Bangkok: A Guide for First Time Visitors

With its stunning temples, palaces and urban hangouts, Bangkok combines the ancient cultures of Thailand with a thriving modern-day metropolis to form nothing short of a sightseer’s paradise.

Whether you’re looking for architectural masterpieces or unique customs like floating marketplaces, Bangkok is a marvel that continues to astound globetrotters looking for an exciting new adventure. Here’s a breakdown of the essentials that will get you on your way to experiencing Bangkok at its best.

Top attractions:

Like any world-class destination, Bangkok has more than enough eye candy to go around thanks to an eclectic set of attractions that can quickly fill up a visitor’s itinerary. For starters, the Grand Palace on the west side of the city is a stunning compound.  It is the most famous tourist hot spot for a reason, offering an immaculate 18th century royal palace that generally takes a half-day to fully experience. Bangkok is also well-known for the series of temples throughout the city.  Most notable temples include the gold-coated Wat Arun just across the Chao Phraya River from the Grand Palace. The Jim Thompson House is also famous for layering together a handful of different ancient Thai houses, forming an elaborate museum that was erected in the 1950s and 1960s shortly before the American tycoon disappeared in a Malaysian jungle.

After spending time perusing the architectural standouts, escaping the urban landscape for the sprawling Lumpini Park can provide a breather to go along with some breathtaking views of the cityscape. A boat trip along the Chao Phraya River can also be a relaxing jaunt through the heart of the city.  Just about everyone eventually finds their way to Khao San Road, where visitors can check out street vendors during the day and a line of vibrant outdoor restaurants by evening. Shoppers can also experience the enormous Chatuchak Market as well as the Damnoen Saduak, a floating market that gives visitors a glimpse into the local culture.

Other attractions worth looking into: Wat Pho, National Museum, SEA LIFE Bangkok and Dusit Palace.

Getting around:

After arriving at Suvarnabhumi International Airport, it’s only about a half-hour cab ride to the main parts of the city, depending on traffic. For those who want to keep the cab costs down, insist on using the meter, instead of a flat fee.  This can shave quite a bit off the ride.  It’s also recommended to pay the road tolls out of pocket, which may require stopping off at a currency exchange at the airport. The Airport Express Train is also a relatively easy and inexpensive way to get to the Phaya Thai hub near many of the main areas of Bangkok. Once you get settled, the subway (MRT) and skytrain (BTS) are both user-friendly and inexpensive, allowing you to traverse most parts of the city. Traffic in Bangkok can definitely pile up so walking or taking public transport tends to be a much more effective way to get around than relying on cabs in between destinations.

Where to stay:

For those eager to absorb waterfront views and take in the main attractions of the city, staying on either side of the Chao Phraya River – particularly in the Bangrak section – can be a great option, although it can also be relatively pricey. With the considerable amount of boats and ferries operating along the river, it’s easy to manoeuvre and there are a range of different options, from the luxurious accommodations of the Mandarin Oriental to more modestly priced boutique hotels like Lay La Long. For the backpacker, the Khan San region has a series of inexpensive hotels and hostels, though it may not necessarily be the best spot for families and couples looking to avoid staying in the busiest parts of the city.

A terrific overall option can also be the Banglamphu region, an area that has been transformed from a backpacker’s paradise into a modern borough that has many different accommodations, including chic hotels with rooftop pools and a nice collection of hostels. For the shopper, Siam Square has a spread of possibilities and offers the perfect launching point for anyone hoping to experience Bangkok’s thriving and world-renowned fashion culture.

When to go:

When it comes to picking the best time for a Bangkok trip, you really have to weigh the impact of the weather, which can get dicey during the peak of monsoon season in August and September. Unless you’re extremely adventurous, sticking to the main tourist season of November to March can be the safe play, although it will also guarantee that the city will be fairly packed. The reason for the influx in visitors is because the weather cools and is considerably drier than other parts of the year, making it a natural launch point for international travellers. Despite being quite warm, July and the early part of August can also be a nice compromise for those willing to sacrifice some of the nice weather for streets that are easier to navigate. The tail end of monsoon season in October and early November can also be a great window just before the tourist season really heats up.

Final considerations:

As one of the most visited cities in the world, Bangkok is extremely well set up for tourists, although that doesn’t mean that it’s completely devoid of danger. In the heavy crowds, being cognisant of your belongings is a must to ward off potential pickpockets, and it’s also a good idea to utilize caution when approached by merchants selling things like jewelry and other potentially fabricated items. However, by forming a plan to make sure any valuable belongings are secure and being aware of your surroundings, you’re likely to find that Bangkok is one of the most enchanting cities in the world to visit no matter which region you end up staying in.

Bangkok is a great destination with so much to see, do and experience. Now you’ve got some great ideas for your trip to Bangkok, don’t forget to arrange travel insurance as soon as you’ve made a booking. Get a quote today or call one of our friendly team on 1300 819 888 to discuss your requirements.


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