete kitchen, and the building has a swimming pool and gym which you’re free to use. The owners were a pleasure to deal with as well. At the time of this writing, this listing has a perfect 5-star rating based on 110 reviews.
Approximate Room Rate: USD 40 per night (as of Jan 2018)
THE OLD CITY: Khaosan Road
I haven’t seen it, but in the movie “The Beach” with Leonardo diCaprio, they described Khaosan Road as “the center of the backpacking universe”. That may be a slight exaggeration but it certainly feels that way when you’re there. This is where I used to stay when I’d travel to Bangkok twenty years ago. It’s one of the most famous areas in Bangkok and teeming with bars, cheap restaurants, and guesthouses, which is why it’s such a popular choice among young backpackers on a budget.
If you’re young and like to party, then you’ll probably want to stay somewhere along Khaosan Road. It’s cheap and near some of the city’s most popular attractions like the Grand Palace and Wat Pho. Personally, we wouldn’t stay here anymore. Too busy and crazy for oldies like us.
Approximate Hostel Room Rate: As low as USD 5 per night (as of Jan 2018)
SUVARNABHUMI AIRPORT: The Cottage
The only reason for you to stay near Suvarnabhumi Airport is if you arrive late at night or have an early flight to catch the next day. It’s about an hour to downtown Bangkok so it’s too far to make it your base. We stayed at The Cottage for one night on our last trip to Thailand. We flew in from Chiang Mai and needed a place to stay near the airport to catch an international flight early the next morning.
The Cottage is a quick 5-minute drive from Suvarnabhumi Airport. It’s walking distance to the Paseo Community Mall where you’ll find plenty of restaurants and shops. They provide free shuttle transfers to the airport as well.
We booked a room here through AirBnB but you can make reservations through Booking.com or Agoda as well. Be sure to check all three sites to find the best deal. If you’re new to AirBnB, then you can get USD 22 free travel credit when you sign up via this link.
Approximate Room Rate: USD 29 per night (as of Jan 2018)
THINGS TO DO IN BANGKOK
1. Go Temple Hopping in the Old City (Rattanakosin)
Every first-time visit to Bangkok should start in Rattanakosin, aka the Old City. It’s the historic center of Bangkok and where you’ll find most of its must-see attractions.
If you’re staying in the Khaosan Road area, then you can start by walking south to the Grand Royal Palace and Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha). You can then continue south to Wat Pho, or the Temple of the Reclining Buddha (pictured at the top of this post), before taking a ferry to the other side of the Chao Phraya River to visit Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn). From Wat Pho, walk to Tha Tien Pier (Pier 8) and pay the THB 3 ferry ticket to cross the river to the Thonburi side. Wat Arun won’t be far from there. You can visit all of these places in about half a day.
Estimated Time to Spend: At least half a day / Admission: Varies, check this post for a list of attraction entry fees in Bangkok
2. Explore Bangkok’s Many Markets
Bangkok has many, many markets. From food markets, to weekend markets, to floating markets, to night markets, there’s a market for everyone in this city. So when Your Thai Guide reached out and offered to give us a private tour of Bangkok, we knew exactly what we wanted – a market tour.
We started bright and early at a great floating market on the outskirts of Central Bangkok called Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market. We then made our way to the maze-like Chatuchak Weekend Market before ending at one of the world’s best fresh markets, Or Tor Kor Market. Check out my post on exploring Bangkok’s markets with Your Thai Guide for more pictures and information.
Estimated Time to Spend: At least half a day / Admission: FREE
3. Go on a Bangkok Street Food Tour
Bangkok is synonymous with street food. CNN called it the very best street food city in the world, and it isn’t hard to see why. No matter where you look, no matter what time of day, there seems to be something delicious waiting for you at every corner.
One of the best neighborhoods to go street food hunting is the area around Yaowarat Road in Chinatown. We went on a street food tour led by an actual chef from A Chef’s Tour. It’s an awesome tour that had us eating our way through the back alleys of Bangkok’s Chinatown for over four hours. If you enjoy street food, then I highly recommend you do this tour. Check out my post on the Bangkok Backstreet Food Tasting Tour with A Chef’s Tour for more pictures and information.
