Bangkok, Thailand | Travel Guide
Bangkok is a city of intense emotions. Whoever visits it comes back home with the certainty that they either loved it or hated it, the middle term is rare. Huge and modern skyscrapers can be found side by side with typical neighborhoods where mores and traditions remain strongly rooted. Traffic is intense and it presents itself as controlled chaos. Religion, as in all of Thailand, is a crucial element in Bangkok. Hundreds of temples are spread throughout the city, making them an obligatory stop for visitors. What about the gastronomy? For me, it’s one of the best in the world, without a doubt.
See the article Thailand | Travel Guide for more info about Thailand
Bangkok is located near Chao Phraya River, in the central region of Thailand.
How to reach Bangkok
The Bangkok international airport is one of the main entry points in Southeast Asia, and departure and arrival point for millions of visitors every year. Bangkok can be easily reached from anywhere in the country, whether by plane, bus or train.
There are 2 airports in the city: the Suvarnabhumi Airport and the Don Muang Airport. The first one is the biggest airport in Bangkok and it also is the main point of arrival and departure of most international flights, as well as the operation center of Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, and Orient Thai Airlines. Don Muang airport, which was once the only airport in the city, is now the point of arrival and departure of many domestic and low-cost flights.
The cheapest way to reach the center of the city from the Suvarnabhumi Airport is through the Airport Rail Link. The trip has a maximum duration of 30 minutes and it costs somewhere around 15 and 45 baht (depending on the destination station in the center of Bangkok). From the Don Muang airport the most efficient option will be to take the A1 bus at the exit of the terminal (which will cost 30 baht) all the way to Mo Chit Station (the closest to the airport), where you can take the BTS Sky Train or the MRT Subway until you reach your final destination.
Search for flights to Bangkok: Flights to Bangkok
Bus or Mini-Bus
It’s possible to reach Bangkok by bus or mini-bus from almost everywhere in Thailand as well as from any of its neighboring countries. The biggest bus terminal in Bangkok is the Mo Chit Bus Terminal which is the point of arrival for buses that come from the North, Center, East and Northeast Regions of Thailand as well as for buses coming from Cambodia and Laos. It’s located at the Kamphaeng Phet 2 Road in the Chatuchak zone, in the north of Bangkok.
The bus terminal Sai Tai Mai Taling Chan (Southern Bus Terminal) is located in Borommaratchachonnani Road, in the Taling Chan zone, and it is the arrival point of the buses that come from the South and West Regions of Thailand (in case you go or come from the Phuket or Krabi Zone, this is the arrival terminal). The third bus terminal in Bangkok is called Ekkamai Bus Terminal and it it is the arrival and departure point for buses that come and go from the East area of Thailand including Aranyaprather, near the border with Cambodia. It’s located at the Sukhumvit Road in the Klongtoey district.
Use the website 12go.asia to find out more info about schedules and prices (trustworthy site, I’ve used it during my travels to Thailand)
The train is a good alternative for travelling around Thailand and getting to Bangkok. It’s cheap and it offers a more authentic experience. I’ve done the Bangkok – Chiang Mai route twice and vice-versa on a sleeper train, and I can assure you that the experience was great. The Hua Lamphong train station is located in the Pathum Wan district, near China Town and is connected to the MRT network, where a station with the same name exists.
Although it’s possible to buy tickets directly at the station, I suggest that you buy them in advance, preferably online. Here you can also use the website 12go.asia. The purchase is made online and then all you have to do is to collect the tickets from their offices located in the DOB building in front of the Hua Lamphong Station or at the Bossotel, in Chiang Mai. For more detailed info about the courses and trains check out the website Seat 61.
Accomodation in Bangkok
Silom is the business and financial center of Bangkok. It’s also here where you can find the famous Patpong “Red Light District”, known for its intense nightlife. It’s filled with medium/high-quality hotels and with a variety of restaurants. It is, without a doubt, one of the most intense zones in the Thai capital.
If you are looking for a big variety of restaurants, shops and night-life, then this is the right area for you Here you will feel the cosmopolitan side of Bangkok, in a sophisticated and modern environment.
Does having the opportunity to go shopping until you drop excite you? Yes? Ok, then Siam is the right area for you. This is where some of the biggest shopping centers in Bangkok are located, such as the Siam Discovery Center, the MBK Center, the Siam Center, and the Siam Paragon.
