Travel Guide

Bangkok Travel Guide

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Travel Guide

Religion: The people of Thailand follow the Theravada school Buddhism, which is closely related to the roots of Buddhism in India. Monasticism gets heavy emphasis, which why there are so many temple monasteries in Bangkok. The temple, or Wat as it is called in Thailand, is the main cultural icon of Buddhist in Bangkok. The city has more than 300 Wats, each enclosed by walls and surrounded by vast lands. Many Wats lease out a portion of their lands to schools, homes and other projects. These Wats represent the best of Thai architecture. Apart from the mainland Thai culture, the country has several hill tribes in its northern mountainous regions of Hmong, Karen, Lisu, Lahu and Akha. There are also Muslims in the south, and several indigenous island peoples from the Andaman Sea tribes. Most Thai are indigenous, except the ethnic Chinese minorities and the assimilated Thai-Chinese community. There are a handful of adherents to Confucianism, Islam, Christianity and animist faiths as well.

Cultural Heritage: Visit the National Museum to check out royal objects that go back to the 6th century, as well as prehistoric and Bronze Age art relics. Also take a look at the National Library’s Thai National Documentation archives. Check out the country’s biggest collection of 17th-century Thai religious paintings, Dvaravati and Khmer sculptures and Thai and Chinese pottery and porcelain at Jim Thompson’s Thai House. Jim was a U.S. entrepreneur and Thai cultural devotee.Newspapers in Bangkok are printed in Thai, English, and Chinese. Government agencies control radio and television; people get to watch Thai programs for the most part, except some special shows in English and Chinese. Thailand has a thriving cinema industry, with its horror movies being much appreciated by the international audience.

Arts and Cultural Performances: Thai dances are based on the great Indian mythological epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The dancers wear exotic costumes and colorful makeup and depict the warriors from the epics. Thailand has strict lèse majesté laws, which ensure that no one talks negatively about the royal family, which is a punishable offence.

Bangkok is the Business and Finance Center of Thailand; the city houses the Industrial Finance Corporation of Thailand, the Board of Investment, and the Securities Exchange of Thailand. One-third of Thailand’s banking units are in Bangkok; these banks hold three-fourths of the country’s savings deposits. Given that Bangkok houses a third of Thailand’s total population, it makes sense that the city should be center for finance, commerce, banking and arts and culture as well.

Currency: The Baht is Thailand’s currency, denoted by THB, ฿. It’s hard to obtain small change from shops, so best stock up beforehand. Even taxi drivers and small business owners do not offer small change. This creates a problem for the tourist, if all he or she has is 1000-baht notes to wave around. Be careful of counterfeit 1000 baht notes, though, as these are prevalent in the city. You might want to carry a photo of a counterfeit 1000 baht note to compare the ones you get from various parties.

Obtaining Exchange: It’s best to obtain exchange from an ATM instead of an exchange counter. Small businesses prefer only cash so your credit cards will not be of much use. Prevent credit card fraud by letting your bank know you’re about to pay using your card. Also carry Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) enabled wallet so no one can steal your credit card information.

Economy: Bangkok manufactures packaged food, textiles and electronic equipment, mostly for export. Most of the factories are located on the fringes of Bangkok, in order to reduce congestion in the city. Bangkok’s factories produce roughly one-third of the country’s output. Tourism is big business in Bangkok; in recent years, tourism has become a huge part of the city’s economy.

Thailand was once known as Siam, and Bangkok became its capital in 1782, when the founder of the ruling Chakkri dynasty, General Chao Phraya Chakkri was crowned as Rama I. Bangkok was chosen as capital owing to strategic considerations, as the Chao Phraya River created a natural wide moat along the northern, western, and southern perimeters of the city.

Historical Architecture: King Rama 1 built the magnificent Grand Palace complex and the temple Wat Pho. Several more temples were built under the rule of the descendants of King Rama the 1st. These temples were more than just places of worship. Some of them still serve as schools, recreation centers, libraries, hospitals and religious centers. Notable Wats built during this period are the Wat Arun with its tall spire, Wat Yan Nawa, Wat Bowon Niwet and an enlargement of Wat Pho. The Chulalongkorn University was built in 1916, and a system of locks to control waterway levels was built throughout the city as well. Lumphini Park was constructed during 1925 to 35. In 1937, Bangkok was formally divided into Krung Thep and Thon Buri municipalities.

