SamuiDave.com – Updated September, 2014
Bangkok Travel Guide
- Best Time to Visit Bangkok
- Where To Stay in Bangkok
- The Best Hotels near the Airport
- Hotels with Swimming Pools in Bangkok
- Best Markets in Bangkok
- Best Shopping Malls in Bangkok
- The Best Hotels for Shopping
- Bangkok With Kids
- Best Beaches near Bangkok
- Best Day Trips near Bangkok
- Best Restaurants in Bangkok
- Best Cooking Schools in Bangkok
- Best Tours of Bangkok
- Airlines That Fly to Bangkok
- Suvarnabhumi Airport Transportation
- Don Muang Airport Transportation
- Buying Train Tickets in Bangkok
- Geting Around Bangkok
- Recommended Bangkok Taxis
- Renting a Car in Bangkok
- The Neighborhoods of Bangkok
- Hospitals in Bangkok
Q. When is the best time to visit Bangkok?
November to February is the cool season. The weather is perfect and this is the best time to visit Bangkok – though book hotels well in advance if you’re visiting during the peak season over Christmas and New Years.
From March to May is the hot season when the city is very hot and humid. The rains increase with each passing week but the skies are still largely sunny.
May to October is the wet season when Bangkok skies are overcast for large parts of the day and there can be some flooding (especially in September and October) – though most visitors won’t experience any great inconvenience. The sun does shine for at least a few hours every day – usually in the morning.
The best beach weather for southern Thailand’s islands are December to May. The worst months for a beach vacation are September to early November when rains and storms can hit both coasts of Thailand.
Where To Stay in Bangkok
There are 3 main areas of Bangkok that makes great places to stay for tourists.
The Siam Square/Sukhumvit area is great for shopping, markets, and easy access to the Skytrain. This is a large area that stretches over several miles. Most of Bangkok’s best and biggest malls are in Siam Square. As you move east into the Sukhumvit area the activity moves out onto the streets and alleys – though there are still some large malls in the area. You’ll find many great places to eat in Sukhumvit.
The Riverside area is where you’ll find some of Bangkok’s best hotels. It’s a good distance from here to the shopping of Siam Square but if you stay close to the Skytrain it’s very manageable. Many of Bangkok’s top cultural attractions are near the river so if you’re here for sightseeing it can make a great base. Trips along the river are a great outing and longer trips on private boats are easily arranged along the riverfront.
The Khao San Road area is historically the home of the backpacker but there’s lots in and around the neighborhood and it has some good mid-range hotels. It’s one of the cheaper areas to stay in the city and it’s also close to many cultural attractions. The big drawback is that there is no Skytrain near here so any trip will need to be by taxi, tuk tuk, or bus which can be slow in Bangkok’s chaotic traffic.
For more detailed information read the The Neighborhoods of Bangkok.
Q. What are the best hotels near the airport?
Q. What hotels in Bangkok have swimming pools?
Most mid-range and luxury hotels in Bangkok have pools. For recommendedations read the best hotel pools in Bangkok.
Q. What are the best markets in Bangkok?
Chatuchak Weekend Market
Time: Saturdays and Sundays 9am to 6pm
BTS: Mo Chit Station (Exit 1)
MRT: Kamphaeng Phet (Exit 1), Chatuchak Park (Exit 1)
Bus: 36 (from Sukhumvit) / 524 (from Si Lom)
Chatuchak is Thailand’s biggest market, and Asia’s largest weekend market. In its tiny lanes (sois) you can find a dizzying array of items like clothes, accessories, knick-knacks, household items, decorative items, antiques (real and fake), Thai handicrafts, and live animals (including endangered species).The best time to visit the market is 9am, when it opens, as the musty sois get hot, muggy, and crowded in the afternoon. The majority of shops will not accept credit cards, so keep cash handy. Bottled water, backpacks/foldable carry bags, and comfortable walking shoes are a must, as is keeping an eye out for pickpockets. There are small oases throughout the market that serve chilled soft drinks and beer, light snacks, ice-cream, and piping hot Thai food. The clock tower in the center of the market makes a good landmark and meeting place if you get separated from your friends. In 2008, a blanket smoking ban was enforced on the entire market, with a THB 2,000 fine for offenders.
Phat Pong Night Market – Silom
Time: Everyday 6pm to 1am
BTS: Sala Daeng Station (Exit 1. 2nd lane on your right called Thanon Phat Pong.)
MRT: Si Lom (Take the Si Lom exit, follow the overhead BTS tracks and cross the road. Thanon Phat Pong will be a small lane chock-full of tourists, after the Burger King.)
