Difference between revisions of "Bangkok"
Revision as of 23:23, 17 September 2019
Bangkok, official name Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, is the capital of Thailand and, with a population of over eleven million inhabitants, by far its largest city. Its high-rise buildings, heavy traffic congestion, intense heat and naughty nightlife may not immediately give you the best impression — but don't let that mislead you. It is one of Asia's most cosmopolitan cities with magnificent temples and palaces, authentic canals, busy markets and a vibrant nightlife that has something for everyone.
For years, it was only a small trading post at the banks of the Chao Phraya River, until King Rama I, the first monarch of the present Chakri dynasty, turned it into the capital of Siam in 1782, after the burning of Ayutthaya by Burmese invaders but they did not take over Ayutthaya. Since then, Bangkok has turned into a national treasure house and functions as Thailand's spiritual, cultural, political, commercial, educational and diplomatic centre.
From the moment you arrive, Bangkok is an invigorating assault on the senses. The heat, the noise, and the smells will leave you reeling if you're not used to the insanity of Asia's mega cities. It certainly is not a destination that many people will forget in a hurry.
Bangkok is a huge and modern city humming with nightlife and great aromas. Administratively, it is split up into 50 districts (เขต khet), which are further split into 169 subdistricts (แขวง khwaeng), but these are more often used in official business and for addresses. Visitors will find the conceptual division below of the main areas more useful for getting around.
Around Bangkok are the provinces of Nakhon Pathom to the west, Nonthaburi to the northwest, Pathum Thani to the north, Chachoengsao to the east, Samut Prakan to the southeast and Samut Sakhon to the southwest.
Just under 14 degrees north of the equator, Bangkok is a tropical metropolis and one of the most traveler-friendly cities in Asia. A furious assault on the senses, visitors are immediately confronted by the heat, the pollution, the flamboyant culture and the irrepressible smiles that accompanies many Thais. Despite sensationalized international news reports and first impressions, the city is surprisingly safe (except from some petty crimes), more organised than it initially appears, and full of hidden gems waiting to be discovered. The high relative humidity and warm temperature favour the growth of tropical plants. You'll find orchids and delicious fruit everywhere. Bougainvillea and frangipani bloom practically all over the city. Thai cuisine is justifiably famous, spicy, varied, and affordable. Bangkok for many represents the quintessential Asian capital. Saffron-robed monks, garish neon signs, graceful Thai architecture, spicy dishes, colourful markets, traffic jams and the tropical climate come together in a happy coincidence. It is difficult to leave with lukewarm impressions of the city.
"Bangkok" originally was a small village on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. After the fall of Ayutthaya in the late 18th century, King Taksin the Great turned that village into Siam's new capital and renamed it Thonburi. In 1782, King Rama I moved the capital to the eastern bank of the river at Rattanakosin; originally the site of a Chinese community, who were moved outside of the new city walls to Yaowarat. King Rama I named the city Krung Thep, as it is now known to Thais and which in English is translates as the "City of Angels".
The full name "Krung thep mahanakhon amorn ratanakosin mahintharayutthaya mahadilok popnoparat ratchathani burirom udomratchanivetmahasathan amornpiman avatarnsathit sakkathattiyavisnukarmprasit" (กรุงเทพมหานคร อมรรัตนโกสินทร์ มหินทรายุธยามหาดิลกภพ นพรัตน์ราชธานี บุรีรมย์อุดมราชนิเวศน์มหาสถาน อมรพิมานอวตารสถิต สักกะทัตติยะวิษณุกรรมประสิทธิ์) is listed as the world's longest location name by the Guinness Book of Records; an English rendering goes like this: "The city of angels, the great city, the residence of the Emerald Buddha, the impregnable city of Ayutthaya of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn". The original village of Bangkok has long since ceased to exist, but foreigners never caught on to the change.
Life was taking place on the water; ordinary people lived on bamboo-rafts along the river, while floating vendors roamed the water to sell fruit and vegetables. The only stone structures built on land were temples and palaces. In the 19th-century, Western powers incorporated much of Southeast Asia into their colonial empires. King Rama IV and V felt that the only way to keep Siam independent was to modernise the country along European lines. Traditional canals were filled up and turned into roads. King Rama V moved the residence of the King to Dusit and laid out that district's grand boulevards along European lines.
Bangkok really started to develop after World War II. The economic centre shifted from the orderly planned city of Rattanakosin in an eastward direction, leaving Bangkok without an obvious centre. Bangkok established itself as the driving power behind Thailand's new role as a newly industrializing country from the 1980s onwards. Rapid economic growth has attracted migration from the countryside, with millions of Thais moving here from Isaan to make a living.
This rapid expansion turned Bangkok into one of the most cosmopolitan and happening cities in Asia; but also ensured numerous problems. A wide gap has emerged between those who profit from economic activity, and those who came to the city from the countryside in search of work. Bangkok's seemingly never-ending traffic jams continue as the new Skytrain and metro systems are not really connected with other means of public transportation.
Addresses in Bangkok use the Thai addressing system, which may be a little confusing to the uninitiated. Large roads such as Silom or Sukhumvit are thanon (ถนน), often abbreviated Th or glossed "Road", while the side streets branching off from them are called soi (ซอย). Sois are numbered, with even numbers on one side and odd numbers on the other side. Thus, an address like "25 Sukhumvit Soi 3" means house/building number 25 on the 3rd soi of Sukhumvit Road. While the soi numbers on each side will always advance upward, the numbers often do not advance evenly between sides — for example, Soi 55 could be across from Soi 36. Many well-known sois have an additional name, which can be used instead of the number. Sukhumvit Soi 3 is also known as "Soi Nana Nuea", so the address above might thus also be expressed as "25 Soi Nana Nuea". The extension /x is used for new streets created between existing streets, as seen in Sukhumvit's soi pattern 7, 7/1, 7/2, 9, 11. Note that some short alleys are called trok (ตรอก) instead of soi.
To make things a little more complex, some large sois like Soi Ekkamai (Sukhumvit Soi 63) and Soi Ari (Phahonyothin Soi 7) have their own sois. In these cases, an address like "Ari Soi 3" means "the 3rd soi off Soi Ari", and you may even spot addresses like "68/2 Ekkamai Soi 4, Sukhumvit Road", meaning "2nd house beside house 68, in the 4th soi of Ekkamai, which is the 63rd soi of Sukhumvit". In many sois, the house numbers are not simply increasing, but may spread around.
To further bewilder the tourist who doesn't read Thai, the renderings of Thai street names in the Latin alphabet are not consistent. The road running towards Don Mueang Airport from Victory Monument may be spelled Phahonyothin or Phahon Yothin or Pahon Yothin or Phaholyothin depending on which street sign or map you consult. It's all the same in Thai, of course, only the romanisation varies.
And if that's not confusing enough, most of the larger streets tend to change names altogether every few kilometres. Sukhumvit is called Sukhumvit on one side of the tollway (roughly east), but it becomes Phloen Chit just before you cross Witthayu Road (aka Wireless Road) going towards the river. Keep going just a few more streets and it becomes Rama I Road (or Phra Ram Neung Road) after you pass Ratchadamri Road. But if you were to turn right onto Ratchadamri, in just a few blocks you'll find yourself on Ratchaprarop Road (past Phetchaburi, aka New Phetburi, which is called Phitsanulok closer to the river). Got it?
Fortunately, there's logic to these name changes: most of them are neighbourhoods. It wouldn't make sense to call the road Sukhumvit if it's no longer running through the Sukhumvit area, would it? Thus, Sukhumvit becomes Phloen Chit where it runs though the Phloen Chit area. It's when you're able to grasp the city in terms of its neighbourhoods that it both becomes more navigable and more charming. Likewise, Pratunam and Chatuchak are much more than just markets; they're neighbourhoods, each with their own distinct character.
Related to this last point, compass directions are not widely used by Thais to navigate in Bangkok. That's probably because they aren't very useful; the city's Byzantine layout, the changing street names, the winding river, and the lack of obvious landmarks all conspire to confuse your internal compass. Thus, asking for directions in terms of "Is that west from here?" will probably earn you little more than a confused look from a local. You're better off to familiarise yourself with the neighbourhoods and navigate to and from them. "How do I get to Thong Lo?" will get you there faster than asking for directions to Sukhumvit Soi 55.
One exception: the Chao Phraya River is the landmark in Bangkok, and many directional references can be made as "toward the river" or "away from the river". If you aren't too close, that is: since the river winds around the most popular tourist areas, river references tend to be most helpful when you're wandering farther afield than Khao San Road, Sanam Luang or Rattanakosin. And wander you should.
According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Bangkok is one of the hottest cities in the world. Located just 14 degrees north of the Equator, Bangkok is warm at any time of the year with temperatures over 30°C (86°F).
The most pleasant time to visit is the cool season that lasts from November till February. It is both the coolest and driest period — the Emerald Buddha statue in Wat Phra Kaew even wears a scarf during this period! Don't think that's necessary though — daytime temperatures still hover around 32°C (89.6°F), but it does cool down into the lower 20's as it gets dark (lower 70's °F). March and April represent the hot season, and hot it is — 35°C (95°F) on average, but don't be surprised to see temperatures rising towards 40 degrees Celsius (around 100°F+). This is the worst season to visit Bangkok, so plan a lot of air-conditioned shopping mall visits and get a hotel with a swimming pool. Then there's the wet season that runs from May till October. Expect massive downpours resulting in floods all over the city, and spells of thunder at times. It's not all bad though — the afternoon showers are actually a pleasant way to cool down from the heat, and while they may last all day, usually they're over within an hour. Extreme rainfall happens in September and October, so these months are best avoided.
Whatever season you're visiting, don't take the weather lightly — temple-tramping in the scorching afternoon sun can be a challenge, so come well-prepared. Dress lightly for the weather, but keep in mind that some palaces and all temples (notably the Grand Palace) have a strict dress code. Also be sure, and this cannot be said enough, drink enough fluids! You don't have a reason not to, as 7-Elevens and other convenience stores are abundant in Bangkok and they sell cooled beverages for as little as 10 baht. Locals get their water from "reverse osmosis" purified water machines that fill up a one litre bottle for one baht.
Foreign films were popular in Thailand from the start, but in the 1920s a local film industry started to emerge in Bangkok. The most critically acclaimed Thai films were produced in the "three waves" of the Bangkok film industry: the 1930s, the 1950s and the late 1990s/2000s, although films made before World War II have unfortunately been lost. Predominant genres are action, historical epics, romance and gay/transgender films, almost always intertwined with elements of comedy. The following are staged (at least partly) in Bangkok:
Bangkok is served by two airports: Suvarnabhumi Airport and Don Muang Airport. Suvarnabhumi Airport is used by all airlines in Thailand except for Nok Air, Orient Thai and Air Asia, which use the old Don Muang Airport. Both these airports are about 30 km (19 mi) from the city centre, so be prepared for a long ride to get into the city. Also allow at least three hours to connect between them, as they are far away from each other and there is heavy congestion on the roads. However, if you arrive at one of these and have a flight within a few hours from the other, then there is a free shuttle bus service which uses the tollways. You need to show your ticket to get on board.
Located 30km (19 mi) to the east of Bangkok (in the Samut Prakan province), space-age Suvarnabhumi Airport (สุวรรณภูมิ, pronounced "soo-wanna-poom") (IATA: BKK) started operations in Sep 2006 and is now Bangkok's main airport and the busiest airport in Southeast Asia. It is used for almost all international and domestic flights to Bangkok. There is only one terminal building, which covers both domestic and international flights, but it is huge (by some measures the world's largest), so allow time for getting around. There are two immigration sections, but processing time can be lengthy — 30 minutes and more.
Suvarnabhumi offers all facilities you would expect from a major international airport. There's a transit hotel, ATMs, money exchange, restaurants, tax-free shops, an observation lounge and even a "redemption booth", very reassuring for karmically challenged passengers. There are about 50 dining venues spread over the terminal building. The one that sounds most interesting probably is Panda Ready To Eat, but the cheapest place for a meal is Magic Food Point on level 1, near gate 8. There are a few stores in the check-in area, including a convenience store and a post office; however, the real shopping experience awaits visitors on the other side of immigration in the departure area, where the number of shops and duty free outlets leaves you wondering whether you are in an airport or a mall. There is not much to see at the observation deck on the seventh floor, since the steel structure of the roof blocks most of the view.
The duty free shops offer a wide range of almost every international brand. The prices are not competitive.
Beware of buying at airport convenience stores, located before security, if you are to bring those items inside. All cans and bottles (even containing food) are confiscated by security at check-in.
Currency exchange options are abundant, but virtually all offer a dearer exchange rate than downtown. A much better rate is normally available from the red booth near the coin ticket kiosks for the Airport Express Line (right after entrance to the Airport Express Line).
Free Wi-Fi for up to one hour is available in the departure lounge, after security and passport control; the login details can be obtained from the Information point. Access can be frustratingly unstable and unreliable.
If you need a hard copy of maps and brochures you can go to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) booth at Suvarnabhumi Airport: Arrival Floor, International Tel: (66)2134 0041 Open 24 hours Suvarnabhumi Airport Arrival Floor, Domestic Tel: (66)2134 0040 Open 24 hours
There are plenty of ways to get into the city from Suvarnabhumi Airport. Most people opt for the Airport Rail Link, by far the fastest way to get into downtown, although taxis are also reasonably priced by world standards.
