Serene, holy temples. Non-stop action in the street. Towering skyscrapers. Fragrant food stalls. Motorcycle taxis. This is Bangkok, a feast for the senses and a rich travel destination for those who like their vacations a little bit gritty, but chockfull of character. Haggle in the market, wander the streets at dawn with Buddhist monks, lay low in Lumphini Park or kick back in a ultra-luxe hotel or spa (or, if you’re an intrepid backpacker, a convivial hostel). From here, it is easy to add on a trip into northern Thailand to Chiang Mai. Here’s is your Bangkok travel guide with answers, tips and highlights for your Thailand vacation.
What is the best month to visit Bangkok?
There is a short window of comfortable sightseeing weather and this is the best time to visit Bangkok. From late December to early January, the temperatures are cooler, but if you really can’t make it then, you can opt for November or February. Expect temperatures to rise up to 90 degrees no matter the time of year. April to October is the hottest, rainiest season – but also the best time to find deals on hotels and airfare. The monsoon season is from May to early November.
Is it safe to travel to Bangkok?
Yes, in general, it is safe to travel to Bangkok. Although violent crime is rare, you should be aware of scams. Choose taxis with meters and ensure that the taxi meter is switched on before you enter the vehicle. Be wary of tuk tuk tours – just don’t accept a tour by tuk tuk if offered because it’s likely you’ll be carted around to shops (foregoing sightseeing attractions) where the owners pay the tuk tuk drivers to bring them customers. Keep your wits about you when out on the town at night and avoid the Patpong area. Wondering if the food is safe? Just look for the food stalls with the freshest ingredients.
How do I get around Bangkok?
It’s most easy and affordable to zip around Bangkok on the Skytrain or Metro system. There are buses everywhere, but they tend to get stuck in Bangkok’s notorious traffic jams. The Airport Trail Link takes you from Suvarnabhumi to downtown. And don’t miss the chance to cruise on a riverboat down the Chao Phraya River.
How many days are enough in Bangkok?
It is suggested that you spend three to five days to get the most of Bangkok. Even with three days, you’ll have time to see the top attractions, including the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun) and the Grand Palace.
What can you do in Bangkok in 3 days?
So you have just three days for your Bangkok itinerary. How should you spend them? Let us be your travel guide.
Start with the city’s top attractions – Grand Palace, Temple of the Emerald Buddha and Wat Arun (the Temple of the Dawn). Consider a Bangkok khlong (or canal) tour. And end your day at the top nightlife spots of Silom, Sukhumvit and RCA.
On one of your three days, consider a day trip to Bang Ka Joa, where you can delight in small authentic villages, out-of-the-way temples, local cuisine and tropical jungle.
Perhaps on your last day, you’ll want to take advantage of the many world-class shopping malls throughout Bangkok, from MBK to CentralWorld. Or, shop for handicrafts and funky souvenirs at the Chatuchak Weekend Market. Have a Thai massage when you’re done, at one of the many incredible spas throughout Bangkok.
What should I see in Bangkok and near Bangkok?
- Grand Palace and Wat Prakaew
Don’t miss these iconic and sacred sites, which served as the residents of Thai kings and the royal court for 150 years. Go inside to see ornate Thai and European-style architecture. The Emerald Buddha (Phra Kaew) is enshrined in Wat Pra Kaew.
- Wat Pho (Old Town)
Come for the giant reclining Buddha for which Wat Pho is famous, but stay for the fascinating murals, inscriptions and sculptures that enlighten visitors on everything from warfare to astronomy. Look for the other 394 Buddhas that are spread out between four chapels here. Oh, and did you know you can get a Thai massage at Wat Pho? The site is also a school for traditional medicine and Thai massage therapy, so go ahead and indulge.
- Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn)
Named for the Hindu god Aruna, God of Dawn, this 270-foot temple is best seen at dawn or dusk. It is entirely covered with mosaics and Chinese porcelain. Pay a small price to climb into the temple’s central prang.
- Chatuchak Weekend Market
If you love a good weekend street market, you’ll adore this one. Chatuchak spreads out for 35 acres and has around 15,000 shops and vendors. Search for antiques, clothing, produce, housewares and more. Grab a map and explore all 27 different sections. Try to visit in the morning, before the heat and crowds set in.
- Jim Thompson House
An interesting stop, the Jim Thompson houses celebrates this American architect who moved to Thailand after World War II and resurrected the silk industry. The architecture of the house is mesmerizing (it was made from six Thai houses) and the story of the silk trade is insightful.
- Wat Suthat
One of the oldest and most pretty of Buddhist temples in Bangkok, Wat Suthat was constructed by three kings. Look for the incredible wall paintings inside the peaceful complex.
- Khao San Road
Even if you’re not a backpacker seeking a hostel, make sure to spend some time in Khao San. Search for treasures in tiny shops and used bookstores, eat delicious street food (consider a food tour) and wind your way through the colorful scene.
- Sky Bar
Any complete Bangkok experience will include cocktails at 820 feet high at the iconic Sky Bar, one of the highest rooftop bars in the world. Watch bustling Bankok far below you, as it comes to life after dark. Try the Hangovertini.
- Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
About an hour and a half outside Bangkok, in Rathaburi, the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is worth the day trip. Interact with the locals, haggle over goods and indulge in fresh, mouthwatering food.