Bus: 4, 45, 46, 47, 109, 524
The best time to visit Phat Pong is after 9pm. It is world-famous (or infamous) as Bangkok’s red light district with its numerous “Go-Go Bars”, “Ladyboy” shows, strip clubs, and pornographic and pirated DVD-vendors. It has recently cleaned up its act to some extent, but visitors are still bombarded with skimpily clad ladyboys screaming, “Can you help me?” and touts waving pictures of naked women in your face, all the while asking you, “Sex? DVD? Massage?”. If genuinely not interested in buying a product, do not haggle with a vendor, as it might lead to a tirade of the choicest words. Phat Pong is also famous for its fake goods – from Patek Philippe watches, to Mont Blanc pens, to Louis Vuitton bags. Vendors will show you catalogs of the brand you wish to buy, and when you point to a model and agree on the price, someone will scurry into some alley and come back 5 minutes later with the replica. You can also find vendors selling local Thai handicrafts, rude t-shirts, clothes, shoes, accessories, and most notably, beautiful hand-crafted soap ornaments which the vendors make on the spot.
Time: General market open 24 hours, retail stores from 10am to 9pm
BTS: Chit Lom Station (Exit 1. Walk toward Central World, take right on Phloen Chit Road, and walk straight toward the tall Baiyoke Tower – about 10 minutes.)
Bus: 140, 183, 513
Pratunam Market is arguably Bangkok’s best and cheapest retail clothes market. The logic here is simple – the more you buy, the cheaper it gets. Situated right under Thailand’s tallest building, the Baiyoke Tower II, it is a 24-hour market, though the dynamics change throughout the day. The retail shops within the market usually operate between 10am to 9pm. Apart from clothes, you can find lots of Thai souvenirs and handicrafts too. It is very common to see foreigners buying in bulk from vendors here to sell in their own countries. Buying 3 or more units of the same item constitutes bulk buying here which entitles you to ‘wholesale’ rates, and friendly bargaining is acceptable. The only rules in this market are, no trying-on, no refunds, and no exchanges. If it gets too hot, step into the Baiyoke Tower mall for air-conditioned coolness.
Khlong Toei Market
Time: Everyday 6am to 2am
MRT: Khlong Toei Station (Take the Rama IV exit, walk for 10 minutes on Rama IV till you come to the big intersection with Narong.)
Bus: 45, 46, 72, 102, 107
Khlong Toei is Bangkok’s biggest wet market. It’s a fascinating little hidden village amidst the concrete and glass jungle of the city. This is not a touristy spot, and you will not see many Westerners here. But a walk through this market, especially after 11pm, will open your eyes to how the markets work in Bangkok. You can find everything from fresh vegetables and fruits to butchers selling all kinds of meat. Many small vendors and shops buy from Khlong Toei at wholesale rates and resell the products in business and residential districts at higher prices. Be warned though, it is not the most hygienic or picturesque place to walk through. One needs a strong stomach to see the freshly butchered meat being sorted into different cuts for different customers. The smell and sight of blood can be overwhelming. If you are really adventurous, check out the vendors selling dead rats, and all sorts of roasted or grilled critters like cockroaches, bugs, scorpions, and grasshoppers.
Amphawa Floating Market
Time: Fri-Sun 12 noon to 8pm
Getting there: A taxi or tour is the best way to visit the market.
Amphawa is the second biggest floating market in Thailand after Damnoen Saduak, but is located at half the distance (50 km) from the city. Even though the market starts early in the morning, the real action begins in the afternoon. It is not as crowded or photogenic as Damnoen Saduak, but at the same time, it is a bit more authentic. One will not find Europeans buying souvenirs here, but instead see Thai tourists enjoying the day with their families and friends, hence the ‘authentic’ tag. There are private residences within the market, many of which advertise homestays. Many of the boats have pulley systems hooked up with the riverbank and use this system to send up their wares in baskets and collect the money from customers. There are innumerable Thai food options available. About 100m from the river is a temple completely engulfed by the roots of an immense banyan tree. The scene is straight out of an Indiana Jones movie.
Bangkok Flower Market (Pak Klong Talad)
Time: Open 24 hours, but more popular at night
MRT: Hua Lamphong Station (Take taxi or tuk-tuk from here).
It is Bangkok’s largest wholesale and retail flower market, located near the Memorial Bridge. You can find innumerable varieties of flowers and flora-related goods (flower pots, garlands, decorative arrangements) usually sold in packs of 50 and 100 each at very cheap prices. You need very little time to explore the market. It attracts tourists mainly due to the exotic and colorful nature of its products, which are extremely photogenic. It is best to stand back and observe if you visit during peak times like pre-dawn (4am), as vendors doing brisk business have very little patience then. Prices of products fluctuate throughout the year, depending on the demand or particular varieties during festivals and important holidays like Valentine’s Day and Songkran.
Time: Everyday 10am to 10pm
BTS: National Stadium Station (Exit 4 goes straight into MBK)
MRT: Sam Yan Station (Take the Thanon Phaya Thai exit, and catch a tuk-tuk or taxi for a short 5-minute ride to MBK.)