Located on the basement level of the passenger terminal, the Airport Rail Link
If you're heading downtown, the Airport Rail Link has a good connection to the BTS Skytrain at Phaya Thai, though you will have to buy a new ticket. If Khao San Road is your final destination, you can hail taxis from the main road (around 60 baht, c. 6km distance), or hop aboard bus 15 (7 baht); this bus leaves from across Central World, BTS Siam, and BTS National Stadium and goes along Ratchadamnoen Klang Road and Chakrabongse Road serving both sides of Khao San Road.
There are free shuttle buses from Suvarnabhumi Airport to Don Muang Airport every hour between 05:00-23:00. You have to show them your flight ticket to board. At Suvarnabhumi Airport, get on the bus at gate 2 or 3. At Don Muang Airport, get on the bus at the ground floor arrival terminal. The shuttle bus goes directly via the express way, and does not stop during the ride.
Private Airport Express buses, including backpacker favourite AE2 to Khao San Road, stopped running in Jun 2011. Recently a new bus service called S1 started to operate from BKK aiport to the junction between khao san and rambuttri streets. Tickets are 60 baht per person, buses depart from level 1 of the airport (one floor down from arrivals, where you'll find most taxi's), outside gate 7 and go every 30 minutes or so between 06:00 and 22:00. As of now (january 2019) there seems to be no official ticket sales point, and you just head for the orange-yellow bus and pay the far to the driver.
To take a public bus or minibus, you must first take the free shuttle bus from outside the second floor, gate 5 to the Public Transportation Center a few kilometres away. From there, The BMTA public bus lines are:
Note that almost all of the routes were already suspended, leaving 5 routes that link to non-touristy places except 554. (Source: local)
These services take about 1-2 hours depending on traffic; frequency is usually every 20min during daytime. At night, it ranges from 20 minutes to one hour depending on the route. There are also privately-owned BMTA minibuses to many parts of Greater Bangkok, such as Don Muang Airport, Bang Kapi, Rangsit and Samut Prakan. They charge a flat rate of 50 baht and go directly to the destination, so they are faster than public buses that stop frequently along the way. To get to Khao San Road take Airport Rail Link City Line to Makkasan (35 baht) and change there to bus number 556 (13 baht), which will take you next to Democracy Monument from where it's a short walk to Khao San Road. These buses are not very frequent so prepare for as much as 30-40 min waiting time. This is probably the cheapest possible way how to get from/to airport for 48 baht total. (The 556 bus goes on from Democracy Monument to Southern Bus Terminal- Sai Tai.) Though you could take bus 554 to Synphaet Hospital and then public bus 60 or alternatively bus 555 to Din-Daeng Road followed by bus 171, both options will take you through heavy Bangkok traffic on normal roads with frequent stops, thus making the Airport Link the best and fastest option.
Ordinary metered taxis are available on the first floor (one floor below arrivals). Follow the "public taxi" signs that lead to the outside of the airport premises, queue up and state your destination at the desk (English is understood). Once there was a desk and you got a card ticket with two sections - one to give to the driver, often with your destination written in Thai - The small part for you was for complaints and is how the system is enforced: hold on to it to help avoid arguments later. Now queue tickets are dispensed by machine at the head of the two snake queues. There is a 50 baht surcharge on top of the meter (not per passenger!), meaning that trips to the city will cost 250-400 baht (plus possible expressway tolls of 50 and 25 baht, depending on time). Make sure you have change ready to pass to the toll operators to avoid being overcharged for the tolls later on. With very smooth traffic (which rarely occurs other than say in the wee hours), the ride takes about 30 minutes and costs under 250 baht (excluding tolls and surcharges). Otherwise, count on it taking 45-60 minutes and closer to 300 baht (excluding tolls and surcharges). During rush hour it can take much longer. No other surcharges apply, not even for going back to the airport. If there is a huge taxi queue, consider taking a limousine taxi, or take the free shuttle bus to the Public Transport Centre, which has more taxis. Go straight to the "official public taxi stand" and wait there. It is rare, but there have been reports of rigged meters that make the ride cost more than 400 baht. These taxis usually appear highly modified and it is a good idea to avoid them, or record the licence plate number of the taxi.
You should also watch out for 'helpful' touts hovering nearby the main taxi desk who will lead you across the road to legitimate taxis. These drivers will refuse to use the meter by saying there is heavy traffic and will charge a phenomenal price supposedly based on distance and number of passengers - for instance, they will quite brazenly tell you it will cost 2,500 baht to take two people to the city centre. Refuse to deal with these touts on sight. However, should you make the mistake of trusting them, find out the fare before they have a chance to leave the airport. Quoting the correct metered price (250-400 baht, as above) will garner a response that you'll need to take a bus to get that kind of price. Stand your ground and insist they take you back to the airport - provided you do this before you leave, they'll be quite happy to take you back with no charge.
So-called limousine taxis (which charge by distance, eg, around 800 baht to Sukhumvit) can be reserved at the limousine hire counter on the second floor (just outside arrivals), and aggressive touts will try to entice you on board. If you allow yourself to be waylaid by one of these taxi touts, they might quote you more than double the fare than an ordinary metered taxi would charge (900 baht instead of 400 baht, for example). You'd be silly even acknowledging their existence — ignore and walk straight past them.
One more option is private transfers. There are many companies that offer such service. The driver meets at the airport with a sign with the tourist's name and drives right to the hotel doors. The prices are usually fixed. There are several car classes from economy to minibuses for 16 passengers. This service must be booked in advance.
Accommodation near the airport
There are plenty of hotels near Suvarnabhumi Airport, and huge construction projects are planned for the future. Day room facilities for transit passengers are now available at the Miracle Grand Louis Tavern on floor 4, concourse G, ☎ +66 2 134-6565, 2,000 baht per 4-hour block, no reservations accepted. Travellers looking for a free quiet place to doze undisturbed at night can use one of the benches on the bottom floor of the terminal (which seem to be a popular choice with tourists and locals).
All other accommodation in Bangkok is listed in the relevant district articles. If you want an overnight stay within 20min of the airport, get a hotel along Lat Krabang Road, here covered in the Lat Krabang district. The Tourist Authority of Thailand and other hotel and tourist agencies have counters on the arrivals floor of the main terminal. You can make reservations at plenty of hotels here. Check for special promotions and also whether the hotel offers an airport pick-up and drop-off service — especially useful for late night arrivals and early morning departures.
Don Muang Airport
Don Muang Airport (IATA: DMK) (or Don Mueang), about 30 km (19 mi) north of downtown, was Bangkok's main airport until 2006. The airport currently handles Nok Air and Orient Thai domestic flights, the international terminal is now used by Air Asia and charters. Since 1 Oct 2012 all Air Asia flights arrive at and leave from DMK (Don Muang) instead of BKK (Suvarnabhumi). This might be something to consider when you have a connecting flight, since most non-Air Asia international flights will be leaving from BKK (Suvarnabhumi).
Visa Photos are available at the business centre in the Amari Hotel. They charge 150 bath for six photos. To get there, use elevator located nearby exit number 6 and cross the bridge.
Don Muang is the preferred airport for luxury and business aviation in Bangkok, avoiding the heavy ground and air traffic at BKK. There are 8 charter operators located on-site compared to just 2 at Suvarnabhumi, and there are multiple FBO services available. Companies including Air Charter Advisors offer around the clock access to business jets for international and domestic charter flights.
The public taxi stand is on the pavement outside the arrivals area (don't be fooled by all the taxi service booths in the main hall), and is probably your best bet for getting into town — it's your only option after 23:00. A trip to MBK can cost roughly 250 baht depending on traffic. The same booth and slip system as at Suvarnabhumi Airport is used here. If the queue at the taxi stand is long or you need a more spacious car, you may want to book a (so-called) limousine taxi from the desks in the terminal. This will get you a slightly nicer car at about twice the price (500-600 baht). Ignore any touts outside and do not get into any car with white licence plates, as these are not licensed to carry passengers. If you are having trouble finding drivers willing to put the meter on, or want to avoid the airport taxis, you can walk to the main road outside by turning right outside the arrivals door and walking past the area where the buses are parked and make your way left towards the main road. You can hail down a taxi here, and the driver should put on the meter, this would be the cheapest fare.
Across a covered overpass from the airport is Don Muang Train Station. Access the overpass from staircase next to exit 6 in the international terminal. 3rd class tickets to Hualamphong Train Station in central Bangkok cost 5 baht at the ticket booth (July 2019). Trip time to Hualamphong is at least 60 minutes. Schedules can be checked from State Railway of Thailand. While taking the train is the cheapest way to get from the airport to Bangkok, it is not for the faint-of-heart: schedules are erratic, the run-down passenger cars often have beggars roaming through them, and are relatively empty late at night. Still if you board the train at Don Muang, you immediately plunge from the shiny world of airports that are virtually the same everywhere into a very Thai Thailand, and during the day it makes an interesting journey. If you have been on third class Thai trains before, this one is no different. On every train station, vendors board the train to supply you with food and drinks. Thais will smile at you as they will do during the rest of your holiday, pleased to see a "farang" (a Thai word derived from "foreigner").
It is not advisable to try to get to the Don Muang airport by train when you have a flight to catch - trains run with very little regard for the scheduled timetable, and it is not uncommon to arrive more than an hour past the expected time. Add an extra hour or two to your journey time if you intend to get to the airport this way. Trains regularly depart late from the train station and its journey is hampered by the fact that the train sometimes gives way to traffic at some level crossings.
There is also a free shuttle bus service between DMK and BKK Suvarnabhumi airport. At peak times, it runs every 30 min and it takes about an hour, depending on traffic. The signs to the bus stop aren’t that good but to get to it, all you have to do is turn left once you come out of the terminal building (with the taxi queue behind you) and walk towards the end of the building / pavement. If you have time to spare, this is a cheap way of getting into town from DMK since Suvarnabhumi offers many transport options.
There are two airport bus lines at DMK operated by BMTA (orange aircon bus). The ticket is 30 baht. You can take bus just in front of the terminal. It makes good connection to the BTS Skytrain and MRT subway
A1 to BTS Mo Chit/MRT Chatuchak and Mo Chit 2 Intercity Bus Terminal and return. A2 (new) runs to BTS Mo Chit then Victory Monument and return.
There are also a number of public transport buses passing through the airport. Just follow the signs toward the bus stop. Airport to your back, the bus stop is on the right-hand side of the airport (ie, north of the airport). It will be along the highway, outside the airport complex, right below a highway footbridge. Buses towards central Bangkok are at the airport's side of the road, so don't cross the highway. These are useful bus lines:
Keep in mind that some of these buses, especially air-conditioned bus 29, don't complete the route. They are called "additional bus" (Thai: รถเสริม rot serm). These kind of buses have a red sign in front of them with the final destination written on it (in Thai script of course). Check this before taking the bus. You can ask the locals at the bus stop or a conductor on the bus.
Passengers have reported difficulty with using some of these buses due to the scarcity of English-speaking conductors. Thus it is worthwhile to have your destination written down in Thai script and show it to the conductor, or even people at the bus stop, as this is a great help.
Airport bus from the Don Muang airport services routes at a frequency of 20-30 minutes and each route takes about 60-80min per trip. The fare for airport bus is fixed per person per trip. Further information can be found here.
The fare for City bus is charged in the range of 6.5-23 baht depending on the route and type of bus taken.
When buying tickets for buses out of Bangkok, it's best to skip travel agents and their private buses, whose rates are a 50 to 100 percent premium over regular government rates, and get the bus tickets directly at Bangkok's three public bus terminals. These buses are much cheaper, generally safer, more comfortable and won't scam you onto a clapped-out minibus halfway along the way. Each of these long haul bus terminals serve a different direction. They are purposefully located in off-central locations, so the long-haul buses avoid the heavy traffic congestion in the centre of the city. Beware of the so-called tourist information booth on the second floor of Hua Lamphong train station, as that's a travel agency in disguise, offering overpriced bus voyages to popular destinations around Thailand. They have been known to employ overly friendly persons in official-looking uniform to entice customers.
The largest, busiest, and most modern terminal is the Northern Bus Terminal, ☎ +66 2 936-2841(-3), also known as Mo Chit 2. The upper floor serves the Isaan region in the northeast of Thailand; the ground floor serves Northern Thailand, and shares some destinations with Ekkamai (including Pattaya, Rayong, Chanthaburi and Trat). The bus terminal is a fair hike from BTS station Mo Chit or MRT station Chatuchak Park. Motorbike taxis do the trip for a fixed 30 baht fare (bargaining is pointless), while tuk-tuks charge whatever they feel like — when bargaining, remember that a real taxi with air-conditioning will cost you about 45 baht (assuming little traffic). You can also take bus 77 and pay the 13 baht fare on board (this bus also goes from the terminal via Victory Monument, Pratunam and Silom Road. If you have a considerable amount of luggage, the easiest, if not necessarily fastest, option is to take a taxi directly to or from the bus terminal.
