Known as the Great City of Angels, Bangkok—Thailand’s capital—has long been one of the planet’s most desirable vacation destinations. Travelers dream of Bangkok’s frenetic urban energy, opulent palaces, dizzying markets, and, of course, who can forget about the incredible food? But all of this is further amplified by the warm hospitality of its people. After all, Thailand has been nicknamed the Land of Smiles.
You’ll find yourself smiling, too, as soon as you step foot on this storied imperial capital. And to get you primed for the Thai adventure of a lifetime, check out our comprehensive guide to the great city of Bangkok.
Currency: Thai Baht (or THB) is the currency of Thailand. And right now, the exchange rate is favorable for the US dollar. If you want to be prepared for your trip, you can ask your home bank if they carry Thai bahts. But if not, you can always take money out of the ATM when you arrive in Bangkok. Most recommend withdrawing local currencies at ATMs within the major banks of that destination to get the best exchange rate.
Languages: Thai, but some English is widely spoken, especially in hotels as well as at major travel attractions.
Phrases to know: In Thai, to show respect add either khap (if you’re male) or ka (if you’re female) to the end of most statements. Thai is written out in its unique alphabet. The phrases below are spelled out phonetically so you can sound out the words as you see it.
Hello—sawasdee (pronounced sah-wah-dee)
Thank you—khob khun (pronounced cob-coon)
Yes—Chai (pronounced chai)
No—Mai (pronounced may)
Spicy—P̄hĕd (pronounced pet)
Best ways to get around: With over 605 square miles bisected by Chao Phraya River, Bangkok is quite big. Taking taxis will allow you to reach its many neighborhoods more easily, but traffic can impact mobility. The alternative is taking the BTS Skytrain, which connects many of Bangkok’s most important districts. You can also try a very local mode of transport (and one of the top things to do in Bangkok): the tuk-tuk, a motorized rickshaw.
For trips to any part of Southeast Asia, weather plays a big role, especially if you’re not used to tropical heat. And it’s no different when you visit Bangkok (and Thailand in general). Some months can be unbearably hot and humid; while others can be washed out by heavy, seasonal rain. The best things to do in Bangkok change depending on what the weather is like.
Go in the winter for milder weather. From late November to the end of February, temperatures in Bangkok will be at their coolest. (But don’t be surprised if the temperature still gets up to the 90s… you’re in the tropics!) Although this is Bangkok’s peak travel season, it’s also the driest months of the year, allowing everyone to enjoy being outside. In fact, the city celebrates the season by staging the beautiful (and free) Concert in the Park series in Lumpini Park. It’s a weekly concert event organized by the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra and it’s a great activity for visitors to get a feel for how locals enjoy a weekend afternoon.
Go in March to October for fewer crowds. The remainder of the year will feature a mix of intense humid heat and, starting in May, rain. Don’t expect temperature to dip below 90 degrees Fahrenheit, especially in March and April—the hottest months of the year. If heat doesn’t faze you, April’s a great time to visit. That’s when Thailand celebrates Songkran, the Buddhist New Year, which falls on April 13. This is a national holiday in Thailand, and it’s celebrated over three days. Most Bangkok attractions remain open, but we wouldn’t recommend hitting the museums or palaces during Songkran. Instead, take to the streets to experience the city’s playful energy and vibrance. You might even join locals in water fights as a sign of cleansing. It’s both a Bangkok must-see and must-do!
Bangkok is truly a city of contrasts. Things to do in Bangkok can vary depending on your personal interests and style. The lush tranquility of Lumpini Park is as much a Bangkok attraction as the dazzling beauty of the Royal Grand Palace. And it’s when you combine these contrasting places in Bangkok that you truly get to know why the Thai capital has become one of the world’s most beloved cities. Here are a handful of the top things to do in Bangkok.
Pay respects to temples dedicated to Buddha. Bangkok has two major temples where you can see incredible Buddha sculptures. The Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew) is part of the Grand Palace grounds. The gold-cloaked meditating Buddha (made of jade) is considered the most sacred Buddhist site in all of Thailand.
Directly south of the Grand Palace is Wat Pho, or the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. The original build out of this temple dates to the 16th century, making it one of the oldest temples in Bangkok. But what really draws travelers here when they visit Bangkok is the 150-foot-long, 50-foot-tall statue of the Buddha reclining on his side. It’s one of the largest Buddha statues in Thailand.
These temples are a visual feast. Take it from traveler Katherine: “I was unprepared for the overwhelming beauty of the temples in Bangkok!”
Visiting markets was one of traveler Peter’s favorite parts of his trip to the city. Bangkok is, “a vibrant westernized city, but the itinerary offers an opportunity to experience some of its more traditional markets,” he said.
We fill our guided tours with the top things to do in Bangkok, but free time is perfect for finding activities that will complement scheduled excursions. A city as big and bustling as Bangkok offers plenty more to do. Here are a few more of our favorites.
Related article: 12 hidden gems to discover in Thailand
Thai food varies by region. Some parts of the country use more spice or more acid while other regions of Thailand might lean on the sweeter side of the flavor spectrum. As the capital city, Bangkok restaurants dish out all of them. Here are a handful to keep an eye on.
Like on any other trip, you’ll want to be prepared for unpredictable weather when you visit Bangkok. Here are the essentials to toss in your suitcase.
Sun protection. Whether we’re talking big floppy hats or your favorite SPF lotions, you need to be ready for bright sunny days in Bangkok. Don’t forget a pair of chic sunglasses, too! And because Southeast Asia can be very humid, it’s a good idea to bring a fan to help cool you down.
Light layers. Most days of the year, Bangkok’s average daytime temperature hovers around 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Breezy clothing like sundresses, linen pieces, polo shirts, and easy shorts should be the foundation of your vacation wardrobe. That said, it’s a good idea to have a light sweater or jacket with you—temps might drop down at night and most indoor places in Bangkok will be air-conditioned. When visiting temples, remember that your clothes should cover most of your body. That means full pants and shirts with sleeves for men. And for women, dresses or skirts that go beyond the knee and tops that cover the shoulders. Nothing too tight.
Rain protection. If your trip to Bangkok is during the rainy season, take an umbrella everywhere you go. It might be clear during the day, but you never know when a tropical storm might come down—even if it’s just for 20 minutes. Similarly, light waterproof jackets and shoes will keep you comfortable.
Comfortable walking shoes. You always want to have your favorite, comfiest walking shoes with you wherever you travel. Whether you’re just strolling around the Grand Palace or boarding the boats that will whisk you to the floating markets, you want your most comfortable footwear with you.
If you want to commemorate your trip to Bangkok with a unique souvenir, or if you’re hoping bring something back for loved ones at home, here are a few ideas to spend your baht on.