Bus: 15, 47, 48, 73, 204, 508
MBK is arguably Bangkok’s favorite shopping destination. It is a cross between a mall and a market, as its 8 floors of air-conditioned retail, dining and entertainment scream “mall”, while its tiny shops and over-crowded passages and alleyways make one feel like they are in a market. In MBK, you can spend an entire day without leaving – there is even a movie theater and a bowling alley on the top floor with many well-known restaurants and fast-food joints (Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, Dairy Queen). The rest of the floors are filled with thousands of vendors selling bags, shoes, accessories, clothes, handicrafts, souvenirs, perfumes, electronics, food, and even furniture and bathroom fittings. Bargaining is allowed, unless mentioned otherwise, even though prices are already very low. The hidden gem of MBK is the 4th floor, which is entirely covered in hundreds of shops, counters and kiosks selling, buying, trading, repairing, and even manufacturing mobile phones of every make and brand. It is an adventure to walk the entire floor and see the workers in action.
There are forex counters where you can exchange currency, as well as ATMs, all over the mall.
Talad Bo Bae (Bo Bae Market)
Time: Everyday 6am to 6pm
BTS: National Stadium Station (Exit onto the road and take a tuk-tuk or taxi across the canal or “klong” – about 10 minutes away.)
Bo Bae market is one of Bangkok’s oldest – and largest – wholesale clothing markets. You know you are close to Bo Bae when you see tuk-tuks stuffed with huge sacks of clothing forcing their way through traffic, almost doing wheelies. Vendors from all over the world come here to place bulk orders for clothes. The stall owners at this market even provide all the facilities to export the goods. Buying just 3 pieces of the same clothing will get you wholesale rates. Apart from branded western and traditional Thai clothing, you can also find fresh fruits and vegetables, Muslim (halal) food, and fashion/costume jewelry at very cheap rates.
Time: Everyday 10am to 9pm
BTS: Chit Lom Station (Same directions as Pratunam Market. Take a left at the junction of Pratunam onto Soi Petchaburi and walk for 5 minutes. Pantip will be on your left.) or Ratchathewi Station (Exit 4. Turn right toward Soi Petchaburi and walk for 10 minutes toward Baiyoke Tower. Pantip will be on your right). It would be best to take a taxi or tuk-tuk from either of these stations.
Bus: 113, 512
Pantip Plaza is a non-descript white building that faintly resembles a mall. Inside this building is Thailand’s biggest electronics market which sells everything from computers, laptops, accessories, electronics, cameras, software, CDs, DVDs, movies, and more at wholesale prices. The entire 5 floors are littered with small and big shops buying, selling, trading, building and dismantling computers. There are two large retail outlets here, IT City and Hardware House. You can find deals, sales, and discounts on almost everything in Pantip. The dark side of the market is that a lot of counterfeit goods and pirated software and movies are also sold, not to mention touts pulling male foreigners into corners and trying to sell them “naughty DVDs”. This is a great place to find $10-$100 bargains, but you would need to think twice before spending $700 on a laptop or camera from a shop here.
Yaowarat and Phahurat (Sampeng Market)
Time: Everyday 10am to 9pm
MRT: Hua Lamphong (It’s a 15-minute walk to Chinatown, or a 5-minute taxi-ride from here.)
Bus: 48, 204
Yaowarat (Chinatown) and Phahurat (Little India) stand side-by-side in this part of old Bangkok, with the famous Sampeng Market right in the middle. The area is famous as the textile and gold hub of Bangkok. It is one of the most exciting and chaotic parts of the city. Bright red-colored Chinese shops selling gold by the pound dot the main road as you enter Chinatown. Phahurat, on the other hand, is composed mostly of the Indian Sikh community dealing in wholesale textile imports and exports. The grand Sikh Gurudwara (place of worship) is a must-see. Sampeng Market is famous for trinkets, souvenirs, handicrafts, clothes, accessories and costume jewelry. The area is filled with roadside foodstalls selling Thai, Chinese, and Indian food, as well as fresh fruits and desserts. One dessert you shouldn’t miss is “Thap Thim”, which is basically crushed ice in a bowl, covered in sweet condensed milk, with a huge choice of toppings like coconut, water chestnuts, fresh fruits, jelly, and bean curd. It is the best refreshment during a sweltering hot shopping spree.
Q. What are the best shopping malls in Bangkok?
All of these malls have huge food courts and cinemas, and are so large they could easily fuel several hours (or several days) of shopping. The 3 malls listed below and many others are located in the Siam Square neighborhood and
- Siam Paragon – Bangkok’s luxury mall. Fashion and high end shopping with shops including Gucci, Chanel, Zara, Shanghai Tang, Giorgio Armani, Versace, Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Marc Jacobs, Emporio Armani, Hugo Boss, and Prada. Linked to the smaller malls Siam Centre and Siam Discovery. Siam Ocean World aquarium, Kidzania, and a 15 theater cineplex are great for the kids. Linked to Siam BTS station.
