Bangkok is fresh in my memory since my last visit, so I felt it was appropriate to do a little city guide based on my time there and list the top things to do in Bangkok. I have visited Bangkok a grand total of five times and that actually makes me a “destination guru” according to booking.com review standards...so let’s just pretend that’s true!
Below are some top things to do in Bangkok and top places to stay simply based on own experience. I will also include some places I haven’t been, but have heard are good places to go and hopefully, you will find some useful information within it!
First things first,
When is the best time to visit Bangkok?
We have three main seasons happening in Bangkok, Thailand due to its wonderful location in South East Asia. These are the “hot season” from March to June, the “rainy season” from July to October and the “cool season” from November to February.
I have visited Bangkok only in the so-called “rainy” season and I can tell you that I had very little rain and the temperatures are simply too hot to handle, so I dread to think what the hot season feels like. I can say the wet season never disrupted any of my itineraries, but maybe I got lucky.
I imagine that the hot season is simply unbearable, so perhaps this is the cheapest time to fly there. However, it depends on what you can handle. If you are used to hot climates, then I doubt it will make much difference to you, but if you’re a pale Irish girl who loves the rain and wind of the Irish sea, then you may struggle.
Where is the best place to stay in Bangkok?
Bangkok is a massive city. There are 50 districts to choose from! However, there are a select few districts in which tourists reside. These are;
Khao San/ Banglamphu Area
Great for students, young adults who are looking to party for cheap, eat street food and meet other like-minded people. I have stayed in the Khao San area- just a 10-minute walk from Khao San road, which is far enough to be away from the madness but close enough to join in. I’ve stayed in a hostel called “Thaitone Hostel”....which is now called Zee Thai,
This is a new hostel that opened March 2017 and because of that, it’s in a brilliant condition. You can choose from private rooms or dorm rooms. I have stayed in both and a dorm room costs you around £4-5 a night and a double room around £8. There is a beautiful communal area with sofas, Mac computers and Netflix of course!
There is also a rooftop area to enjoy a drink along with a kitchen with free laundry facilities. Air conditioning is powerful and the staff is brilliant, so if you need a place to stay then I’d recommended here. I stayed here twice during visits to Bangkok. The WiFi is also one of the best I’ve ever had in Thailand.
Ps, it's also above a large 7-Eleven..which you can't go wrong with. By the way, if you need ideas of what to do when visiting Khao San Road, check out this article!
Good for couples (or so I hear). I haven’t stayed here personally, but I’ve certainly explored this area and I do believe it’s a romantic setting that gives you some beautiful views of the temples and if you’re lucky enough to catch a sunset in Bangkok, then this is the place to catch it! I could recommend a specific place, but booking.com has so many on offer that you may as well just search there. This area is close to the things I will list in the top things to do in Bangkok.
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Perfect for those who want to shop until they drop. This area is bursting with amazing shops, malls, tailors, and wonderful places to dine. There are many designer stores in the malls along with lots of stalls which sell “fake” Urban Decay and Mac makeup….which maybe I shouldn’t be encouraging but they’re bloody brilliant replicas and don’t ruin my skin and I stock up every time I go! I’ve stayed in this area in an absolutely amazing hotel called the “Aloft”.
With fabulous rooms, a stunning roof-top infinity pool, a games room equipped with Play stations fours, a state-of-the-art gym and a wonderful bar and restaurant, it's perfect for those wanting to truly experience a little luxury. The skyline of Bangkok at night from the pool is one of the best views I’ve ever witnessed. You’ll appreciate Bangkok when you’re above the chaotic madness.
Part of Bangkok's bustling commercial district and filled with banks and well, money, it’s a high rise area home to the “tetras building” which is not only the tallest skyscraper in Bangkok but also the best architectural buildings too. I stayed in this are on my last journey and it’s a strategic location right next to the Sky train. I stayed in a hotel called “I residence” which had a wonderful rooftop pool overlooking the skyscrapers, a restaurant that was well-priced, lovely rooms and wonderful staff.
I could go on forever, but some of the other popular areas are Siam, Pratunam, and Chinatown, but I think these places are more fitting for day trips rather than stayovers. However, if you disagree then let me know!
How to get around in Bangkok?