Buying tickets here is reasonably easy; find a window with your destination written on it (in friendly Roman letters), pay the fare in big numbers on the same window, and you'll get a ticket on the next available departure. Note that blue writing means 1st class, red means 2nd class (avoid on longer trips), and tickets for destinations in Isaan are sold from the third floor. Ask the information desk on the first floor if you need help, or any of the BKS staff, easily identifiable thanks to their natty white shirts with gold buttons. Now just find the departure stall and you're on your way. If you have time to kill, there are two fairly decent air-conditioned food courts at both ends of the main terminal building, plus KFC, Dunkin' Donuts and lots of 7-Eleven outlets.
The Eastern Bus Terminal, ☎ +66 2 391-2504, also known as Ekkamai, is a relatively compact terminal right next to Ekkamai BTS station in Sukhumvit. Ekkamai serves destinations in Eastern Thailand, including Pattaya, Rayong, Ban Phe (for Ko Samet), Chanthaburi and Trat. If you're heading for Ko Chang, there is a specifically designated stop for it between Chanthaburi and Trat. You can also get a bus to the Cambodian border crossing at Poipet, look for the bus to Aranyaprathet and tell them you are going to Poipet when you buy the ticket.
Then there's the Southern Bus Terminal, ☎ +66 2 894-6122, also known as Sai Tai Mai, that serves all destinations west and south of Bangkok from its somewhat inconvenient location on the Thonburi side of the river. In December 2007, the terminal moved to a new, even more remote location, at Phutthamonthon Sai 1 Road in northern Thonburi. It is a 70 baht taxi ride to the Bank Khae area of Bangkok. Long-distance buses leave from here to destinations throughout Western Thailand (including Nakhon Pathom and Kanchanaburi) and Southern Thailand (including Krabi, Phuket, Surat Thani, Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan, Hat Yai, and many others). It also has a huge number of minibuses out back which take trips to most of the places the buses go, and do it a lot quicker. However, if you have large baggage, forget this option. The new terminal is a fairly pleasant airport-like structure with air-conditioning, electronic departure monitors (in English), a few bank offices, nice and cheap food. Unlike the rip-off operators at Khao San Road, all buses from here are public, well-regulated, cheap, and reasonably safe. Just buy your tickets at the numbered desk with your destination posted on it (almost always in English). There are also plenty of taxis out the back of the bus terminal.
Getting to the terminal is a bit of headache, as public transport is limited. The easiest option is to take a metered taxi, but if you're going there in the evening, especially during workdays, be prepared to fight a serious traffic jam — getting there can take 30 minutes or an hour from the city centre. A taxi ride from Khao San Road should end up around 120 baht in favourable traffic conditions. Ignore touts — unlike what they might say, there really is no "faster" way when all the roads are congested.
From Victory Monument BTS station, the terminal can be reached with pale orange air-conditioned bus 515 (17 baht). When approached by an on-board bus conductor, just say "Sai Tai". After quite a ride, the large bus terminal will be on the left side about 9 km after crossing the river (you won't miss it and probably will be told as well). Getting there by bus actually does not take much more time than taxi (it's almost the same in the likely case of a traffic jam), but the ride is much cheaper, especially if alone. Bus 556 no longer goes from Suvarnabhumi Airport, but from Makkasan Airport Rail Link (ARL) station. There are also white minibuses (30 baht) from various points around Bangkok, eg. from Ramkhamhaeng (near Rajamangala National Stadium). There are inexpensive shuttle buses and slightly more expensive (but quicker loading and a bit faster) minibuses to and from the Northern Bus Terminal as well. A meter-taxi from Northern Bus Terminal (Morchit) is about 150-180 Baht and takes about 30-50 minutes. Insist on the meter. There are plenty of taxis at the entrance of the big hall.
From the Hualamphong station, one can take the 507 (15 baht) non-airconditioned bus. It infrequently stops on the far side of the multi-road intersection from the front of the rail station and goes directly to the terminal. Allow 60-90min to wait for the bus and for the long distance and the traffic.
From the Khao San Road/Democracy Monument area, you can take the orange 511 (15 baht). The New Southern Bus Terminal is the last stop on the route.
For travelling to Bangkok suburbs, the fastest and often the cheapest way is to use public minibus (minivan) services. They are running from the rear of the Victory Monument square (facing the monument itself are the city bus stops, behind it there is a small market, and behind the market you will find many white-coloured minibuses (13.76414N 100.53878E) just parking at the roadside and waiting for passengers ). They depart when full, usually every 10-30 min. Fare is usually similar to long-distance buses with the same destination (if there are any). Other way, it could be estimated as 1 baht/km.
Please note that minibuses to the surrounding provinces have been moved from Victory Monument to the bus stations - Mo Chit, Tai Mai, and Ekkamai. (as at Nov 2016). The only ones from here now are to destinations within the Bangkok area, like Rangsit.
There are also plenty of minibuses at the Southern Bus Terminal, out the back. These go to various locations in the south and also within the city itself. There is one to Bang Phli,(in Samut Prakhan Province) from where buses/minibuses to Rayong/Pattaya can be found
The State Railway of Thailand, ☎ +66 2 222-0175, serves Bangkok with railway lines from all four directions of Thailand.
Hualamphong Train Station is the most important station, located close to Yaowarat and served by its own MRT station. It's a big and surprisingly convenient station built during the reign of King Rama VI. It was spared from bombing in World War II at the request of the Thai resistance movement.
Tickets for trains leaving the same or the next day can be bought on the counters under the big screens. The Advance Booking Office is located to the right of the platforms as you walk towards them and is quite well-organised. You can select your seat/berth from a plan of the train, and payments by credit card are accepted. you can book through the official e-ticketing website, or you may book an e-ticket with an agency (against THB 100 service fee).
A word of advice is to only listen to the people at the information desk — anyone else walking around offering to help you "find" a hotel or taxi is just a tout, even if they are wearing official-looking badges. Likewise, the second floor shops offering "Tourist Information" are just agents in disguise. The taxi pick up and drop off point is to the left of the platforms as you walk towards them, and is generally chaotic at busy periods with scant regard for any queue. The left luggage facility is at the opposite end of the concourse, on the far right as you walk away from the platforms.
If coming by train from the north or north-east, connecting to the metro at Bang Sue Train Station can shave the last half-hour off your train trip. This is not a very good place to board trains though, as there is practically no information or signs in English. However, this situation will doubtlessly improve as more and more long-distance departures are switched to here from Hualamphong Train Station to ease congestion in the inner city.
The Thon Buri Train Station, formerly known as the Bangkok Noi Station, is on the west side of the river in Thonburi. It is the terminus for twice-daily trains to Kanchanaburi (via Nakhon Pathom). Just to keep things confusing, the previous Thonburi Train Station right next to the river (accessible by the Chao Phraya Express Boat pier Railway Station) is now mothballed and turned into a museum, but it's only 800m away from the new station. Note that the weekend-only second class air-conditioned "tourist" trains to Kanchanaburi and Nam Tok depart from Hualamphong Train Station.
Wongwien Yai Train Station only serves the rustic Mae Klong commuter line to the fishing village of Maha Chai. Trains run roughly hourly and the trip takes about one hour. The ride is of little interest if you want to get there fast, but is an experience for rail fans and an attraction in itself, with a nice view on the countryside's orchards, vegetable plantations and coconut groves. Maha Chai is a nice seafood destination, and if you feel like it, you can cross the Tha Chin river by ferry and continue by rail to Samut Songkhram. Wongwien Yai Train Station is about 800m from the Skytrain station of the same name; to get there, take a metered taxi for 35-50 baht, or walk (using a map). If you want to walk, continue in the same direction the train came from about 300 metres. You will see a main road underneath at right angles, so cross this and go to the right along this road. About another 300 metres along this road you will see an overhead walkway. Just beyond this on the left is a laneway to the on-ground station.
Not many people come to Bangkok by ship, but there are some cruise ships that come close to the city. Large ships must dock at Laem Chabang Port, about 90 minutes southeast of Bangkok and about 30 min north of Pattaya.
Frequent first and second class bus services directly connect Laem Chabang with Bangkok's Eastern Bus Terminal (Ekkamai); less frequent direct services run to the Northern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit). A first class air-conditioned bus (blue and white) to either will take 90min or less; the fare is around 100 baht. A quick way to get into downtown is to board an Ekkamai-bound bus and then disembark early at On Nut, where you can hop onto the Skytrain. The bus will always stop here if a passenger requests it.
Southbound buses en route to Pattaya can be boarded at the traffic lights on Sukhumvit Road in Laem Chabang. These are extremely frequent (at least 10 per hour), and charge less than 50 baht.
Modest-sized ships may dock further upriver at Khlong Toei Port, close to Bangkok's city centre. A modest terminal provides processing for passengers (who may receive Thai customs and immigration processing on-board), as well as offering "managers" who arrange tours and taxis. Reaching major hotels and other points of interest is much cheaper than from Laem Chabang, but can vary according to the passenger's negotiating skills. The facility is not close to the MRT stop of Khlong Toei, the best way to get there is by metered taxi.
Getting into Bangkok by car is not a good idea, as you can easily waste half a day waiting in traffic just to get to the other side of the city. Three major highways lead to Bangkok from all directions of Thailand. The best way to get to Bangkok from Northern Thailand is driving on Phahonyothin Road (Route 1), which comes from Mae Sai near the Myanmarese border.
Phetkasem Road (Route 4) must be one of the longest roads in the world, as it comes all the way from the Malaysian border serving Southern Thailand.
To ease congestion on these highways, a new system of motorways has emerged which will be extended in the future. The New Bangkok-Chonburi Motorway (Motorway 7) is covering the trip from Chonburi and Pattaya. Then there's the Kanchanaphisek National Highway (Motorway 9 or "Outer Ring Road") which makes a giant loop around Bangkok serving most satellite towns around it, such as Nonthaburi and Samut Prakan.
The first phase of Bangkok's ambitious public transport system is now complete, the city's public transport system is fairly efficient and convenient, but there is still a fair amount of room for improvement to the system's integration.
The city, like many developing cities, suffers from paralytic traffic jams periodically throughout the day. In rush hours, it may be worthwhile combining public transport by different means. For example: soar over traffic jams by skytrain to the station closest to your destination and thereafter take a taxi for the final leg.
Bangkok is one of the most interesting cities in the world and is known to be number one for scenery. Perhaps you would like to know how to move around the city. There are many different ways to move around Bangkok. For example, using buses or Taxis, or maybe even on the water with a Ferry, or the public transit systems of BTS and MRT.
By public transit
The BTS Skytrain (รถไฟฟ้าบีทีเอส rot fai fa BTS, pronounced bee-tee-et) deserves a visit simply for the Disneyland space-ageness of it. Built in a desperate effort to ease Bangkok's insane traffic and pollution, the Skytrain covers most of downtown and is especially convenient for visiting Siam Square. There are two lines: the light green Sukhumvit Line travels along Sukhumvit Road, Siam Square and then follows Phahonyothin Road up north, where it terminates at Mo Chit (N8), near the Chatuchak Weekend Market. The dark green Silom Line starts in Thonburi, passes the Express Boat pier at Saphan Taksin (S6), goes through the Silom area and ends at National Stadium (W1), right next to MBK Center. Both lines come together at Siam (CEN), where you can interchange between them. Unfortunately, there is no station near Khao San Road, but you can take the Express Boat from Phra Arthit Pier to Sathorn Pier, where you can switch onto the Skytrain.
You must have 5 or 10 baht coins to purchase Skytrain tickets from vending machines, so hold on to them. At most stations there is a single touchscreen machine that will accept 20, 50 and 100 baht notes, but there is often a queue to use it. Some stations have ticket counters which will change your large bills so you can purchase tickets from the vending machines. Fares range from 15 to 52 baht depending upon how many zones you are travelling. Consult the map (in English) near each ticket machine. If you do not have coins, queue for change from the staff at the booth. If you are in town for several days (or going to make several visits during the next 30 days), weigh your options and consider a rechargeable stored-value card (from 100 baht, with a 30 baht refundable deposit and a 30 baht non-refundable card cost), a "ride all you like" tourist pass (140 baht per day) or a multiple ride pass of 20 trips or more to any zone (15 trips cost 345 baht, 25 trips cost 550 baht; plus a 30 baht refundable deposit for a rechargeable card that is valid for 5 years). They will certainly save you time, scrambling for coins, and maybe even money. Check for information with the English speaking staff.
In 2013 the Silom Line was extended westward from Talat Phul (S10) to Bang Wa (S12).
The MRT (รถไฟฟ้ามหานคร rot fai tai din, pronounced em-ar-tee) finally opened in July 2004. There are two lines, the Blue Line and the new Purple Line . The Blue Line connects the central Hualamphong Train Station (1) to the northern Bang Sue Train Station (18), running through Silom, Sukhumvit, Ratchadaphisek and area around Chatuchak Weekend Market in Phahonyothin. There are interchanges to the Skytrain at Si Lom (3), Sukhumvit (7) and Chatuchak Park (16) stations. The section from Bang Sue to Tao Poon where it connects with the new Purple Line, which runs northwestward, serving suburban area and Nonthaburi Province nearby.
Tourists do not use the metro as much as the Skytrain, but there are some useful stops. The terminus at Hua Lamphong (1) provides a good access to Yaowarat. If you're going to the Chatuchak Weekend Market, don't get out at Chatuchak Park, but go one stop further to Kamphaeng Phet (17) as it drops you right inside the market.