Urban Development and Tourism: Post World War II, Bangkok’s rapid growth caused great concerns in the areas of communication, housing, transportation, water supply, drainage and pollution. The city became a popular destination for tourists during the Vietnam War and started justifying early claims of sex tourism. By the 1980s, a series of nightclubs and bars put up cabaret performances by members of both sexes. Prostitution is illegal in Thailand, but Bangkok’s commercial sex industry employs an about 100,000 people. The government offers stiff penalties patrons and brothel owners for misusing minors.

Bangkok Temples on Coins: The temples you see pictured on baht coins are present in Bangkok. The 1 baht coin has Wat Phra Kaew on it, and the 2 baht coin has Wat Saket on it, the 5 baht coin has Wat Benjamabophit on it and so on. It is possible to see all these temples in just one day in Bangkok.

Bangkok is the World’s Hottest City: The average air temperature around the year is 28 degrees centigrade. However, between March and May, the air temp goes up to a very sticky and uncomfortable 34 degrees.

Mandatory National Anthem: All movies, cultural performances and even lectures in Bangkok are preceded by the King’s Anthem. In fact, the Thai National Anthem is recited twice daily in public places – once at 08:00 and once at 18:00. Everyone, visitors as well, is required to stand up in respect. For citizens, being seated while the National Anthem is being played is actually punishable.

Strange Laws:
  • You cannot leave your home or hotel without wearing underwear in Thailand. How does anyone check that?
  • It is illegal to drive a car or van bare-chested – we agree!
  • It is illegal to fling a durian fruit at someone; the thrower will be punished according to how many thorns strike the victim.
  • It is illegal to place your feet, even accidentally on Thai currency, since they carry an image of the King.

In Bangkok as with the rest of the country, you’ll find that separate public toilets are provided men and women (of course) and for the third gender as well. In fact, Thailand was the first country to even recognize the third gender and make provisions for individuals born under this gender.

Red Bull Home: The Red Bull energy drink was created in Thailand in 1976, by Chaleo Yoovidhya, who was born poor but by the time he died in 2012, he was the third-richest man in the country. Go figure that!

Bangkok enjoys a tropical savanna climate, with three main seasons’ summer, autumn and winter. Winter temperatures can range from 25 °C (77 °F) from December to February, and 98 °F (37 °C) at the height of April. There are days when the mercury climbs even higher, though.

Summer: Spring and summer are wrapped into one season; there’s not much to differentiate spring from summer. Summer is from March to April; it may stretch into May-June also if the Southwest Monsoons are late. However, if everything goes as nature plans, then the rains do bring some relief from the heat. Summer humidity levels are high, but not as high as they are during the monsoon. Even if the humidity is as low as 50%, you will still be uncomfortable and feel like you’re swimming through the air, given the heat and the air temperature. If you visit Bangkok during summer, be sure to use sunscreen, and cover your head with a cloth or wide hat. You can wear shorts and t-shirts, but do remember to cover your shoulders and legs when you enter Wats.

Monsoons: The Southwest Monsoon arrives in Bangkok around mid-May and September is the wettest month, when the city will experience an average rainfall of 334.3 mm (13.16 in). The rains lash the city till October; there are frequent typhoon and hurricane warnings and fairly tough storms. The mean annual rainfall totals 60 inches (1,500 mm). Most of this rain falls as brief torrential downpours during the evenings. The humidity increases when it rains, going up to 60% and beyond.

Winter: The cool, dry winter months arrive when the Northeast Monsoon takes over until February. It does rain during this time but not to the extent of the Southwest Monsoon. The weather is generally cool, with a chilly nip in the mornings and evenings. You won’t need too many warm weather clothes – just a sweater or two should do.