If you love eating and trying out new dishes, just like me, you are going to love Chinatown. Hundreds of food stalls can be found here, each one of them with something different and delicious to offer. Take this opportunity to visit the fantastic Chinese temples that can be found here. To stay here is to stay in the middle of a lively and dynamic environment.
Khao San/ Banglamphu
Khao San is one of the biggest tourist points in Bangkok. It’s filled with Hostels (at reduced prices), backpackers and entertainment. If you are looking for a fun environment where you can meet other travelers, then this is the best area for you
This is one of the most fascinating areas in Bangkok. Staying in this area Will allow you to watch boats coming and going through the Chao Phraya river and its canals and and to be close to various temples and other attractions. The river banks are packed with some of the best hotels in the city.
Old City (Rattanakosin)
There is no area where you are closer to the main attractions of Bangkok as this one. This is where you can find the Grand Palace, the Wat Phra Kaew, the Wat Mahathat or the Wat Pho.
Transportation in Bangkok
Bangkok is one of the biggest and busiest cities in Southeast Asia with a public transportation network that is efficient in keeping up with the demand. There are a lot of options to choose from: from the MRT to the BTS and the Airport Rail Link, to taxis, bike taxis or tuk-tuks. In Bangkok there’s no shortage of choice to move to every corner of this fascinating city.
The MRT is Bangkok’s subway. It covers pretty much the entire city and it allows you to move around quickly at an affordable price. There are 35 stations over the course of 43km. If you want to know more info about the tickets and the network map check their official website.
BTS is a fantastic way to move around the city. Not only will you arrive at your destination quickly and comfortably, but you will also have an amazing view as you travel. It’s also called “sky train”. It’s composed of 2 tracks: the Silom Track which connects the South and the West and the Sukhumvit track that connects the North and the East. For more info, check out their official website.
- Airport Rail Link
The Airport Rail Link is the best way to reach the center of Bangkok from Suvarnabhumi Airport. For less than 1 euro and a maximum of 30 minutes you can reach the center of the city in a practical and comfortable way.
It’s not uncommon for you to enter a taxi in Bangkok and have to negotiate the rate because the taximeter is “broken”. It’s a very common scam in Bangkok, so always insist on getting on taxis that turn on the taximeter as soon as you get in or when you specifically ask them to do so. As an alternative, you can always use Uber (sign up using this link to get a free ride), GrabTaxi or All Thai Taxi.
It’s normal to find Bike taxis on street corners near large intersections. It’s a good alternative in case you are moving without any bags and want to get somewhere in town quickly.
- Autocarros públicos
If you are looking for one of the most authentic ways to move around in Bangkok, then public buses are the right choice for you. For very low prices you can travel to every corner of the city. However, you better be prepared to spend a few hours in the chaotic traffic of the city. You’ll need the route map, which you can find at most bus stations. There are several types of buses:
–the regular buses (cream-red color – 7 baht/ticket; white-blue color – 8 baht ticket)
–the expressway buses (8,5 baht/ticket)
–the buses with AC (cream-blue color – 9 to 19 baht/ticket)
–the all-night buses (cream-red color – 8 baht)
– the EURO II buses (yellow-orange color – 12 to 22 baht/ticket)
The money is given to the driver and It makes it easier if you are carrying small coins with you. Since the bus destinations are written in Thai, it’s essential that you study the map well and memorize the number and color of the bus that will take you to your destination.
- Tuk Tuk
Tuk tuks are one of Bangkok’s most iconic elements and, until the MRT and the BTS came along, they were one of the most used forms of transportation in the city. The price must always be negotiated in advance and the minimum value will not normally go below 30 baht for very short distances.
What to eat in Bangkok
Bangkok has one of the most delicious and diverse gastronomies in the world. I admit that whenever I gothere, I always spend too much time indulging on all the delicious dishes and delicacies that I find, both in Chinatown and in the various markets around the city.
