37 Tips For Your First Trip To Bangkok, Thailand

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Bangkok and Thailand can be disorienting and even overwhelming for tourists -- especially tourists who have never visited Asia before.

So in this article, I list the top tips that I found useful for your first trip to Thailand (and Bangkok in particular).

Getting there

  • As of late June 2022, most COVID-19 related entry requirements have been dropped.  You previously needed a travel insurance plan, as well as a special pass.  However, you still need proof of vaccination or a PCR test within 72 hours of entry.  
  • You will likely arrive from your international flight via BKK airport; but note that Bangkok has two different airports.  Make sure that if you have arranged a pickup, it is at the correct airport.
  • If possible, arrange an airport pickup with your hotel. Although it is more expensive, you don't want to have to scramble around looking for a taxi after a long flight.
  • There is an Airport Rail Link that takes you from BKK airport to Phaya Thai station.  This is a safe and quick way to get from the airport if your hotel is near the station.  If you're staying farther away and you have to change trains, it's not recommended on your first visit.   

Transportation and getting around

  • While taxis are generally safe, and drivers are generally honest, there are some exceptions.  If you are using a taxi, make sure that the driver uses the meter and that when you get in, the price on the meter starts at 35 bhat.  If the meter starts above 35 or is increasing strangely, contact your local police.
  • Taxis around hotels are the most likely to rip you off.  Try to find one slightly away from the hotel.
  • Some taxis and tuk tuks will try to promote some place that they want you to go.  Don't get in one of those.
  • Avoid tuk tuks if possible. If you really want to try a tuk tuk, make sure to agree on the price and the route beforehand.  Also make sure that the driver agrees not to stop for shopping.  Tuk tuks will often scam tourists by offering a low price ride and then making them stop at shopping locations for commission.
  • If you get into trouble with a taxi or tuk tuk call the tourist police at 1155 
  • Although tips (beyond rounding up the bill) aren't really expected for locals, taxi drivers will try to avoid giving you change if you're a tourist.  Try to keep smaller notes on hand just in case.
  • There is no Uber in Thailand, but there is an alternative app called Grab.  The cars are generally nicer than taxis, and the ride is safe -- but you will be charged slightly more than what a taxi would charge a local.
  • Bangkok has a good public transportation system.  There are two easy rail services: the MRT (the subway) and BTS (skytrain).  You generally won't be using the MRT, since the BTS skytrain connects the common tourist destinations.   
  • If you need to change between the MRT and BTS, you will need separate tickets, as both services operate independently.
  • You can buy a BTS prepaid card online and pick it up when you arrive at the airport.  This is very much recommended, as there can be lines to buy them in the station.
  • Use the boats to cross the river -- they're cheap and quick.

Things to do

  • Save plenty of time for browsing the markets.  The Chatuchak Weekend Market is a treasure trove that merits a day to itself.
  • Even if you're not a museum person, don't miss the National Museum.  If you can, budget an entire day here. There are free guided tours on certain days, which are really helpful to understanding the significance of the artifiacts.  
  • A Thai massage is a great way to relax.  But you should choose your comfort level.  The smaller ones can be a bit seedy, so consider getting one at a hotel.  
  • At the Wats and other tourist destinations there are a lot of scammers.  Don't engage with anyone telling you that the site is closed or that they have a better way to get there.  
  • If you think you may have developed COVID-19, there are many testing locations. You can book these online or go to the hospital or airport for testing.
  • Not really a Bangkok tip, but don't miss a trip to Phuket, and make sure to take a John Gray tour.  This was definitely my favorite experience of all of Thailand.

Hotels and hostels

  • There are some excellent hotels in Bangkok, but expect to pay a high price for these.   My favorite splurges are the Park Hyatt the Mandarin Oriental, and the Peninsula, although most of the international luxury chain hotels in Bangkok are excellent.
  • There are a lot of nice, cheaper hotel options as well.   I like the UHG branded hotels, such as The Quarter Silom and The Quarter Ploenchit.  The level of luxury doesn't match the Park Hyatt or Peninsula, but the rooms are clean, the locations are good, and the service is great.
  • There are some great hostels in Bangkok as well.  In fact, some charge as little as $6/night.  Just make sure to check Tripadvisor before booking to ensure the place you're staying at is legitimate.  That said, on your first visit I strongly suggest spending the money for a real hotel.

Food and drink

  • Even if you don't stay at a luxury hotel, try to get out and have a drink at one of them.  It's a cheap(er) way to feel like one of the jet-set. There are several hotels with rooftop bars that make for a great evening.
  •  The street food is generally safe, but a bit scary at first. If you're not comfortable with it, there are plenty of small diners and restaurants where you can get a meal for around $1.
  • Most of the top restaurants in the city are international.  At the high end restaurants you're more likely to find French cuisine than Thai.  If you're looking for top end Thai food try the Michelin awarded R-haan.
  • Another great splurge is a dinner cruise.  There are some great options.