Bangkok, Thailand: The Ultimate Travel Guide To The Capital Of Thailand
Updated: Mar 16
Bangkok is located in the center of Thailand. As a convenient and major transport hub, it’s usually the first place you’ll visit on your trip around the country. And while Bangkok is noisy, crowded, and overwhelming at times, it’s also exciting and fascinating. You can find an abundance of vibrant food markets, historic temples and palaces, and excellent nightlife. In this article, we highlight the most important things to know before going, where to stay, where to eat, the 10 best things to do in Bangkok for your first or second visit, and the best day trips from Bangkok.
Check out our video on Bangkok to see the best things to do through our camera!
Table Of Contents
Important Things To Know
Best time to travel to Bangkok
The best time to visit Bangkok is between November and March. In this period the weather will not be as warm and humid as normal while also not being too cold. Because the weather is best in this period this is also the busiest period! The rainy season in Bangkok usually starts around late June and continues to early October. During its peak in July and August, flash flooding is not uncommon as the rainwater channels through the streets looking for a place to escape.
Cost and currency
Bangkok is a bit more expensive than other places in Thailand but it's still very affordable compared to countries in Europe and North America. Food can vary from cheap (street food stalls) to expensive (Michelin-star restaurants or rooftop bars). Also, hotels are affordable as long as you don't go for extremely luxurious 5-star hotels.
How to get around Bangkok
If you want to save some money on transportation, we recommend taking the MRT metro or BTS Skytrain for longer distances in the city. The traffic in Bangkok is horrible, so it’s not only the cheapest but also the quickest way to move around, especially during rush hour! You can also download the “Grab” or the "Bolt" App to book a ride (it's a ride hailing App like Uber).
Safety in Bangkok
Bangkok is a fairly safe city. Just as in every other big city you have to watch out for scams and petty theft but as tourists these are the only things you need to watch out for. Also, some people will try to rip you off, including taxi drivers who refuse to turn on their meters. You can avoid this by asking the price before getting into the taxi or simply using Grab or Bolt so you know how much you're paying for a ride. Avoiding travel scams requires some common sense and a healthy dose of suspicion.
Where To Stay In Bangkok
The best place to stay for your first time in Bangkok is in the Old Town (Khao San & Banglamphu area are close to most attractions) or Sukhumvit area (modern area that is well-connected with public transportation). These are our top picks:
Nappiness Hotel - SHA ExtraPlus: this is the hotel that we stayed at and would definitely recommend! It's located right in the heart of Banglamphu in the Old Town and had comfy beds and shower for an affordable price.
Nouvo City Hotel: modern boutique accommodation in Bangkok's Khaosan Area, a 10-minute walk from lively Banglamphu Market. It also has a rooftop pool with sun loungers.
Baan Noppawong: beautiful colonial house in the Old Town. The rooms are clean and very comfy.
Sacha's Hotel Uno SHA: Ideally located in Sukhumvit, this hotel is minutes away from Bangkok's business and financial districts, commercial district and transportation links.
Where To Eat And Drink
Food markets in Bangkok
Tha Pra Chan & Banglamphu
Petchaburi Soi 5
Bang Khun Non (near Taling Chan floating market)
Khao San Road
Restaurants in Bangkok
There are a lot of great restaurants in Bangkok and you're guaranteed to find a great place around almost every corner. That said, here are some of our favorite picks in the Old Town area, close to the city's attractions!
Thip Samai: well-known for its delicious pad Thai
Raan Jay Fai: famous Michelin-star street food spot, but you need to come early to put your name down. This is Bangkok’s first street food stall to be awarded a Michelin star in 2018!
Pat café: affordable and good quality food
Eagle Nest: good rooftop bar with beautiful view over the river
The Deck: good rooftop bar and restaurant but more expensive
1608 cafe and bistro: waterfront restaurant that seems to attract locals but a bit pricey (lots of food options)
Saiwatana: near Wat Pho temple and good local lunch
Best Things To Do In Bangkok
If you're traveling to Bangkok and want to save time searching for directions to all of the places we mention in this article, then look no further than our custom map. Simply click on a point in the map below to get directions there for yourself!
Let's now jump into the 10 best things to do in Bangkok!
10. Try the street food
One of the first things you should do in Bangkok is try the diverse street food. You’ll find food stalls all around the city center, offering local cuisine that is both affordable and delicious. A dish generally costs between $1 to $3 and ranges from small snacks like barbecued chicken and steamed dumplings, to the famous Pad Thai and tasty sweet mango sticky rice. Some of the most diverse street food can be found in Chinatown (also called Yaowarat), Banglamphu, and around Khao San Road.
9. Admire the Grand Palace
The Grand Palace is Bangkok’s most impressive and popular tourist attraction. Established in 1782, this complex was the royal residence for generations and is still used for important ceremonies today. The royal compound is enormous, covering over 200,000 square meters or 2 million square feet. The highlight is undoubtedly the colorful “Temple of the Emerald Buddha” (Wat Phra Kaew). Keep in mind that when visiting Buddhist temples, you should dress appropriately to respect the culture, which means shoulders and anything above the knees should be covered up.
8. See the reclining Buddha at Wat Pho
Located only a few blocks from the Grand Palace, Wat Pho is a beautiful Buddhist temple that can easily be combined with your palace visit. Known as one of Bangkok’s oldest temples, this place has a rich history and is home to an impressive Reclining Buddha, measuring 46 meters or 147 ft in length and 15 meters or 49 ft in height. We visited later in the day and were greeted with Chinese New Year celebrations and Buddhist ceremonies. Wat Pho is also home to one of the earliest massage schools. You can get one of the best massages here!