You can get around Bangkok via bus, boat, car, taxi or train. However, I often think the two best ways are Uber and Sky Train. The boat is great for when you are visiting the tourist attractions and it costs 40 baht for a single journey. PLEASE BE AWARE that there are many other companies who do the journeys for 100 baht and when you say, “isn’t the hop on/hop off boat 40?” they tell you that you will be waiting over an hour for the next boat….which is of course a lie, so save yourself some money and keep walking to the main boat.
The Sky train/metro is a great option if you’re looking for a quick and super cheap way to get to destinations, however, it won’t take you close enough to some places and you will require either a tuk-tuk ride or taxi if you can’t be bothered walking in the heat. But sky train rides are around 30 baht (the sky train to and from the airport is 45 baht(bargain).
Uber is wonderful as usual.
The thing is, Uber and Taxis are generally the same prices in Bangkok IF you can get your taxi driver to use his meter.
You will often find drivers don’t want to use the meter because it’s always cheaper than they want, but don't get into a taxi if they don't allow you because you’re getting ripped off, just move onto the next one...you won’t be short of drivers. Uber, on the other hand, is good because it’s convenient, the cars are nicer, and you can pay on a card of course.
When it’s a choice between a taxi and Uber, we choose Uber everytime, it's the perfect way to see all the top things to do in Bangkok!
Getting from the airport to Bangkok city centre
Depending on whether you are arriving from Don Mueang International Airport or Suvarnabhumi Airport (Bangkok international airport) will make a difference on your transport. If you are coming from the former then you have three options.
- Firstly, you can get the slow train, which costs 20 baht, but they only leave hourly and it takes a couple of hours to get into Bangkok city centre.
- Secondly, you can get a taxi (always get the meter) or lastly, you can connect to the free airport wifi and order and Uber. If you’re travelling with friends, then an Uber is super cheap and convenient, so just do that (an Uber also includes the toll fees already).
If you are arriving from Suvarnabhumi Airport the quickest and cheapest way of arriving at where you need to be is the Sky train- it costs 45 baht which is approximate £1 and the journey takes around 30-35 mins depending on where you want to stop. Your other options also include a taxi or of course Uber. If you are going to use a taxi, then try Grab as it will calculate via the meter and you can pay on cards.
Top things to do in Bangkok
So here it is, the top things to do in Bangkok, along with updated prices as of October 2017.
This is certainly one of the best and top things to do in Bangkok. It's most the most iconic too. The Grand Palace is a place of pure beauty and magnitude. It’s wealthy, it’s beautiful and it’s worth a visit. The price of entrance is 500 baht but I do believe it’s worth the price. If this is the only temple area you will be visiting on your trip to Thailand, then you simply can’t miss it out.
The dress code is VERY strict. No shoulders or knees on show, and nothing that is ‘sexy’, this means you can’t wear leggings. If you arrive and completely forget about the dress code, don't’ worry you can rent out items to cover yourself. I’ve been to the Grand Palace once, and when I did visit, I had a terrible camera, so consequently my pictures are awful, therefore I’ve decided not to include them and you can wait for the surprise yourself. On that note, bring a good quality camera with you!
Temple of the golden mount (otherwise known as Wat Saket)
This is what can be described as a ‘hill-top’ temple in the city that’s got a variety of bells to ring on the way up for luck. Entrance is 20 baht (50 pence) and you walk up the many stairs to receive a beautiful panoramic view of Bangkok and it’s amazing skyline, including the glittering gold chedi.
The walk isn’t too challenging and you can take breaks in between if you find it tough. It’s personally one of my favourite places in Bangkok because it feels quiet and tranquil, which is a sure contrast to the manic nature of Bangkok. I also like seeing the monks praying.
The dedication they bring to the Buddhist religion is something I admire throughout Thailand. The Golden Mount stays open late enough to make the climb just before sunset, which I can imagine is beautiful. The whole process of visiting should take around 20-30 minutes unless you stop for an on-sight coffee and it wasn’t busy at all during October at 2 pm. Definitely make sure this is on your list of things to do in Bangkok.
Wat Pho (temple of the reclining Buddha)
Wat Pho is beautiful and it's certainly way up there on the list of things to do in Bangkok. It’s an 80,000 square meter complex that houses a lot of records; it’s the oldest and largest monastery in the Thai capital, birthed the city’s first university, houses the largest reclining Buddha and contains more Buddha images than any Thai temple.
It’s seriously an interesting place and certainly worthy of its position on the top things to do in Bangkok, and with an entry fee of just 100 baht, it’s a great place to visit. You also get a free bottle of water which is useful for the hot humid days!