Metro tickets are not interchangeable with Skytrain tickets. Rides start from 16 baht and are based on distance; pre-paid cards of up to 1,000 baht are also available. For single ride fares, a round plastic token is used. It is electronic: simply wave it by the scanner to enter; deposit it in a slot by the exit gate leave.
Bag-checks take place at the entrance to each station. It's usually nothing more than a quick peek inside, unless you are looking particularly suspicious.
Airport Rail Link
Finally opened in August 2010 is the Airport Rail Link (รถไฟฟ้าเชื่อมท่าอากาศยานสุวรรณภูมิ). Many Thais in Eastern Bangkok use the link to commute to the city centre. It starts at Suvarnabhumi Airport and terminates at Phaya Thai, with some interesting stops in between (such as Ramkhamhaeng and Ratchaprarop for Pratunam). A ride costs 15-45 baht, depending on distance. Trains run every 15min 06:00-23:59.
From Makkasan, you can continue your way by metro at Phetchaburi MRT station. The transfer can be made via the pedestrian bridge which was opened in June 2013. From Phaya Thai, you can transfer onto the Skytrain, but be aware that there are not enough lifts yet, and those available are too small for large pieces of luggage. New lifts will be installed in Ramkhamhaeng, Ratchaprarop and Phaya Thai stations in the following months.
BRT Sathon-Ratchaphruek Line
The 16km (9.9 mi) route has twelve stations in the centre of the road that give level access to the right hand side of the buses. The first route from Sathon to Ratchaphruek via Narathiwat Ratchanakharin and Rama III roads, opened to the public in 2010 and both terminuses connect to the Silom Line of the BTS Skytrain; at Chong Nonsi (S3) and at Talat Phlu (S10).
SRT Light Red Line
The Light Red Line (รถไฟฟ้าชานเมืองสายสีแดงอ่อน) is part of the planned Red Line suburban railway system to serve the Bangkok Metropolitan Region. The segment from Taling Chan to Bang Son (15 km) opened for limited, free trial service in Dec 2012. Only 6 services a day currently operate on this line. This train system currently does not connect with any of the other train lines in Bangkok. The final section to Bang Sue station of this first phase will not open until the new Bang Sue Terminal is constructed.
Chao Phraya Express Boat
A ride on the Chao Phraya River should be high on any tourist's agenda. The cheapest and most popular option is the Chao Phraya Express Boat, basically an aquatic bus plying up and down the river. The basic service plies from Wat Rajsingkorn (S4) all the way north to Nonthaburi (N30), with stops at most of Rattanakosin's major attractions including the Grand Palace (at Tha Chang) and Wat Pho (at Tha Tien). The closest pier to Khao San Road is Phra Arthit. Enter the express boat at the numerous piers and pay for the trip at ticket collector, who will approach you bearing a long metal cylinder. At some bigger piers you can buy the ticket before boarding. When the metal cylinder lady approaches you, just show her the ticket you bought on the pier.
The different boat lines are indicated by the colours of the flags at the top of the boat. These flags can be confusing; don't think the yellow King's flag corresponds to the yellow line flag! There is a basic "no flag" line (9, 11 or 13 baht) that goes along all the piers, but it only runs during rush hours (M-F 06:20-8:05 and 15:00-17:30) and is fairly slow. It's better to take the faster yellow (19 or 28 baht, M-F 06:15-08:10 and 15:30-18:05) and orange (15 baht, daily 06:00-19:00) flag lines, but you have to be sure where you're going as they don't stop everywhere. There is now also a golden line (20 baht, 9:15-18:15 every 30 minutes - though the website and system maps still have not been updated) that goes from Sathorn (Taksin) to Wang Lang (Prannok) stopping at IconSiam, Ratchawong, Wat Arun and Tha Chang. The yellow line is the fastest, but is best avoided as it skips many popular attractions (including Khao San Road, the Grand Palace and Wat Pho). The orange or golden line is your best bet, as it covers the major tourist areas and is fairly quick too. In any case, Express Boat staff at the stops usually speak basic English, they will ask you where you are going and direct you to the appropriately coloured boat.
In addition to the workaday express boat, there is also a blue flagged Tourist Boat which stops at a different subset of piers, offers commentary in English and charges 200 baht for a day pass. Single tickets are 60 baht. The boats are slightly more comfortable and may be worth considering if you want to cruise up and down the most important tourist sights. They only operate once per 30 minutes and stop running by 15:00. Be careful as they may tell you the (cheaper) orange flag regular boat is not coming for quite a while (as they are aggressively touting for business), but sometimes this is not the truth. If you want the tourist experience with guide and (very) loud speaker commentary, often unintelligible, then this is the one for you. However, be aware that you are fully entitled to enter the public piers (the ones with the blue lettering on white background with pier numbers on them) and get the orange flag boat as these are public places and you don't need a ticket before boarding the comfortable and speedy orange-flag boat.
The signposting of the piers is quite clear, with numbered piers and English route maps. Sathorn (Taksin) pier has been dubbed "Central" station, as it offers an quick interchange to Saphan Taksin BTS station. The boats run every 5-20 minutes from sunrise to sunset (roughly 06:00-19:00), so ignore any river taxi touts who try to convince you otherwise.
Many piers are also served by cross-river ferries. These are particularly useful for reaching Wat Arun (from Tha Tien pier) or the many piers at the Thonburi side of the river. Cross-river ferries run around every 10 minutes and only cost 5 baht — pay at the kiosk on the pier and then walk through the turnstile. The Wat Arun ferry costs 4 baht (10 for bikes, luggage etc.).
Important: please note that since 2018 (and still as of early 2019) the Tha Tien pier for the express/tourist boat is closed for renovation, and the relevant lines stop at Wat Arun instead, on the other side of the river. The cross-river ferry is however operating normally.
Saen Saep Express Boat
The Saen Saep Express Boat serves the long Saen Saep Canal, one of the remaining canals (khlong) that used to flow through Bangkok. Mostly used by locals to commute to work, the service is cheap and you get to see the 'backside' of the neighbourhoods, so to speak. Also, It is immune to Bangkok's notorious traffic jams. The total distance is 18 km, and the service operates from 05:30-20:30.
They are comparatively safe — just watch your step when boarding and disembarking as they don't stop at the pier for long and do not let the dirty water get into your eyes. To prevent splashes, the boats are equipped with little curtains that you can raise by pulling on a string, but they have to be lowered at every stop so people can clamber on board. It's better to sit closer to the front of the boat further away from the engine which can be quite loud. Pay the fare (10-20 baht) to the fearless helmet-wearing ticket collectors who clamber around on the outside of the boat, ducking at bridges, as it barrels down the canal. Press the green 'bell' button if you want to get off at the next pier, else the boat might just skip it. The piers now even have (tiny) signs in English.
The canal runs parallel to Phetchaburi Road, and provides the easiest access from the Golden Mount in Rattanakosin (and nearby Khao San Road) to Siam Square and Pratunam. This line is aptly called the Golden Mount Line and runs from Panfa Leelard pier to Pratunam pier in downtown. If you want to continue your journey beyond Pratunam, passengers have to change boats there. The NIDA Line starts at Pratunam and heads east to Sukhumvit and Ramkhamhaeng. Hold on to your ticket.
Finally, for trips outside set routes, you can hire a long-tail river taxi at any major pier. These are fairly expensive and will attempt to charge as much as 1,000 baht/h for foreigners, but with some haggling they may be suitable for small groups. To circumvent the Mafia-like touts who attempt to get a large cut for every ride, agree for the price of the shortest possible ride (30min), then negotiate directly with the captain when on board.
Metered taxis are a quick and comfortable way to get around town, at least if the traffic is flowing your way, but be warned that Bangkok taxi drivers are notorious for finding ways to run up the fare for foreigners; insist that the meter is used, and if the driver claims that your destination is closed, that he doesn't know where it is, or if he tries to take you elsewhere, just get out of the taxi. All taxis are now metered and air-conditioned: the hailing fee is 35 baht and most trips within the city centre cost less than 100 baht. There are no surcharges (except from the airport), even at night; don't believe drivers who try to tell you otherwise. A red sign on the front window, if lit, means that the taxi is available.
When the meter is switched on you will see a red '35' somewhere on the dashboard or between the driver and you. Be sure to check for this at the start of the ride, as many drivers will "forget" to start the meter in order to overcharge you at the end of your trip. Most will start the meter when asked politely to do so (meter na khrap if you're male and meter na kha if you're female); if the driver refuses to use the meter after a couple of attempts, simply exit the taxi.
In some cases, late at night and especially near major tourist districts like Khao San or Patpong, you will need to walk a block away to catch a honest driver. The effort can save you as much as 150 baht. This is often also the case for taxis that park all day in front of your hotel. There are only two reasons that they are there: to take you places where they can get their commissions (jewellery stores, tailors, massage parlours, etc.) and to overcharge you by not using the meter.
Your best bet is to walk to the road and catch an unoccupied metered taxi in motion (easier than it sounds, as Bangkok traffic tends to crawl the majority of the time, and one car out of four is a taxi). Avoid parked taxis altogether, and if a taxi driver refuses to turn the meter on, simply close the door and find one who will. Keep in mind that it is illegal for them to have un-metered fares. Be smart and give your money to honest drivers, not touts. The only reason that they get away with this so frequently is that foreign tourists let them.
Be sure to either know the correct pronunciation of your destination, or have it written in Thai, as taxi drivers in Bangkok are notoriously bad at reading maps, and most drivers speak limited English. Most hotels and guest houses will happily write out addresses in Thai for you. While most drivers will recognise the names of tourist hot spots, even if grossly mispronounced, but it is often difficult to properly pronounce addresses in Thai. If your mobile phone works in Thailand, it is sometimes useful to call your hotel and ask the staff to speak to your driver in Thai. In addition, try to get your hotel's business card to show the taxi driver in case you get lost.
If you are pinching pennies or fussy about your means of transportation, you may wish to avoid getting into one of the (very common) yellow-green taxis. They are owner-operated and of highly variable quality and occasionally have rigged meters. All other colours belong to large taxi companies, which usually enforce their standards better.
On some routes, the driver will ask if he should use the tollway — this will usually save a lot of time. You have to pay the cost at the toll booth (not in advance and not at the end of the journey). Watch how much the driver really pays, as many try to keep the change.
When getting out, try to have small bills (100 baht or less) or expect problems with change. Tips are not necessary, but are certainly welcome if you're happy about the service; most local passengers will round up or leave any coin change as tip.
Grab, and other apps
These modern apps make "taxi" rides more straightforward, less prone to scams, and often a bit cheaper than ordinary taxis. There's no need to attempt to pronounce the destination in Thai because you simply type it in the app. Drivers expect a cash payment, so you don't need to enter your credit card in the app.
Standard cars are usually relatively new Toyota Vios, Honda City, or similar very small 4-door sedans. They are comfortable for 3 passengers and one suit case in the trunk, but it's better to opt for a minivan if any more room is needed.
Uber doesn't service this area any longer, so your only online cab service will be Grab.
Finally, what would Bangkok be without the much-loathed, much-loved tuk-tuks? You'll know them when you hear them, and you'll hate them when you smell them — these three-wheeled contraptions blaze around Bangkok leaving a black cloud of smog in their wake. For anything more than a 5-10 min jaunt or just the experience, they really are not worth the price but it can still be enjoyable for people that come to Thailand — and, if you let them get away with it, the price will usually be 4 or 5 times what it should be anyway (which, for Thais, is around 30% less than the equivalent metered taxi fare).
On the other hand, you can sometimes ride for free if you agree to visit touristy clothing or jewellery shops (which give the tuk-tuk driver fuel coupons and commissions for bringing customers). The shops' salesmen are pushy, and try to scam you with bad quality suits or "gems" that in fact are worthless pieces of cut glass. But usually you are free to leave after 5-10min of browsing. Visitors should beware though, sometimes one stop can turn in to three, and your tuk-tuk driver may not be interested in taking you where you need to go once he has his fuel coupons. Also, with Bangkok's densely congested traffic it is sure to waste hours of your time, if not the whole day.
If you still want to try the tuk-tuk, always hail a moving tuk-tuk from the main road. At tourist spots, these tuk-tuk drivers lie in waiting to disrupt your travels plans. Always agree on a price before entering the tuk-tuk. Also be crystal clear about your intended destination. If they claim that your intended destination is closed for the day, and offer to take you to other nearby tourist spots, insist on your destination or get out. If you're an all-male party, tuk-tuk drivers sometimes will just ignore your destination completely and start driving you to some brothel ("beautiful girls"). Insist continually and forcefully on going only to your destination; or take a metered taxi instead. Or alternatively, there is a hop on hop off tuk-tuk service that allows you to hop around Bangkok attractions.
A songthaew is a converted pick-up truck that usually serves the back sois in residential neighbourhoods. They usually have four wheels instead of three, two benches instead of one, run on petrol instead of LPG and resemble a tiny truck. The maids and locals tend to use them to return home from the market with loads of groceries, or for quick trips if they're available. The fare is seven baht, which is paid to the driver when you get out. Neither the fare nor the route is negotiable. Just wave one down and hop in then ring the bell when you want to get out and hand the driver 7 baht. No English is spoken and there's no need to speak to the driver anyway.
