BANGKOK CITY GUIDE: Must do in Bangkok
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Thailand’s capital and the most populous city is Bangkok. Along with many other locations in Thailand, Bangkok attracts countless tourists each year. If you’re planning a trip to Bangkok, this Bangkok city guide will come in handy: find out how to get around Bangkok, the best time to visit Bangkok, the best museums in Bangkok, the best Bangkok markets, and the other best things to do.
Why visit Bangkok
Often regarded as a quick novelty stop by many fleeting tourists, Bangkok definitely deserves some quality time. It’s unique in so many ways and bursting with character, It provides a perfect combination of cultural tradition and modernity. The options are endless, from grand palaces and temples to a world-renowned floating market. Make sure you use this Bangkok city guide to fit in everything you’d like to do – there’s so much you must do in Bangkok that you won’t want to miss.
Essential Bangkok travel tips
LANGUAGE: the main language is Thai. However, in most major cities English is spoken.
MONEY/ATM: the currency is the Thai Baht. Most major cities have ATMs available and establishments accept credit cards. However, you’ll need cash for any smaller purchases at markets, for example.
ELECTRONIC APPLIANCES: All plugs are type A, B, and C with standard voltage 230V and frequency 60Hz. Pack your universal travel adaptor!
VISA: citizens from the US, UK, and other EU countries are allowed a free 30-day visa if they enter by air. If you enter overland, you’re given 15 days. It’s easy to extend it to a tourist visa if you’d like to stay longer. Visit the Thai Embassy website has more information.
Best time to visit Bangkok
You’ll want to take the best time to visit Bangkok into account when planning a trip. The city has reasonably high temperatures throughout the year but rain is very common.
The low season begins in March when temperatures are really high and very humid. The monsoon season starts in May, but if you don’t mind the rain, visiting between May and October could be perfect if you want to do Bangkok on a budget.
However, the best time to visit is between November and March, the high season. During this period it’s much drier and temperatures are on average 28⁰C. Unfortunately, this means you will come across bigger crowds and higher prices. Keep reading this Bangkok city guide to find out how to organize your trip on a budget and save money.
How much is a trip to Bangkok?
Bangkok has a huge variety of restaurants, street food, hotels, hostels, and activities for every budget. It’s a remarkably affordable city, so Bangkok on a budget is definitely possible and enjoyable. These Bangkok travel costs are rough and can change.
It is possible to find a hostel for as low as $10 a night. There are more luxurious options for up to $250.
To find the cheapest deals, dodge online booking and look around the city, especially in smaller and local hotels. Be aware that although you can spend almost nothing on accommodation, the standard is what you pay for.
Bangkok’s food is known for its low price and high quality. Explore all the street food options for less than a couple of dollars per meal. Hotels and restaurants are more expensive, the perfect occasional luxurious spots. Avoid tap water, a 1.5L bottle of water is less than a dollar, or opt for a local Thai beer for $2 to $3.
Most activities are very cheap, you can find bicycles, boats, and Tuk-Tuk tours for few dollars. If you’re planning a trip to Bangkok for more than a couple of days, a Bangkok City Pass might be worthwhile as you’ll get discounted access to numerous vendors and attractions.
How to get around Bangkok
A cheap and comfortable way to get around Bangkok is by taxi. However, this is not always the quickest option due to the amount of traffic! Also, be aware of taxi drivers who might ‘forget’ to start the meter at the beginning of your trip and overcharge you.
Trains are available and a great way to avoid traffic. Skytrain runs every 5-10 minutes between busy areas, from 5.30 am to midnight.
Alternatively, a more eco-friendly option is a scenic river taxi boat for as little as 30 cents. Tuk Tuks are a fun experience but make sure you negotiate the fare before you hop in.
Best historical things to do and see in Bangkok
Follow this Bangkok city guide to discover the best things to do in Bangkok
The first stop on your list must be the biggest and oldest temple in Bangkok. King Rama I, built it centuries ago as a place of healing and Thailand’s first university. Visited by thousands of tourists each year for its exceptionally large golden Buddha statue. The giant gold sculpture is over 150 feet long with notably huge feet, inlaid with stones and pearls. Across the grounds, you can see over a thousand Buddha images. If you visit today you can get a traditional Thai massage in one of Thailand’s most esteemed schools of massage.
Since its construction in 1782, this palace has been hugely popular and a major historical attraction in Bangkok. It’s been used to home royals for generations, but now only for occasional ceremonies whilst homing the Jade/Emerald Buddha. Even though it’s only 31 inches tall, it’s the most worshipped statue in Thailand.
Reserve half a day for the guided palace tour, they’ll make sure you don’t miss any of the fascinating features. Remember to dress very modestly, or utilize their sarongs.
You can find this Temple of Dawn in the heart of Bangkok. It represents some of the best maintained religious buildings, commissioned by the Thai monarchy. It was established in the 1600s but has acquired distinctive additions by Kings throughout the centuries. Here you can find precious artifacts relating to Thailand’s historical and religious history. Its 70-meter tall structure is adorned in beautiful colored glass and Chinese patterned porcelain. Climb to the top to see a stunning view of the Chao Phraya River below.
Best museums in Bangkok
Along with the bustling market stalls, trendy rooftop bars and historical sites are some unmissable museums. Exploring the variety of museums is one of the best things to do in Bangkok.
