EXPLORE

The Travel Guide to Bangkok

Good to Know
Safety:
B-
Budget:
$
When to go:
Nov–March
Average Costs
Basic
Baller
Dinners
$3
$40
Drinks
$3
$10
Hotel
$30
$100

Welcome to Bangkok

Too often, Bangkok is relegated to the category of starting-off points; it’s seen not for its standalone merits, but as the place you’ll fly in and out of en route to wilder destinations to the north and south. Thailand is a wonder to behold and a joy to explore, it’s true! But don’t treat Bangkok as a means to an end. It’s a beautiful, confusing mashup of sights, sounds, flavors, and aromas, and you haven’t lived until you’ve taken a hairpin ride through the city on a tuk-tuk. Be sure you give it a fair shake before venturing onward to the islands and jungles that lay beyond the city limits.

Who’ll Love Bangkok

Group travel, romantic getaways, foodies (or simply anyone who likes eating delicious things), backpackers on extended vacation

How to Budget for a Trip to Bangkok

One reason why Thailand is such a top-ranking destination is its price; on the whole, Southeast Asia is accommodating of even the barest budgets. Great hotels at or below the $50/night price point are everywhere, while a room at the ultra-ritzy Waldorf Astoria will set you back less than $250/night. When it comes to food, “cheap” doesn’t mean “bad” – some of the best eats are street meats. Excluding airfare, $500-$1000 is more than enough to explore Bangkok without having to worry for even a moment about your budget.

Safety Considerations

When you feel Bangkok’s energy, you’ll understand how easily a person could be pickpocketed and scarcely notice—but it’s a pretty safe place to be, all told. It’s also a very friendly destination for LGBTQIA+, solo female, and BIPOC travelers. Just try to avoid scams by knowing in advance how much something should cost, like a taxi ride, and a word of warning: Under no circumstances should you attempt to buy or take drugs here (not that you would, of course). Thailand’s no-drug policy is exceedingly strict.

Weather in Bangkok

In Bangkok, seasons aren’t differentiated by warm and cold weather but rather wet and dry weather—the tropical climate means Thailand is hot essentially year-round.

The wet season in Bangkok is also known as the monsoon season (roughly May–October), and even if it’s not raining on a given day, it’s extremely humid. For travelers, this is the low season, during which flexibility is even more important as some services may close unexpectedly due to the flooding that often comes with a monsoon.

Bangkok’s high season (November–March) is the time right after monsoon season, when the weather is comparatively dry and cool. Though high temperatures are often still in the high 80s or low 90s F, low temperatures can drop into the 60s F in December and January.

When to Visit Bangkok

Although the dry season (usually from November through March) is Bangkok’s high season, when crowds are at their largest and prices at their highest, it’s still arguably one of the best times to visit. Even during this high season, however, the Christmas and New Year’s holidays are especially busy.

Bangkok’s shoulder season (as the dry season ends) is brief, but you can get lucky with a good combination of weather that’s not too hot or wet and prices that aren’t too high. April and May can be good options, though the humidity climbs steadily as the calendar heads into monsoon season. The popular Songkran festival takes place in April.

Money Saving Tips

One of the reasons Bangkok (and, indeed, all of Thailand) is so beloved by travelers is its affordability. There are, however, a few money saving tips that may come in handy during your trip.

Embrace public transportation. Both the BTS Skytrain and the MRT (subway) are cheap ways to get around the city.

Eat on the street. Street food in Bangkok is not only the most affordable, it’s often the most delicious option.

Learn to haggle. Shoppers love the city’s outdoor markets, and haggling over prices is expected.

Drink like the locals. Thai beer and local spirits are always going to be much cheaper than imported brands you might be more familiar with.

What to See, Do, and Eat in Bangkok

The Top 10 Things to Do in Bangkok

vendor in the Amphawa Floating Market
  1. Visit the iconic floating markets of Bangkok’s canals – our pick is Amphawa Floating Market.
  2. Enjoy a jog or peaceful stroll through Lumphini Park.
  3. Take a daring stroll down Khao San Road.
  4. Explore the grandeur of the Grand Palace.
  5. Flex your shopping muscles through the endless stalls of Chatuchak Market.
  6. Check out the enviable architecture of the Jim Thompson House Museum.
  7. Take your time on a visit to Wat Arun and Wat Pho (the latter is where you’ll find the reclining Buddha statue).
  8. Get lost in the enthralling maze that is Bangkok’s Chinatown – check out the Sampeng Market there.
  9. Experience olfactory overload (in a good way) at the 24-hour Pak Khlong Talat flower market.
  10. Make it a fight night by checking out the classic Thai martial arts known as Muay Thai.