- MBK Center – A cross between a shopping mall and a market. Lots of small vendors good for budget items and imitation goods as well as the discount Tokyu Department Store. Linked to National Stadium BTS station.
- Central World – Stores include Isetan, Zen, Toys R Us, SuperSports (athletic equipment), PowerBuy (electronics), and H&M. For amusement there are 15 movie theaters and an ice rink with skates for rent. Linked to Siam and Chitlom BTS stations but both are a 5 minute walk in opposite directions.
Q. What are the best hotels for shopping?
All of these hotels have connected access to the Siam Square malls and a BTS station.
Q. What are the best things to do with kids in Bangkok?
Bangkok has lots to keep kids entertained and engaged. Here are the highlights. (Photos of kid-friendly attractions in Bangkok.)
- Siam Ocean World – One of Asia’s largest aquariums on the bottom floor of the Siam Paragon mall.
- Lumpini Park – A great oasis of calm and green in the center of the city. A huge playground is in the center of the park.
- Dusit Zoo – A little tired but still fun. Lots of exotic animals including a Bengal Tiger, camels, elephants, alligators, kangaroos, and a variety of monkeys.
- Safari World – A huge open air zoo and safari park about an hour outside the city. Plan for a full day outing.
- Funarium – A large indoor and air conditioned playground. Perfect for the hot season.
- Kidzania – Kids ages 4 to 14 can play act out different professions from airplane pilot to doctor. Book early to gain a spot.
- Siam Niramit – An elaborate and extravagant show with elephants, dancers, costumes, and music. Kids love it.
Q. What are the best beaches near Bangkok?
Bangkok is only 15 miles from the Gulf of Thailand but this stretch of coastline holds little appeal to travelers in search of a beach. To find any decent sand you’ll have to go southwest to Hua Hin and Cha-Am (3 to 4 hours by bus, train, or car), or southeast to Pattaya (1.5 hours), Jomtien (1.5 hours), or Koh Samet (4 hours).
Q. What are the best day trips from Bangkok?
- Ayutthaya – This UNESCO World Heritage site is only an hour and a half north of Bangkok by bus. Ayutthaya was the old capital of Thailand until the Burmese burned it down in 1767. Ayutthaya is also home to Wat Phra Mahathat where you can see the famous Buddha head statue with a banyan tree growing around it. After exploring the old city, be sure to eat at Chao Phrom Market. This is a local market and offers authentic Thai dishes. The cheapest way of reaching Ayutthaya is by train and it is also the most scenic. The train departs daily from Hualamphong Train Station and the trip takes about 2 and a half hours. Second class seats with air-con cost 245 baht and third class is just 15 baht. Bus is the fastest way to Ayutthaya. Head to Bangkok’s Northern Bus Terminal where buses depart every 20 minutes until 8:00pm. The First class air-con ticket is 56 baht.
- Kanchanaburi – Kanchanaburi is famous for the Bridge over the River Kwai and is also home to elephant camps, the Tiger Temple, and the waterfalls of Erawan National Park. JEATH War Museum is on the old grounds of a tiny Thai temple that’s run down, but it gives visitors a sense of how the prisoners of war lived. The Thailand-Burma Railway Museum pays homage to the prisoners of war who built the Death Railway. Buses leave the Southern Bus Terminal daily, every 15-30 minutes depending on class. The ride takes about two hours and costs between 95-110 baht.
- Amphawa Floating Market – This isn’t a floating market for tourists but for Thais. Amphawa Floating Market is located next to the river with hundreds of shops and stalls built next to the river bank. The atmosphere is relaxed and many locals come here to shop, eat, and unwind. Don’t miss the boats selling noodle dishes. From the Southern Bus Terminal take a bus to Smoot Songkhrama then switch to a bus heading for Amphawa. You must ask locals because all the buses are in Thai. The ride only takes 15 minutes and it is obvious where to stop.
- The Bat Temple – 90 minutes from Bangkok by train and the ticket is only 20 baht. Wat Pho Bang Khla has been dubbed The Bat Temple due to the thousands of fruit bats. Besides the bats, Wat Pho Bang Khla is an interesting place. It dates back to 1767 and is lined with beautiful images of the Buddha. The Bat Temple runs alongside the Bang Pakong River and through Chachoengsao city, both are lovely places for a stroll.
