Thailand makes for a popular tourist destination. Three of it’s cities, Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket were all in the top 20 of most visited cities in the world (based on market intelligence firm Euromonitor International from visitor numbers in 2013) with Bangkok even beating London based on the number of tourists.
Bangkok is an amazing mix of past and present with golden palaces, beautiful temples and floating markets to luxury shopping malls. Go from the heat and confusion of the busy streets to the relaxing silence or world class spas. A few days in Bangkok is on the itinerary of every tourists adventures
Foodies love Bangkok as well. Home to some of the best Asian food but also known for the abundance of international concoctions as well. From simple street stalls to world class restaurants you won’t go hungry in Bangkok.
Be prepared that whenever you visit Bangkok it is going to be hot and humid, it’s just a matter of how hot and humid it’s going to be.
The most pleasant time to visit Thailand is from November to January. This is known as the cool season, meaning that it’s just a little cooler than the other nine months. You’ll still be wearing a T-shirt and shorts and the coldest place will likely be inside the confines of the air conditioned shopping malls and your hotel room. It’s normally dry at this time of year.
Rainy season starts around late May and lasts until October or November. When it rains in Thailand it’s not normally just a light shower or drizzle it’s an absolute downpour that will drench you in seconds. It may not rain every day but when it does it goes full force so be prepared to get your feet wet. Raincoats aren’t much help during this time of year as they are too sweaty to be carrying around all day. An umbrella is a good idea or you can pick up a poncho in a local 7-eleven. Alternatively you can take shelter and just wait it out. Rainy season is hot and very humid.
But it’s not the hottest time of year. That award goes to the months just prior to the start of the rainy season, March to May. The searing heat can be difficult to cope with if you’re used to a more hospitable climate, especially if you want to be out and about visiting temples.
There plenty to do in Bangkok from admiring the temples and palaces to shopping in fancy malls or just getting a foot massage. Here are some of the top things to see in Bangkok.
Here are a few ideas to keep you busy during your trip to Bangkok.
Situated along the Chao Phraya River this Buddhist temple is one of the most unique and beautifully decorated temples in Thailand. It’s easily accessible from the river side on one of the tourist boats.
This temple complex is one of the oldest in Thailand and considered the birthplace of traditional Thai massage. It also hold the largest reclining Buddha in Thailand at a length of 46 m (150 feet).
A must see attraction for any first time visitor. This stunning palace complex must be Bangkok’s most famous landmark. Built in 1782 you’ll discover several magnificent buildings within this complex, including Wat Phra Kaeo (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), which contains a beautiful Emerald Buddha that dates back to the 14th century.
Arrive early in the morning when it’s not so hot and the crowds are smaller. Dress appropriately or borrow the clothing at the entrance if you need to cover up. Entrance fee is 500 baht each.
There are a few floating markets in and around Bangkok. The most popular of which is Damnoen Saduak floating market. These markets are more of a tourist attraction nowadays but are still a nice place to go to get a sense of history.
This museum is the former residence of American entrepreneur Jim Thompson and consists of a series of antique Thai houses. Founder of the now famous Jim Thompson Thai Silk Company this museum is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Bangkok.
Lumpini park is one of the city’s largest parks. Popular with locals for jogging in the early morning and evening it also sports a large lake where you can hire a paddle boat.
Chatuchak is home to Thailand’s largest outdoor market. It is simply massive. With 8000 stalls selling everything from pets to furniture. They sell pretty much anything here and the prices are cheap, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t haggle if you want. Located close to Mo Chit BTS stop.
Many will know this area as a backpackers haven. Filled with souvenir shops, restaurants, street food and bars.
There’s nothing more relaxing after a day on your feet than to take an invigorating foot massage at one of the many parlors located around town or in your hotel.
Busy all day long. Full of shoppers during the day and a food haven at night. This bustling area adjacent Charoenkrung Road is packed with restaurants, market stalls and temples.
If you have kids with you then it may be worth taking a day out to visit Safari World on the outskirts of the city. Unless you have your own transport you’d better go as part of a pre-arranged tour. The park is divided into two sections. The first is the safari park where you can drive through the animal enclosures and get up close and personal with the tigers, lions and may other types of wild animals.
