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Over the past 5 years, I think I’ve visited Bangkok about 6 times. Not only is this an awesome and iconic city in itself, but it’s also a fantastic place to base yourself to visit other places such as North Thailand, Cambodia and Malaysia. I’ve hopped in and out of Bangkok so many times, staying for multiple days at a time that it sort of feels like my Asian home. So because I’ve found myself being drawn to it so many times, I figured it was about time I put together a first timers guide and so have created this 4 day itinerary for Bangkok.
Despite having visited a fair amount, each time I learn something completely new. I know this is said in a lot of guides about a lot of places, but there really is so much going on in Bangkok that it can easily get overwhelming. It appeals to a huge range of people from culture lovers to shopaholics to food enthusiasts but with such a range going on, it can be overwhelming to fit it all in, especially if you like a bit of everything like I do! My Bangkok itinerary is exactly that; a bit of everything so you can see some of the awesome things to do in Bangkok for your first time.
Planning a trip to Bangkok? These might be right up your street!
- My guide to visiting the Thai islands in the rainy season
- Why you need to go on this Grasshopper Adventure night tour of Bangkok
- This is the best place to stay in Bangkok
- Beating the airport rush at the Novotel at BKK
Take a look at my video for some more Bangkok inspiration…
A few things to know before your first time in Bangkok
Currency -The local currency is Thai Baht and at the time of writing this, $1USD = 32 Baht. If you’re needing to exchange money on arrival, I would highly recommend using an official bank or Western Union. Alternatively, there are plenty of ATMs all over Bangkok to withdraw money but they charge around 250 Baht per withdrawal, plus whatever your bank will charge you too.
Visa – Be sure to check any visa requirements for entering Thailand before you arrive. As a UK citizen, at the time of writing this, I am permitted a free 30 visa exemption into Thailand which can be extended for a cost at an immigration office if I wish to stay in Thailand for an additional 30 days.
Sim cards – If you want to stay in touch easily whilst in Bangkok, getting a local sim card is cheap and relatively easy. There are tourist sim cards available that work for 7 days that you can pick up from most 7eleven stores. Be sure to take your passport with you and ask if they can help register it for you too.
When is the best time to visit Bangkok?
Bangkok has a tropical monsoon climate which means it is a pretty toasty 30 degrees Celcius pretty much all year round. It does also have 3 main seasons too; the hot season from March-June, rainy season July-October and the cool season from November- February.
Much information points towards the cool season being the best time to visit, but after my trip to the Thai islands in the rainy season and then also being in Bangkok during this time, I can honestly say it’s not so bad. Travelling out of peak season has many advantages but it’s also worth noting that a lot of Bangkok’s attractions are indoors or undercover. Personally, I think Bangkok is a great destination all year round.
How to get to Bangkok
Bangkok has 2 main airports which both have easy access to the city:
Suvarnabhumi Airport/Bangkok Airport (BKK) – This is the more well known of Bangkok’s international airports and located about 30km east from the CBD. The easiest way to get there is by using the Airport Rail Link to Phaya Thai station and then changing to the BTS train network to get to your nearest stop. You can find all the transport information on the BKK website here.
Don Mueang International Airport (DMK)– The second of Bangkok’s international airports sits north of the CBD and at a similar distance to BKK. There isn’t a train network connecting DMK to the CBD but there are a number of buses that run from there to locations all over the city. If you do want to get the train, you can catch the bus to Mo Chit station and jump on the BTS from there. You can take a look at all of your options on the DMK website here.
Thailand has a great network of both rail and bus routes going in and out of Bangkok. There are trains that run from all over Thailand and also from Malaysia into Bangkok and buses cross borders from neighbouring countries multiple times a day.
One of the most useful websites I’ve used whilst travelling not only too and from Bangkok but also all over Asia is 12Go.asia. This website sells tickets covering all ranges of transport across all routes and you are able to just pay online and print the ticket off. It’s super easy and a quick way to book tickets at a fair price. You can use the search box below to check your options.
Psst, just so you know, this is an affiliate link from which I get a small commission if you book through it at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting Escapes Etc!
