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 understand 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.
Tour all the temples
Bangkok has a lot of beautiful temples. Hire a tuk-tuk driver to take you around for the day to see the temples. Just make sure he doesn’t take you shopping along the way — drivers get kickbacks if they bring customers into certain shops. They can be annoying about this but stay firm! This is often the cheapest and most efficient way to see the temples throughout Bangkok. Generals are:
- Grand Palace. A complex of structures, pavilions, and courtyards including the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
Boat stop: Tha Chang Pier (No. 9).
Opening hours: 8:30am-3:30pm.
Entrance fee: ฿500.
- Wat Arun. Probably the most recognizable landmark in Bangkok with a 70m tall spire (called prang).
Boat stop: Tha Thien pier (N8) and then cross the river on a smaller boat.
Opening hours: 8:00am-6:30pm
Entrance fee: ฿50.
- Wat Pho. Famed for the enormous reclining Buddha that it houses.
Boat stop: Tha Thien pier (N8) and then walk up the perpendicular road to Wat Pho.
Opening hours: 8:00am-5:00pm
Entrance fee: ฿100.
Visit Khao San Road
The backpacker capital of the world, this road (along with Soi Rambuttri) in Bangkok is a must visit! You’ll find endless bars, shops, street food, international restaurants, vendors, locals, and activity all day and all night. It’s also a popular spot on the weekend for Thais. I personally like the quieter Soi Rambuttri, but Khao San is an awesome place to sit outside and meet other travelers. Be sure to visit Brick Bar, the hidden-away Thai ska bar where only locals go.
You can enjoy a half-day visit to the floating markets around the city (Khlong Lat Mayom and Thaling Chan are the two most popular). It makes for a filling morning adventure and if you get there early, you can avoid a lot of the crowds. Thaling Chan is the more touristy one so to avoid the hordes of tour groups, definitely get there early. Both markets can be visited by public transportation. I love the chaos, the smells, and the little ladies cooking and selling you various treats as they paddle by you. You never leave hungry!
Going to malls
Malls in Bangkok are more than just malls – they are social hubs (thanks in part to the air-conditioning) where people eat (mall food courts in Bangkok are delicious), drink at bars, see movies, sit at coffee shops, and even go bowling! A lot of life in the city happens in the malls and each has its own character. Here’s a list of the best malls in the city:
- Terminal 21 – (88 Sukhumvit Road 19, +66 2 108 0888, terminal21.co.th) — This is my favorite mall in the city. It’s airport-themed, and every floor features a different region of the world. There’s free Wi-Fi, restaurants on every floor, a movie theater on the top floor, and one of the best mall food courts in the city. Definitely stop by here! Opening hours: Daily (10am–10pm).
- MBK Center – (444 Phayathai Road, +66 2 620 9000, mbk-center.co.th) — This is the best place for knockoff clothes, electronics, movies, and computer software. There are a number of tailors and restaurants, and a movie theater on the top floor. Opening hours: Daily (10am–10pm).
- Siam Paragon – (991/1 Rama I Road, +66 2 610 8000, siamparagon.co.th) — For designer clothes and upscale shopping, Siam Paragon has a wide range of stores, as well as restaurants and a luxurious movie theater (the best in the country, in my opinion). Siam Ocean World aquarium (the largest aquarium in Southeast Asia) is located on the bottom floor and is a good family activity if you’re traveling with kids. There is a large (but slightly overpriced) food court here too. Opening hours: Daily (10am–10pm).
- Emporium – (622 Sukhumvit Road, +66 2 269 1000, emporium.co.th) — This luxury shopping mall has a huge department store, a multiplex cinema, an English-language bookstore, fashion and trinket shops, a grocery store, a food court, and many upscale restaurants. Across the street, the owners opened the more upscale EmQuartier, with a gym, IMAX theater, even more high-end shops, incredible restaurants, and a beautiful roof garden and pond that overlooks the city. Visit just for that! Opening hours: Daily (10am–10pm).
- CentralWorld – (999/9 Rama I Road, +66 2 635 1111, centralworld.co.th) — CentralWorld is the sixth largest shopping complex in the world. The complex, which includes a hotel and office tower, burned down in 2010 as a result of the Bangkok riots but has since been rebuilt. It’s filled with mostly Western shops, but there are a lot of good restaurants in this mall and a bar on the roof. Opening hours: Daily (10am–10pm).
- Pantip Plaza – (604/3 Ratchathewi, +66 2 256 0355, bangkok.com/shopping-mall/pantipplaza) — This mall has all of your computer and electronic needs (it’s where I buy all of my electronics). There are both large brand-name stores and shops selling used merchandise. Opening hours: Daily (10am–9pm).
Watch a Muay Thai fight
Muay Thai (a combat sport involving striking and clinching) is everywhere in Thailand and Thais take it very seriously. Fighters train for years. Don’t bother seeing the tourist Muay Thai fights on any of the islands. Instead, spend a night seeing an authentic match with world-class fighters in Bangkok at Rajadamnern Stadium.
Take a food tour
Bangkok is all about food. You’ll never stop eating here, but the sheer variety can be overwhelming! To get a deeper appreciation of Thai food, take a food tour. The best one is Bangkok Food Tours.
Best time to visit Bangkok
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.
Below is the list of the usual prices of things you will need for a comfortable budget stay in Bangkok! Bear in mind that the figures are in Thai Baht.
- Meal (street food) – Pad thai costs around ฿40, pork rice ฿50, and a big, big bowl of tom yum noodles ฿100. If you’re eating at restaurants, prepare to shell out at least ฿120.
- Accommodations – Dormitory beds from ฿100, hostel private room from ฿300, and a budget hotel room for two from ฿800
- Grand Palace entrance fee – ฿500
- Wat Pho entrance fee – ฿100
- Wat Arun entrance fee – ฿50
- Siriraj Medical Museum fee – ฿200
- Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Tour – ฿400-720, depending on what’s included in the tour
- Ayutthaya Day Tour – doing it DIY-style may cost at least THB 700 but this only includes the visit to the temples. You’ll spend more if you drop by the floating markets too. Arranged tours cost around ฿1000 if visiting the temples only. It can cost up to ฿1400 if a sunset boat ride and a visit to the floating markets are included.
- Taxi – flagdown rate is THB 35, usual ride within the city is around THB 100
- Train ride – THB 15-52
Source: nomadicmatt, thepoortraveler