- Koh Kred – A tiny island in the Chao Praya River, a few miles north of Bangkok. Only a few hundred people live on the islands, who are descendents from the Mon tribe. Koh Kred is famous for its pottery, Mon Culture and architecture. The island is quite busy on the weekends, best to get there early or on a week day. Take an Express Boat (with the green flag) on the Chao Praya River, north to Pah Kret pier. The boats run between 6:15am and 8am and 3:30pm and 6pm, every 20 minutes. The boat ride takes about an hour. At the Pah Kret pier, take another ferry boat across to Koh Kred. The total ride will cost 15 baht.
Q. What are the best restaurants in Bangkok?
- Issaya – The flagship restaurant for Chef Ian Kittichai. It’s location is in a historical colonial 1920’s Thai home in the center of Bangkok. The atmosphere has amazing ambiance and serves exceptional modern Thai dishes with a twist.
- Water Library Chamchuri – Located in Chamchuri Square on Rama 4 Road, next to Chulalongkorn University, Water Library is led by German Chef, Mirco Keller. The kitchen serves a set lunch and tasty dinner menu, as well as a wine list with over 370 labels and an extensive drink list.
- Sala Rim Raam – This outstanding Thai restaurant is part of the Mandarin Oriental but located across the river from the hotel with stunning views of the Chao Praya River. The cuisine is traditional Thai dishes and every night there is a well-regarded dance performance.
- Vertigo and Moon Bar – Located 61 floors above Bangkok, atop the Banyan Tree hotel, this rooftop lounge offers some of the best views of Bangkok. It’s one of the highest bars in the Asia Pacific and a must-visit destination. Extensive drink list and contemporary dishes.
Q. What are the best cooking schools in Bangkok?
All of these schools allow you to make your own dishes (you’ll usually pick 3 or 4 from a list) and cook them from scratch (including the curry paste). You’ll eat whatever you made at the end of the class.
Q. What are the best tours in Bangkok?
- Bangkok Food Tours – Food is the crux of all cultures and exploring Bangkok by food is one of the best ways to experience authentic Thai culture. Bangkok Food Tours takes participants to a variety of eateries and markets to truly experience this foodie paradise. The owners are Thailand born and raised, and pride themselves for knowing the story behind each menu. All tours highlight culture, as well as delicious dishes.
- Spice Roads Bicycle Tours have been running bicycle tours for over 10 years and offer an array of tours, including overnight and mountain biking tours. Bangkok is full of hidden gems and Spice Roads knows them. Day trip tour-routes include visits to floating markets, the countryside, canals, and jungle around Bangkok. If you have an extra day to spare, you can escape Bangkok. The tours reach the coastal village of Hua Hin, the jungle of Kanchanaburi, and the River Kwai. There is very little riding done within Bangkok proper so most rides are through quiet suburbs and countryside.
- Tours with Tong is a popular tour among tourists. Tong is a very passionate, enthusiastic lady who goes above and beyond (though there are other guides as well). She modifies every tour to be personal, so never hesitate to make your preferences heard. Besides doing the regular sights, she pulls away from large groups and gives you a local experience. A small drawback is that Tong is very busy and emailing and planning can take a backseat to the everyday demands of leading a tour. Be patient when waiting for an email response – and start the booking process well in advance to avoid being disappointed.
Q. What airlines fly to Bangkok?
For flights around Southeast Asia and between cities within Thailand the following budget airlines offer the best fares.
- Air Asia (route map) — Asia’s biggest budget airline and my favorite for getting around SE Asia on a budget. Destinations include cities in: Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, Taiwan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Indonesia, Australia, China, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and London, England.
- Nok Air (route map) — Flights to many destinations within Thailand including Phuket, Surat Thani, Pai, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Udon Thani, Sakhon Nakhon, Buri Ram, Khon Kaen and Mae Hong Son.
- IndiGo (route map) — Flights from Bangkok to Delhi and Kolkata. Also flights between Singapore and Chennai.
- Cebu Pacific (route map) — Based in Manilla with flights within the Philippines and from Manilla and Clark to Bangkok.
- Tiger Airways (route map) — Flights from Bangkok to Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, and Clark, Philippines. Also flights from Krabi and Phuket to Kuala Lumpur.
- Orient Thai Airlines (route map) — Flights from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Phuket, Pai, Hong Kong, Guangzhou.
- Bangkok Airways (route map) — Flights from Bangkok to Koh Samui, Krabi, Phuket, Pattaya, Lampang, Sukhothai, Chiang Mai, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Rangoon, Singapore, Dhaka, Mumbai, Bangalore, the Maldives, Abu dhabi, Muscat, and Hong Kong.
- Jin Air — Flights between Seoul and Bangkok.
- SEAIR — Flights between Bangkok and Manilla.
Q. How do I get to and from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport?
Suvarnabhumi International Airport is 25km east of the city and well connected to downtown Bangkok and other nearby towns and beach resorts.