How to get around Bangkok
Thailand’s capital has a pretty decent train network and I found it to be one of the best ways to get around Bangkok. There are 2 main lines, the Silom line that runs west to south and the Sukhumvit line that runs north to east. To use the trains you’ll need to pick up a BTS Rabbit card which you top up and use to tap in and out of train stations. There are a number of different ones available ranging from a 1 day unlimited pass to a multi-trip pass in which you have 30 days to use them all. You can find out more about them and take a look at the route maps on the BTS website here.
Grab is Asia’s answer to Uber and aside from the BTS, this is definitely the other best way to get around Bangkok. You simply order a Grab car, taxi or bike (if you’re feeling really brave) using the app on your phone and pay the set price either in cash or by adding your card to the app. It’s worth noting though that rush hour in Bangkok is pretty much gridlock so I would advise avoiding this time to get around by car.
Buses in Bangkok are incredibly cheap to use and run all over the city. They are, however, not the most comfortable way to travel as they don’t have air conditioning and it’s easy to find yourself sitting in the traffic not moving anywhere fast.
This is hands down the most fun way to get around Bangkok and it’s definitely something you should use at least once during your stay. You will find them everywhere, especially around all the tourist sites and it will give you a chance to practice your haggling skills. On this latest trip, to make sure I was getting a reasonable price, I would look at the cost of the journey on the Grab app and use that price to base my haggling on.
Bangkok is a fairly walkable city as long as you want to explore a certain neighbourhood or area. There’s no way you can walk, say, from Khaosan Road to Siam Square. Well, you could, but you’d be off your rocker to do it. However, once you’re in the area you want to explore, it’s pretty easy to walk from point to point. Just bear in mind the heat and that when it rains, it really rains in Bangkok!
Where to stay in Bangkok
Bangkok is huge and split into so many different neighbourhoods. Finding the best area to stay is something I always find tricky when I visit Bangkok as although the BTS lines are great, they don’t quite cover absolutely everywhere. During my visits, I have either stayed in the Old City area close to Khaosan Road or in Silom which is close to the BTS. I have also stayed in a fantastic airport hotel to avoid getting stuck in the heavy traffic and panicking about missing my flight. Here are the places I can recommend to you:
Best hostel near Khaosan Road
Khao San Road is the backpacker haven in Bangkok and if you’re looking for a lively night out and a sociable stay, it’s a great area to stay. This area is also within walking distance to the Grand Palace and The Golden Mount (Wat Saket). I stayed at the Atkhaosan Hostel and it’s a great base. The hostel is new, well laid out with curtains, lights and sockets around each bed in the dorms, and the loveliest people working there. At Khaosan is just a few minutes walk from Khaosan Road meaning it’s easy to experience all the sites but also in a quiet spot to actually get some sleep.
Best hotel in Sathorn
Sathorn is an awesome area to stay, right in the mix of the old and the new, loads of street food and great transport links making it easy to get around the whole city. I stayed at the fantastic Escape at Sathorn Terrace in one of their suites. The rooms are beyond comfy and it really feels more like a home than a hotel. It’s just a couple of minutes from the BTS station, a pier and around the corner from loads of local foods. You can also take a leisurely 10 minute stroll to the famous Skybar that was used in the Hangover film.
Best hotel near to Suvarnabhumi airport (BKK)
After staying in a hotel near the airport in Bali, I am a huge convert. If you’re like me and hate the stress of getting to the airport on time, the Novotel Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel is the ultimate place to stay to really finish your trip stress-free and in style. What’s awesome about this hotel is not only is it a few minutes walk to the airport but it also allows you to stay a full 24 hours from the time you check-in, so there’s no waiting around all day if you have a late flight. There are 7 restaurants and bars, a beautiful outdoor pool and easily the best gym I’ve seen in a hotel. You can read my full review here.
Search here to find your perfect hotel in Bangkok:
What to pack for your trip to Bangkok
Now that you’re sorted on where to stay and how to get around, it’s time to focus on that lil’ issue of packing. Bangkok is one of those places with a bit of everything going and that includes the weather as well. don’t worry though, I’ve got you covered for your trip to a more tropical climate. Here is a list of the essentials you’ll need to bring with you.
- Bug repellent: It’s so important to have a decent bug repellent throughout the whole of Southeast Asia, as well as Bangkok. Tropical illnesses like yellow fever a more common so it’s important to protect yourself against nasties like this. I like to use a spray repellent without DEET as I find it pretty harsh on my skin, and generally like to go down the more natural root as I have to use so much. A spray like this Medella Naturals All Natural spray is perfect.