The other section of the park is the zoo and marine park. You see plenty more animals here such as hippos, walruses and elephants. You can feed the giraffes bananas and have birds eat from your hands. There’s also a selection of animal shows throughout the day.
Bike tours are very popular at the moment and there are several companies that will take you on a pleasant cycle around the backstreets on Bangkok. These tours will take you to places that many tourists never see. Through markets and along the riverside these guided tours these guided tours can run from a few hours long to a whole day affair. One of the popular ones is followmebiketour.
These two mouth watering dishes are a treat and ones that any visitor to Thailand should try
Bangkok has some luxury shopping malls that are worth a visit even if it’s just to window shop of visit the restaurants.
Siam Paragon and Central World Plaza are two of the top ones. Both located withing walking distance of each other by Siam Square. Central World Plaza even has a small ice skating rink on it’s second floor.
MBK is close by too. This is favorite if you’re looking for souvenirs or cheap electronic goods (there’s a whole floor dedicated to mobile phones). It’s located by National Stadium, one stop from Siam Square.
A little further down the road is the newly opened Central Embassy mall where you can find all of your top designer goods. This is an ultra-luxury lifestyle mall where you’ll find your Versace, Chanel, and Givenchy stores.
A little bit further down Sukhumvit road and you’ll come across Terminal 21 a trendy mall where you’ll find the floors designed to match the architecture of different cities, from Tokyo and London to San Francisco and Paris. Each style come with that country’s traditional food to match.
You’ll see them everywhere. They’re the stable diet for most people living in the city and they serve many different Thai dishes. Street food is cheap and quick, you can take it away or eat it right there at the tables provided.
There’s a wealth of accommodation in Bangkok to suite all budget ranges. The area around Siam Square on Sukhumvit Road, in the heart of the shopping district is a happening place but also the most expensive. The nice thing about this area is that there’s plenty to do and it’s one of the few places where you can easily walk around. There is easy access to the Skytrain in this area with plenty of stops along Sukhumvit and Phayathai Road.
Traffic congestion in Bangkok can get very bad along during rush hours, especially along Sukhumvit Road, so it pays to stay within walking distance of a BTS Skytrain station.
There are plenty of ways to get yourself around Bangkok but walking doesn’t tend to be one of them. Most of main attractions are spread out cross the city and the daytime temperature and hot sun means that taking a stroll isn’t as pleasant as you may find back home. You’ll also find that pavements aren’t a big thing in Thailand and when you do find them they are normally a minefield of of uneven paving slabs, drain covers, sign posts and electricity poles.
The good news is that taxis are relatively cheap in Bangkok and there are plenty of them. When you stop a taxi make sure that you ask that it is a meter taxi. While most taxi’s actually have the meter in them a lot of drivers will turn them off when they see a foreigner and try to get you to pay a fixed price.
The taxi meter normally starts at 60 baht and that will get you a pretty long way. Unless you are travelling all the way across town then most trips should be less than 200 baht. If you’re in a busy area and it’s late at night it might not be so easy to get a meter taxi so haggle over the fare until to come to some agreement that’s close to what you’d normally pay.
You’ll see these three wheeled vehicles weaving in and out of traffic at an alarming speed. They look like fun and most visitors try them once but they do tend to be more expensive than taxi’s, they don’t have a meter so you’ll have to haggle over the price and they’re noisy. What they are good at is getting you about town when there’s a lot of congestion.
If the traffic gets so bad that even a Tuk Tuk is having problems then you can jump on the back of a motorbike taxi. The registered riders have a colored vest on to distinguish them from regular people and they can get you where you need to be even in the worst traffic jams.
Bangkok is crossed by canals (referred to as ‘klongs’ in Thai) and canal taxi’s regularly run up and down their length. These large boats are dirt cheap and can get you across town if need be. They are very popular with city workers so if you board during rush hour then you may have a problem finding a seat but they do run regularly throughout the day, approx every 5-20 minutes.
If you find yourself by the Chao Phraya River then there are plenty of river boats and ferry’s to get you around. As well as taxi boats there are tour boats available to take you to the attractions such as Wat Arun (the Temple of Dawn) the Grand Palace, Wat Po and the Royal Barge Museum.
