First time in Bangkok ? Here what you need to know
Then you probably have a thousand questions. Bangkok is a crazy city and for your first time here there will be a lot to process.
Good news is, after welcoming a dozens of groups and friends in the city, I've got the answer to a bunch of questions of you might be asking yourself.
So here's a list of things I wish I knew when I first came, and things I've been repeating a ton over the last few years.
If it's your first time in Bangkok, here are precious info that will save you a lot of time and money.
Let's go !
- First things to do in Bangkok
- Where to Stay in Bangkok ?
- How to get around Bangkok ?
- Common Scams in Bangkok
- Is Street Food safe ?
- You can't buy alcohol all day !
- More things to do in Bangkok
First things to do in Bangkok
There's a few things you want to do as soon as you arrive to start your trip the right way.
The first will be to get some cash :
One of the thing you're gonna need the most in Bangkok (and Thailand in general) is cash. Most places accept credit cards, but there's still a lot of things that are cash only.
From taxis, to street vendors and some bars, cash only places and shops are really common in Thailand, so be prepared.
As I'm sure you can imagine, Money Exchange at the airport are rip offs and have usually the worst exchange rate you can find.
So only change the minimum you need there. Just enough to pay for your taxi and your first night if you didn't pay for it online.
Then once you're in the city, look for the nearest Superrich. They often have the best exchange rate in town :
Buy a Sim Card
Because trust me, you're gonna need internet.
From translations, to bookings, to use Grab Taxi when taxis refuse to put the meters... you're gonna need internet on your phone.
And it's pretty cheap too. For about 400฿ (13$) you'll have 5 to 10gb for 7 days, or more if you need.
From experience, AIS and True seem to have the best coverage.
Both have booth at both Airports in Bangkok, so do it there.
They know what you need and they will set it up on your phone in 2 minutes.
In both Airports in Bangkok there's an area where you can grab a taxi.
Both airports charge 50฿ on top of the price on the meter (to be paid to the driver), and you will have to pay for the highway.
In total, expect to spend between 300 and 500฿ depending on traffic.
Now if you want a private chauffeur, and even a Fast Track, you can check First Class Bangkok for that.
No affiliation with them but I had a lot of clients and friends using them and always heard good things regarding their service.
Recently, Grab Taxi (the local equivalent to Uber) also launched their own airport transfer service.
They offer different options from taxis to SUV and even minivans for groups, at a way cheaper price than agencies.
And if you're on a budget :
- From Don Mueang Airport, there's a bus that go from the airport to the city center. That's by far the cheapest option.
- From Suvarnabhumi Airport, you can take the airport link that go to the city and connect with the BTS (Sky train) and the MRT (metro). This way you can easily go anywhere in the city for less than 100฿.
Where to Stay in Bangkok ?
People often ask me what's the best area in Bangkok and where to stay.
Well, that depends what's your program, what's your budget, how long you stay....
Perfect for your first time or if you're on a budget. It's close to the main attractions (Royal Palace, Wat Pho...) and there's a lot of day trips, tours and buses to the rest of Thailand leaving from that area.
It's also a fun place to hangout and to have a few drinks at night.
But don't book a hotel on Khaosan road unless you plan on partying all night, that street is loud. If you want something more quiet, look at the streets around but avoid Khaosan road itself.
Good for a more high end trip as there's a lot of high end / luxury hotels and restaurants in the area.
Plus, with the river nearby, it's easy to go visit the city from there. You're only a short boat ride away from Icon Siam, Chinatown or the Royal Palace.
Perfect for longer trips, families, couples, parties... The top of Sukhumvit, between Soi 1 to 61, is a where there's a lot going on.
You'll find tons of malls, restaurants, coffee shops, bars, shops... you can easily spend a few weeks there and only see the surface of it.
Now regarding the budget, there's so many options in each area that it doesn't really matter what your budget is, you'll find options that fit in your budget in each area.
Where to book your accommodation in Bangkok ?
Usually here's what I recommend :
How to get around Bangkok ?
First, there's a few things that you need to know :
- Taxis are usually cheaper, if you got 2 people or more
- But taxis are
almostuseless during rush hour, between 4 and 9pm.