- Medicine supplies: There are plenty of pharmacies all over Bangkok but if you have any brands that you have a lot of trust in, I would advise bringing a supply out with you. I always carry plasters, Immodium for upset stomachs, ibuprofen, paracetamol, re-hydration salts, antihistamines and travel sickness tablets.
- Hand sanitiser: Just for when soap isn’t available and general use.
- Feminine supplies: Tampons are pretty expensive in Thailand so I would advise you bring these items with you if you need them.
- High factor sunscreen: Bangkok is hot pretty much all year round and can also be incredibly humid. Having a broad spectrum, high factor sunscreen is so important to protect you from harmful UV rays. I love Nivea sunscreens as they’re non-greasy and
doesn’t sweat offreally waterproof.
- Foldable waterproof jacket: Ok, so this doesn’t sound cool, but trust me when I tell you, one of these babies will save your bacon! Bangkok in rainy season = heavy downpours at any time. Slip one of these in your day bag and you won’t be finding yourself drenched. Something like this jacket that folds up small is perfect.
- Comfy shoes: Bangkok is a fantastic city to explore on foot and gallivanting around the sites will see you clock up a tonne of steps, usually without even realising. Be sure to have something comfy on your feet so you can keep going for your 4 days in Bangkok! I brought a lightweight pair of Nike trainers with me as well as a comfy pair of Havaianas and a cute pair of sandals so I was covered for all occasions as well.
- A more dressy dress: Bangkok has a whole heap of cool bars to check out (such as the Skybar which I mentioned in day 4) and it’s a nice idea to have something a little fancier for this. I always love the dresses in H&M as they are affordable, really pretty and they have a great sustainable policy.
- Long skirt or trousers: Thailand is a fairly modest country although it’s pretty relaxed for tourists in terms of the way you dress. However, to visit temples, women are expected to have their knees and shoulders covered so a lightweight long skirt or pair of trousers is essential. It’s also important to note that both men and women are expected to have their legs fully covered to enter, so if you’re only bringing one long item with you, I would make sure it’s full length.
- Full-sized travel towel: These babies are super lightweight, fast drying and fold up nice and small, perfect if you’re packing light. This Rainleaf Microfibre towel is a great option and comes in a range of sizes and colours as well (because we all know the colour is the most important decision here really).
Common scams in Bangkok
There are a few scams in Bangkok that you should know about before you go.
- A Tuk Tuk driver telling you the Grand Palace is closed – This is something I came across quite a lot and is one that many tourists get caught out on every day. Basically, you will get told that the Palace is closed for whatever reason, but this friendly local will offer to take you to some other temples. If you go with it them, you will probably be taken to a nearby tailor or gemstone store where you might be given a hard sell to buy something you’re not at all interested in, from which the driver would get a commission. It can be an awkward and intimidating situation to be in, so it’s best to just avoid it.
- The Tuk Tuk scam – Similar to the Grand Palace Scam, the Tuk Tuk scam will result in you being taken to a tailor or gemstone shop as a favour to your driver as they will then get a fuel voucher in exchange for taking potential customers there. Again, it can be an awkward and pressured situation.
- The sex show scam – The sex industry is well known in Bangkok and it wouldn’t be unusual to be asked if you want to see a Ping Pong show as you walk around places like Khaosan and Patpong. They start by saying that if you don’t like the show you don’t have to pay and you can leave at any time. You go into the bar, buy a drink and then be pressured to buy a drink for the girls at an extortionate price. You will also then be pressured to tip heavily for the show and in some cases, each individual trick performed in the show. It can easily turn into an expensive night and the security can get a bit pushy.
Your 4 day itinerary for Bangkok
Day 1 in Bangkok
For your first day in Bangkok, it’s time to delve straight into the culture that sits at the heart of Thailand. Make your way to the Grand Palace, the official residence of the King from 1782 until the early 20th century. It’s a huge complex made up of a number of buildings and temples and within it you can visit one of the most famous temples, Wat Phra Kaew or ‘Temple of the Emerald Buddha’.