Length of Tour: 4.5 hrs / Cost: USD 45 per person (inclusive of food and drink)
4. Have a Drink at Khaosan Road, the Backpacker Capital of the Universe
As described, Khasosan Road is party central in Bangkok. It may be too rowdy for us now, but we don’t mind enjoying a couple of drinks there just to soak up the atmosphere. Come back at night, when it really comes alive, and have a few drinks to learn why it’s been described as “the center of the backpacking universe”.
5. Watch a Muay Thai Kickboxing Match LIVE!
I’m a fan of combat sports so I really wanted to watch a live Muay Thai kickboxing match. Natt of Your Thai Guide told us that she’s taken a few visitors to watch Muay Thai before and the atmosphere is pretty intense. Unfortunately, we were in Bangkok the week of the Royal Cremation so no matches were scheduled that week. If you’d like to experience live Muay Thai in Bangkok, then you can do so at Lumpinee or Rajadamnern Stadiums. They’re Bangkok’s two major Muay Thai stadiums.
TIP: You can buy tickets directly from either stadium’s website. I’ve read many people say that second class seats give you the best vantage point to watch the fights. Ringside tickets are more expensive and put you too close to the fighters. You’ll find yourself watching the action from ankle level.
Admission: Tickets start at THB 1,000
6. Cruise Around Bangkok on a Tuk-Tuk Night Tour
If it weren’t for the horrendous traffic and the prevalence of scams, then I’d say that a tuk-tuk is the best way to get a feel for Bangkok. Being in an open vehicle, exposed to the elements and the smells, is in my opinion a fantastic way of experiencing the city. That’s exactly what we got with this tuk-tuk night tour.
Starting after dark when temperatures are cooler and the traffic lighter, you’ll zip around Bangkok in a guided tuk-tuk tour which takes you to some of the city’s most popular attractions like Wat Pho, the Giant Swing, and Bangkok Flower Market (Pak Klong Talad). You’ll stop for dinner at Thipsamai, a popular restaurant that’s said to be one of the best places to have Pad Thai in the city. Check out my post on this Bangkok tuk-tuk night tour for more pictures and information. If you’re interested, then you can book this tour through Kkday.
Length of Tour: 4 hrs / Cost: THB 2,040 per person inclusive of food and drink
7. Hire a Private Tour Guide
To be honest, hiring a private guide isn’t something I would normally do because I’m cheap, I like doing things myself, and I’m shy. But I do understand the overwhelming benefits of having a private guide. Simply put, there’s no better way of experiencing any destination, than through the eyes of a local. If you have something specific you’d like to do in Bangkok, like get a tattoo or go on a market tour like we did, then you may want to hire a private tour guide. We went with Natt Opasanon of Your Thai Guide and I can’t recommend her enough. She’s very personable so it makes the time go by quickly.
Length of Tour and Cost: Varies
8. Visit a Giant Three-Headed Elephant at Erawan Museum
If you’ve already visited the must-see attractions in the Old City and want something a little more unusual, then you may want to check out Erawan Museum. Located a little south of Bangkok in Samut Prakan, it’s home to a ginormous bronze statue of a three-headed elephant. When I say this thing is big, I really do mean BIG. It’s absolutely massive and the picture below doesn’t do it justice. You need to see it for yourself to appreciate how big it really is. Check out my post on Erawan Museum for more pictures that don’t do it justice.
Suggested Length of Visit: 2-3 hrs / Admission: THB 400 for adults, THB 200 for kids
DAY TOURS FROM BANGKOK
1. Spend the Day at a Floating Market
As described, Bangkok has many, many markets. There are several floating markets alone due to the city’s vast network of canals and waterways. If you want an authentic local floating market experience, then I highly recommend Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market which is just outside Central Bangkok.
But if what you’re looking for is a huge floating market with hundreds of colorful boats on the water, then you’ll need to go outside of Bangkok for that. None are more famous than Damnoen Saduak and Amphawa Floating Markets, both of which you can visit on the same Kkday tour. I’ve read that these floating markets get crowded and have become quite touristy, but it should still make for a fun day trip. Kkday offers other market tours from Bangkok as well, so you may want to browse through their site for more options.
