Bangkok was my first stop on my solo backpacking adventure around South East Asia. I made it my starting point due to a cheap flight from Dublin and I would also be joining a group tour through Vietnam and Cambodia from the city. I decided to arrive a few days before to find my bearings and explore the city.
Having heard mixed reviews about Bangkok being a city that takes a while to warm to, I felt apprehensive yet excited on my way there, especially as it would be my first time stepping into this side of the world so I braced myself for a culture shock.
What to see and do around the city
The Grand Palace.
The palace is beautiful and a must on any Bangkok itinerary. It is pretty centrally located, about a 15-minute walk from the main backpacker street, Khaosan Road.
It opens daily from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm. I recommend getting there early to beat the crowds and make sure you wear temple appropriate clothing. They are very strict about this as it is seen as a mark of respect, you will be denied entry to the majority of temples and pagodas in Asia without the proper attire.
The entrance fee to the grand palace is 500 baht (around 14 euro or 16 US dollars). You may hire a guide for extra or wander around by yourself. I spent about an hour and a half walking around the temples but you can spend as little or as long as you like!
This street is the world-renowned backpacker street, appropriately named given the amount of Westerners I passed by. A nightlife hub with bars lining the street along with street vendors selling all sorts from coconuts and noodles to scorpions and crickets if you are feeling more adventurous. There are also a decent number of hostels and hotels on this street. If you do choose to stay on this street remember it is noisy so try and request a room facing away from the street if possible.
Hop on Hop off Boat (Chao Phraya Tourist Boat)
This was one of the best ways to explore what Bangkok has to offer. It allowed me to see a lot of the sights without getting lost or having to fork out a lot of money on taxis trying to get around. I paid 300 baht for the ‘hop on hop off’ boat which allows unlimited stops in one day. The closest boat to Khaosan Road is less than 10 minutes walk away at the Phra Arthit stop. The boat runs down the Chao River and includes 10 stops, with an onboard tour guide who will tell you a little about each attraction and stop.
Some of my recommended stops include:
- Wat Arun
The admission fee to this temple is 100 Baht.
2. Pakklong Taladd (The Flower Market)
This stop was one of my favorites as it allows you to step out of the tourist area and experience how the locals make a living at the flower market. Streets bustling with locals pushing carts of produce; fruit and vegetables, flowers, straw bales.
Experience some of Bangkok’s most talked about markets in Chinatown. The minute you step off the boat, you will be hit with narrow streets lined with vendors and a sensory overload of new smells and crowds. There are two main markets in this area; Yaowarat (the main street) and Pahurat (Little India) where you will find some great Asian street food and stalls selling all sorts.
4. Icon Siam Shopping Mall
One thing Bangkok does well is it’s shopping malls. The Icon Siam is a shopping mall of dreams right on the river complete with gold gilded elephants inside the entrance, chandeliers made out of flowers, vendors slicing and preparing fruit on boats floating along indoor ponds. There are some great food stalls and restaurants here also which makes it a great stop for lunch. Check out the Icon Siam website here.
Other Bangkok Shopping Malls include: MBK
You won’t have to look far for a Thai massage, nail salon, and spa. At a fraction of the price back home, take full advantage. You can get a 60 minute full body massage for the equivalent of 3 euro or a foot massage for even less. Walking around Bangkok, people will stand outside their shop fronts offering you their best price for a massage.
Visa requirements for Thailand.
For Thailand, if you wish to stay less than 30 days you do not require a visa as an Irish citizen. Immigration officials may want to see the onward journey from Thailand within 30 days of arrival. Proof of this can be an international flight ticket or train ticket across a border. Fortunately, I wasn’t asked any questions by the officer at Bangkok airport however a few people I met were asked for evidence of leaving within the 30 days. If you plan to stay longer in Thailand, you will need to apply for a longer visa at the Thai embassy before you leave. You can re-enter Thailand after the 30 days by land (only twice in a calendar) which allows you an additional stay of 15 days or by plane for another 30 days.
Please consult the Thai Embassy website for more up to date details on visa requirements.
How to get from the airport to your accommodation.
There are many transport options from the airport to the city (about a 45-minute drive depending on traffic). I chose to pre-book an airport transfer for a piece of mind ($25) but you could get a far cheaper taxi if you are willing to haggle. Haggling is a huge part of the Asian culture so do not be afraid to do so. Rule of thumb: always negotiate the price before sitting into the taxi to avoid getting ripped off.
Transport around the city
Download the ‘Grab’ app
Like Uber, you can book cabs and order food through this app throughout Asia. You can order a car or motorbike and prices are usually better than a regular cab. I found during busy times however, it was near impossible to get a car via the app.
Brave the public bus for the equivalent of 10 cents for most routes around the city. Ask your accommodation for which bus to take to reach your destination!
You won’t have to look far to find a Tuk Tuk, they usually sit outside hotels and tourist hotspots waiting for confused and lost looking, tourists. Make sure to negotiate the price for taking you to your destination before you hop in – they have a tendency to hike up prices for tourists.
There is also a normal taxi service around the city. Make sure you also negotiate prices for these.