When traffic slows to a crawl and there are no mass-transit alternatives for your destination, by far the fastest mode of transport is a motorbike taxi (มอเตอร์ไซค์รับจ้าง motosai lapjang). The people in the coloured tabards are motosai cabbies. They typically wear colourful fluorescent yellow-orange or red vests and wait for passengers at busy places. Prices are negotiable before you ride but is the best way when the traffic is not flowing as well as usual in Bangkok (!).
For the adrenaline junkie, a wild motosai ride can provide a fantastic rush. Imagine weaving through rows of stopped vehicles at 50 km/h (30 mph) with mere centimetres to spare on each side, dodging pedestrians, other motorbikes, tuk-tuks, stray dogs and the occasional elephant while the driver blithely ignores all traffic laws and even some laws of physics. Now do the same while facing backwards on the bike and balancing a large television on your lap, and then you can qualify as a local — though you might die in the process. Imagine your loved ones arranging to ship your dead body home from Bangkok because you took a dangerous risk you were warned not to. Motorcycle accidents are brutally common, and transportation of this sort is inherently hazardous. Be aware of the risk before using motorcycle taxis. Many tourists and Thai alike recommend avoiding them except as a last resort. Under no circumstances ride without a helmet.
The overwhelming majority of motorcycle taxis do not travel long distances, but simply shuttle up and down long sois (side-streets) not serviced by other transport for a fixed 5-20 baht fare. These are marginally less dangerous, especially if you happen to travel with the flow on a one-way street.
The law requires that both driver and passenger must wear a helmet. It is the driver's responsibility to provide you with one, so if you are stopped by police, any fine is also the driver's responsibility. This is worth bearing in mind when you hire a motorbike or moped. Make sure that if there are two of you, the hirer provides two helmets instead of one. When riding, keep a firm grasp on the seat handle and watch out for your knees.
Local buses, operated by the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (องค์การขนส่งมวลชนกรุงเทพ) or just BMTA (ขสมก), are the cheapest but also the most challenging way of getting around. There is a bewildering plethora of routes, usually marked only in Thai. Even Thais have a hard time with these, but at least they can call the 1384 Bus Route Hotline, which is in Thai only. However you can also use Google's transit planner function on Google Maps to plan your bus journeys. Please note, however, that the bus arrival times on Google Maps may not actually correlate to the actual bus arrival time. Bus stops list only the bus numbers that stop there and nothing more. They are also subject to Bangkok's notorious traffic, often terribly crowded, and many are not air-conditioned. If you want to get somewhere quickly and are not prepared to get lost, the buses should be avoided (remember that taxis are cheaper than most local buses in the West). However, they make for a good adventure if you're not in a rush and you don't mind being the centre of attention by loving Thais. In Victory Momunent where many buses go to there are some uniformed people that seem to know the whole bus system in Bangkok. Try to find them, they are very helpful and work perfectly.
The hierarchy of Bangkok's buses from cheapest to best can be ranked as follows:
Some useful bus lines to any well-known places inaccessible by either BTS or MRT are as follows (click on the numbers for the maps):
Buses stop only when needed, so wave them down (arm out, palm down) when you see one barrelling your way. Pay the roaming collector after you board and keep the ticket, as there can be occasional spot-checks. Press the signal buzzer (usually near the door) when you want to get off.
Two further pitfalls are that buses of the same number may run slightly different routes depending on the colour, and there are also express services (mostly indicated by yellow signs) that skip some stops and may take the expressway (2 baht extra).
Airport buses allow luggage (backpacks and suitcases), but regular buses do not. Enforcement of this rule varies.
Bangkok has good quality roads, but driving in the city can be a nightmare with massive traffic jams, a convoluted web of expressways and oft-confusing road signs. If driving, be especially aware of sudden lane changes by cars and reckless motorcyclists who tend to weave in and out of traffic. On busy roads you will often find vehicles moving slowly into the traffic from car parks and side streets, those already on the road are expected to give way.
Do not park on the road in busy districts such as Siam because other cars might lock you in by parking next to you in the 2nd or 3rd lane. Use covered car parks or park a bit off the beaten path, and then walk back. If using a car park and there are no marked bays available, you can park in front of other cars, but make sure you leave the car in neutral with the parking brake off so you can be rolled out of the way if required. Similarly, if you've parked in a marked bay and are blocked by another car, simply push it out of the way - carefully.
Renting a car is an option for travelling in Bangkok and other parts of Thailand. Always get the optional insurance - the basic rental charge usually doesn't have any insurance at all, and your travel insurance is only likely to cover an excess or deductible where there is some basic level of insurance. Check the policy carefully for exclusions, at least some policies exclude speeding and advise that this is monitored by GPS.
Nearby is Wat Pho, home to the world's largest reclining Buddha image and a famed massage school. Entrance Fee is 100 Bhat and you get a free water + you can refill your water bottles inside. Regarding to the ticket its open to 6:30 pm. (August 2016). Take the ferry across the Chao Phraya River to Thonburi for the outstanding Wat Arun. The main structure is about 60-88 m high and it is surrounded by four smaller prangs. It is one of Thailand's most picturesque temples, and is engraved on the inner part of all ten-baht coins. It is so recognisable that it even became the logo of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT). If you look closely, you will see that it is beautifully decorated with colourful broken Chinese porcelain pieces. It is currently being renovated and the majority is covered in scaffolding. Climbing up is also prohibited due to the renovations. Heading back to Rattanakosin, there are many other major temples you could visit, including the Golden Mount, Wat Suthat and Wat Ratchanaddaram.
Don't throw away the entry ticket of the Grand Palace, as it gives free entry to the Dusit Palace in Dusit. It is situated in a leafy, European-style area built by King Rama V to escape the heat of the Grand Palace. Its main structure is the Vimanmek Mansion, touted as the largest golden teakwood house in the world, but you could spend your whole day in the museums if you wish. There are many museums in Bangkok showing traditional Thai-style residences. Most visitors take a tour through Jim Thompson's House, the CIA-operative's mansion assembled by combining six traditional Thai-style houses, conveniently located near Siam Square. Ban Kamthieng in Sukhumvit, M.R. Kukrit's Heritage Home in Silom and the Suan Pakkad Palace in Phahonyothin are not quite as impressive, but still make for a nice experience. Rattanakosin's museums are mostly dedicated to history and culture, including the National Museum (about Thai history and archaeological remains), the Museum of Siam and the King Prajadhipok Museum. Bangkok has a small, but vocal art community, and you might want to visit the National Gallery or The Queen's Gallery, or one of its numerous smaller galleries spread over the city. Siam Square features the recently opened Bangkok Art and Culture Centre which has temporary art exhibitions throughout year.
Lumphini Park in Silom is the largest park in central Bangkok, and a good way to escape the fumes. Backpackers around Khao San Road can head for Santichaiprakarn Park, a small but fun park along the Chao Phraya River with a breezy atmosphere, usually with locals juggling or practicing tricks. It is built around the 18th-century Phra Sumen Fort with a nice view on the modern Rama VIII cable-stayed bridge. Zoos and animal farms are some of the more popular tourist attractions in Bangkok, but before visiting, please be aware that animal welfare in Thailand is not strictly regulated. Poor living conditions of the animals and inadequate veterinary care are examples of the sad mistreatment of the animal population. You can't go wrong at the Queen Saovabha Institute Snake Farm in Silom, as the staff takes good care of their snakes and they have a job of informing the public about the risks associated with them. Another nice family attraction is Siam Ocean World in Siam Square. It has a steep price tag, but at least you get to see the largest aquarium in Southeast Asia.
PAK NAM temple is located on Petch Kasem road. This place is quite peaceful because less people go there. Beside the temple, there is a big canal located for you to feed the fishes. And the Architecture here is also very nice and so amazing that the wall of this temple is neatly carved to describe about the history of the Buddhism and most of the parts of this temple are made up of teak woods.
Tuk Tuk tours
The Tuk Tuk is one of the symbols of Bangkok so there is no better way to explore Bangkok than by whizzing around the streets in one of these iconic three wheeled vehicles. You can pick up a tuk tuk on any street corner (and the price you will be charged could vary hugely) but there are also many tour operators who also run tours which use a tuk tuk as the main form of transport.
There is also a Tuk Tuk hop on hop off service that travelers can pay once and hop around top Bangkok attractions around Rattanakosin, Khao San Road, Dusit, Yaowarat and Phahurat areas.
Cycling in Bangkok may sound crazy, as cycling is deadly dangerous on the main roads, but it certainly is not if you know where to go. Away from the main roads there is a vast system of small streets and alleys. Cyclists are treated as pedestrians, so you can use your bicycle to explore parks, temple complexes, markets and the more quiet residential areas of eastern Bangkok. In more crowded places you can cycle on the pavement. Exploring the town by bicycle has all the advantages of going by foot, combined with a much greater action radius and a cooling breeze.
If you want to experience Bangkok hideaways and countryside, leisurely cycling through green paddy fields, colourful orchid farms, peaceful lotus fields and touched by the charm of Thai way of country life at personal level, bicycle is a great way to do it. There are a handful of specialist operators that offer daily or regular departures to the so-called "Bangkok jungle" (Bang Kachao), a semi-island across the river from Bangkok with few cars or buildings, or through the backstreets of Chinatown. It sounds strange but a cycle tour in Bangkok really is the best way to discover the city up close.
Project Bangkok Smile Bike subsidized by city allowes free bike rental even without deposit just with photo of your passport.
Bangkok On The Run
Cycling is a popular option among tour companies, but there are a variety of running clubs in Bangkok that welcome visitors multiple times per week for running, socializing, eating and drinking throughout Bangkok and the surrounding areas. These clubs are either free or charge a small, non-profit fee to pay for food and drink served at the event.
Running is a great way to see parts of the city and countryside that you'd never otherwise experience. If you go with a social running club, it's also a great chance to meet interesting people, eat food you've never tried and to make new friends. If you're interested in seeing countryside, out-of-the-way districts, plantations, jungle and other places you can only go on foot, you might be interested in these clubs:
Another great way to see the Chao Phraya River and the original canals of the city is by canal tour. Most of these special boat trips start at the eastern bank of the Chao Phraya and head through the backwaters of Thonburi, taking in Wat Arun, the Royal Barges National Museum and a floating market. More information about these canal tours can be found in the Thonburi article. At 1,000 baht or more, they are quite expensive though; a cheaper and also fun activity is to take the public express boat along the Chao Phraya River. You can get off anywhere between Thewet and Sathon (Taksin) piers as there are many things to see in all those neighbourhoods. You can even go all the way north to Nonthaburi in the morning, enjoy the afternoon in this laid-back traditional urban town and take the boat back around rush hour.
Muay Thai, informally known as Thai Boxing, is both a sport and a means of self-defence. Contestants are allowed to use almost any part of the body: feet, elbows, legs, knees, and shoulders. There are two venues in Bangkok to see this type of sport in action, Lumpinee Boxing Stadium in Silom and Ratchadamnoen Stadium in Rattanakosin. Sessions can take the whole evening, and the more interesting fights tend to happen in the end, so it's not that bad if you come slightly too late. The playing of traditional music during the bouts is enjoyable as well. A downer is the steep 1,000-2,000 baht entry fee for foreigners, while Thais chip in for 100 baht or less.
Muay Thai venue outside MBK Center every Wednesday (starts at 18:00, lasts until around 21:00), and it's free.
There is also a local TV station (Channel 7), which has their own little fighting arena near Mo Chit BTR station. It is located on soi Ruamsirimitr street. But just ask people for boxing and Channel (Chang) 7. They will be able to show you the way. Fighting is every sunday. Entry is free, and this particular boxing will be shown and watched in TV all around Bangkok. Also with little knowledge of Thaiboxing you will be fascinated by the locals betting and cheering for their favorite.
There are many cultural performances in Bangkok that shows traditional Thai culture and dance. Siam Niramit in Ratchadaphisek is a truly spectacular performance where more than 150 performers depict the history of each region of Thailand.
Of a completely different order are Bangkok's famous drag shows. These cabarets generally take about two hours, and besides singing, dancing, glamour and costumes, usually it also has some comedy thrown in. The most famous show is Calypso Cabaret in Ratchathewi that has two sessions every evening at the Asia Hotel. Always book these shows a couple of days in advance.
Bangkok, a city of astonishing contrasts, is a truly amazing city by any standard. The ancient blends with the modern and somehow the combination works in surprising and interesting ways. Likewise with your personal lifestyle, you can choose to get a massage – or learn Thai Massage – at a beautiful Buddhist temple, or you may prefer the modern alternative: an urban health oasis where you are pampered and treated with your choice of therapies or techniques.
The respected Travel & Leisure Magazine Survey ranked Bangkok the world’s #1 city in 2008 and 2010, and after spending some time there, you’ll begin to understand why. The city has so much to offer, the prices are very reasonable, the attractions plentiful and diverse, the shopping superb, and the healthcare simply outstanding. It’s not difficult to find the perfect place to take good care of you, be it a first-rate hospital, a modern dental clinic, or a beautiful spa or wellness centre. 