The Local Picks for Top Attractions and Activities in Bangkok

Ratchada Train Night Market with Bangkok skyline in the background
  1. Shop like the local kids at Siam Square One, full of small boutiques, ice cream cafes, and an outdoor section with many booths selling jewelry.
  2. Enjoy a day at the Sampran Riverside on the west side, an eco-cultural resort and farm with many activities to fill up your weekend.
  3. Get out on the water at the Nongbon Water Sports Center, which offers gear for sailing, windsurfing, and kayaking, along with free instructional sessions daily.
  4. Take a timeout at Bangkrachao Park, known as Bangkok’s green lung, where you can rent a bicycle for the day and ride through the jungle-like bike paths.
  5. Hit up the Ratchada Train Night Market for a fun date night in an energetic atmosphere – and be sure to go to the top of the parking garage at the Esplanade Mall to see the market from above.
  6. Get in on the annual water fight that takes place during the Thai new year festival.
  7. Get a refreshing, no-frills massage – Baan Thai Massage in Ratchathewi is a good option.
  8. Reach new heights at the Sathorn Unique Tower, a construction project thwarted and abandoned following the 1997 Asian financial crisis, that is open for visitors to climb to the (very high) top.
  9. Check out a uniquely entertaining Thai puppet show.
  10. Chow down on Durian, a strange fruit that people absolutely love – or hate.

What to Eat and Drink in Bangkok

overhead view of several plates of food

If you’re a big fan of the Thai food that’s on offer in your city or town, you’ll certainly have an appetite for what awaits you in Thailand – in fact, you may be blown away by the execution of the dishes at both high- and lowbrow establishments. You’ll also be in awe of the variety, which spans far beyond the papaya salad and green curry you’re used to. An unfussy yet filling breakfast or lunch will easily cost less than $3, and you could eat like royalty all day long and spend less than $20. The same goes for alcohol (though you may not have room for any drinks after these meals).

  • Crab and Claw has sustainably sourced, fresh seafood – and the dish to try is the lobster roll (or the combo roll).
  • Rung Ruang is a street-side noodle stall in Soi 26 and boasts one of the best pork noodle bowls in town – and it’s not uncommon to order two different bowls at once.
  • Vietnamese and More has all the classic dishes you crave when you’re in the mood for Viet, like pho, Báhn mì, pate, and morning glory salad.
  • Cocotte is a Michelin-recommended restaurant and winery that offers up European-style dishes like steak, bone marrow, and an extensive selection of desserts (but the star of the show is the Australian Tomahawk Wagyu).
  • Nadimos is a satisfying Mediterranean spot with fantastic hummuses.
  • Roast stands out for its quality ingredients, brunch menu, and fabulous coffee – but it’s great any time of day for pasta dishes and seafood.
  • Jua is a tiny restaurant in Caroenkrung located down a small alley serving unique dishes like uni pasta and handcrafted cocktails – try it for a date night or late-night bite.
  • Teppen is a popular izakaya spot with character – staff will loudly greet you as you enter, and there isn't a bad dish on the menu.
  • Above Eleven is primarily a Peruvian Japanese restaurant located in the Nana neighborhood whose menu contains a variety of delicious and creative dishes, but don’t overlook this as a good spot for cocktails.
  • Abar is a fantastic bar for low-key vibes and large lounge tables, with a perfect view of downtown Bangkok and small bites like chips and nuts.

Where to Stay in Bangkok

Ask any underpaid recent college grad and they’ll tell you Bangkok’s got affordable accommodations that can make even those with the tiniest budgets feel right at home. The US dollar goes far here – so whether your maximum spend is below $25/night or you’re looking for something luxe ($75-$300/night), you’ll find plenty of options that are safe, clean, and stylish. 

Top Bangkok Neighborhoods for Visitors

a busy Bangkok street at night

Khao San Road and the surrounding Banglamphu is unbelievably popular for tourists, but we prefer the Riverside for a posh option (hello, rooftop infinity pools) and Sukhumvit for cheaper accommodations that are still close to plenty of attractions.

Recommended Hotels in Bangkok

Getting Around in Bangkok

Public Transportation Options in Bangkok

Taxis are the preferred mode of transportation in Bangkok, with tuk-tuks coming in second for a couple of reasons: First, they’re not the safest cars on the road; they’re not actually even cars. Two, they tend to only service the most touristy parts of town. Taxis, on the other hand, are inexpensive and more or less reliable – just be sure your driver turns on their meter and that it doesn’t rack up at warp speed, or agree on a flat rate with your driver before you go anywhere. Solo female travelers should avoid traveling alone in taxis at night.

Bangkok Airports

Bangkok is home to two major international airports.

Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK), also called simply Bangkok Airport, is the largest in Thailand and one of the largest in Southeast Asia. Located about 20 miles from the city, it’s a hub for Thai Airways, Thai Smile, Bangkok Airways, and Thai Viajet Air, as well as a focus city for China Southern Airlines, Thai AirAsia, and EVA Air.

Prior to when Suvarnabhumi Airport opened, the main airport in Bangkok was Don Mueang International Airport (DMK). It’s now the city’s second international airport, located about 15 miles from Bangkok, and is served by a large number of low-cost airlines. In fact, it’s the largest low-cost carrier airport in the world. DMK is a focus city for Thai AirAsia, Nok Air, and Thai Lion Air.

How to Get from Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) to Bangkok

The easiest way to get from BKK into Bangkok is via the Airport Rail Link (ARL). Trains leave the airport roughly every 15 minutes during most of the day and the trip takes less than a half-hour. Ticket prices range from 15–45 THB, depending on where you’re going in the city. There are also metered taxis available at the airport to take you directly to your Bangkok hotel. Note that there’s an added fee of 50–70 THB for taxi trips from the airport to the city, plus the actual metered fare and any tolls.

How to Get from Don Mueang International Airport (DMK) to Bangkok

The Airport Rail Link that serves BKK does not run to DMK, but there are still a few inexpensive options to get from Don Mueang International Airport into Bangkok. Bus lines A1 and A4 connect DMK to central Bangkok, with fares ranging from 10-150 THB and trips taking about an hour. The state rail network makes the trip from DMK to Bangkok in 40-50 minutes and ticket prices start at 40 THB. There are metered taxis available at the airport, too. Taxi fares vary by destination and traffic, but you can expect fares in the 300 THB range and up.

Where Else to Go from Bangkok

Day Trips from Bangkok

a orange-robed monk reclines on the ruins of Ayutthaya
  • Visit Khao Yai National Park (hire a car to get you there; it’s about 1.75 hours away) near the Cambodian border, full of awe-inspiring waterfalls and easy hikes (be sure to stop at the Khao Yai Vineyard afterwards if you have time).
  • Hire a car to take you and your group 1 hour north to Ayutthaya, a UNESCO World Heritage Site made up of dozens of ancient temples unlike anything you’ve seen in Bangkok.
  • Hire a car to take you 1.25 hours east of Bangkok to Wat Saman Rattanaram, home of the reclining Ganesh statues, where you’ll learn about the history of the Buddhist faith in Thailand – and be awestruck by the likeness of Ganesh.
  • Trek down to Pattaya City (a 3.5-hour train ride or 1.75-hour car ride), where you’ll find one of Bangkok locals’ favorite beaches – Jomtien – along with a charming town full of bars and restaurants, as well as several hotels, should you decide to stay a night (a word of warning: this place is extremely popular).
  • Visit Kanchanaburi, home of the world-famous Bridge on the River Kwai, which was occupied by Japanese forces during WWII (1.75 hours northwest of Bangkok).

Where Else to Visit from Bangkok

  • Take a 1-hour flight to Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second largest city but a far cry from what you’ve seen in Bangkok – Chiang Mai is a calm, relaxed destination full of rolling green hills; it’s a great place to learn more about Thailand’s cuisine by taking a cooking class.
  • Fly 2.25 hours south of Bangkok to explore the sprawling, overwhelming, intoxicating city of Singapore, truly a feast for all the senses.
  • Fly 1 hour south to Koh Samui and Koh Lanta, gorgeous islands in the Gulf of Thailand to post up on for a week or more.
  • Fly 3.25 hours to Manila, capital of the Philippines, an enthralling mashup of skyscrapers, art galleries, restaurants, magnificent coffee, and an excellent nightlife scene.

Books, Movies, and TV Shows Set in Bangkok

Bangkok has made appearances in several shows and movies. It has served as the place for a wild party with friends in The Hangover II, the gritty backdrop to a revenge tale in Only God Forgives, and and the site of a murder that kicks off an international mystery in HBO’s The Flight Attendant.

Bond films The Man With the Golden Gun and Tomorrow Never Dies both feature Bangkok scenes, though the first is better known for its Phuket scenery and the latter uses Bangkok as a stand-in for Saigon. The city was also used for the Saigon scenes in Good Morning Vietnam.

Khao San Road appears briefly in The Beach, one of the best-known films shot in Thailand (and that was a book before it was turned into a movie), and Bangkok’s red light district was one of the shooting areas for Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.

Bangkok’s sex industry takes center stage in the love story, Private Dancer, by Stephen Leather. Lawrence Osborne’s The Glass Kingdom and John Burdett’s Bangkok 8 are both thrillers set in the city, and Thai author Prabda Yoon’s short story collection, The Sad Part Was, features several pieces about modern Bangkok life.

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