Length of Tour: Whole day / Cost: THB 1,484 per person
2. Explore the Historic City of Ayutthaya
Established in 1350, Ayutthaya is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was once the capital of Siam. It flourished from the 14th to the 18th centuries and became one of the world’s largest urban areas and a center for global diplomacy and commerce, before being destroyed by the Burmese army in 1767. It was never rebuilt. Today, it’s ruins are among the most popular day trip destinations from Bangkok, with the Buddha head embedded in a banyan tree being one of its most recognizable attractions.
You can book an Ayutthaya day tour from Bangkok through Kkday. Kkday offers other Ayutthaya tours as well like private tours and biking trips, so you may want to browse through their site for more options.
Length of Tour: Whole day / Cost: THB 1,235 for adults, THB 1,009 for kids
“Buddha head in tree roots, Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya, Thailand” by Justin Vidamo, used under CC BY 2.0 / Cropped, processed in Photoshop and Lightroom, removed watermark
3. Visit the Seaside Resort Town of Hua Hin
To be honest, I had never heard of Hua Hin before until I learned about it from Chef Nutth of A Chef’s Tour. That’s where he’s from and where his restaurant is, so I became curious about the place. As it turns out, Hua Hin is a gorgeous resort town less than three hours south of Bangkok. Chef Nutth said that the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej used to spend a lot of time at his palace there.
I checked on Kkday and they have a day tour from Bangkok that takes you to many interesting sites in Hua Hin. It looks like a great place to spend a few days but if you want to just get a taste of it, then you can do so on this day tour.
Length of Tour: Whole day / Cost: THB 1,450 per person
4. Cross the Bridge on the River Kwai
You’ve probably heard of the 1957 film called “The Bridge on the River Kwai”? It won multiple Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and is set during the construction of the Burma Railway in 1942–1943. Also known as the “Death Railway”, this is that very bridge referenced in the movie.
Built by the Empire of Japan to support its forces in the Burma campaign of World War II, the Death Railway gets its name because its construction led to the deaths of an estimated 100,000+ civilian laborers and Allied prisoners. If you’re a war history buff, then you may want to take a ride on the Thai-Burma Railway in Kanchanaburi via a day tour from Bangkok.
Length of Tour: Whole day / Cost: THB 1,200 for adults, THB 975 for kids
WHERE TO EAT IN BANGKOK
1. Pe Aor Tom Yum Goong
Pad Thai and tom yum goong are arguably the two most important dishes in Thai cuisine, and Pe Aor’s tom yum goong is considered by many to be the very best in Bangkok. Featured on Luke Nguyen’s Street Food Asia, one of the things that makes their tom yum so special is the broth. It’s enhanced with fat from shrimp heads. That’s some serious yum in this tom yum. Check out this post for instructions on how to get to Pe Aor Tom Yum Goong.
Expect to Spend: THB 100 per bowl of kuay teow tom yum goong nam khon
2. Khao Gaeng Jake Puey
Bangkok is all about street food, and Khao Gaeng Jake Puey in Chinatown is one of the city’s most legendary street food stalls. They’re known for serving some of the best khao gaeng or Thai curry rice in the city. This place is popular so expect long lines from the moment they open at 4PM. Be sure to know what you want as well because they have a reputation for being the “Soup Nazi” of Thai curry. Can’t decide what to order? Back of the line for you! 😆 Check out this post for instructions on how to get to Khao Gaeng Jake Puey.
Expect to Spend: About THB 60 per plate of khao gaeng
3. Wattana Panich
This gigantic cauldron of stewed beef has to be one of the most beautiful sights in Bangkok. Have you ever seen anything like it? When I told Chef Nutth of A Chef’s Tour that we had lunch here, his eyes lit up. “That’s my favorite restaurant in Bangok!” Not hard to understand why. They’re famous for the slow-braised beef stewed in this cauldron which you can get in a bowl with noodles, or served on its own with a side of rice. As George Takei would say, “Oh my!” Check out this post for instructions on how to get to Wattana Panich.