- Airport Rail Link – The Airport Rail Link is the cheapest and (when traffic is bad) can be the fastest way into Bangkok. You buy tickets and board the train in the basement of the airport. The Rail Link (express service) costs 150 baht and takes 15 minutes to central Bangkok. It stops at Makkasan station (transfer to the metro blue line Phetchaburi station) and Phaya Thai station (transfer to the BTS Skytrain station Phaya Thai). The slower city link (commuter service) costs 15 to 45 baht and takes 35 minutes into the city. It stops at 8 stations along the route including both Makkasan and Phaya Thai. Both lines run from 6am to 11:55pm.
- Taxi – Metered taxis are the easiest way to Bangkok. Once you clear customs and immigration, walk downstairs to the first level and you will see a taxi line outside. (Ignore anyone inside the airport that’s offering you a taxi.) Tell the clerk at the taxi desk your destination and the clerk will assign you to the next available taxi driver. Trips into the city cost between 250-400 baht, depending on your location. However, you must pay an additional 50 baht meter fare plus tolls. It’s nice to have small change to pay the tolls but if you don’t the taxi driver will pay and then add the charge to your fare. The expressway toll costs 70 baht and any other highway tolls cost between 25 and 45 baht. The ride takes between 45-75 minutes depending on traffic and location.
- Bus – Express buses no longer run from the airport to the city. There is a shuttle that runs to a bus station 3km’s from the airport with service to the city from there, but there’s little need and buses aren’t any cheaper than the rail link.
- To Hua Hin – Buses to Hua Hin from Suvarnabhumi Airport take 3 hours and cost 305 baht (schedule here). Buses arrive and depart from the Hua Hin bus station at soi 96 and from level 1, gate 8 of Suvarnabhumi Airport (down the escalators from arrivals). For hired cars Oriental Escape are reliable and offer luxury sedans, suv’s, and large vans (can fit up to 12 passengers) for between B2,700 and B3,900. There are touts in the airport that you can bargain down to about B1,500 but these people are not licensed so you’re opening yourself up to scams – or worse. A taxi to Hua Hin from the airport will run around B2,000. From Hua Hin to the airport by taxi should be about B1,200.
- To Pattaya – Buses to Pattaya from Suvarnabhumi Airport take 2 hours and cost 250 baht (schedule here). Buses arrive and depart from the Pattaya Bus Station on North Pattaya Road and from level 1, gate 8 of Suvarnabhumi Airport (down the escalators from arrivals). For hired cars Oriental Escape offer luxury sedans, suv’s, and large vans (can fit up to 12 passengers) for between B2,000 and B2,700. Walking out the door of the airport and getting a taxi will cost about B1,500. From Pattaya back to the airport it will be closer to B800.
Q. How do I get to and from Don Muang Airport?
Don Muang Airport is 25km north of Bangkok. It serves all flights for the budget airlines Air Asia, Nok Air, and One-Two-Go.
- Taxi – Get a metered, licensed taxis from the taxi desk outside arrivals. Ignore touts and limousine drivers who approach you inside the airport. Taxis will cost 300 to 400 baht including the tolls and the B50 airport fee.
- Skytrain and taxi – A little cheaper (and if traffic is bad also quicker) than taking a taxi the entire route is to take a taxi from the airport to Mo Chit Skytrain station on the Sukhumvit line – then Skytrain into the city. It works fine going to the airport as well.
- Rail – There is a train station a 15 minute walk (across an overpass) from the airport. Follow signs for Rail or the Amari Hotel. There are regular, though erratic, trains from here to Hualamphong Station in Bangkok and to cities of northern Thailand. Travel time to Hualamphong is about an hour.
- To Suvarnabhumi Airport – There is a free shuttle bus between Suvarnabhumi Airport and Don Muang for travelers with onward ticket. Show your boarding pass or ticket to dispatcher at level 2, door 3.
- To Hua Hin – A taxi from Don Muang to Hua Hin B2,500. A hired car from Don Muang to Hua Hin with Oriental Escape will be about B3,000 to B4,000.
- To Pattaya – A taxi from Don Muang to Pattaya will run about B1,700. hired car from Don Muang to Hua Hin with Oriental Escape will be about B2,200 to B3,000. Or you can take a taxi to Morchit Bus Station, costs about 100 baht, and then a bus to Pattaya for about 140 baht (schedule here).
Q. How do I buy train tickets in Bangkok?
Bangkok’s main train station is Hualamphong Station. The ticket office is located on the main concourse and is well-organized. A TV screen is stationed above each window to indicate what tickets each window sells. It’s usually possible to get a seat on the day before or even the day of travel. But trains do get fully booked during peak Thai holiday periods and the December and January high season so if you’re on a tight schedule then you should book in advance
Ticket windows 15-22 are open for advance ticket sales while the other windows are for travel in the same day. All long-distance express trains require a reservation. It can be made on the day of travel or up to 60 days in advance. Local trains to Ayutthaya and Kanchanaburi don’t require a reservation. You can book with the State Railways of Thailand by emailing them at least 15 days in advance but be patient.