Depending on where you are at the given time, you can travel to Bangkok by plane, by bus or by boat. If you’re in nearby Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Hong Kong or Malaysia, you’ll find an efficient road and at times, railway systems connecting these countries to Thailand. You will have to obtain an entry visa for 15 days at the border though, and have it extended later on at the Immigration Services office.

By Plane: Bangkok has an extremely efficient international airport and all international flights land here. All Asian airlines also land here, and the resultant competition keeps the pricing down.

By Road: You can drive a car or get on a tour bus to Bangkok from Cambodia, Singapore or Malaysia. Driving a rented car is not a good option, as you’ll have to cross multiple borders to get to Bangkok. If you’re traveling by road, make sure your passport is valid at least for six months. Be ready to show your original driver’s license and the original of your car registration document, and your Thailand Visa if applicable. If you’re driving someone else’s car, be sure to have your 3rd party liability car insurance on hand as well, that covers the territory of Thailand. Third party liability coverage for Malaysia or Singapore does not cover Bangkok.

By Train: From Malaysia, you can travel to Bangkok by regular or luxury train. The Eastern & Oriental Express is a super-luxury train that arrives in Bangkok every week, and offers fabulous luxury services on board.

By Ferry: You can ferry over to Bangkok from Singapore or Malaysia during the tourist season (November to May). Also, regular cruises get underway from Malaysia and Singapore to Bangkok.

Two visa application options are available for Thailand. One, you can fill in and print out the visa application form and post it to your nearest Thai embassy along with a self-addressed prepaid express envelope for the return passport. Two, you can visit the nearest embassy and undergo the visa application process in person.

Online Visa Application Process
  • Download the visa application form from the following URL:, fill it and print it out.
  • A barcode sheet will be generated for your ID; print it out and keep it along with your application form.
  • Gather all your supporting documents and submit it to the nearest Thai embassy or Thailand Visa Application Centre in your area. List of Supporting Documents
  • Passport that shows validity for at least 6 months
  • A recent passport photograph (measuring exactly 4 x 6cms)
  • Complete postal address of the house or hotel where you have your bookings in Bangkok.
  • Complete details of the person who’s inviting you to Thailand
  • Complete travel itinerary including details of return ticketing
  • Fully paid up round-trip flight tickets or e-tickets
  • Bank statements for 3 months that show you have at least 20,000 baht in savings, if you’re traveling solo and 40,000 baht if you’re traveling with family
Tourist Visa Details

Visa Period: Tourist visas can be stamped for a period of 3 to 6 months. If it’s your first visit to Bangkok, your visa will be stamped for 3 months. If you’ve been to Thailand several times in the past, you’re likely to get the full tourist visa period stamped on your passport.

Border-entry Visa: If you’re entering Bangkok by road, you’ll get a 15 day entry visa. You can approach the Office of Immigration Bureau if you want to stay in Thailand for longer.

Visa Exemption Rule (VER) Updates for 2017

It’s possible now to land in any Thai airport and apply for a short-term tourist visa. A tourist visa valid for 30 days will be approved, which you can extend once or twice with valid reasons. We urge you to use this method only if you’ve been unable to obtain the visa using due process.

When you visit Bangkok, if time permits, try and travel to nearby towns and cities to see more of Thailand. Don’t miss a visit to Chiang Mai, Phuket and Kanchanaburi to find out what fun you can have in each place!

Chiang Mai: When you’re in Chiang Mai, you leave the city behind and enter an area that’s perfect for nature lovers. Check out the Chiang Mai Night Safari, to watch exotic animals such as raccoons, white porcupines, giraffes and breathtaking white tigers and elephants. The Chao Phraya River in Chiang Mai is an enchanting area, loaded with nightclubs and other places of enjoyment. If you’re in Chiang Mai during the New Year, don’t miss the incredible candle procession on New Year’s Eve, or the fabulous Chinese New Year celebrations in January.

Kanchanaburi: If you love nature, then head to beautiful Kanchanaburi in western Thailand. This little town is famous for the bridge over the River Kwai where thousands of prisoners died during Japanese occupation in World War II. Check out the Erawan and Srinakarind National Parks to get an eyeful of stunning waterfalls and caves. The elephant camps in the area allow you to feed and bathe the elephants, a unique personal experience you’ll love.