Expect to Spend: THB 100 per bowl of kuay teow neau buai (Thai beef noodles)
4. Or Tor Kor Market
If you like fresh markets, then you’re going to love this place. Or Tor Kor Market was voted one of the world’s 10 best fresh markets by CNN. Apart from the highest quality produce, there’s a food court here as well offering different types of prepared food. Natt of Your Thai Guide took us to her father’s favorite hoy tod stall in Bangkok – stall #11/40. Hoy tod is crispy oyster or mussel omelette. According to Natt, this is the only place where her father will eat hoy tod in Bangkok. They make a pretty mean Pad Thai as well. Scroll down to the bottom of this post for more pictures and information about Or Tor Kor Market. If you’d like to try durian, then this is a great place to have it as well.
Expect to Spend: About THB 60 per plate of hoy tod or Pad Thai
If you’re looking to have an extra special meal in Bangkok, then Gaggan is one to consider. Helmed by Chef Gaggan Anand who’s known for his molecular gastronomy techniques, Gaggan is an Indian restaurant that’s currently number 7 on this list of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Considered the very best restaurant in Asia, it recently received two Michelin stars in the first ever Bangkok Michelin Guide. Check out my post on Gaggan for more pictures and information.
Expect to Spend: THB 5,000++ for a 25-course tasting menu
If these five aren’t enough for you, then check out our post on 10 must-eat restaurants in Bangkok for more restaurant recommendations.
POINTS OF INTEREST IN BANGKOK
To help you get your bearings, I’ve created this map so you get a better sense of where everything is. All the places recommended in this guide, that are within Bangkok’s city limits, are pinned on this map.
HOW TO GET AROUND
I love cities with a great metro system like Seoul and Taipei. The subway takes you everywhere so you don’t need any other form of transportation. While Bangkok’s BTS and MRT systems are modern and efficient, they don’t service as many areas of the city yet. We often found ourselves taking the train to the nearest subway stop then either walking for several minutes or taking an Uber to our desired destination. I think that’s what you’ll wind up doing as well.
If you can, I suggest staying near a subway station so you aren’t so dependent on taxis or Uber. On our last trip, our AirBnB was right outside the Krung Thonburi BTS station making it so much easier to get around. As advised, you’ll need another form of transportation to supplement the subway system. Even though it seems to be more expensive, I strongly suggest Uber. Taxi and tuk-tuk scams are rampant in Bangkok. I’ve been scammed on previous trips before and those experiences have completely turned me off to them. People online say that it’s safe to hail taxis that are in transit, but I’ve been so put off by them that I’m afraid to even try that. More on transportation scams in the travel tips section of this guide.
Check out this excellent post to familiarize yourself with Bangkok’s public transportation system. It covers the BTS, MRT, Airport Rail, and Express Boat systems. It includes all the information you need including available transportation passes.
HOW MANY DAYS TO STAY / SAMPLE ITINERARY
Unless you’re in town to go shopping, then I think 3-4 days is a good amount of time to spend in Bangkok. You’ll see all the major attractions and have enough time for a day trip or two outside of the city. It may be a good idea to stay over the weekend as well since some markets are closed during the week. Here’s a sample 4D/3N Bangkok itinerary I put together to help you plan your trip.
| DAY ONE|
• Wat Arun
• Wat Pho
• Grand Royal Palace / Wat Phra Kaew
• Giant Swing (Wat Suthat)
• Wat Saket
• Khaosan Road / Banglamphu
| DAY TWO|
• Ayutthaya Day Tour
| DAY THREE|
• Damnoen Saduak / Amphawa Floating Market Day Tour (weekend tours only)
| DAY FOUR|
• Chatuchak Market (weekends only)
• Or Tor Kor Market
• MBK Center
• Siam Square
• Yaowarat Road / Chinatown
BUDGET / SUMMARY OF EXPENSES
Bangkok isn’t an expensive city. Hostel accommodations are as low as USD 5 a night and meals can be had for less than USD 2 a plate. It’s budget-friendly reputation is part of what makes it such a popular tourist destination.