You’ll be given a map of the complex to follow and you could easily spend a couple of hours covering it all. Entrance costs 500THB per person. It’s pricey but a stunning place to visit and a great way to learn more about Thai culture and the importance of the Royal family here. Take a look at the Grand Palace’s website for more information here.
Top Tips for visiting the Grand Palace – It is a requirement for both men and women to wear long trousers and to have their shoulders covered. No shorts at all are allowed and covering bare shoulders with a scarf is also not permitted. There is a shop inside the palace where you can buy t-shirts and trousers but it’s expensive. However, there are small stalls across the road from the entrance where you can buy them for cheaper, or even just hire them.
After the Grand Palace, Wat Pho and Wat Arun are probably the second most famous sites to visit. Wat Pho holds the 46 meter long beautiful reclining Buddha and is completely covered in gold leaf. As with the palace, Wat Pho has a number of temples to explore and it’s especially famous for being the first school for Thai massage. As you walk around you should see that one of the buildings as lots of drawings of the anatomy showing pressure points to learn from. Wat Pho is just a short walk from the Grand Palace so is easy to reach on foot.
Wat Arun is known as ‘the temple of the dawn’ and sits across the Chao Phraya river, almost completely opposite Wat Pho. I absolutely love this temple with its 4 tall chedis (stupers) that have been intricately decorated. Over time, this temple has been extended by the Kings and it was once home to the Emerald Buddha before it was moved to the Grand Palace.
After spending some time close to the Chao Phraya river, it’s time to take a look at Bangkok from it. Head to the nearby Tha Tien pier and jump on one of the local express river boats which is the orange flag line and cost just 15 Baht one way. These boats run until 7 pm so choose a direction and enjoy hopping down the river from pier to pier as the sunsets and the city lights up, before heading back.
No matter whether you’re staying in the Old City or not, a trip to the famous backpacker area of Khaosan Road is a must. It’s rammed full of lively bars, street food, market stalls and restaurants. It doesn’t matter what day of the week it is, it’s always busy here. Be sure to also take a walk along neighbouring Rambutri Road too which is a slightly quieter version of Khaosan. This area is also the place to go if you want to try some bugs too!
Day 2 in Bangkok
If you trip falls on a weekend, visiting the Chatuchak weekend market is definitely one of the top things to do in Bangkok. This place is huge! It’s made up of over 15,000 stalls and is unsurprisingly the largest in Thailand. They even hand out maps to help you get around. Here you will find everything from clothes and shoes to homeware and toiletries. Some of it is handmade and some stalls sell wholesale items. Be prepared to join the crowds and put your best haggling hat on. They also have a great food area to try some local food too.
The Chatuchak market is open every Friday night from 6 pm-midnight, and on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 am – 6 pm.
After shopping till you can shop no more, jump in a grab or tuk tuk and head over to Chinatown. Everywhere I go, I always love to visit Chinatown and this is one of my favourite ones. The main high street here is Yarorat road and off of it, you’ll find lanes and side streets to explore. At night, Yarorat becomes full of street food stalls but in the day, it’s still just as busy. It’s a really fun place to explore and it’s a great insight into how multicultural Thailand is.
After taking in this lively part of the city, it’s time to get a beautiful birds-eye view of Bangkok. Wat Saket or The Golden Mount is a beautiful temple sitting high on top of a hill. To get to the top you climb the stairs that wrap around the temple before you reach the huge golden chedi at the top. It’s one of Bangkok’s oldest temples and on a clear day you can see for miles across the city.
After spending a lot of time on your feet, it’s time to see Bangkok in a bit of a different way- by bike. The Grasshopper Adventure night bike tour of Bangkok is hands down one of the best tours I’ve ever done. On this trip you’ll get to see the beautiful sunset over the river, explore small laneways where only the locals go, visit a huge night flower market and also get to beat the crowds and see Wat Pho and Wat Arun again, but this time at night. You can read more about this trip from my review here, but I really cannot recommend it enough!
Day 3 in Bangkok
If you love shopping then Bangkok is the place for you. From the high-end luxury stores to the wholesale cheap-as-chips stores, there a place to suit everyone. Most are located in the Sukhumvit districts and here’s a little break down of some of my favourite malls to help you decide where to go:
Siam Square One – This mall is part of the shiny Siam Square area covers 7 storeys. In here you will find everything from cheap clothes on the bottom couple of floors to electronics and also food on the top.