Phuket: Phuket is the island that you want to head to if you’re into water sports and beach bumming. Phuket is also the place for the night-life-lover; the night life here is vibrant, hip and parties go on all night long. Patong Beach is especially beautiful, with the serene ocean. Bangla Road, just a brief distance away, is a throbbing street with banging music, neon lights and myriad nightly activities; this is where night-clubbers come alive. Don’t miss a visit to Ko Phi Phi Island, a true beach paradise in Phuket, with brilliant waters filled with sea plants, starfishes and colorful fish. Here you can enjoy everything from swimming, jet skiing, banana boating and a variety of aquatic adventures.

Food in Bangkok is so good, that people visit this city just to enjoy the incredible range of foods available here. If you want a real authentic taste of Thai food, then head to street markets where vendors prepare hygienic food right in front of you and serve it to you, piping hot.

Wonderful Street Food: Everything from curries, stir fries, fruit shakes and fresh fish cooked in many ways are served in street markets. Bangkok has many famous restaurants and 5-Star food haunts, but the best food is to be found in the streets.

Food Presentation: Thai food is all about presentation. If you’re lucky enough to be invited into a Thai home, observe the way food is prepared and served. The bowls and dinner settings are uniquely crafted in order to bring out the beauty of the food within them. Sometimes food is served in natural vessels, such as beautifully-carved empty pumpkin or watermelon shells, or even coconut shells.

Unique Ways of Cooking: The Thai tend to mix fruits, veggies, fish and meat in a single dish. For example, what might seem like a fruit salad at first look will be a combination of fruit and beautifully-shredded meat served in a carved fruit shell. They believe in mixing things that look similar or if the colors complement each other. A Thai meal is an experience in gastronomic art. The Thai use a lot of coconut in their gravies, and also quite a bit of tamarind for the pungent taste.

Cheap Food: Food is cheap in the markets; if you’re not concerned about big-name chefs, you can enjoy a full meal at various vendor stalls like fried noodles for 25 baht. Check out the floating markets on the rivers and lakes and coastal backwaters which sell fruits and vegetables and hot fried prawns and many other dishes. In Bangkok all the street food is absolutely safe to eat. You won’t contract stomach germs or respiratory infections by eating street food in Thailand.

Bangkok is the city of festivals and events throughout the year. This vibrant city sees a number of events – religious, entertainment, political and others. Here are a few that we recommend for you to check out while you’re there.

Park Concerts: During January and February, a series of free open-air concerts are held on Sundays in Lumpini Park, organized by the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra. The concerts include both Thai and western music, performed by famous Thai singers.

Chinese New Year: In late January (the date varies owing to the lunar calendar calculations), it’s time for the Chinese New Year. Head over to the Bangkok Chinatown, Yaowaraj, during this festival. The entire street comes to life with exploding firecrackers, dragon dancers, and people going crazy. There’s confetti and flowers everywhere and a high that doesn’t come out of a bottle.

Songkran Festival: From 13 – 15 April, people go crazy and get to the streets shooting water guns at each other. Food vendors set up everywhere. Amidst cheap, fabulous food, discounted shopping and festive streets for nearly a week, you might just forget that April is the hottest month in Bangkok.

Amazing Thailand Grand Sale: If you’re in Bangkok in June, don’t miss the great Thailand Grand Sale. The sale takes place at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center (QSNCC) and at participating malls across Bangkok. Hoard your coins and spend them at this festival; you’re sure to get more bang for your baht. This shopping event is part of the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s ‘Amazing Thailand – Always Amazes You’ campaign. You’ll find every imaginable deal, including discounted holiday packages and tours.

Moon Festival: In China, the Moon Festival celebrates revolutionary heroes born under the full moon. In Bangkok, the cultural significance is missing, but the festival is an excuse for restaurant, chefs, and street vendors to pull out all the plugs in a burst of culinary creativity. You’ll find a mooncake flavor to every dish that you eat during this time.