There are three different classes on Thai trains. 1st class is an air-conditioned sleeping-car. 2nd class has seats and sleeper cars available, but no air-con. 3rd class has seats only and only enjoyable for shorter trips.
Q. How do I get around Bangkok?
Image credit: Wikitravel
- The Skytrain operates from 6:00am to midnight daily. There’s not a schedule but the Skytrain frequency is less than 5 minutes during peak hours (06.00 – 09.00 am. and 04.30 – 07.30 pm) and less than 10 minutes during off-peak hours. The ticket fare costs between 22 baht and 55 baht per person depending on the distance. Tickets are dispensed from ticket vending machines at all stations (most of which require change). Alternatively, ticket booths are staffed during operating hours if you need to talk to a person (they’ll usually speak some english) or need change for the vending machines. Both the ticket machines and booths can have long lineups. If you’re in Bangkok for longer than a few days you should buy a rabbit card which is a magnetic card with stored value. It’s main advantage is that it allows you to bypass the queues at the vending machines and ticket booths. It costs 300 Baht, which includes 150 Baht issuing fee, 50 baht deposit and 100 Baht stored value for spending. As you use the stored value on the card you’ll need to top it up at a ticket booth. The deposit and any unused value is refundable if you return the card to a BTS station.The track and stations are elevated above ground and all stations feature lifts and ramps for disabled passengers. Doors on the trains open and close automatically and a beeping sound warns passengers when the doors are about to close. All signs and announcements are in English and Thai. The only drawback to the Skytrain is that it doesn’t go anywhere near the airport, railway station, or Khao San Road area.
- The Bangkok bus system is intense and intimidating for newcomers. It has 108 lines and is complicated to take as a foreigner – but it is also the cheapest transportation in Bangkok. There isn’t a set bus map, drivers rarely speak English, and the stops aren’t clearly marked. If one can figure out the bus system, fares will range from 7 baht to 24 baht. Most buses run from 5am to 11pm. The night bus charges an extra 15 baht.
- The MRT/Subway mainly covers the suburbs and isn’t as useful for tourists unless they’re going to the train station (which isn’t served by the BTS). The subway uses tokens or stored value cards but these do not work on the BTS. There are interchange stations at Silom and at Asoke which connect with the BTS.
Q. Can you recommend a taxi driver for Bangkok?
- Tip: Have the phone number of wherever you’re heading. Every taxi driver in Bangkok has a cell phone and will call the restaurant, museum, hotel that you’re heading to get directions. Having the address is, ironically, not as helpful as even taxi drivers have trouble with Bangkok’s chaotic address system – especially if it’s written in english.
- Pradit is a trustworthy taxi driver who (along with his brother) has several taxis including a large van-style taxi that is good for families and groups. His phone number is 082-679-9807. He speaks good english and will act as a makeshift tour guide taking you about to the top tourist sites.
- Taxis should use the meter for short trips. If you’re hiring a taxi for the day negotiate a price before starting out. Don’t pay more than 2000baht for a full day of sightseeing. A taxi from Bangkok to Ayuthaya is about 800 to 1000baht. A taxi from Bangkok to Pattaya runs about 1000 to 1500baht.
- For taxis from the airport don’t bother pre-arranging. Go downstairs one level from arrivals and join the queue for taxis into Bangkok. There will be van-style taxis available for large groups.
- There are tuk tuks all over the place in Bangkok so I can’t see why you’d need to phone one. But if you did, Mr Bus is good. He has a large tuk tuk (it has an extra seat) that should fit 4 adults. His number is 089-523-3829.
Q. Where and how do I rent a car?
But unless you really know what you’re doing you’re much better off hiring a car and driver. Oriental Escape is a reliable company with service to pretty much everywhere.
Q. What neighborhood of Bangkok should I stay in?
An overview of the Bangkok’s most popular and interesting neighborhoods for travelers.
- Siam Square
Siam Square is a shopping mecca, full of luxury shopping centers and bargain department stores, designer labels and trendy fashion boutiques. The small sois of Siam Square are alive with record stores, bookstores, cafes, and bars. Siam Square has by far the best shopping in Bangkok and is full of amenities, like cinemas, massage parlors, and salons. Siam Square is busy and safe at all hours. Neighborhood Attractions: MBK shopping center, Siam Center, Siam Discovery, Siam Paragon, Cenrtral World, APEX, Siam Vintage, Tokyu, ZEN.
