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