Bangkok’s nightlife is all about swanky rooftop bars, cocktail bars and nightclubs. No more cabaret houses of old, though live performances still do take place. Bangkok’s tastes are changing and evolving, and becoming more international. If you’re into night clubs rather than bars, Bangkok won’t disappoint you. In fact, with big names opening up clubs on Sukhumvit Road, Silom Road and RCA areas, tourists and locals have new excuses to stay up all night.

  • Khao San Road: Khao San Road is a must-check-out with its incredible party scene, rooftop bars and innumerable pubs.
  • Soi Rambuttri Street: This laidback street next door with its more sober offerings.
  • Thonglor Street: This street, all the way across town is full of trendy bars, with more opening up every now and then.
  • Sukhumvit Road: This area transforms into a totally different world each night, from the ordinary commercial place it is during the day. There are many night spots, plus the coolest bars and clubs in the city to be found on this one street. You might think that Sukhumvit is synonymous with expats, but that’s not so. There’s a hearty local crowd on this street and clubs and pubs don’t close at 1 A.M. anymore. Check out Thong Lor and Ekkamai streets for an eclectic mix of clubs and bars, and a little something naughty should the mood strike you. For anyone visiting Bangkok and in the mood for partying should visit Sukhumvit Road. Sukhumvit Go Go Guide Nana Plaza Nana Plaza Nana Entertainment Plaza is well known and quite notorious for its racy themed go-go bars.
  • Soi Cowboy District: The first bar in this district was opened by a cowboy hat-wearing American in 1970. This is a red-light district which offers all the naughty entertainment for which Bangkok is famous. You’ll find glossy windows lined with glittering, smoothly-polished ladyboys and girls in enticing attire fronting pubs and clubs. Pretty barmaids in all these places provide more than just drinks; it’s their job.
  • Silom: By day Silom is a businessman’s haunt, and by night a businessman’s haunt for naughty hedonism. Right next to jam-packed night markets selling bootleg DVDs sit the city’s most infamous Patpong, Soi 2 and Soi 4 districts that pander to other tastes.

Bangkok is a shopper's paradise; whether you head to the shopping malls or to the night markets, the city throbs with the retail pulse. Be sure to carry plenty of notes in your wallet, as Bangkok’s night market vendors will not accept credit cards.

  • Night Markets in Bangkok: You’ll find the largest night markets in Bangkok, with vendors selling designer clothing, hand-carved sculptures, celadon porcelain and much more. You can bargain but don’t let it get out of control. One of the must-visit places is Mahboonkrong (MBK) Mall in Bangkok for cheap clothing, electronics and more. Also, don’t miss visiting the world's biggest weekend bazaar - The Chatuchak Weekend Market, spread out over 1.1 square kilometers of space.
  • What To Buy In Bangkok: When you’re in Bangkok, pick up those things that are unique to the city, and unique to Thai culture.
  • Cheap, locally-produced street clothing is always a good purchase in Bangkok. You can also pick up the Thai traditional clothing here, in brightly printed cottons and silks as fancy souvenirs for those back home.
  • Bangkok is famous for celadon ceramics, which are a Thai signature handicraft. They are pale as jade, and as translucent as bone china; in fact, for centuries people thought that celadon ceramics were manmade jade. These ceramics have been around for centuries in Bangkok; purchase a dinner set and take home a part of Thai culture to your home.
  • Fashion accessories in Bangkok follow their own fashion regulations. If you’re looking for a pair of black pumps, best head back home. If you are looking for strangely-colored shoes with clear acrylic heels filled with colorful plastic flowers, then you’re in the right place.
  • Don’t forget to purchase bolts of Thai silk, which is painstakingly made out of the cocoon of the silk worm, in Thailand’s north-east. These silk, silk jacquard and brocade fabrics are a work of art.
  • Talented Thai craftsmen make hand-carved wooden items such as toys and sculptures out of teak, coconut palm and coconut shells.
  • Cheap electronics and computer gear are available at night markets; if you know what parts to buy, you can put a computer system together out of dirt-cheap but excellent parts.

Bangkok has much to see and experience, beginning with the wonderful Grand Palace, to the incredible Wats and several other attractions. Check out our curated list of Bangkok's many attractions for your next trip!