The unit of currency in Thailand is the Thai Baht (THB). Assuming you’ll be staying in Bangkok for 4 full days and sharing mid-level accommodations with one other person, then a daily budget of around THB 1,300-1,500 per person should be plenty. This takes into account your accommodations, transportation, entrance fees, meals, drinks, and pocket wifi rental. Here’s a quick breakdown of expenses:
This is highly subjective. It depends on several factors like hotel preference and number of travel companions. On our most recent trip, we stayed at a lovely AirBnB close to the Chao Phraya River for less than THB 1,300 a night. Expect to pay much less if you’re staying at a hostel.
Again, this is subjective, but based on our experience, I’d say around THB 250 a day per person. Many filling meals can be had for THB 100 or less.
| ENTRANCE FEES|
Entrance fees for the Grand Palace/Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Pho, and Wat Arun add up to a total of THB 650.
| POCKET WIFI RENTAL|
If you’re sharing the cost with one other person, then you’ll each be paying THB 90 per day.
The most you’ll spend on a single journey on the BTS is THB 40. But as advised, you’ll probably be taking a taxi or Uber a few times as well. I think THB 140 a day per person is enough for transportation.
This comes out to just under THB 1,300 a day per person. Keep in mind that this baseline estimate doesn’t include tour costs or shopping. Be sure to add the cost of any tours you want to do to this amount. Ren and I are middle of the road travelers who enjoy good food and drink, so the recommended budget is a good baseline for travelers like us. Adjust accordingly based on your own travel habits.
1. Plan your Trip with Sygic Travel (formerly Tripomatic)
I love this app. It makes travel planning so much easier. Sygic Travel allows you to plot points of interest on a map, including your hotel, so you can see exactly how far you need to travel between points. It shows you where each attraction is on a map so you can visit them in the right order and save travel time. With pocket wifi, it turns your mobile phone into a GPS tracking device so people with a poor sense of direction (like me) never get lost again. Pretty sweet right? Check out my post on the Sygic Travel app for more information.
Sygic Travel is what I used to create the location map above. You can view it as a day-to-day itinerary as well. Follow this link to check out our 4-day Bangkok itinerary on Sygic Travel. You can also download it in editable Word format by signing up for our FREE newsletter below.
2. Rent a Pocket Wifi Device
A constant wifi connection is a must when traveling these days. You’ll need it to do research, convert currencies, use ride-sharing apps, navigate with GPS, etc. We never go anywhere now without renting a pocket wifi device first.
We rented a 4G pocket wifi device for THB 180 per day, which we picked up and dropped off at the Smile Wifi counter in Suvarnabhumi Airport. You can pick it up and drop it off at Don Mueang Airport as well. Both counters are open 24 hours.
It was fast and we never had trouble connecting in our two weeks in Thailand. Aside from Bangkok, we visited Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai and it worked flawlessly there as well. The battery life was excellent. I’d switch it on early in the morning and it would last till about mid- to late afternoon. It came with a power bank too which was very handy.
3. Beware of Scams
Scams can and do take place anywhere in the world, and Bangkok is no exception. Listed below are some of the scams we’ve encountered through the years.
AIRPORT TAXI SCAM: Taxi drivers will try to charge you an exorbitant rate to take you into downtown Bangkok. Ignore anyone who approaches you. Instead, fall in line at the proper taxi queue at either Suvarnabhumi or Don Mueang Airport, and get a legitimate metered taxi. Any taxi driver who refuses to use the meter is a scammer.
“IT’S CLOSED” SCAM: This is the scam that’s completely turned me off to taxis and tuk-tuks. You hop into a waiting taxi wanting to go somewhere, and the driver will tell you that the place is either closed or not open yet. This is an outright lie. He’ll then try to convince you to go to a gem shop or a tailor instead, where he gets paid for every sucker he brings in. When a driver tells you this, just get out of the car. I’ve read that hailing empty taxis in transit is safe. You can also use Uber which is what we did on our last trip to Bangkok.
FRIENDLY LOCAL SCAM: Natt of Your Thai Guide pointed this out to us when we were riding the BTS. A friendly local will approach tourists who look lost and pretend to help them. Once they’ve gained your trust, they’ll try to take you to a gem shop or tailor.