What to see and what to do in Bangkok
Wat Pra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha)
There are more than 400 temples spread out all over Bangkok, so it’s not surprising that they are one of the main attractions for first-time visitors. Wat Pra Kaew is one of the 3 most visited temples. One of its main attractions is the Emerald Buddha, sculpted in a 66cm high Jade stone. It’s a huge area, with 94 hectares, filled with around 100 buildings. You can hire a guide inside the temple or rent an audio-guide for 200 baht and 2 hours to help you to better understand the history behind this majestic temple better.
Address. Th na Phra Lan | Ticket: 500 baht | Opening Hours: 8h30am – 3h30pm
Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha)
Wat Pho is the second of the 3 most visited Buddhist temples in Bangkok and is one of the biggest and oldest too. One of its main attractions is the famous golden Reclining Buddha with a height of 15mt, length of 43mt and 4mt long feet, decorated with mother-pearl. The temple is located right next to the Grand Palace. Curiously, it’s also the place where the first Thai Massage school is located, which means that you can take the opportunity to relax your body after visiting the temple, with an original Thai massage!
Address: west side of the Chao Praya River (opposite side of the Tha Thien pier) | Ticket: 100 baht | Opening Hours: 08am – 5pm (massages until 6pm)
Wat Arun is the 3rd most visited Buddhist temple in Bangkok. Its name means “Temple of Dawn” and it’ s located on the other side of the river, on the opposite side of the Great Grand Palace and the Wat Pho temple. This temple is especially known for its 82m high Khmer-style tower, surrounded by 4 smaller towers decorated with Chinese pottery. It offers a fantastic setting at sunset, however the best time to visit it is early in the morning in order to avoid crowds. To get there you need to take a boat from the Sapphan Taksin pier and get off at pier 8. From here and for only 3 baht, you’ll be taken on a shuttle boat to the other side of the river where the Wat Arun is located.
Address: on the west side of the Chao Praya River (opposite to the Tha Thien pier) | Ticket: 100 baht | Opening Hours: 08am – 6pm
Built in 1782, the Grand Palace was, for about 150 years, the official residence of the Royal Thai Family. Nowadays it’s one of Bangkok’s main attractions and it’s the place where celebrations and official ceremonies are held. It’s composed by a number of different buildings, such as the previously mentioned Wat Pra Kaew. It’s important to note that the dress code at the Grand Royal Palace is quite strict. Women are not allowed to enter with their shoulders and legs on display and men should wear long trousers and sleeved shirts/t-shirts. However, you can rent shirts and cloths to wrap around your legs at the entrance. I would not recommend that though. It’s not very hygienic to wear clothes that have been worn countless times by other people.
Address: Na Phra Lan Road, Old City (Rattamakosin) | Ticket: 500 baht | Opening Hours: 08:30am – 3:30pm
The Taling Chan Market, the Bang Ku Wiang Market, the Tha Kha, the Damnoen Saduak, the Amphawa Floating Market, the Bang Khu Wiang Floating Market, the Bang Nam Pheung Floating Market, the Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market are 8 floating markets located in the outskirts of Bangkok. Some are more touristic than others, but a visit to any of them provides a unique experience while visiting this city. The most popular and most visited are the Khlong Lat Mayon, the Damnoen Saduak and the Amphawa.
The Khong Lat market is located approximately 20km away from Bangkok and is accessible by taxi from the BTS Wongwian Yai station. It’s the less touristic of the 3 markets and you can always add the Tailing Chan to your visit. It is open during weekends and official holidays, from 9.30am to 4.30pm.
The Damnoen Saduak is the most famous floating market in Bangkok and an early morning visit is advised. It is located about 30/40 minutes from Bangkok in the province of Ratchaburi and open daily from 07h to 12h. You can either get on a tour to go there or you can take a taxi to the Sai Tai Mai Taling Chan Bus Terminal and catch the bus #78 that will leave you 1km from the market. From there you can walk or take a taxi to your destination.
And last but not least, the Amphawa is the second best known floating market in Bangkok. It’s not as authentic as the Khlong Lat but it’s less touristic than the Damnoem Saduak. It’s located approximately 50km from Bangkok and its main attraction is the delicious grilled seafood that can be eaten on the banks of the river. After walking through the market, it’s worth to visit by boat the canals that surround it and the Wat Bang Koong temple. It’s open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, from noon to 8pm. One of the of the most simple ways to get there is to get in a minivan, for 80 baht, next to the Victory Monument, that will get you there in about 1h15. (without traffic)
This is one of my favorite areas in Bangkok. A chaotic environment, full of colors, lights, smells and delicious flavors. I love to wander through the countless street food stalls and taste a delicacy from each one of them. If you have the chance to, try visiting China Town during the Chinese New Year (February) and the Vegetarian Festival period (which lasts 9 days in early October) to experience it at its best.
