For the fourth year in a row, Bangkok is the most visited city in the world. With millions of tourists flooding in every year, all year round, you can expect heavy crowds in every corner of the Land of Smiles.
However, with some planning, you can ensure that your trip is a lot more enjoyable and memorable. I’ve been to Bangkok twice so far, and after some trial and error, I’ve come up with a few simple tips to maximise your time in Thailand’s vibrant capital city.
1. Use public transport within the city area
The first time I went to Bangkok, it never occured to me how congested the roads would be. My family and I were using a private vehicle, and in hindsight, that probably wasn’t the best idea. With a population of more than 8 million (in comparison, KL only has 1.8 million), moving around in Bangkok was more challenging than I had imagined.
It is much better to use public transport to get around the city, as you can skip the traffic, and the trains are very frequent and cheap too! Depending on your destination, you can expect the fare to be between THB 16 to THB 52 (RM2 to RM7).
But, it is important to know that there are many different trains operating throughout the city, and there are two different companies operating them. So a pass card you purchase for one line may not be usable on another line. I find it easier to just buy the tickets as you need them if you’re not travelling for very long in the city. You can finish up your spare coins too!
Note: At the time of this writing, there are new stations/lines being built and tested in some parts of Bangkok in which you may be able to use in future.Yet, these stations may not appear on Google Maps just yet. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to check with the maps provided at the stations instead.
Pro tip: For destinations near the river (e.g. Wat Arun, Wang Lang Market, The Grand Palace, etc) opt to take the boats if you happen to be near a pier. They are way faster, more direct, and really cheap. The cheapest boat ride is the Orange Flag, which is THB 15 (RM2) per ride, though it stops at all piers.
For more information on available public transportation, click here.
2. Avoid rush hour (around 7am to 9pm, 5pm to 8pm)
As much as public transport makes it easier to get around Bangkok, during rush hour, not even the trains can be of much help. Every coach will be extremely packed, and you may have to wait for the next two trains to even board the train (I waited for four). As the traffic will be crawling, getting taxis or Grab will also be quite expensive and time-consuming. Plan out your itinerary well so that you can travel more comfortably and quickly.
3. Make full use of the morning for outdoor activities
If you are visiting tourist hotspots such as the temples, try visiting them in the morning, and you will be rewarded a very peaceful experience and Insta-worhty shots. They are less crowded, the temperature is cooler, and the lighting is better. Most temples are open around 8am, and group tours tend to arrive from 9am onwards, so you can have the entire place to yourself for about an hour if you arrive early.
You can also visit the morning markets for some amazing local delicacies after your temple visit. You can try visiting Wang Lang Market or Or Tor Kor Market right before noon to sample freshly cooked local food. Have a bit of everything before the crowd comes during lunch hour.
Pro tip: Try the banana grilled over charcoal. It may sound weird, but you’ll thank me later.
4. Try out locally famous restaurants
Going to Bangkok would usually mean that you’re on a food hunt. A simple search on the internet will lead you to a number of amazing restaurants that you can visit. These restaurants are popular for both international and local visitors. However, my favourites are usually the ones only locals know about. They are the true hidden gems.
And the best way to find these restaurants is to look for a line of locals waiting for service or takeaway. You will be surprised how good some of these places are, despite the small and humble-looking premises. Of course, there might be a bit of a language barrier, so keep a translator handy.
Some of the good places I found were Tom Yum Goong Banglamphu at Soi Kraisi, and Charoensang Silom at Soi Charoen Krung 49. Check them out!
5. Try the egg tarts at KFC
While it may seem odd to visit a fast food chain in a foreign country when we already have our own, KFC in Thailand has one product that is my absolute favourite, the egg tart. It is flaky, buttery, smooth, sweet, creamy, and piping hot! The egg tarts usually run out by the end of the day. Sometimes you would have to wait for a fresh-out-of-the-oven batch, but they are worth it. Malaysian KFC used to serve them back in 2013, but I really wish they will return. #wewantkfceggtarts
6. Book your data plan early
Although it seems more straightforward to arrive in Bangkok and get the first data service plan you see at the airport, it is worth taking a little extra effort to do some research and book your mobile data in advance.
Travel services like Klook and KKday allow you to book your data plan in advance at a much cheaper price, up to 40% cheaper! Once booked you can pick up your SIM/device at the airport.
7. 7-Eleven is your best friend
Tip number 7 goes to 7-Eleven. You can find this convenience store chain nearly everywhere in Bangkok, sometimes one every couple of hundred meters. In the hot sun, or rainy weather, or any weather really, this is where you can find your comfort.
7-Eleven in Thailand has a wide range of snacks, from Thai themed Lays crisps, sweet fluffy banana cake, to coffee and pastries, tom yum instant noodles, and ready-made meals. Find all of these at the biggest 7-Eleven at Siam Square.
Pro tip: Each branch has a slight variation. Some have cafes, some have food counters. Go ahead and explore! It will be like a treasure hunt.
8. Beware of scams
Bangkok is a beautiful city, and the people are very friendly. But like every other place in the world, there will be a small number of people who are trying to benefit from oblivious travellers.
An infamous example is when a tuk-tuk driver tells you that The Grand Palace is closed for the day, and he offers you an alternative location to visit. However, The Grand Palace is open to visitors daily! Of course, there are numerous ways of scamming. But, the best method to be safe is to stay informed and be vigilant. Your smartphone is your most trustworthy friend.
If I were to tell more about Bangkok, I’ll just spoil the fun. So with these tips in mind, hopefully your Bangkok trip will be the best one yet. Have fun!
Also read: 18 Top Things To Do In Bangkok In 2019