  • The Grand Palace & Wat Prakeaw: When you’re in Bangkok, the Grand Palace should be the first stop after checking into your hotel. The Grand Palace is absolutely dazzling and magnificent. The Wat Prakeaw is part of the Grand Palace complex. The Grand Palace served as the royal residence for 150 years from 1782 when it was built.
  • Floating Markets: Bangkok’s colorful floating markets are a visual and gastronomic treat. Enjoying impromptu meals cooked and served off of wooden rafts and boats. Enjoy freshly-caught fish, enjoy the abundance of flowers and fruit and vegetables in Bangkok’s river and backwater channels.
  • Wat Arun: The magnificent Temple of Dawn sits on the bank of the Chao Phraya River. The temple is located such that it catches the very first rays of the sun on its golden spire.
  • Chinatown: Chinatown is a pleasingly chaotic area where you’ll find the most gold shops in the city. Chinatown is packed with colorful little buildings, pagodas, market stalls and more. Festivities such as the Chinese New Year and the Vegetarian Festival are celebrated here with great dynamism and spirit.
  • Wat Pho: Visit Wat Pho to check out the giant reclining Buddha and to obtain a traditional Thai massage. Also check out the temple’s incredible collection of multi-topic murals, inscriptions and sculptures that range from warfare, astronomy to archaeology. There’s also a huge landscaped garden with stone sculptures, souvenir shop, a College of Traditional Medicine and stupas decorated with glazed porcelain.
  • Chao Phraya River & Waterways: For a scenic break, head to the Chao Phraya river; rent a water-taxi and cruise the river, enjoying Wat Arun, the Phra Sumeru Fortress and many other attractions along the shores.

Sign up for some of Bangkok's exciting tours and excursions to enjoy the best of what the city has to offer. Check out our curated list of tours and excursions in Bangkok!

  • Thailand's Ayutthaya Temples and River Cruise: This is a wonderful cruise that begins from the Bangkok harbor of the Chao Phraya River. Enjoy visiting Ayutthaya’s famous temples while relaxing on the pleasant river cruise on this cultural day trip.
  • Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak Cruise Day Trip: This cruise enables you to experience the rural Thai culture via canal waterways outside the city, on the way to the Damnoen Saduak floating markets.
  • Bridge on the River Kwai: Get on a cruise to see the famous Kwai Bridge in person in Kanchanaburi, which is a reminder of how thousands of POW's and forced laborers died building it.
  • Khao Yai National Park: Sign up for a tour of the Khao Yi National Park which is an UNESCO World Heritage that allows visitors to feed elephants. Enjoy this day trip to the lush park and experience the gentle giants as never before.
  • Chachoengsao Day Trip: This day trip includes a Bang Pakong River Cruise from Bangkok. Explore the Thai Way of life with a visit to Chachoengsao, a historical town which has a 100 year old market, the Khlong Suan.
  • Mahachai Train Tour: Visit the famous Mahachai and Mae Klong seafood markets on the Gulf of Thailand via this whole-day train journey. You can enjoy on-the-spot cooked seafood, fresher than you’ve ever experienced before. It’s a fabulous opportunity to observe the local seafood industry and process.
  • Full-Day Thai Nature and Adventure Tour: Samut Songkram is the ideal place to absorb Thai farm cultivation processes and some local culture, arts and performances. You’ll love strolling through the wavy rice paddies and sloshing into the little water channels that irrigate the fields.
Bangkok becomes a tourist hotspot again during the dry winter months, when it’s mild enough for people from colder climes to be comfortable here. People come to Thailand to enjoy a variety of ocean activities including snorkeling amidst the vivid reefs, scuba diving for wrecks and caves and other water sports. Ocean waters are just warm enough during the day, though they can be quite cold at night. So you can enjoy all the water fun you want and not break out into a sweat. It does rain during winter too, especially in Southern Thailand. However, with sunshine for at least 6 hours a day, it’s still fine. Conditions are better in November, with 8 hours of sun and temperatures that range from 24°C and 31°C. Whether you’re visiting Bangkok during the monsoons or during winter, do pack a raincoat and rain boots just in case.

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