Another worthy day trip from Bangkok, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is an impressive city of ruins. Most of the temple remains lie on the Ayutthaya Historical Park, surrounded by the Menam, Lopburi and Pasak rivers. While you’re here you can bike through the old quarters of French, Portuguese, British and Dutch residents and care for rescued elephants.
What is the best location to stay in Bangkok?
Let’s look at the various neighborhoods throughout Bangkok, the best way to decide where to stay. You may want a slice of authentic Thai life, or to be close to the raucous nightlife. You may want to be on the outskirts of the urban center, but close to public transportation. Here’s an overview to help you decide the best location for you to stay in Bangkok.
Siam: Stay here for shopping, shopping and more shopping. There are huge cinemas, a huge array of restaurants and entertainment centers. The top shopping mall choices include Siam Paragon, Siam Centre and Siam Discovery. For less big-name shopping and more quirky-brand choices, head to Siam Square.
Siam is also known for its cultural sites, including Jim Thompson’s House or Siam Ocean World. Watch a Thai boxing match outside the MBK shopping mall. Hotels range from the upscale to the budget hostel.
Sukhumvit: This is where the expats hangout, so it’s less about traditional Thai life and more about global cuisine, lots of entertainment choices and easy connection to the Skytrain and Metro. Eat, drink and be merry, then rest your weary self in a hostel or luxury hotel.
Khao San Road/Banglamphu: A mecca for backpackers – or any travelers who want that quintessential adventure in a new, tropical land – Khao San Road is famous the world over for cheap eats and drinks and infamous ping pong shows. In slightly more laid-back Banglamphu, there are interesting markets and quaint shops – a look into Bangkok of the past. Choose from a number of moderately priced hostels and hotels.
Bang Rak/Silom: Stay here for green space, an antidote to the frenetic nature of other parts of Bangkok. You’ll be close to Lumpini Park, where you can picnic amidst locals. There are fantastic restaurants in the area serving up traditional Thai cuisine. The Skytrain comes through both districts, making it easy to connect to other neighborhoods on your Bangkok itinerary. There are several five-star hotels in the area.
Silom is akin to Wall Street – the streets and skyscrapers are filled with workers by day, but at night, the bustling Patpong night market comes alive, a great opportunity to try out Thai street food (consider a food tour). There’s a high concentration of fine-dining restaurants and nightclubs here as well. Silom also has a cultural side – museums, art galleries, historical attractions and urban green spaces.
Yaowarat/Phahurat: Bangkok’s Chinatown – Yaowarat – is where the first Chinese traders settled in the area. Shop, dine and immerse yourself in Chinese culture. In nearby Phahurat, you’ll find Indian culture, cuisine and goods. Both neighborhoods unveil Thailand’s cultural ties to other lands and impress upon you the global nature of Bangkok. Major sightseeing areas are nearby.
Thong Lor: For the fashionistas and hipsters, there’s Thong Lor. Trendy restaurants serving global cuisine, swanky bars and nightclubs, boutique shopping and more attract the young and affluent in Bangkok. Thong Lor is easily accessible via the BTS Skytrain. You’ll find a number of contemporary accommodations here with thoughtful amenities like swimming pools and yoga classes.
Dusit: For cultural immersion, stay in Dusit – there are a few hotels here, as well as smaller guest houses. River ferries and buses service this district. The Grand Palace is in the center of Dusit, from which broad, leafy avenues radiate outward. Spend your days in museums, parks, monuments and temples, learning about Thai history.
Ratanakosin: Another great choice for those seeking Thai culture and history, this is where you’ll find the iconic Grand Palace, the significant Wat Pho, museums, parks and monuments. Like Dusit, Ratanakosin is serviced by river ferry and bus. There are a number of quirky, boutique hotels here for an entirely unique stay.
Thonburi: On the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, Thonburi is the site of the original settlement of Bangkok. Stay here for a laid-back ambience and a number of floating markets set along the canals (the food sold at the markets is cheap and delicious). Look for riverside hotels, but keep in mind that this is not the most connected of Bangkok neighborhoods for sightseeing. There are a number of river ferries that access Thonburi, probably your top mode of public transport in the area.
Is street food in Thailand safe and what should I eat in Bangkok?
With food stall after food stall tempting your palate as you sightsee in Bangkok, you’ll be wondering, one, what to eat, and two, is it safe? The answer to the latter is a resounding yes, and you should. The answer to the first is, all of it. There are more than 300,000 street vendors selling their authentic Thai food at food stalls throughout the city. The highest concentration are in busy areas and some vendors operate in groups – head back to the corner by your hotel one night, then the next, and you may have a different choice of cuisine. You may never even need to stop into a sit-down restaurant!
Look for the best street food on Yaowarat in Chinatown, on Khao San and Sukhumvit roads and elsewhere in the city? For the very best, look for the ones where the locals are queuing. What to choose? Try these:
-Stir fry, fried rice (khao pad), curry, skewers with grilled meat or fish
-Pad see ew and other noodle dishes (rice river noodle, rice vermicelli, glass noodles and wonton)
-Som tam (papaya salad)
-Sour Issan sausage
-Stir-fried pork with basil (pad krapao moo)
-Fish barbecued in salt (pla pao)
-Roast duck, rice porridge, pork dumplings, green curry with roti (in Bang Rak)