Bangkok is a vibrant city with loads of sightseeing opportunities. It’s a great place to base yourself in for a few nights, but, as with many capital cities, it comes with the difficulties of being vast and overpopulated. These 10 tips on visiting Bangkok should help you figure out the best way to enjoy my Bangkok top 10 itinerary!
10 TIPS FOR VISITING BANGKOK
1. Get an odd amount of money from the ATM
If you don’t have the local currency when you land in Bangkok, it’s worth noting that 1000 baht notes aren’t accepted everywhere. If you were thinking of withdrawing 7000 baht, get 6900 instead so the ATM has to dish out some 100 baht notes. There are ATMs after you go through security at the international airport.
2. Catch the city link train from the airport
The cheapest and easiest way to reach central Bangkok from the airport is by city link train. From the arrivals hall, the station is clearly signposted. Non-express trains run every 15 minutes, cost 45 baht and take about 25 minutes. They’re well lit, roomy and secure. If you’re heading towards Khao San Road, take it all the way to Phaya Thai and then get a cab from there. Metered cabs are cheaper than set fares, but finding a driver who’ll agree to using it can be tricky!
3. Don’t stay on Khao San Road
It may be the most famous backpacker street in the world, but its notoriety means that prices are inflated. It’s also a massive party street. If you’re visiting Bangkok research somewhere central, but avoid Khao San!
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If all you want to do is drink buckets you might like it, but there are some great options just a few blocks away where you’ll get a good night’s sleep. D Hostel Bangkok is a 5-minute walk from Khao San Road and close to the Grand Palace. It feels like a hotel aside from the number of beds in each room, and the staff are incredibly helpful.
4. Walk wherever you like
Contrary to what you might expect for somewhere so big and busy, it feels completely safe to walk the streets as a solo female traveller. Whether you’re weaving between wats or going from one part of town to another, you shouldn’t encounter any more trouble visiting Bangkok than you might in any other major city. I walked from near the Grand Palace to the central train station one day, and from the same area to Siam Square and back the next. Be careful crossing roads as noone respects the green man. Be bold and be alert.
5. Bring your camera charger for sightseeing
Believe it or not, the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, the Golden Temple and countless other major tourist attractions have random plug sockets dotted around. These are usually in shady spots where you can sit down, lean against a wall and recharge your batteries.
6. Cover up for temples
If you’re visiting a place of worship you need to dress appropriately. Many temples have a strict dress code and either won’t let you in if you don’t meet requirements or they’ll charge to rent you a coat or sarong. T-shirts with sleeves that don’t quite reach the elbow are ok. Flip flops are fine as footwear and, considering how often you’ll need to remove your shoes to go inside temples, you’re much better off with a shoe that goes on and comes off easily.
7. Respect the royal family
People have received jail sentences for saying bad things about the queen on Facebook. The country’s love for its royal family is clear from the many images of the queen that grace everywhere from people’s homes to roundabouts. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting Bangkok on August 12 – the queen’s birthday and also mother’s day – you’ll be treated to huge celebrations, fireworks and a close community spirit. It won’t matter that you’re not Thai. The local people will welcome you with open arms.
8. Respect Buddha when visiting Bangkok
Thailand is a predominantly Buddhist country and it’s hugely important to respect Buddha’s image. Don’t shop for Buddha ornaments or get a tattoo featuring him. It’s also offensive to point your feet towards an image of Buddha. When it comes to Buddhist monks, they’re usually very happy to have their photo taken with you, but you shouldn’t touch them.
9. Eat the street food
Not only is street food much cheaper than restaurant food, it’s often tastier. You can spend very little money trying loads of different dishes and learning more about what you like. While it’s always tempting to join the shortest queue, a longer queue of locals usually indicates better quality. If you can choose between pre-cooked or ‘cooked while you wait’, go with the latter.
10. Leave plenty of time to get to the airport/station
Bangkok traffic is notoriously busy and Bangkok residents are eternally optimistic. If you want to avoid stressing at every traffic light and then running along the platform in 30 degree heat with all your luggage, leave in plenty of time. It’s not unheard of for a cab driver to take a detour from his route, pull his cab over at the side of the road, leave the warning lights on and pop into a garage to use the bathroom while the meter’s still running! Expect the unexpected.