Bangkok has scores of wonderful, popular, professional spas; some of the leading ones are Leyana Spa, Divana Spa, Mandara Spa, Spa de Bangkok, Devarana Spa – Dusit Thani Hotel, The Oasis Spa Bangkok, Banyan Tree Spa Bangkok, and the Spa Cenvaree - Centara Grand at Central World.
Spas, traditionally, were towns where public baths, hospitals or hotels were built on top of mineral springs so that people could come and make use of the healing properties found in the water and its mud for medical purposes. These days, a spa doesn’t have to be a town built on natural thermal springs. It can be a place anywhere that anyone can go to, to relax in tranquil surroundings with a variety of treatment administered to re-contour and rejuvenate the body and mind.
All self-respecting luxury hotels in Bangkok have a spa that at least offers a traditional Thai massage. Prices are exorbitant, but they offer some of the best treatments in Bangkok. Particularly well-regarded spas at exceptionally high rates are given at the splurge hotels in Silom. Independent spas offer much the same experience, but offer much more competitive rates. Figure around 2,000 baht/h for most treatments at the hotel spas and around 1,000 baht/h at the independent spas. However, it is worth researching before booking as prices can vary widely between establishments, and various promotions are often available. The best regarded hotel spas are at Mandarin Oriental, Plaza Athenee and The Eugenia. The best regarded independent spas are Oasis Spa, So Thai Spa and Divana Massage & Spa.
The ubiquitous little massage shops found on every street corner in town offer the best value for money, but the smallest range of services, with offerings usually limited to massage only. Particularly Khao San Road and Sukhumvit have plenty of these popular places. It is fairly easy to distinguish legitimate massage shops from more dubious places (where massaging is only a front for prostitution); the real deal will charge 250-400 baht for a typical two-hour massage and will often have a row of beefy farmers' daughters in white coats working on customers' feet in public view, while the other kind has wispy girls in evening dresses wearing too much make-up and saying "hello handsome" to every passing male. The current going rate for a 1 hour massage on Khao San Road is 220 baht.
Bangkok is a great place to go to the movies. Compared to the West, the cost of a ticket is a complete bargain at around 120 baht. Most cinemas have world-class standards and show the latest Hollywood and Thai releases. Watching Thai movies is a fun night out, as pretty much all of them have English subtitles. They are up to par with the latest technological innovations in the film industry, so expect to wear 3D glasses for some of the latest Hollywood releases, or visit the IMAX Theatre in Siam Paragon.
For other means of entertainment, Ratchadaphisek is a newly created entertainment paradise. Its bowling centres are of a superb standard with some of them resembling the inside of a nightclub. Dance while you play in style. Private karaoke lounges are usually connected to these bowling centres and are available at major hotels. There's even an ice skating rink and a top-class go-go kart track. As Ratchadaphisek is mostly aimed at the locals, you might want to go to similar venues in Siam Square or Sukhumvit. Musical, cabaret and theater entertainment by Thai performers can be found every night at the Playhouse Theater] in the Asia Hotel which is connected to the Ratchathewi BTS station.
For something completely unique and fun travelers may wish to try Bangkok Bobble Football where you are literally wrapped in a plastic bubble and enjoy a game of soccer/football in a 5 a side format.
All of Thailand's major festivals are celebrated in Bangkok.
Bangkok is one of South East Asia's educational hubs.
Study Abroad in Bangkok
The KUSEP-program (Kasetsart University Student Exchange Program) at Kasetsart University is an English program that offers courses from several different faculties for international students. Faculty of Economics and Faculty of Engineering have entire degree programs in English and, hence, the most courses taught in English are from these two faculties. There are various elective courses on offer, too, that range from Thai language to Social Sciences and sports.
Siam University, Thailand's fifth oldest private university, also offers study abroad opportunities in Siam University’s International Business Program (IBP). IBP is an undergraduate degree program taught in English and the participants are both Thai and international students. The program is business focused, i.e. most of the courses relate to Economics, Finance, Marketing, Management and Trade, but there are several courses from social sciences as well, from psychology to politics, law and languages. Exchange students at Siam University have plenty of options when making their course selections since they can pick their IBP courses freely; from the level and subject area that is most suitable and interesting for them. It is also possible to do a MBA degree or an exchange at Siam University.
Thai cuisine is a favourite of many, and plenty of cooking schools provide half-day classes that provide a nice break from the day-to-day sightseeing monotony. Silom and Khao San Road particularly have some of the better-known Thai cooking schools.
The essence of 'pure' Buddhism, can be practised at any temple in Thailand. In Bangkok however, there are also well-known centres that cater specifically to foreigners wishing to learn and practise. The International Buddhist Meditation Centre inside Wat Mahathat in Rattanakosin provides free meditation classes three times a day. If you can speak and understand the Thai language well enough, you may wish to go on your own retreat at a quiet temple on the outskirts of Bangkok. To pay for your stay, it is appreciated that you assist the resident monks on their morning alms rounds.
The Wat Pho temple in Rattanakosin offers well-regarded Thai massage courses. While aimed squarely at tourists, this is not necessarily a bad thing, as they're used to conducting classes in English.
Thai language schools
abound in Bangkok. Classes are attended by foreign aid workers, trust-fund babies seeking education visas, new residents, and retirees. Curriculum varies from school to school as do prices and time commitments.
Tourists find a 200 baht charge for currency withdrawal from cash machines in Thailand - applied only to foreign bank cards, on top of any fee/surcharge percentage applied by your bank - as an unpleasant surprise; if you add everything up, you might easily end up with costs of 10% and more on the amount you change. It might thus be better to bring cash with you in your own currency and exchange it at a local office. You can check the current exchange rates by various banks here; if you are planning to exchange large sums, few offices of the SuperRich company consistently offer the top exchange rates. You can get very good rates (<2% extra over the official rate) even at the Suvarnabhumi airport, but only if you carefully avoid all exchange offices within the terminal and go straight to the Airport Line rail station; beyond the rail ticket vending machines there is a cluster of exchange offices that give you much better rates.
Siam Square is the place to shop in Bangkok; the small sois of Siam Square have dozens of small designer boutiques. MBK Center is the most popular shopping malls for foreigners , as they sell fashion well below Western rates. Siam Paragon and the shopping plazas at Ratchaprasong are more popular to Thais. Ladies will also feel well at home in the Emporium in Sukhumvit.
Just take a few steps out of your hotel and Bangkok feels like a huge street market. Sukhumvit has the usual souvenirs, t-shirts and other tacky tourist junk. Browsing Khao San Road's roadside stalls is particularly good for clothing and accessories, many of them for a bargain. While many of these stalls still cater to the traditional hippie crowd, they have been slowly gentrifying to appeal a broader audience. The nearby Banglamphu Market sells cheap knock-offs of everything, just like the night markets in Silom and Rattanakosin.
In the weekends, the Chatuchak Weekend Market in Phahonyothin is a must as its 8,000 stalls together form the largest market in Southeast Asia. Shoppers can buy just about everything from clothing to potted plants and everything in between — it is a paradise for browsers and bargain-hunters alike. A weekday alternative is Pratunam, one of the city's renowned garment markets. Clothes shopping here goes on wholesale, and you're even cheaper off if you buy in bulk. At Pantip Plaza you can buy computer-related stuff from branded laptops to pirated DVDs. Just be aware that many of the "brand name" items are fakes/copies.
Yaowarat and Phahurat give a more authentic experience, although many stores sell the cheap teen accessories found elsewhere as well. Just sitting at a plastic chair and watching daily commerce evolve is a fun activity in itself. Phahurat is the best destination for fabrics, available in all colours and sizes. Pak Khlong Talat is a surprisingly fun wholesale market for all kinds of cut flowers and vegetables. If you're a morning person, visit it around 03:00, when new flowers from upcountry arrive and the marketplace is beautifully illuminated.
Thonburi, being one of the least developed areas of Bangkok, is the best place to experience what the city used to be like. A nice break from the pulsing city is the weekends-only Taling Chan Floating Market, which feels at least somewhat authentic as it blends a rural market with the canal side way of life. Beware though that the farang density is rising as the day progresses: This used to be a little untouched gem of a floating marked and the word has spread at the high speed of the internet... Wang Lang Market is an undiscovered gem with strictly local prices. The other side of the river, Rattanakosin, has everything a good Buddhist would need, be it amulets, monk bowls or human-sized Buddha statues.
For antiques, Silom is the place to go, as most potential buyers stay there in expensive hotels. River City in Yaowarat is the largest antique mall of the city, and priced to match. Gold and gems are popular buys, but be extremely wary as many tourists buy worthless pieces of cut glass believing it to be valuable gems. Never let a tuk-tuk driver convince you into a gem store, as more often than not, you're being ripped off. The same rule goes for tailoring shops; you can get a custom-made suit for amazingly cheap prices, but you have to know where to go, as many tailors provide bad quality — see the box for advice on finding a good tailor.
If you want to shop and see the beautiful scene of Chaophraya River at night, Asiatique the riverfront is the largest waterfront themed and new lifestyle night shopping area. It is a combination of Thai history elements and modern lifestyle. It opens daily from 5pm to midnight. The easiest way to get there is via free shuttle boat near Saphan Taksin BTS station. It takes only ten minutes. Taxis are not recommended due to terrible traffic jams around here. Once you step off the boat, you will see an over 300 m long boardwalk along the river that looks like a romantic scene. There are a lot of shop here, you can find everything you would like both to eat and to buy. There are also entertainment shows; Calypso ladyboy cabaret and a classic Thai puppets performance. With retro props and buildings, it is also a good idea to take some photos at here.
Browsing second hand English-language books can best be done on Khao San Road. For new releases, there are plenty of chain stores in shopping plazas, including Asia Books, B2S, Bookazine and Kinokuniya. There's a particularly wide array of books on Asian culture and history; some have a good selection of foreign newspapers and magazines as well.
Getting money in Bangkok is relatively easy; credit cards are widely accepted and ATMs are spread all over the city, especially in downtown areas. They all charge 200 baht when using foreign ATM cards, except for Aeon which charges 150 baht. (Nov 2016: Citibank and HSBC might not charge as they didn't around 2014. See below for more information. The text above is consistent with the information on the Khao San Road page ).
Be warned that Aeon ATMs will eat and destroy cards if anything goes wrong, such as entering in a wrong PIN one time (according to their helpline). Three of the most conveniently located Aeon ATMs can be found on Chakrapong street 170 m walk north from western end of Khao San Road on ground floor of Tang Hua Seng supermarket (logo with T in circle visible from distance) and in the central part of the second floor of MBK Center in Siam Square and at the first floor of Central Department Store at Silom Complex in Silom. HSBC Thailand's branch is located at 968 Rama IV Road, in front of Lumphini Park and it's the only one location of HSBC ATM in Thailand. Citibank ATMs in Bangkok have 4 locations. There are contradicting reports about Aeon start charging a 150 baht fee from Jan 2014, although other people confirm they were not charged, same with Citibank ATM which should supposedly charge an ATM fee but there are reports in 2014 from BTS Sala Daeng ATM not charging the fee. Other option with Visa card would be go to branch of any Thai bank and withdraw money at window using cash advance which should be without any fees, but there are reports some clerks are lazy and refusing customers sending them to use ATM, when withdrawing using cash advance from your Visa card be careful about exchange rate which may be worse and your own bank cash advance fee.
Best to keep away from buying fake degrees from the Khao San Road as they are either not from a real university or cannot be verified.
"The Mall" in Bangkapi has a water park on the top floor. But, this huge mall does not have a map or directory located anywhere in the mall. All needs for directions must be asked at the information desk.
Bangkok boasts a stunning 50,000 places to eat; not only thousands of Thai restaurants, but a wide selection of world-class international cuisine too. Prices are generally high by Thai standards, but cheap by international standards; a good meal is unlikely to cost more than 300 baht, although there are a few restaurants (primarily in hotels) where you can easily spend 10 times this.
Sukhumvit by far has the best restaurants of Bangkok, though prices tend to be high. Practically every cuisine in the world is represented here, be it French, Lebanese, Mexican, Vietnamese, or fusion combining many of these together in a quirky, but delicious mix. Bangkok's Italian town is Soi Ton Son near Siam Square. Of course, for those on a budget, street stalls abound with simple Thai dishes at around 30 baht. There are especially plenty of budget restaurants in Khao San Road.
There are plenty of vegetarian restaurants in the more tourist-friendly parts of town (especially in hippie district Khao San Road). Vegetarian dishes are also readily available on the menus of regular restaurants. On request, even typical street restaurants will easily cook a vegetarian equivalent of a popular Thai dish for you. Ask for "jay" food to leave the meat out of the dish. For example, "khao pad" is fried rice and "khao pad jay" is vegetarian fried rice. For vegans, the most common animal product used would be oyster sauce. To avoid it, say "mai ao naam man hoi". Be aware that all street noodle vendors use animal broth for noodle soup.
Don't miss out on a cold ice cream in hot Bangkok. Western chain stores Dairy Queen and Swensen's have booths in many malls and shopping centres. Or better yet, try an exotic fruit-flavoured ice cream at an Iberry shop. Their ice creams are tasty, cheap and safe to eat.
For Muslims, looking for Halal food, fortunately there is no problem. Most of KFCs sell Halal chicken. A lot of vendors on street food understand the term 'Halal' so it is always better to ask. A frown on their face on answering this question would indicate an absence of Halal Food. Tourists looking for Halal street food must disembark BTS at Ratchthewi station in direction of Phaya Thai and turn left on Petchaburi Road where lines of local Halal food outlets and cart food are located.
