Bangkok is the capital of Thailand, as well as its largest city. An international, metropolitan city, Bangkok has a little bit of everything to offer its millions of citizens, expats, and tourists alike. One of the fastest growing cities in Southeast Asia in both real estate, business and tourism, Bangkok is a vibrant city with the amenities to charm a wide variety of travelers. Business travelers will love its wide array of restaurants, cafes and nightlife. Backpackers have a haven in Khao San Road with all the amenities one could ever desire at a fraction of the price of Western locations. Families will love the proximity to beaches, mountains, and family friendly activities. Shoppers are in heaven with an extensive network of malls and markets. History buffs will find numerous temples and historical monuments to ponder over. Bangkok is truly a city that has something for everyone.
Fun fact: Bangkok holds the Guinness Book of World Records record for the longest name. Its full name, loosely translated from Thai is Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit. The name “Bangkok” is mostly used for Foreigners, or “farang”
The name “Bangkok” comes from Bang Makok. “Bang” means “town” or “village” and “Makok” means olive. Another derivation of Bangkok comes from “Bang Koh” which means “surrounded by rivers and canals” which is an accurate description of Bangkok.
Bangkok was under the rule of Ayutthaya in the early 15th century. Due to its advantageous location near Chao Phraya River, the city slowly became more and more integral to military strategy. Since then, it has become instead an integral part to the Thai economy, as the majority of businesses with headquarters or locations in Thailand are situated in Bangkok. Along with being the center of business and economics for Thailand, it is also the central point for much of the political turmoil that has taken place in Thailand in the past few decades. Bangkok is the beating heart of Thailand.
Bangkok is one of the most accessible cities in SE Asia. There are two airports in Bangkok, Suwarnabhumi (BKK) and Don Mueang (DMK). BKK is for long haul international flights and DMK is for smaller, regional and international flights. Most of the low cost carriers such as AirAsia and TigerAir fly out of DMK.
Airport Rail Link
Accessible straight from BKK, it connects to Phaya Thai BTS station on the Sukhumvit Line. Takes about 40 min to the BTS Station. Once you arrive at Phaya Thai BTS, it’s easy to get a taxi to your final destination. This is a good choice if you’re arriving on between 7-10am or 4-7pm on weekdays, or anytime on a Friday afternoon. Fare is 45 baht to Phaya Thai BTS.
There is a specific taxi stand at BKK with a surcharge of 50 baht as an airport fee. You’ll be asked to provide your destination location to the agent prior to getting into the taxi. Taxis only access THB cash, so be prepared. There are plenty of ATMs at the airport to withdraw cash, as well as money changing places.
There’s a public bus that takes you from DMK to Mo Chit BTS. Fare is 30 baht, follow the signs for the bus from the airport. Depending on traffic, the trip should take between 30-45 min. You don’t need to buy a ticket beforehand, someone will come and collect the fare from you once the bus gets going.
There is a taxi stand at DMK. Airport surcharge is 50 baht.
Bangkok can be daunting to get around, especially during peak hours. Here’s some general advice to ease the pain:
Avoid tuk tuks - these are the worst of all of the worlds: they’re pricey, can’t zip through traffic, and don’t have A/C. Unless you’re specifically looking to take a tuk tuk ride to take photos and say you’ve had the experience, avoid these at all costs.
Take motorbikes - it can be a bit scary at first, but just remember to hold on (either to the driver or to the back of the bike) and you’ll be fine. Ideal only for short rides, as there is a danger element. However, motorbike travel is a staple of Thailand and often the most efficient way to get around if you’re in a hurry.
BTS and MRT - the skytrain and underground train do not share a payment system, so factor this into your travel time. These are ideal for peak hour travel, as well as traveling far distances to avoid traffic.
Taxi and Uber - taxis and Uber are a great way to get around in Bangkok if it’s not during traffic time. You may have to wait for Uber for a while, but you won’t have to deal with negotiating fares or getting ripped off. Taxis should always use the meter, sometimes it’ll take some time to find a taxi that’ll do a meter, but it’s often worth the wait.
Luckily, all of Bangkok’s main temples are all nearby to each other. Make a day of it, and visit the Grand Palace, Wat Arun and Wat Pho. Make sure to wear “temple clothes” which consists of covering your shoulders and knees. Temples will have things you can borrow to enter, but it’s much nicer to have your own and just bring a backpack to carry all of the extra clothing in.
Opening hours: 9am-4pm everyday
Entrance fee: Grand Palace: 500THB. Wat Arun: 100THB. Wat Pho: 100THB.
The residence of Jim Thompson prior to his disappearance, the house is now renovated into a museum about the silk industry. The museum houses Southeast Asian art pieces and its silk weaving industry office. Tip: Take the Klong boat to Jim Thompson’s house for the ultimate Thai experience.
Opening hours: 9am to 5pm.
Entrance Fee: 100 baht.
One of the largest markets in the world, with over 8,000 outlets featuring thousands of goods. You can find absolutely everything here, from clothing to food to electronics to home goods. Make sure you barter for the best deal, and save your appetite because there’s plenty of delicious market food here.
Opening hours: 9am to 4pm, Saturdays and Sundays
Entrance fee: free, but be sure to bring plenty of baht to bring home souvenirs!
Even for those who aren’t into nightlife, and especially for those who are, one rooftop bar is a must while in Bangkok. The views and ambiance can’t be beat in this city of lights. Moon Bar, Octave at the Marriott on Sukhumvit 57, and Centara in Siam are some of our favorites.
Opening hours: depends on the bar, but usually 5pm to 1am
Entrance fee: free to enter the bar, drinks are 300-500THB and most also serve food.
Bangkok has hotels and accommodations for every kind of traveler. Whether you’re looking for the most luxurious experience for a fraction of the price of a Western establishment, or looking for something that’ll simply function as a place to sleep and shower, Bangkok has you covered. Here are some of our favorites:
Located in fantastic, vibrant Chinatown, Hotel Royal Bangkok is a luxury hotel only .5km from a local market filled with delicious food plus all the usual market goodies. The hotel comes equipped with WiFi, a swimming pool, restaurant, bar, and a multilingual staff. Located close to tourist attractions such as Wat Pho and Wat Arun.
Overlooking the Chao Phraya River, Chatrium Hotel Riverside is in an ideal location in an exciting area of Bangkok. Close to Asiatique, one of the most beautiful areas near the river, it’s the perfect place to watch sunset. A pool, fitness center, restaurant, bar, WiFi, business facilities and room service are all available at this luxurious hotel.
Siam is one of the most popular areas of Bangkok. Located close to Siam Center, MBK Center and Jim Thompson House, you won’t be hurting for places to hang out and enjoy the mall culture of Bangkok. If malls aren’t your thing, there are also local markets and plenty of space to walk around in this area.
The ultimate in luxury in Asoke area, one of the most convenient locations in Bangkok. Asoke is on both the BTS and MRT line, and has easy access to both Sukhumvit, Sathorn and Ari areas. The hotel provides 24 hour reception, a pool, poolside bar, as well as a computer station and a coffee shop on premise.
Located in convenient Sukhumvit Soi 11 in Nana area, this is a highly populated expat area. Within walking distance to one of the most beautiful parks in Bangkok, Benjasiri Park where there is exercise equipment, a lake, and a track for runners.