Thailand’s capital and commercial centre, this vibrant metropolis of 14 million people never cease to captivate with its eclectic mix of heritage and street life. With its royal palaces, Buddhist temples and economic dynamism, Bangkok exemplifies Thailand’s rise as a modern nation and as a regional powerhouse – all while fully embracing the spicy side that brought the first batch of international tourists and has kept them coming for decades.
The founding of the city of Bangkok coincides with the rise of the Chakri dynasty, Thailand’s current royal family, to the rule of the old Siamese kingdom. The city has held its status uninterruptedly for over two centuries, making it the gravitational centre for the progressive and nationalistic movements that brought about the modern Thai nation-state, as well as its post-war economic miracle.
Buddhism is the creed of over 90 percent of Bangkokians, although sizeable minorities of Muslims and Christians are present too. Like virtually all Buddhists in Thailand, Bangkokians adhere to the Theravada tradition, in contrast to the Mahayana tradition that is prevalent in East Asia. The Wat Phra Kaew or Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Thailand’s most sacred, is located at the very centre of Bangkok, within the precincts of its Grand Palace.
As the centre of Thai wealth, Bangkok blends international trends with Thai values to various degrees, giving way to a consumer class well-versed in fashion, media, art, and lifestyle fads. Street vendors are at the epicentre of this consumption boom, and commoditized aspects of Thai culture, such as Muay Thai (Thai boxing), have become a national obsession. At night, the city’s oft-rowdy nightlife is famed for its ability to leave lasting and memorable impressions.
- PDA frowned-upon
- No touching (especially in head).
- Showing soles of feet or pointing with feet considered indecent and rude.
- No public raging or loss of face.
- Respect elderly and monks (who are not allowed to touch women).
Bangkok is located in the delta of the Chao Phraya River, at the southern edge of Thailand’s central plains. The city and surrounding areas experience a tropical savannah climate, with year-round hot temperatures, and rain from May to October.
Once nicknamed the Venice of the East, the city of Bangkok is surrounded by intricate waterways and built-up canals. Being a very low-lying area, however, do not expect to see any waterfalls here – or even mountains, for that matter.
Although Bangkok has a few renowned parks, it is mostly a concrete jungle, with one of lowest levels of green space per person in Asia. That being said, the centrally-located Lumphini Park offers a rare escape near the city’s central business district.
Before you go
- Language: Thai, or Siamese, a language of the Tai–Kedai family closely related to Lao.
- Currency: Thai baht (thb)
- Time Zone: Indochina Time, utc+7
- Voltage: 220
- Electric Socket: Type A/B/C
- Local network sim cards are widely available and work on any unlocked phone in the gsm network.
- Prepaid cards sell for as little as $3 in convenience stores.
- A $15 card will get you a month’s worth of internet data and talk time.
- ATMs are widely available and they charge approximately $5 to every withdrawal with a foreign card.
- Usually no more than 20 notes or 20,000 baht can be withdrawn at once.
- Foreign exchange can be converted at banks and moneychangers at competitive rates.
- Khao neow mu ping – Pork skewers served with sticky rice.
- Sum tam – Green papaya salad, spicy.
- Kuai tiao ruea – Boat noodles, a strongly flavoured dish with beef and pork.
- Pad kaphrao – A stir-fry dish of either beef, pork, prawns or chicken with Thai holy basil, a regional specialty.
- Pad Thai – Literally “Thai fry-up”, a street vendor favourite now famous worldwide. Fried rice noodles with a choice of beef, pork, chicken, prawns or vegetarian—this dish never gets old!
- In general, tipping is not customary in Thailand but feel free to show appreciation through small gratuities for great service.
- Taxis: Both Thais and expats commonly round up the fare to the nearest multiple of ten
- Restaurants: it is customary to leave behind any loose change in coins as a tip or larger tips of 5%-10% in high-end restaurants.
- Hotels: tipping is not expected but is appreciated. Examples of good tips include 20-50 baht for the porter who carried your bags up to your room, or 20 baht left under your pillow for the cleaner.
- Suggested Vaccinations: hepatitis A and typhoid
- Safety: Be wary of people offering free help. Bangkok is not a city you should feel unsafe in, there is little risk of being assaulted. Keep your valuables safe at all times, and avoid visiting political events or rallies.
- Tourist Police: 1155 (English-speaking operator)
- Local police: 191
- Bangkok Hospital (private): 2 Soi Soonvijai 7, New Petchburi Rd, Bangkapi, Huay Khwang Bangkok 10310, Tel: (+66) 2 310 3000
- Samtivej Srinakarin Hospital (private): 133 Sukhumvit 49, Klongtan Nua, Vadhana, Bangkok 10110
- Hello (in general): Sa-wat-dee
- Excuse me. / Sorry: Koh-tohht
- Thank you: Kob-khun
- You’re welcome: Mi-penrai
- Good morning/evening (to greet women): Sa-wat-dee-kah
- Goodbye: Baai-baai
- How much is this?: Rak-ha-tao-rai
- Cheers! (Toasts when drinking): Chai-yoh
- Bon appetit!: Kin-hi-aroy
- Where’s the toilet?: Hong-nahm-nyu-nai
- Help!: Choo-wai-doo-wai
- I understand: Kao-jai-lao
- I don’t understand: Mi-kao-jai
How to get into this area, and how to get around it!
Most flights to Bangkok arrive at the super-modern Suvarnabhumi Airport, which is 30km from the city. The airport has all the facilities expected of a major international airport: restaurants, atms, duty-free shops, and a transit hotel. Urban trains take 24mins to reach the city and cost around 45 baht ($1.30). Taxis are available through a special desk and cost around 400 baht ($11.20).
Hualamphong Train Station is the city’s most important, connecting Bangkok with other major destinations in Thailand and in peninsular Southeast Asia. Same-day tickets can be bought on-site as well as advance tickets through an official booking office. Avoid touts and “helpful” people walking arounds, most of them agents in disguise.
Skytrain & MRT
Bangkok has convenient elevated rail (Skytrain/bts) and underground railway (mrt) networks. Most landmarks and areas of interest are accessible through either system. A common contactless payment system (Rabbit Card) provides an efficient way to pay for rides and is accepted in convenience stores and many fast-food chains. Trains run from 6.00am until midnight.
Bangkok roads are extremely congested. Nevertheless, a modern and affordable taxi fleet has replaced tuk-tuks (motorised rickshaws) in recent years. The different taxi colours merely represent different companies and they all have the same features. All taxis are metered—please insist on the driver using the meter, and if touted flag another cab. Fares for a few kilometres are around 50 baht ($1.40).
Things to see
The top locations to visit in this destination.