- Use a combination of Motorbike Taxi, BTS and MRT during rush hour, if you're in a rush.
- Taxis should always put the meter on. Don't get in if they refuse to put it on.
- Always ask for the price before you jump on a Motorbike taxi or a Tuk Tuk.
🐵 mojo tip : most of the time, Google Maps is really optimistic on the time. Don't really plan according to it, especially during rush hour.
Taxis are by war the most convenient, cheapest and most confortable way to get around Bangkok.
Taxis that have the light on at the front are available and you can wave at them.
Always make sure they put the meter on. Don't negotiate any price, unless you're in a rush. If they tell you a price and refuse to put the meter, close the door and wait for the next one.
Now, if you don't want to deal with taxis in the street, or have a hard time to explain where you go, you can use Grab Taxi (the local version of Uber)
🐵 mojo tip: always walk away from tourist areas, clubs and hotels and stop a taxi that is on the road. 99% of the time, the one that wait in front of the places full of tourists will try to rip you off.
2. BTS / MRT
The BTS, also called Skytrain, is the main transport system in Bangkok.
Really convenient, clean and fast, it's worth a ride and it's often the fastest way to get around the city center.
But if you got a group, it will often cost you more to take the BTS than to share a taxi.
Same goes for the MRT, Bangkok Metro System.
3. Moto Taxi
Motorbike Taxis are not the safest way to get around but they're the best way to cover short distances, and to get to the nearest BTS Station.
Prices to common destinations are listed where the guys are, but in Thai. So ask for the price before you get on it, or you might have a surprise when you arrive at the destination.
4. Tuk Tuk
Tuk Tuk are not the cheapest way to get around, but they're the most iconic and fun.
Negotiate first, and don't forget to take pictures.
Oh and remember that you can easily fit 5/6 people or more.
My personal record is 8, if you beat it, please send me a pic 😉
Common Scams in Bangkok
- Taxi Scams
The number one is the taxi scam we talked about before.
They should always put the meter on, it's not an option, so always make sure they do before you jump in.
Another common one from taxis is to tell you the place you want to go to is closed and they can take you somewhere else.
Rely on google maps for opening hours. Usually they're just trying to take you somewhere where they get commissions.
- Tourist prices
That's not a Thai thing, and that's common if you travel a lot. Always negotiate, especially for whatever you buy in the street.
A lot of places don't have signs with prices so they can charge whatever they want.
You will also see double prices in some places, one for Thais and one for foreigners. You can complain about it but that's how it is, roll with it.
Is Street Food safe ?
Street food is one of the most interesting thing in Bangkok and by far one of the best in the street.
If you don't speak or read Thai, don't expect to always know what you're eating, but not trying Street food while in Bangkok would be a mistake.
Of course, don't expect everything to be clean and spotless like it would in a 5 stars restaurant. But as far as health is concerned, there's little to no chance for you to get sick.
The spices will play with your stomach but the quality and taste is worth it.
Like you would when you pick a restaurant, always try to find a place that is busy. If locals eat there, it's probably good.
If you've never tried street food before, Bangkok is the best place to start.
You can't buy alcohol all day !
For my alcoholic friends out there, take note.
In Thailand, in shops, you can only buy alcohol between 11am and 2pm and between 7pm and midnight.
Don’t ask why, that's just how it is.
You can order drinks in bars, clubs and restaurants outside of this hours but you can’t buy alcohol to go in shops or bars.
So plan ahead and buy some alcohol to keep in your room in case you've got a craving for a drink or want to chill by the pool with a cold beer at 3pm.
And while we're on the subject, alcohol is expensive in Thailand. It's considered as a luxury item and it's heavily taxed, especially imported brands.
So buy as much as you can from the duty free on your way in, especially for Champagne and high end brands. (bring some Zacapa 23 🤤)
More things to do in Bangkok
For more recommendations on what to do in Bangkok, have a look at the rest of my blog.
I've got a ton of posts and recommendations about what to do in the city and places / activities you must try
Just click here for more.
My guide helped you for your first time in Bangkok ? Or maybe I've missed something ?
Let me know in the comments !