Thai desserts are worth appreciating not only for their beauty but also their unique way of reflecting traditional culture. Most Thai desserts are quite sweet. Therefore, they are favoured both by Thai people and foreigners. Real traditional desserts contain only 3 main ingredients; flour, sugar and coconuts. These ingredients are mixed by various methods such as boiling, steaming, frying, and grilling.
While not particularly high class, street food is among the most delicious food and can be found all over Bangkok — wherever you're staying, you rarely have to walk more than 100m for a cart of street restaurant.
Thai dishes can roughly be categorised into central, northern, northeastern and southern cuisine. What's so great about Bangkok is that all these cuisines are present. Isaan food (from the northeast of Thailand) is a backpacker favourite; generally street restaurants serve on plenty of small plates that can be shared. Som tam (ส้มตำ) is a salad made from shredded and pounded raw papaya — again, it is spicy, but oh so delicious. If you want to dine the Isaan way, also order some khao niew (sticky rice), kai yang (grilled chicken) and moo yang (grilled pork). Isaan food is very spicy; say mai pet or pet nit noy to tone it down. Southern Thai cuisine is also worth it; many of them have congregated around Wang Lang in Thonburi. At least try the massaman curry (แกงมัสมั่น), it's delicious.
The place to go to for Chinese food is Yaowarat. It has a range of street stalls and cheap restaurants selling expensive delicacies at affordable prices. Soi Phadung Dao is the best street for huge seafood restaurants. Try 1 kg of huge barbecued prawns for about 300 baht. Phahurat, Bangkok's Little India, has some decent Indian restaurants.
Dinner cruises on the Chao Phraya River are a touristy (but fun) way of spotting floodlit temples while chowing down on seafood and watching Thai cultural performances. Most operate buffet-style and the quality of the food is so-so, but there's lots of it and it's not too spicy. While the river can give a romantic experience, it can also be dirty and smelly with lots of plants floating around.
Drinks and tips are usually not included in the listed prices below. Always make a reservation before heading out to the pier. There are many competing operators, most of them depart from the River City pier next to the Si Phraya Express Boat pier. Major operators include:
Bangkok's nightlife is infamously wild, but it's not quite what it used to be: due to recent social order campaigns. Most restaurants, bars and clubs are now supposed to close at 02:00 AM, although quite a few stay open till much later. Informal roadside bars do stay open all night, particularly in Sukhumvit and Khao San Road. You must carry your passport for ID checks and police occasionally raid bars and clubs, subjecting all customers to drug tests and searches, though these mostly occur at places that cater for high society Thais rather than foreigners.
One of Bangkok's main party districts is Silom, home not only to perhaps the world's most famous go-go bar strip Patpong, but plenty of more legitimate establishments catering to all tastes. For a drink with a view, the open-air rooftop bars of Vertigo and Sirocco are particularly impressive. A large number of superhip and more expensive bars and nightclubs can be found in the higher sois of Sukhumvit, including, Q Bar, and Narz, as well as the hip area of Thong Lo (Soi 55).
Hippie hangout Khao San Road is also slowly gentrifying and a score of young artsy Thai teenagers have also made their mark there. Going out in Khao San Road is mostly casual, sitting at a roadside bar watching people pass by, but the Gazebo Club is a nightclub that stays open till the sun gets up. Most of the younger Thais prefer to congregate around Ratchadaphisek, home to the Royal City Avenue strip of nightclubs.
Smoking is forbidden in all restaurants, bars and nightclubs, whether air-conditioned or non-air-conditioned. Remarkably for Thailand, this rule is not strictly enforced.
Go-go and beer bars
If this sounds like a thinly veiled veneer for prostitution, it is. Although some point to the large number of American GIs during the Vietnam War as the point of origin of the Thai sex trade, others have claimed that current Thai attitudes towards sexuality have deeper roots in Thai history. Both go-go and beer bars are squarely aimed at the foreign tourists and it's fairly safe to assume that most if not all Thais in them are on the take. That said, it's perfectly OK to check out these shows without actually partaking, and there are more and more curious couples and even the occasional tour group attending. The main area is around Patpong in Silom, but similar bars to the ones at Patpong can be found in Sukhumvit, at Nana Entertainment Plaza (Soi 4) and Soi Cowboy (Soi 23). Soi 33 is packed with hostess bars, which are more upscale than the Soi Cowboy and Nana Plaza bars and do not feature go-go dancing. Before heading to these places, be sure to read the Stay safe section for some additional advice.
As go-go bars close around 01:00, there are so-called after-hour clubs that stay open till the sun gets up. They are not hard to find — just hop in a taxi. Taxi drivers are eager to drive you there, as they get a hefty commission from club owners to bring you to them — you might even get the ride for free. These clubs generally feel grim and edgy, and there are so-called "freelancers" among the girls (prostitutes). Some well-known after-hour clubs include ""Climax"" on Soi 11, Bossy Club in Pratunam, Spicy Club near Siam Square and the always famous Thermae on Sukhumvit between sois 15 and 17 in the basement underneath the Ruamchit short time hotel.
Thais are generally accepting of homosexuality and Bangkok has a very active gay nightlife scene, concentrated in Silom's Soi 2, Soi 4 and a short strip of gay go-go bars known as Soi Twilight (off Surawong Road). Gay strip bars all have free entry, but charge an extra 150 baht or so for drinks. The most popular gay drinking bars are The Balcony and Telephone Pub at Silom Soi 4, which are busy until 23:00. For the disco crowd, DJ Station and its late-night neighbour G.O.D. Club (located at Silom Soi 2) are packed every night beginning around 23:00. Between 17:00-22:00 over 200 men from around the world cruise, swim, dine and party at the nearby Babylon, considered by many to be the best gay sauna in the world. Babylon also has a budget and luxury accommodation.
All of these bars and clubs are aimed at gay men and the lesbian scene is much more low-key. Since the opening of full-time lesbian bars Zeta and E-Fun, a small lesbian community is starting to emerge along Royal City Avenue. Lesla (near Phahonyothin) is a lesbian bar that is opened on Saturday nights only. Bring along your passport for entrance age checking (they do not allow people under 20 years old).
Some Thai regulars in the gay nightlife scene skirt the fine line between partying and prostitution, and the Western visitor, being considered richer, is expected to pay any food and drink expenses and perhaps provide some "taxi money" in the morning. It's usually wise to ask a boy you pick up in a bar or club if he is after money, as it's not uncommon for them to start demanding money after sex. However most Thai boys looking for money for sex will refer to themselves as 'money boys' and as long as you ask them this with discretion its considered OK!.
Budget dorm rooms can start from 200 baht a night or even less, a mid-range guesthouse can be 600-1000 a night, whilst a decent place to stay in the hustle and bustle of Sukhumvit will be more like 1200-2000 per night. For the super-luxury hotels, the sky's the limit, but it will be MUCH better value than London, Paris or New York, for example.
When choosing your digs, think of the amount of luxury you want to pay for — air-conditioning can be advised, as temperatures don't drop below 20°C at night. Also pay careful attention to Skytrain, metro and express boat access, as a well-placed station or pier could make your stay in Bangkok much more comfortable. In general, accommodation in Bangkok is cheap though. It's possible to have a decent double room with hot shower and air-conditioning for about 600 baht/night. If you want more luxury, expect to pay around 1,500 baht for a double room in downtown. Even staying at one of Bangkok's top hotels only sets you back around 5,000 baht — the price of a standard double room in Europe.
One Bangkok hotel phenomenon of note is the guest fee of around 500 baht added to your bill if you bring along a newly found friend for the night. Some hotels even refuse Thai guests altogether, this is especially common in Khao San Road. These rules are obviously aimed at controlling local sex workers, which is why hotel security will usually hold onto your guest's ID card for the duration of the visit, but some hotels will also apply it to Western visitors — or, more embarrassingly, try to apply it to your Thai partner. Look for the signs, or, if in doubt, ask the staff before check-in.
Given its size, Bangkok is surprisingly safe, with violent crimes like mugging and robbery unusual but you should be careful, of course. One of the biggest dangers is motorbikes who ride on pavements at speed, go through red lights, undertake buses as they stop to let passengers off and generally drive far too fast especially through stationary traffic. If you are going to hire a bike, make sure you have insurance in case you are injured. You may be the world's best driver but you'll meet many of the world's worst drivers in Thailand, and if anything happens, you will be blamed 100%.
Bangkok does have more than its fair share of scams, and many individuals in the tourist business do not hesitate to overcharge unwary visitors. As a rule of thumb, it's wise to decline all offers made by someone who appears to be a friendly local giving a hapless tourist some local advice. Never get in a tuk-tuk if someone else is trying to get you into one. Most Bangkok locals do not approach foreigners without an ulterior motive.
Even though the 4000 baht you have in your wallet may not be a great deal to you, flashing thousand baht notes when settling your bar bill will most likely be noticed by someone, bear in mind many menial Thai workers earn well under $10 a day, so be discrete with your money and your valuables. Thailand is very safe, but as there is no welfare state (at least not in the Western way of thinking), so desperate citizens could be very tempted by your Nikon DSLR, which costs almost a year's salary - better to leave it at home or take out good-quality insurance from a reputable company, don't ever go for just the cheapest policy unless you have thoroughly read the fine print. Many travel insurance policies have a huge number of clauses which they can use to dodge paying out.
In the same manner of thinking, don't ever leave cash or valuables in luggage, in your hotel room, at left-luggage service, or in the hold of a bus or boat. Even hotel safes are not genuinely "safe" - many things have disappeared for many travellers, and you will likely have no recourse should this happen to you. Keep things you don't want to lose with you at all times - the price of an Apple Macbook Pro could well be far too tempting to someone with a large medical bill to pay.
Despite this advice, Thai people are very hospitable, friendly, and decent people almost to the extreme, indeed a lot of backpackers and long term travellers are more likely to have issues with other travellers than the Thais themselves. Be aware of your surroundings, take care of your valuables, and don't trust people you just met, and you will likely have no problems and enjoy an amazing holiday.
It is illegal to talk badly of the king. Tourists, just like locals, will get arrested and serve extended jail terms if caught doing so. Be extremely careful if you choose to talk politics, and it's really better not to do so at all.
In general, never ask a taxi driver for a recommendation for something. They will very likely take you to a place where they get a commission, and be of dubious quality. In particular, do not ask a taxi driver for a restaurant recommendation. An infamous place taxi drivers take unsuspecting tourists is Somboon D which is a terrible seafood restaurant in a seedy area under the train tracks on Makkasan Rd. A typical meal there costs 800 baht per person and it comes with little seafood, no service, and complaints are not taken by management. Instead of asking a taxi driver, search the web, ask a local on the street, or just walk around -- you will surprise yourself with what is around a corner in Bangkok.
Be highly skeptical when an English-speaking Thai at a popular tourist attraction approaches you out of the blue, telling that your intended destination is currently closed or offering discount admissions. Temples are almost always free (the main exceptions are Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Pho) and open just about every day of the year. Anyone telling you otherwise, even if they have an official-looking identification card, is most likely out to scam you, especially if they suggest a tuk-tuk ride to some alternate sights to see until the sight re-opens. At paid admission sites, verify the operating hours at the ticket window.
If you entered one of these tuk-tuks, touts often will drop you off at a certain place, such as a genuine Buddhist temple. Here you will find a man that claims to be an official, and he guides you in a certain direction. There you will find another "official" who also claims that a certain attraction is closed. This way, a tourist hears the same statement by multiple people, and is more eager to believe that his or her intended destination indeed is closed. Never get involved with these scammers or believe any of their statements.
Another scam is for a friendly Thai person to approach a tourist and provide a set of recommended locations to visit, including at least one shop, and even volunteer to mark them on your map and negotiate a fair tuk tuk price to take you to these destinations. At the first location, typically a nice, off the beaten path temple, a man praying will strike up a conversation and ask you where you're going. Upon seeing the store on your itinerary, he will reaffirm the quality and assure you he buys from there regularly. These stories can be incredibly detailed, and include cell phone pictures or even receipts. These men are not unbiased though, but part of an elaborate scheme, working with the first man to get you to buy marked up gems or poor quality suits. The temples can be worth checking out, but do not buy anything!
When getting a taxi, it is a good idea to hail a moving taxi from the main road, or to walk a short distance out of a major tourist area before looking for one. This is no guarantee of honesty, but greatly increases your chances of finding an honest driver, of which there are plenty in Bangkok, even if it sometimes seems that every driver is on the make. Most of the untrustworthy drivers are the ones standing still in tourist areas. Another important rule of thumb is to insist on the meter for taxis and agree on a price in advance for tuk-tuks. If they refuse, or quote silly prices, just walk out and get a different one as they're rarely in short supply. The Thai phrase to ask a driver to use the meter is mee-TOE, khap if you're male and mee-TOE, kha if you're female.
Beware of tuk-tuk or taxi drivers who approach you speaking good English or with an "I ♥ farang" sign, especially those who mention or take you to a tailor shop (or any kind of business). They are paid by inferior tailor shops to bring tourists there to be subjected to high pressure sales techniques. If at any point your transportation brings you somewhere you didn't intend or plan to go, walk away immediately, ignore any entreaties to the contrary, and find another taxi or tuk-tuk.