Go for a boat ride on the canals of the Chao Phraya River
This is an obligatory experience when visiting Bangkok. You can either go on a tour or rent a private long boat with a driver for a few hours. To go on a boat ride through the canals of the Chao Phraya River is to see a different side of Bangkok. It means spending a few hours in a relaxed and picturesque environment, amongst wooden houses built on water, the occasional souvenir water merchant and children that play in the canal.
Don’t be surprised if you have to buy an extra suitcase after visiting the Chatuchak Market. There are stalls, stalls and more stalls (in fact, more than 8000) filled with all kinds of souvenirs, handcrafts, accessories, clothes, food and a lot more. Practice those negotiation skills before going there! The market is open on Fridays (from 6pm to 00am), Saturdays and Sundays (from 9am to 6pm). It’s advisable to go there during the morning because the crowd is a lot smaller and you can move around the streets more easily. To get there, take the Skytrain (BTS) and exit at the Mo Chit Station.
Khao San Road
The popular backpacker mecca in Bangkok. Even if you don’t stay there, it’s always interesting to visit this mythical place in Bangkok. There are dozens and dozens of restaurants, bars, shops and hostels on a street that has absolutely nothing to do with Thai tradition. In order to get there you can take a taxi or take buses 157, 171, or 509 at the Rajavithi Hospital station in the Victory Monument area and get off at the Khok Wua intersection.
Jim Thompson’s House
The house of the famous North American entrepreneur Jim Thompson is one of the most beautiful attractions in Bangkok. Jim Thompson moved to Thailand after being exempted from military service, in 1946, and for more than 30 years he dedicated himself to the Thai silk industry. He was also an avid collector of Asian Art, and his home is an incredibly testimony of his passion. He mysteriously disappeared in the middle of the Malaysian jungle, at 1967, at the peak of his success. His home is now a fantastic museum filled with fascinating art pieces and exotic gardens with guided visits. In order to get there, take the BTS and Get off at exit 1 of the National Stadium Station, turn right to Soi Kasemsan 2 and keep walking until you reach his house.
Adress: Soi Kasemsan 2 | Ticket: 150 baht| Opening hours: 9am – 6pm | Website: www.jimthompsonhouse.com
Hotel Lebua’s Sky Bar at State Tower
There are several Sky Bars in Bangkok, but the Lebua Hotel’s Sky Bar at State Tower is particularly famous for being the setting of one of the scenes in the movie “Hangover 2”. It’s the ideal place to enjoy one of the best views over Bangkok, at an amazing height of 63 floors, although it often is very crowded. When you go there make sure you you dress up a bit because they have a dress code. If you arrive before the opening of the Sky Bar, at 6pm, you can always go for a cocktail and watch the sunset at the Distil, where although the view is not as good as at the Sky Bar you’ll find less people and a more peaceful atmosphere. To get there, get off at Saphan Taksin BTS station.
Address: Silom Road, Bangrak | Opening hours: 6pm – 1am | Website: www.lebua.com/sky-bar
Lumpini Park is the biggest public park in the city and it’s as important to Bangkok as the Central Park is to New York. It’s a good place to escape for a little while from the constant fuss and chaos of the city, where you can relax in a green and relaxed environment. You can rent a boat and ride around its lake, do some exercise or simply lie on the grass and watch life calmly go by. To get there, get off at the MRT stations of Silom or Lumphini.
Address: Rama IV Road, Pathumwan | Opening Hours: 4:30am – 9pm
Patpong is one of the most well-known Red Light Districts in the world. It’s filled with bars, discos, and strip bars but it is also home to one of Bangkok’s most popular night markets. I admit that I’s not my favorite place in Bangkok. I’m not a huge fan of the environment that this place has to offer but it’s an intrinsic part of the city. In order to get there, you can get off at the Sala Daeng BTS Station or in the Silom MRT Station.
Address: Between Silom Road and Surawong Road