7. Visit a floating market
For a more entertaining market experience, you should head to one of the floating markets near Bangkok. Located on a series of canals, these vibrant markets sell fresh and delicious foods as well as handcrafted souvenirs. The most popular floating market is Damnoen Saduak, which is about a 1.5 hour drive from the city center of Bangkok. A visit here is usually combined with the Maeklong Railway Market, where trains pass by a few times per day. We enjoyed this tour as it was something we had never experienced before.
But if you want to stay closer to the city, you can also choose to visit floating markets closer to the downtown area, such as Taling Chan and Wat Sai floating market. They are easier to access by public transportation, but make sure to check opening hours before going.
6. Take a stroll in Lumpini park
For a true escape from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, take a stroll in Lumpini Park. This big green oasis offers several lawn areas, paved walking paths, trees, playgrounds, and an artificial lake where you can rent boats. Since the park is located in modern Bangkok, skyscrapers rise all around it. It’s a great place to spend an afternoon enjoying the fresh air and shade.
5. Get a view over Bangkok
Another great thing to do in modern-day Bangkok is to get an elevated view of the city. And when it comes to rooftop bars and restaurants, you have a lot of choices. We visited the Mahanakhon building, home to Bangkok’s highest observation deck, which provides spectacular views of the city and river. There is also a glass ceiling that you can stand on to look down on the buildings below as well as a bar and seating area. The best time to visit is in the early evening when the sun slowly sets over Bangkok. But be aware that this is also the busiest time! Alternatively, you can head to one of the many rooftop bars in the city, such as Sky Bar, View Rooftop Bar Bangkok, and Yào Rooftop Bar.
4. Explore lesser-known Buddhist Temples
With roots steeped in centuries-old history and Buddhist culture, you can find hundreds of temples in Bangkok. In addition to visiting the most popular ones, it’s also worth visiting less well-known temples. We visited the Golden Mount and Loha Prasat in the Banglamphu area in downtown Bangkok with a local guide. While embracing the local culture with its unique traditions and beliefs, we saw Bangkok from a different perspective and got a real insight into the history of Thailand. We highly recommend getting a local guide at least once during your visit.
3. Experience Khao San Road
You can’t leave Bangkok without visiting its infamous backpacker district. Khao San Road is a vibrant street, packed with hostels, food vendors, clothing stalls, bars, restaurants, and travelers from every corner of the globe. It’s colorful, loud, and exciting in its own way. If you’re feeling adventurous, try some of the fried insects, such as grubs or scorpions. After having a few Chang beers at the bars, the insects might become a little more enticing!
2. Shop at Chatuchak Weekend Market
Known as Thailand’s largest market, Chatuchak comes alive every weekend. On Saturday and Sunday from 9 am to 6 pm, thousands of shops open their doors to sell food, clothing, souvenirs, and home goods. It’s a great place to mingle with locals and shop for souvenirs at a more affordable price than the tourist areas in Bangkok. You can easily get here by metro as the market is next to the MRT Station called Kamphaeng Phet station.
1. Watch the sunset over the Chao Phraya River & Wat Arun
Flowing through Bangkok, the Chao Phraya River is the city’s lifeblood. During the day, many locals use the ferries and boats to commute to work here, and during the early evening, the city lights up with beautiful colors. From one of the rooftop bars next to the river (Eagle’s Nest or The Deck Restaurant at Arun Residence), you can watch the sunset over Wat Arun. It’s a great way to end the day! And if you’re looking for some more excitement, it’s also possible to take a dinner cruise down the river.
Additional things to do in Bangkok
There are a few things to do in Bangkok we didn’t mention that are definitely worth doing if you have some extra time in Bangkok:
Visit Jim Thompson House
Get a Thai massage
Shop at Asiatique: the Riverfront
Watch a Muay Thai match
Visit the Bangkok National Museum
Street art of Talat Noi
Day trips from Bangkok
While Bangkok will easily keep you busy for a few days, it’s also worth exploring some of the amazing places nearby.
Day trip to Ayutthaya
One of the best day trips goes to the country’s former capital Ayutthaya, located only 1.5 hours to the north of Bangkok. Here, you’ll find remarkable temple ruins that date from between the 14th and 18th centuries.
Day trip to Kanchanaburi & Erawan National Park
Another great day adventure is to the historic Kanchanaburi and breathtaking Erawan National Park, where you can find one of Thailand’s most beautiful waterfalls. The movie “Bridge Over the River Kwai” put this place on the map, but Kanchanaburi is in fact way more than that. We highly recommend staying a few days if you can! We have a full video about the best things to do in Kanchanaburi, so check it out if you’re considering going there!
Use These Websites To Save Money On Your Trip To Bangkok
Booking.com for places to stay
Skyscanner for cheap flights
GetYourGuide for local tours
Rentalcars.com for affordable car rentals
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Other Top Bangkok resources:
If you're looking for some other suggestions and tips on Bangkok, here are some great articles that will help you:
Visit Bangkok: Top 30 Things To Do And Must See Attractions by Voyage Tips
10 Best Things To Do Your First Time In Bangkok by Earth Trekkers
20 Things You Should Do in Bangkok by Home Is Where Your Bag Is
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