Top Tips for Travelling Bangkok

by - June 28, 2020

I embarked on a trip (post-pandemic) to the bustling, vibrant capital of the 'Land of Smiles' Thailand, and it was everything I expected and more. It was my first time in Thailand and prior to going, I was worried I would end up hating it because of the hectic crowds, heat etc. A lot of people also seemed to find it intense and I read blogs about people disliking it the first time they visited. Well... I actually ended up loving it - the culture, the food, the architecture, everything (even the unbearable heat). It just takes a bit of planning and mental preparation!

Plan and Do Your Research

There is so much to do and eat here that you definitely don't want to just wing it. I always plan an itinerary for each holiday because I am an anxiety-planner (even though I don't always follow it, but at least it's there as back-up) and Bangkok was the hardest one yet to plan for. Being a hectic metropolis with so many different areas that I didn't how to pronounce and also having to consider the notorious traffic... Where to start?

Compile a list of the things you want to do and where you want to eat, and Google Map everything. Group the places you want to visit according to the areas in Bangkok so you can do them all on the same day instead of making inefficient trips across the city. Maybe I'll get round to posting my own itinerary soon :)

When To Visit

Dry season is from November until May-June, and the rest of the year is rainy season. Rain tends to disrupt plans so I went mid-November and there was only a tiny spell of rain and occasional overcast. However, do consider that dry season also means that it's peak season for travel to Thailand and thus meant to be busier.

A very, very, very hot day (even though it doesn't look it) outside Erawan Museum.

Use Public Transport

The only times we used a taxi were to and from the airport and also to and from one of the train stations to get to Erawan Museum which is hard to get to by foot. You've probably heard about the crazy traffic and congestion in Bangkok where drivers can be gridlocked for hours, especially during rush hour (although every hour seems to be rush hour in BKK). I stayed at Sofitel Bangkok Sukhumvit which is on Sukhumvit Road, the longest road and one of the most famous in Thailand - I don't remember seeing a time when there weren't lines of cars going up and down, and could even hear the traffic every night on the 23rd floor. The hotel's location was situated perfectly in between a SkyTrain station and MRT station (only a few minutes walk to either). Bangkok's BTS SkyTrain is an overground train that runs through Bangkok and it is clean and pretty straightforward to use. As is the MRT, the metro. Staff also understood and conversed in English pretty well. Plus, there is the ultimate lifesaver that is AIR CON on these trains. Honestly, I can't think of a con for using this public transport!

For both, just go to the ticket counter and let them know which station you want to get to, and they will give you a reusable card for the BTS and a chip coin for the MRT (London Underground could learn a thing or two). There is a travel card you can buy to top-up, but we decided it would just be easier to buy a new ticket for each journey. When you use Google Maps, the app will also tell you the cost for each BTS journey (which overall is pretty cheap). Also, like many other metro systems in Asia, food and drink are not allowed on board or after you're through the barriers.

Traffic in Chinatown.

Beware of Scammers

Make sure your driver turns on the meter when you get in your taxi (although we did have an instance where the hotel got us a cheap flat fee to the airport so we didn't go by the meter, but if you're negotiating on your own then be careful). Make sure to negotiate a price before you get on a tuk tuk. Don't let anyone tell you a temple is 'not open yet' whilst you're on your way or getting a tuk tuk there, as it's extremely likely that the temple is open so just go by the opening times on Google Maps. Be vigilant, like for all places you visit to and watch your bags in crowded places.

Wat Arun in the early morning. We had someone try to follow us and tell us it wasn't open when we were walking here!

Don't Drink Tap Water

I would not recommend drinking the tap water out there. Apparently in general it is safe and clean, but the pipes are not and it just depends on your constitution, but better to be safe than sorry. Our hotel also provided us with complimentary bottles of water in the bathrooms too so I also didn't use tap water to brush my teeth. We bought large bottles of water too from the supermarket to refill our own reusable bottles when we went out during the day and used bottle water for the kettle too.

Medicine & Vaccinations

Get the recommended vaccinations before jetting off to Thailand like Hepatitis A, B, Thyphoid etc. and especially if you don't travel much. We actually didn't get any vaccinations because I completely forgot and by the time I did remember, it was too late. But yeah, you probably want to get vaccinated.

I've also heard many stories from quite a few people who went to Thailand, ended up eating something which probably wasn't very clean and then had very upset stomaches. I was actually fretting about this the most and was contemplating on not eating street food, but then I was too tempted and actually was completely fine. If you travel quite a bit then you've probably grown some resistance, but always pack medicine just in case! However, I have also heard that if you are having bowel problems, you can also just go to a pharmacy and they will know what medicine to give you because it's very common amongst tourists.

(You can also visit my round-up of where to eat in Bangkok)

Street food.

Dress Code for Temples

When visiting temples and shrines in Thailand, there is a strict dress code. You need to cover your shoulders and knees (and ideally your ankles too) and shouldn't wear anything revealing. I've seen a lot of people post photos online where they don't adhere to this, but Thailand is still a conservative country and it's just respectful to follow to their etiquette :)

Get a Massage

I probably do more walking on one single holiday than I do in half a year in my home country, and perhaps because I don't usually walk that much, my feet always kill when I do. Luckily, massage parlours are everywhere in Bangkok. I popped into a random one in Chinatown that wasn't even showing up on Google Maps. It was cheap, and one of the best foot massages I've ever had. Afterwards, your feet will feel waaay lighter. (Don't forget to tip!)

Exchange Cash Before You Go

So tourists are required to bring at least 10,000 TBH (around 260 GBP/320 USD at time of writing this) or 20,000 THB (520 GBP/640 USD) when entering the country. I wasn't checked upon arrival if I had this amount of cash (but again, better to be safe than sorry!). However, I think it is more common for Western/Caucasian tourists to be checked and apparently some get detained or refused entry for not having this amount of cash which I believe is to deter the phenomenon of 'begpackers'. Thailand still seems to be a quite cash-reliance country so it would be useful to have cash anyway, particularly for taxis, tuk tuks, street vendors etc.

Get To Tourist Attractions Early

This is the case for a lot of places, but definitely get to the tourist attractions like temples early if you want to avoid the crowds, people photobombing you and when the day is not as scorching hot! We got to Wat Pho when it opened and then went over to Wat Arun, and by the time we'd finished and were leaving, the entire street was congested with tours and coaches.


Inside Erawan Shrine.

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