You can walk around the complex at your own pace, there is no need to follow a walking system and you can rent out a guide, but you may as well read up about it when you are there to save some money.
The reclining Buddha is massive and eye-catching and as you walk around you will find an area where you can buy “donations” to pop into each of the pots collecting money. This only costs 20 baht and it’s a nice way to tribute to Buddha, even if you’re not religious. I hoped it might bring me some good luck.
I love the Buddhas placed around the complex, they’re beautiful and truly shine and sparkle. Don’t forget to cover up!
Wat Arun (temple of dawn)
Wat Arun is architecturally the best temple in Bangkok, in my own opinion. It’s absolutely beautiful. It stands proud and towers over the banks of the Chao Phraya River. The entrance is 50 baht per person and is open from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm, I often think its better visiting after 3 pm.
Unfortunately, when I visited, there were some renovations happening and you couldn’t walk up the temple to see the surrounding views, which I had wanted to do, but either way, it was beautiful. Remember as always a modest dress code is in order.
READ ALSO: Erawan Museum Bangkok -Thailand's 3 Headed Elephant
Markets in Bangkok
There are many markets throughout Bangkok, some of which I had the opportunity to visit and others not. One of the most popular and famous markets is the Bangkok Weekend Market also known as Chatuchak Weekend Market. It’s one of the largest in the world and tourists flock here every weekend to stock up on knock-off items and souvenirs. A free bus runs from Koh Shan Road to the market on Saturdays and Sundays, so getting there isn't a problem.
Patong is famous for one thing- it’s ping pong shows and I will discuss the experience of Ping Pong shows in a different blog post but as well as these famous shows, it also hosts a night market selling fake replicas of everything you can imagine, Gucci bags to ipads.
Koh Sanh road
Oh Ko Sanh, it’s a backpackers dream. Buckets for alcohol for 3 pounds, the opportunity to eat dried cockroaches and spiders, parties on the street and an abundance of street food to choose from. Speaking of street food, if you are going to try it, make sure you eat where everyone else is eating. I’ve eaten the street food a lot, but I fell ill on my last evening and I am pretty sure it’s because I got pad Thai from a stall that was deserted. Otherwise, the standard is okay!
Pad Thai with chicken costs around 50 baht and it’s a large portion so you’ll be satisfied. There's also lots of chicken, pork, spring rolls, kebabs, corn and more on offer so you will find something to suit you.
If you aren't there to party then I’d say go to Koh Shan for the street food (and cheap massages- they are great!) and just to say you’ve been, then leave promptly before you’re hoarded by people screaming the words “ping pong show” in your face and making that disgusting popping noise at you….if you’ve been, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
By the way, Koh Shan road STINKS, so maybe that’s why the alcohol helps- it numbs the smell.
Made famous by the Hangover two, this bar gives you panoramic views of Bangkok whilst enjoying an overpriced cocktail. I never got the chance to go here but I have heard it’s a good novelty place to visit if you can afford to pay 10 dollars for a drink. If you have been, please let me know whether it was worth it or not!
Floating market/train market
The floating market and train market are both novelty things to do in Thailand, but I actually enjoy them! I haven’t been to the train market, but it is offered as a package along with the floating market. Basically, you book transportation to the market via minibus, this costs around £6, (you can get it for 6, don’t pay anymore), for transport there and back, then when you arrive at the market, you rent out a boat for you and your party, it’s not too expensive, around £2 each, then you have 30 minutes of “floating” around the market.
Remember the whole thing can be seen on foot too, so you are just paying for the novelty and they do bring you around some floating villages too.
You can pick up lots of gifts here to bring home to family and friends.
Why has this made it on the list of top things to do in Bangkok? Well because I love a good Hard Rock Cafe, actually I love anything that is remotely like an American diner, but the Hard Rock Cafe in Bangkok is one of my favourites and the reason it’s on my top things to do in Bangkok list is basically for the live band. The food and cocktails are great, but the live band Hubris who have been based there for over three years now are one of the best bands I have ever seen! So, if you find yourself needing somewhere to dine, then head here for an evening out- you will not be disappointed.
So there you have it, that’s a list of the things I’ve done and the top things to do in Bangkok! If you have any other tips or suggestions, comment below. If you find yourself heading to the Full Moon Party after your trip to Bangkok, then check out my survival guide.