SEX SHOW SCAM: This happened to me and a friend over two decades ago and the memory of it still stings. We were taken to one of those Thai ping pong sex shows by a local who had befriended us. I don’t remember what the lure was, but it may have had something to do with cheap drinks. Once you try to leave, which is what we did after one drink (I swear!), you’ll see a sign saying that the club has an entrance fee, something exorbitant like THB 10,000 or something. The sign is hidden on purpose so you don’t see it walking in. I remember the guy shaking his fist at me and threatening violence if we didn’t pay. We couldn’t pay the full amount because we didn’t have enough, but we wound up losing a lot of money that night. Lesson learned.
4. Check for Discount Passes
There are many websites that offer discount passes to tours and services. One of my favorites is Kkday. They offer deals in many cities around the world, including Bangkok. If you’re looking for deals on tours, shows, transfers, etc, then you may want to search through Kkday’s website for a list of Bangkok attractions. You’ll often find interesting activities that you wouldn’t normally think of yourself, so it’s definitely worth a look. Here’s a list of some of Kkday’s most popular deals in Bangkok: (pictures borrowed from kkday.com)
5. Get Travel Insurance
To be honest, it was only recently when we started buying travel insurance. Back when we traveled just once or twice a year, travel insurance felt like an added expense, one we didn’t need. But now that we travel more, I understand how important it is to have it. Fact is, you never know what can happen. It’s one of those things that you hope you never have to use, but if you do wind up needing it, then you’ll be thanking the gods that you had it (or cursing them if you didn’t).
Though I do find it more necessary now, it’s still up to you if you think you need it. A 3-day trip to Taipei just shopping and eating may not really call for insurance but if you plan on doing more active things like bungee jumping, skiing, or even going on a city bike tour, then I’d say travel insurance is a must. We visited Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai on this trip so we did get travel insurance, just in case we got accidentally sat on by a rogue pachyderm.
We buy travel insurance from World Nomads because every long-term traveler I know recommends it. From the sound of it, they’re the best in the industry by a mile. Not only do they provide a high coverage limit for medical expenses (up to USD 5 million with the Standard package), they also cover things like trip delays, missed flight connections, theft/loss of passport and luggage, etc. Follow the link or use the widget below to learn more and get a free travel insurance quote from World Nomads. It’s super quick and easy.
6. Bring the Right Power Adapter
Electrical outlets in Thailand typically feature two-pronged round or flat sockets, either Type A, Type B, Type C, or Type F. Be sure to bring the right power adapters for your devices. Electrical voltage is 220V and the standard frequency is 50Hz.
Regarding visas, Filipinos don’t need tourist visas to visit Thailand for stays no longer than 30 days.
HOW TO GET CHEAP AIRLINE TICKETS
Ever since I scored my first piso fare from Cebu Pacific, I’ve been hopelessly addicted to cheap airline tickets. For our trip to Bangkok in late October 2017, our tickets to Suvarnabhumi with a shared 20 kg baggage allowance came out to just under PHP 6,700 each roundtrip. Not bad right?
These seat sale tickets are limited and sell fast, so you have to be quick. To give yourself an advantage, I suggest liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter to quickly find out about these seat sales. If you check off “Get notifications” on Facebook, then you’ll receive instant alerts every time they post something new.
I’m not an expert on Bangkok but I do hope that you find this post useful. I’m only sharing some of the things that I learned from our trip. If you have any suggestions or simply want to share your own experiences, then please feel free to do so in the comments section below. You’re welcome to join our Facebook Travel Group as well. We’d love to hear from you.
Thanks for stopping by and have fun in Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit!
These are some of the things we brought with us to Bangkok. As you can tell, I document a lot of content for this blog so most of the things I bring are photo and video equipment. 😆 If you’d like to see what other gear we use, then you can check out our “What’s in Our Backpack?” post. (NOTE: The following links are Amazon affiliate links.)
We’re a Kkday affiliate and worked with them on this trip. We paid for our airfare, accommodations, and incidental expenses like transportation and food, but we were allowed to go through their website and choose activities and services in exchange for an honest account of the experience. They gave us vouchers to the Bangkok tuk-tuk night tour and an Erawan Museum pass. They didn’t ask us to do either of these things. We chose them on our own volition. As always, all words and opinions expressed in this post are mine and mine alone.
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