Beware of a very overweight Western woman who approaches you with a story about how her luggage has just been stolen and needs money to get home. For several years now, she has usually lurked around the tourist attractions in Bangkok looking for prey. The scam industry in Bangkok is large enough to employ farangs!
Also beware of a woman who goes by the name of Koiy who runs a travel tour company named Tourist Information Tour Co., Ltd which operates under the Licence Number 12/01451. Her offices are located at 7101 Ka-om Rd., Wat Som Subdist, Pomprab Dist., Bangkok. For several years she has had locals, who are fluent in English, approach tourists to give "advice" on a government run tour agency that is used by locals because the prices are so low. They will claim that it is the only government agency and may claim that you will receive a (student, business, tourist...) discount of up to 20%. At first you will only be significantly overcharged, but if multiple trips are booked at one time the later portions of your trip may not be booked at all and you will be left stranded.
Also beware of private bus companies offering direct trips from Bangkok to other cities with "VIP" buses. There are a lot of scams performed by these private bus companies. The so-called direct VIP trips may end up changing three or four uncomfortable minibuses to the destination, and the 10-11 hour trip may well turn into 17-18 hours. Instead, try to book public BKS buses from the main bus terminals. It's worth the extra shoe-leather, as there have been reports of robberies on private buses as well.
There has been scams involving local police and marijuana. It involved unsuspecting tourists buying marijuana from someone recommended by a taxi or tuk-tuk drivers on Kao San Rd. and suddenly being searched by local police who'd then extract bribes. Taking drugs or marijuana in Thailand where it's illegal and punished harshly is an incredibly dim idea.
Bangkok is known for its go-go bars and the prostitution that comes along with it. Technically, some aspects of prostitution are illegal (eg. soliciting, pimping), but enforcement is rare, and brothels are common. It's not illegal to pay for sex or to pay a "bar fine" (a fee the bar collects if you want to take an employee away).
The age of consent in Thailand is 15, but a higher minimum age of 18 applies in the case of prostitutes. Penalties for sex with minors are harsh. All adult Thais must carry an identity card, which will state that they were born in 2534 or earlier if they were over the age of 18 on 1 January 2010 (in the Thai calendar, 2010 is the year 2553). Many hotels retain the ID cards of prostitutes for the duration of their visit. Whilst most prostitutes are employed by bars or similar businesses, some are "freelancers". Petty theft and other problems are more common with these freelancers. HIV and AIDS awareness is better than it used to be, but infection statistics among entertainment industry workers remain high; freelancers are the highest risk group. Almost all girls insist on using condoms.
While walking in go-go bar areas is generally safe, you have to be cautious of touts who try to drag you into the Patpong upstairs bars with offers of ping-pong shows and 100-baht beer. The beer may well be 100 baht, but the "show" you'll be treated to will be 1,000 baht or more. A good idea is to let your friend check the place with you waiting outside (and if he doesn't come out in a few minutes you should call the police) and don't interact with workers during show, don't drink anything offered, don't let some friendly Thai sit next to you and talk to you, because you will end up paying for everything mentioned. If you follow this advice you can see ping pong show for 200 baht without paying anything else, just the ticket to bar.
Do not get into fights with locals. Thais are peace loving people, but when a Thai fights a foreigner, it is never a fair fight. You'll wind up having to fight 10-20 others who were not initially involved, or the police will be called and not do anything to assist you (especially the metropolitan police, as they normally have very limited English skills; always contact the Tourist Police (telephone 1155) when in trouble). Thais are also notorious for fighting with weaponry (guns, knives, broken bottles, metal rods) or employing Muay Thai techniques. These are usually produced from their concealed locations, with foreigners getting seriously injured or worse. Just avoid all confrontations. If you do get involved in a situation, it is better to apologise and get the heck out of there. In Thailand, discretion is definitely the better part of valour.
Animal abuse and Wildlife Trafficking
Elephants are a large part of Thailand's tourist business, and the smuggling and mistreatment of elephants for tourist attractions is a widespread practice. Be aware that elephants are often separated from their mothers at a young age to be cruelly trained under captivity for the rest of their lives. Discourage this kind of treatment by refusing to participate in elephant rides or any other animal-based entertainment.
A once depressingly common sight on the congested streets of Bangkok is elephant begging, which has significantly decreased in recent years due to police enforcement. During night hours, mahouts (trainers) with lumbering elephants approach tourists to feed the creatures bananas or take a photo with them for a fee. The elephants are brought to the city to beg in this way because they are out of work and are mistreated and visibly distressed under the conditions of the city. Please avoid supporting this cruelty by rejecting the mahouts as they offer you bananas to feed the elephants.
Due to its location, lax laws, and resources, many illegal animal products come through Bangkok. Rare and endangered species are often sold at markets for pets (especially at Chatuchak), and many other animal products are sold as luxury items. Avoid buying rare pets, leather, ivory, talons, dried sea creatures (such as starfish), fur, feathers, teeth, wool, and other products since they are most likely the result of illegal poaching, and buying them contributes greatly to animal endangerment and abuse. Bringing these items into the United States is a federal crime. Most countries have similar laws because endangered species are protected by CITES. Report illegal wildlife trade with the app Wildlife Witness; be part of the solution!
Food and water
As elsewhere in Thailand, be careful with what you eat. Outside of major tourist hotels and resorts, stay away from raw leafy vegetables, egg-based dressings like mayonnaise, unpackaged ice cream and minced meat as hot weather tends to make food go bad faster. In short, stick to boiled, baked, fried or peeled food.
Tap water in Bangkok is said to be safe when it comes out the plant, but unfortunately the plumbing along the way often is not, so it's wise to avoid drinking the stuff, even in hotels. Any water served to you in good restaurants will at least be boiled, but it's better to order sealed bottles instead, which are available everywhere at low prices.
In some areas, like the smaller sois surrounding Khao San Road, there are coin-operated filtration machines, allowing you to refill your drink bottles with safe water. These vending machines are often seen being used by locals, so they should be relatively safe.
Take care with ice, which may be made with tap water of questionable potability as above. Some residents claim that ice with round holes is made by commercial ice makers who purify their water; others state that it is wise not to rely on that claim.
Internet cafés abound in Bangkok. You'll generally be looking at rates of around 30-60 baht per hour in tourist-laden districts like Khao San Road, 20-30 baht per hour in downtown (the top floors of MBK for example), and 10-15 baht per hour if you would venture into residential areas (where the speed generally is still high).
An increasing number of cafés and pubs offer free Wi-Fi to their customers, including the ubiquitous Coffee World chain in all of its branches (ask for the password at the counter). TrueMove offers both free and paid Wi-Fi access. If you want to get online for free, you must register first, and both session and overall time is limited. Their network is accessible in many malls, including Siam Square, and sometimes can be available from your room if you stay in a nearby hot-spot — just look for the 'truewifi' network, you can register right there. Most hotels and guest houses provide at least some form of Internet. Some have Wi-Fi access inside the rooms — but inquire before booking.
The area code for Bangkok is 02. You only need to dial the 0 if you're calling from within Thailand. Pay phones are not commonplace, as most Thais have a mobile phone. If you want to avoid high roaming costs, you can buy a tourist SIM card for 299 baht at Suvarnabhumi Airport (or other mobile phone stores throughout the city). The 299 baht is not just for the SIM card, but is immediately your first pre-paid amount. Topping it up is easy; Topup online, at a kiosk or just walk into a 7-Eleven convenience store and pick an amount you want to add.
Bangkok's red post boxes are found all over the city. There are also plenty of Thailand Post offices around for sending post and packages. In tourist areas, there are post offices in the Khao San Road area (in front of Wat Bowonniwet) and at Sukhumvit Road (between Soi 4 and 6).
If you're staying in Bangkok for a longer time, you might want to make use of poste restante, so other people can send you letters or parcels using a post office's address. Post offices keep the letters for at least two months. Letters sent via poste restante must have the receiver's name on it, with the family name in underlined capital letters. If you want to pick them up near Khao San Road (opposite Wat Bowonniwet), it must be addressed to Poste Restante, Banglamphubon Post Office, Bangkok, 10203, Thailand. If you want to pick up your post in the Sukhumvit area, make sure it is addressed to Poste Restante, Nana Post Office, Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok, 10112, Thailand.
The word is out on the quality and value of Thailand’s healthcare, and the numbers of visitors coming has increased accordingly. Patients have come to love the sparkling modern facilities with all the latest equipment, the highly professional doctors and medical staffs – many with Western certification, and especially the gentle nature and famous Thai service touch they receive everywhere in Thailand.
Many travellers go to Bangkok to undergo medical treatments at a fraction of the cost charged in their home countries. The best-regarded (and most expensive) is Bumrungrad Hospital, which attracts about 400,000 foreign patients per year or an average of 1,000+ a day. Other hospitals, such as Samitivej also specialize in serving foreigners. Private hospitals in Thailand are accredited by the government according to international standards, and many of the doctors in Thailand hold international accreditation and relevant licences.
Thailand was the first country in Southeast Asia to receive JCI accreditation, and many of Bangkok’s hospitals have won international awards and are internationally accredited. [source6] Thailand’s 21 JCI-accredited hospitals (as of August 2013) are: Bangkok Heart Hospital, Bangkok Hospital, Dr. Sunil Dental Clinic, Bangkok International Dental Center, BNH Hospital, Bumrungrad International, Central General Hospital, Chaophya Hospital, Metta International Eye Center (Ambulatory Care), Navamin 9 Hospital, Nonthavej Hospital, Praram 9 Hospital, Ramkhamhaeng Hospital, Saimai Hospital, Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital, Samitivej Sukhumvit Hospital, Sikarin Hospital, Synphaet Hospital, Vejthani Hospital, Vibhavadi Hospital, Wattanosoth Cancer Hospital and Yanhee Hospital.
The Clinical Care Program Certification (CCPC) includes 15 categories of clinical services for certification; the following 5 Thailand hospitals have received certificates from the Joint Commission International (JCI) for CCPC in the following areas:
Bangkok Hospital Medical Center
Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital
Samitivej Sukhumvit Hospital
Popular treatments, ranging from cosmetic, organ transplants and orthopaedic treatments to dental and cardiac surgeries, are available at a price much lower than the US or Europe. For example, Bumrungrad Hospital charges 90,000 baht for an all-inclusive breast implant package. Bangkok is also well-known as a centre for sexual reassignment surgery for people wishing to change their physical sex, although this falls out of the scope of a casual vacation.
Dental and medical clinics are everywhere in Bangkok; one can hardly walk ten minutes without seeing signs for doctors and dentists. They range from small one-chair clinics to entire buildings devoted solely to dental treatment. One such place is Bangkok International Dental Center (BIDC), which employs some 80 dentists with over 120 highly-trained and experienced staff. BIDC was the first dental centre in Thailand to be awarded JCI accreditation, the gold standard of medical certification. Despite the global standards and latest equipment, prices still make one smile at 50-70% less for comparable treatments in Western countries.
On the dental side, popular procedures are available most everywhere, including teeth whitening, dental implants, and orthodontics. For those searching for skin-care treatments, look no further: Bangkok offers scores of dermatology clinics and a multitude of procedures and treatments.
There are many dental clinics with English-speaking dentists and staff. The largest of them is the Bangkok International Dental Center (BIDC) with branches in Ratchadaphisek and Siam Square. There are also plenty of teeth whitening, implant and orthodontic providers over town.
Dr. Sunil Dental Clinic is located at Sukhumvith Soi 71, Soi Predee Panomyong 14, Building No.5, Moobaan Pakamas, Bangkok, Thailand 10250, For BTS: Phrakhanong station (#E8), They provide a wide range of dental services such as laser teeth whitening, dental implants, crown/porcelain veneers and bridges within 24 hours, bonding, gum lifts, aesthetic dentures and tooth colour fillings.
Bangkok is an ideal place to get your travel vaccinations. The Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute provide red cross sealed immunizations for much cheaper than most other countries. Vaccinations that would have cost over USD500 in North America may cost less than USD30.
The Thai Red Cross Anonymous Clinic on Ratchadamri Road (approximately 5 minutes walk from BTS Ratchadamri, towards Silom) provides low cost sexual health services for those in need. It has English speaking doctors, HIV test results within the hour (200 baht), and a dispensary for medications to treat other venereal diseases. It is busy so be prepared for a wait. Donations are greatly appreciated, there is a large box near the exit for this purpose.
The Immigration Bureau, has moved from central Soi Suan Plu to far-away Government Building B in Chaeng Wattana Soi 7, ☎ +66 2 141-9889, M-F 08:30-12:00, 13:00-16:30). The centre is in the far north of Bangkok near the old Don Muang Airport. It is a spacious building with a ground floor café, restaurants and copy vendors. Visas, re-entry permits and many other immigration services are available. It is best to take the Skytrain to Mo Chit station and then hail a taxi to the government centre. Services for Myanmarese, Cambodian and Lao citizens remain at Soi Suan Plu.
If you want to get out of the city for a while, there are plenty of day trip options from Bangkok.
Bangkok is also an excellent hub for onward travel into other regions of Thailand.