If you want luxury hotels, top notch restaurants, and lively nightlife, Sukhumvit is the place to go. This is where many expats live and where tourists can find the top facilities in Bangkok. Many cosmopolitan clubs, and restaurants line Sukhumvit while calm and atmospheric cafes are hidden in the sois leading off the main street. The Skytrain runs the length of Sukhumvit making it easy to explore. Also, Sukhumvit is famous for two red-light districts, Nana Plaza on Soi 4 and Soi Cowboy, just off Soi 23. Prostitutes on the streets are a common sight and someone may be put off by the blatant sex industry. Neighborhood Attractions: Benjasiri Park, Khlong Saen Saeb, Soi Arab, WTF Gallery and Café, Cheap Charlie’s.
Silom is Bangkok’s Wall Street (through the day). After nightfall, the people and environment changes considerably. The skyline is lined with skyscrapers boasting the names of local and international financial institutions, law firms, and corporations. The small sois between Silom Road and Surawong Road become alive with people, street life, sidewalk stalls, and street food vendors. Tourist and locals come here to see the infamous Patpong red-light district. It’s filled with go-go bars and brothels. Luxury hotels are found along nearby Sathorn street. Neighborhood Attractions: Bangkokian Museum, Indian Hut, Daimasu Izakaya, Patpong Night Market, Sky Bar.
- Khao San/Banglamphu
Khao San Road is a 1 km stretch of shops, bars, restaurants, and street vendors and is home to the backpacker scene – though it is adding more mid-range hotels and boutiques every year. People either love it or hate it but it is well worth a visit. It’s centrally located and close to many of Bangkok’s top attractions (like the Grand Palace). If you’re arriving late at night and don’t have a hotel reservation it should be your top choice as the neighborhood stays up late and is easy to traverse on foot. The nearby sois are are offbeat arty areas that surprisingly retain a genuine Thai feel. The Skytrain and Metro don’t connect to the Khao San area, so you’ll be dependent on buses, taxis, and tuk tuks to get in and out of the area. However, amenities like ATMs, money exchanges, and internet shops are plentiful. Cheap accommodation and food is a big perk of staying here. Neighborhood Attractions: Soi Rambuttri, Baghdad Café, Gecko Bar, Mr. Yim’s, Wat Pho, Wat Arun, Poutine sans Frontieres, Santichai Public Park.
Chinese merchants moved to east bank of the Chao Phraya River in the early 1780’s, making Chinatown the oldest neighborhood in Bangkok. The neighbored was defined by trade then and still is today. These days, Chinatown isn’t set as a tourist attraction. It is a genuine Chinese neighborhood where people work and live. The streets of Chinatown are vivid and hectic – packed full of people, market stalls, and a concentration of gold shops. The only drawback is there isn’t much nightlife or amenities aimed to the typical tourist. Neighborhood Attractions: Yaowarat Road, Wat Traimit, Saphanthawong Museum, Rut and Lek Seafood, Pak-Khlong-Market.
Rattanakosin is a historical area, bordered by the Chao Phraya and canals which served as moats for the old city. Bangkok’s most revered historical attractions are located in Rattanakosin. The area is home to a plethora of Buddhist temples, palaces, monuments, and museums. Rattanakosin is relatively small and ideal for walking to explore the area. Remember to always dress appropriately for the temples: cover your shoulders and no flip flops. Neighborhood Attractions: Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Mahathat, National Gallery, Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall.
Dusit is most famous for the Dusit Zoo and for being the political center of Thailand. The neighborhood is home to the National Parliament, The Royal Palace, and wide boulevards shaded by large trees. There isn’t too much to see in Dusit besides political institutions and international organizations. One might want to visit the traditional Thai dance performances at the Dusit Palace. 10 years ago nightlife, shopping, and accommodation were nonexistent in Dusit but things are changing and the area feels like it could be the next trendy Bangkok neighborhood. Neighborhood Attractions: National Library, Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, Vimanmek Mansion, Ancient Clock Museum, Dusit Zoo.
Thonburi comprises the entire west bank of the Chao Phraya River opposite the cities center. On this side of the river is a slower, more relaxed Bangkok that gives visitors a glimpse into traditional Thai culture. Canals make their way through the relatively isolated neighborhoods. Vendors sell noodles from old Thai long tail boats and locals prefer to bicycle through the sois. The most popular tourist activity is to hire a long tail boat and explore the waterways and floating markets. The Skytrain only reaches to the Southern Khlong San area, so most of the transport in Thonburi comes from tuk-tuks or boats. Neighborhood Attractions: Khlong Bang Luang Artist Village, Taling Chan Floating Market, Princess Mother Memorial Park, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre, Wang Lang Market, Arun Ammarin Road.
Q. What are the best hospitals in Bangkok for tourists?
- Bumrungrad International Hospital (Sukhumvit) – Considered the best hospital in Bangkok. Phone: +66 2667 1000.
- Global Doctor Travelers Clinic (Silom Business District) – Located in the Holiday Inn Hotel. Phone: +66 2236 8442
- Siam Family Dental Clinic (Siam Square) – General dentistry, orthodontics, surgery. Phone: +08 1987 7700