Baan Kukrit House
An architectural gem off the tourist’s usual beaten track, this museum’s design and atmosphere are different from the conventional. These pavilions, gardens, open verandas, five teak houses were used to home a former prime minister. Its transformation into a museum celebrates the life of M.R. Kukrit, showing a vast collection of artifacts. Among these are antiques, fine arts, ceramics, rare books, and more. Stunning grounds surround the classical Thai architecture; wander away an afternoon around the lotus ponds and sculptured miniature whilst enjoying the richly informative displays.
Jim Thompson House
Any Bangkok travel guide will feature this museum as something you must do in Bangkok – and for good reason! Jim Thompson was an American man who made his fortune as a silk entrepreneur and art collector in the mid 20th century.
After serving in the Office of Strategic Services in Thailand, he settled in Bangkok. He was drawn to the local silks and sent samples worldwide, steadily building a worldwide clientele of admirers and buyers. His house was transformed into a museum to show his art collection and the process of making Thai silks. Across his house, you can see wall hangings depicting Buddha life, porcelain displays, repurposed mahjong tables, and many more beautiful artifacts.
Bangkok National Museum
Another must-see in Bangkok is the first National Museum in Thailand. Built in the late 1800s on the grounds of the Grand Palace, it homes the most extensive collection of Thai art and artifacts in the entire country. There are several buildings across the grounds, each housing different artifacts, and art. One collection displays items from Thailand’s prehistory, another includes Chinese weapons, Khon masks, palanquins, ceramics, armaments, traditional musical instruments from Southeast Asia, and many more. Allocate at least an afternoon to be able to marvel at every fascinating building.
Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)
More than 800 pieces of art are spread across five stories. Some floors show permanent exhibits, while others are seasonal and change. The original and highly modern building, built-in 2012, was designed to look like it was made and carved from a single piece of granite. The 18,000 square meter space showcases exceptional art from the past three decades.
Thailand is known for its traditions, but the MOCA displays the increasing number of talented contemporary Thai artists. Here, new talent can express feelings and issues without any restrictions, resulting in some incredibly unique, brave, and interesting artworks.
Suan Pakked Palace
Completely different from the MOCA, and beautiful in its own way is this group of traditional teak Thai houses.
Princess Chumbon converted her home in the 1950s, a collection of eight small wooden houses – but before this, it was a lettuce farm, which is exactly how the name translates!
Centuries ago, after completion, they were transported to a tropical garden in Bangkok. Now visitors can see some ancient artifacts, huge displays of art and antiques. Surrounding that is a lush green oasis complete with swans and ducks.
Best Markets in Bangkok
Bangkok hosts a huge amount of interesting markets. Therefore, this Bangkok city guide only lists a few of the best and most commonly visited markets. Although some of these markets are just outside Bangkok city, they’re definitely worth the journey!
On Saturdays and Sundays, Chatuchak is the biggest and busiest market in Bangkok! Over 200,000 visitors come for a scavenge each weekend. Bring some cash so you can purchase whatever treat you discover. In the tiny lanes are stalls of clothes, antiques, live animals, accessories, and many more.
The best time to visit is early morning, as after that will get hot and crowded in the narrow lanes. 15,000 stalls stock items from every corner of Thailand and beyond; this spectacle is definitely a must-do in Bangkok.
Damnoen Saduak floating market
Just two hours out of Bangkok is one of the largest floating markets in the country. It can get extremely busy as locals and tourists alike will flock around to grab a snack from a passing boat or a colorful flower bouquet. Rich with culture and chaos, this traditional market is bursting with smells, flavors, and unique finds.
Amphawa floating market
This is the next biggest floating market, located 90km outside of Bangkok. It really kicks off in the afternoon, where the cultural extravaganza spreads across a long stretch along the riverbank. It’s a perfect spot for enthusiastic foodies, as you’re bound to find new Thai dishes and original recipes at every corner.
Pak Khlong Talat flower market
There’s no reason you can’t visit this extraordinary market as it’s open 24 hours a day. As soon as you enter you’ll be hit with the incredible smell of thousands of flowers from all over the country. You’re likely to see many other tourists, snapping the highly photogenic flora, fauna, and related goods at very low prices. Watching the chaos of unloading trucks and eager buyers is fascinating, for decorative use to good fortune-bringing garlands and religious deities.
Patong night market
Every Bangkok travel guide will include this fun attraction. Patong night market is flooded with foreign visitors dotting between the chaotic bars and stalls of fashion and souvenirs. Be aware, Patong is known for its fake goods, from Louis Vuitton bags to Patek Philippe watches.
Maeklong Railway market
Some call this the world’s most dangerous market, and probably one of the strangest and most interesting, too. Vendors spread their stock of meat, fish, vegetables, seafood, sweets, fruits, and drinks across a railway track. They then receive a whistle indicating an incoming train, and sellers and buyers have 3 minutes to move stock and themselves clearly out of the track. This happens six times a day to experienced vendors who calmly move tourists out of the way and their belongings to safety. A must-do in Bangkok.
Talat Rot Fai Market, Srinakarin
A modern market, created in 2011 is 30 minutes north of Bangkok. The unique specialty here is new and second-hand vintage and retro goods, but it also has a huge variety of fresh food and drinks. Unfortunately, there’s no subway/MRT or Skytrain station nearby, so if you have access to a car, make the journey up to see a number of original traders. Stalls consist of affordable street fashion, home decor, electronics, and many more. Locals come to pass time on the weekends, as a great place to relax anx people-watching.
If you’re planning a trip to Bangkok, you’ll without a doubt have some memorable adventures exploring this traditional and beautiful city. Hopefully, you’ll have enough time to see everything Bangkok has to offer, from excitement and chaos to calm freedom and beauty. But if not, use this Bangkok city guide to plan your perfect trip.