The Bangkok sky train is another great way to get around the center of town. This hugely popular elevated rapid transit system runs through many of the main tourist areas. There are two lines. One runs from Mo Chit to Bearing through the shopping area of Siam with an express train to the airport linking to its Phaya Thai terminal. The other line runs National Stadium to Bang Wa travelling across the river but also meeting up with the other line in Siam.
If you plan on driving yourself then be sure to bring an international driving license.
Whether you are arriving or leaving there are several ways to get to the main international airport of Suvarnabhumi.
There are plenty of taxi’s available at the airport. Like most airport taxi’s around the world you’ll find the prices to be more expensive than those in town but the system is regulated so that you don’t get ripped off.
Book your taxi inside the main terminal before proceeding outside. You’ll be given a fixed price for your trip.
If you’re traveling further afield and want to save some money on taxi’s then you may find one of the luxury coaches to be more to your liking. Operating out of the ground floor of the main terminal you can get to many of the tourist towns in comfort. They come equipped with reclining seats and a toilet.
These buses fill up very quickly so you are recommended to book ahead of time through their respective websites and get your ticket online.
There is an Express Train station within the main terminal that will whisk you into the center of town in around 20 minutes. You’ll end up at Phaya Thai station which links to the Skytrain (BTS) and many of the main shopping and hotel districts around town.
Phaya Thai is also just a couple of BTS stops away from Victory Monument where you can catch mini-buses out of town. These mini-buses are one of the cheapest way to travel around the country. They are fast (sometimes a little too fast) although not the most comfortable means of transport, they will however get you from Bangkok to places such as Hua Hin (200 km away) for under 200 baht per person (just over 5 USD).
Bangkok still has its high and low seasons just like most destinations nowadays. If you want to avoid some crowds and save on your flights and hotel rates then coming during the rainy season may be the time for you, but you should understand that the weather can have an impact on your trip.
Between May and October is considered low season and can be considerably cheaper than peak season with rooms, food and vehicle rental often discounted. Prices during this season can still vary due to demand. For example you should expect prices to increase during the time relating to the European and US school holidays when many vacationing families decide to visit.
Outside of the low season you’ll see prices increase between November and April. But the most expensive time of the year has to be mid December to mid January when the weather is at its coolest and during the Christmas holiday.
Arriving mid week rather than at weekends is usually a little cheaper as well with more hotel accommodation available.
If you want to eat cheap in Thailand then eat as the locals do. Western style food is always more expensive. Buying your food already prepared from market and street stalls is the cheapest way to eat and small Thai restaurants are not far behind.
It’s best no to drink the tap water in Thailand. You wouldn’t want to spoil your trip by some stomach bug and even most Thais’s drink bottled water. To save some money doing this you can always buy larger bottles of water and use it to fill a smaller container which is easier to carry around with you.
You can always haggle in Thailand if you like. It can be a fun experience and you can save quite a bit of money doing it.
It’s not uncommon for taxi drivers to turn off their meters when they see a foreigner approach. They’ll try to get you to pay a fixed price for a trip. Late at night you may not have the option to argue with this but at least haggle to get the price down. Always ask the driver to turn the meter on.
During the day it’s best to get out and just wait for another taxi to come along. You wait will be short as there are thousands of registered cabin Bangkok.
These are not limited to Thailand, they happen all over the world. When you’re on a tour your operator or driver may want to stop off somewhere after your trip and go to a gem or souvenier shop after your trip. Don’t buy anything in these places as they are overpriced and there’s no guarantee of quality.
If you’re going to be staying in Thailand for any length of time then it may be worth getting a local SIM card for your phone. You can get packages with internet access so that you can save on expensive hotel Wi-Fi and use Skype and messaging apps for international calls. Local phone calls are very cheap in Thailand.
So long as you have a phone that is unlocked you should be able to use any SIM card in it. AIS, True and DTAC are the most popular service providers and you’ll find branches in the departure hall of Suvarnabhumi airport who can set you up. Prepaid cards can be topped up at any 7-Eleven shop.
Multiple hotel rooms can get expensive if you’re travelling with a family, not to mention the inconvenience, so have a look at the price of suites instead.
When withdrawing money from cash machines there is normally an addition charge added to the transaction. This is a fixed fee of around 150 baht no matter how much money you take out. These charges can soon add up if you keep making small withdrawals so better to make larger ones instead.
Hotel prices tend to be cheaper and there is more of a selection if you stay mid week rather than at the weekends.