Bangkok bound: what to know before you go

Thai monks

The Thai capital will do nothing but impress but it can be a little overwhelming upon first glance. Bangkok is a big city with a lot going on. If it’s your first stop in South-East Asia, be prepared! It’s essential to know at least a few things before you arrive.


Travel technicalities

Getting from the airport to the city

There are two airports in Bangkok: Suvarnabhumi Airport and Don Muang Airport. Most visitors arrive via Suvarnabhumi Airport from abroad. It’s about 30km from the city centre. To get to the city centre, take the Airport Rail Link. It’s fast and cheap. Trains run daily from 6am to midnight and travel at speeds of 100 miles per hour. The Express Line will take you to Mukkasan or Phaya Thai Stations in 15-18 minutes, costing 90 baht (£1.80) one-way. The City Line takes longer, approx. 25 minutes and costs 15-45 baht (30p-90p), depending on how far down the line you go.

Getting around the city

If you think congestion is bad in London, Bangkok is 100x worse. The easiest and fastest way to get from A to B in the city is via the Skytrain, Metro or boats using the city’s canal system. In all cases, it’s a good idea to have a stash of 5 and 10 baht coins for buying tickets. Fares range from 15-40 baht depending on how many zones you cross.

Bangkok-canal

You should ride a boat along the Chao Phraya River at least once during your holiday in Bangkok. Take the Chao Phraya Express Boat to Phra Arthit to explore Khao San Road.

Money Matters

Thai Baht

Thai-baht

It’s good to know a bit about the currency before you arrive so you’re not left standing at the check-out gaping at your handful of coins. The Thai baht (฿) can be divided into 100 satang. The most common coins you’ll have in your pocket are 25 and 50 satang coins and 1, 2, 5, and 10 baht coins.

Banknotes come in the following denominations: 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1,000.

Tipping in Bangkok

There is no strict tipping culture in Bangkok although it is polite to leave a small gratuity for really exceptional service. In taxis, round up to the nearest 10฿. In restaurants, it’s typical that 10% service charge has already been added to your bill. At hotels, tipping is not expected. For professional services like massages and haircuts, 20฿ or 50฿ is fine.

Explore and enjoy

Free sights

Thai monks

Free is always good. If you’re looking to save a bit of money while you’re visiting Thailand, best stick to the free attractions while you’re here. There are more than you think, this list is just the beginning!

  • Erawan Shrine in Ratchaprasong and usually surrounded by musicians and dancers
  • Street markets like Chatuchak, Muay Thai or Wat Mahatat Amulet Market
  • Khao San Road for a great atmosphere and street performers
  • Temples along the Chao Phraya including Wat Arun and the Dawn Temple
  • Penis Shrine behind Nai Lert Park Hotel… a hub for Tantric culture
  • Chinatown near Hualamphong Station
  • Lumpini Park
  • Royal Elephant Museum

Have you ever visited Bangkok? What advice would you give first-time visitors?

Imgs: peterhellberg, archer10william_christiansen / Flickr cc.

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