Siam Paragon – This mall almost transported me back to Dubai, with its high-end stores, luxury cars and even an aquarium inside.
Platinum Mall – If you really want to get lost and do some hardcore shopping on a budget, this is the mall for you. It’s a wholesale market, much like the Chatuchak market but is indoors. There is so much in this mall it’s hard to comprehend. Here’s a tip for you though, if you want to save even more money, look to buy 3 items or more together for a discount. The only catch here is that you can’t try anything on before you buy it!
MBK – MBK Mall is one of my favourites. As you walk in you’ll go past its huge white rabbit before finding yourself amongst its 8 floors. It’s a haven for both clothes and electronics and it also has a cinema inside too.
Just a little further on from the shopping area is Lumphini Park. This spot really offers an escape from the craziness of Bangkok even though its skyscrapers still peer over the trees. There’s a huge lake in the middle where you can rent little row boats or a peddle boats, or you can also hire a bike and take a ride around. It’s of course also a great place to just walk around and be sure to keep an eye open for huge water monitor lizards too.
There’s always a market on in Bangkok, and one that you have to visit (apart from Chatuchak, of course) is the Ratchada Rot Rai night market, or more easily known as the Night Train Market. This open-air market is awesome. You’ll find yourself walking through lanes of colourful roofs full of food and clothes as well as bars around the perimeter. This market is particularly great if you want to try some local seafood dishes.
Once you’ve explored the many lanes of the market, it’s time to get a full view of it from above. Head into the adjacent multistorey carpark and make your way to the top. The view is amazing and at the moment, a still little undiscovered by tourists. Be sure to get in quick!
Day 4 in Bangkok
Full day tour (Midday-8.30 pm)
If you’re a lover of markets and want to experience something truly different, taking a trip to the Maeklong Railway and Amphawa Floating Markets is perfect for you. The tour takes a full day (with a late finish rather than an early start) and is such a great experience. I booked my tour through Trazy who have heaps of awesome discounted tours to choose from, so I would definitely recommend them if you a great experience at a great price. You can read my full review of the trip here, but below is a little insight for you.
The first part of the tour will see you visiting the Maeklong Train market. This market is huge and literally set up right on the side of the train tracks that are still used today! 4 times a day, the train passes through at a crazy close distance and you literally stand just inches away from it. Just before it does, you’ll see the stalls pack up effortlessly to make room for the train, and then set them straight back up within seconds of the train passing through.
After this, we stopped off at Wat Bang Kung, a beautiful ancient temple with a Banyan tree growing over it. Inside is a Buddha on which people add gold leaf. It’s especially busy on Sundays when people come to worship.
The other main part is, of course, the Amphawa floating market. All along the river edge are essentially floating kitchens, serving up fresh Thai foods, especially seafood. Take some time to find something you want to try and sit and enjoy the busy river view while you tuck in. You’ll have plenty of time to explore this area so be sure to cross one of the bridges to the other side too. You’ll find everything being sold here from clothes to beer to household goods so it’s a real treasure trove. The market also extends away from the river making it huge! At the end of the time here, you’ll hop on a boat to hopefully catch an awesome sunset and see some fireflies.
Looking for more awesome things to add to your 4 day Bangkok itinerary? How about these…
- Visit the abandoned plane – This spot is a little out of town but if you like looking around derelict things, then this will probably be right up your alley. It can be tricky to find as well so I think the easiest way would be to get a Grab taxi to it. The planes are on private property and a family lives there who you will need to pay an entry fee to. I’ve not yet made it here but after seeing the abandoned plane in Bali, I think it would be awesome!
- Go searching for street art – Again, it’s a little out the way and fairly spread out, but there is an upcoming ‘hipster’ area of Bangkok which has plenty of street art to go searching for. Take a look over at Wanderers and Warriors who have an awesome guide to exploring this part of Bangkok here.
- Visit the Siriraj Medical Museum – AKA the museum of death. Sounds cheery right? Well, it’s definitely not cheery, but if you’re into a bit of dark tourism, this place is awesome. Inside you’ll find lots of morbid things including old medical instruments over time, pickled body parts and even a mummified criminal in a glass case!