We love Bangkok – it’s vibrant, colourful and full of unique places to explore. So make sure you get the most out of your experience with some essential tips. Here are our 12 DOs and DON’T’s for anyone visiting the capital of the Land of Smiles.
1. DO visit a floating Market
If you haven’t yet experienced these fascinating ‘shops on water’, this is a must for exploring a fascinating side of Thai life. Visit the daily market at Damnoen Saduak, around 60 miles out of Bangkok. Either walk along the canals or hire your own private boat and float alongside locals selling all sorts of crafts and local produce from traditional Khlong boats.
Alternatively, head to Amphawa market in Samut Songkhram, around 90 minutes south west of the city. This is a smaller weekend market, so you’ll definitely feel like you’re mingling with the locals. And from jewellery and spiritual bracelets to fresh fish, street food and clothes, there’s plenty to eat and buy. Take a tour by night and you may even spot the glow of fireflies.
TIP: It’s normal to haggle a good price for the boat AND the goods you buy so make sure you do to get the best deal.
2. DO take advantage of Bangkok’s great transport system
You’ll be blown away by Bangkok’s transport system and the underground metro system, known as the MRT, is a great way of getting around. Take The Sky Train (also known as the BTS), if you want to stay above ground and see the city as you travel. Both are so clean and spacious, some people hop on to these air-conditioned sanctuaries just to escape the heat.
3. DO take taxis in and around the city
Aside from the MRT and Sky Train (BTS), taxis are another easy way to get around the city and are incredibly cheap too. Look out for the red ‘vacant’ signs on the roof and if the driver doesn’t have the meter on, politely ask him to. If he refuses, find another taxi. Most taxis will start their meter at around 35 baht (64p) and it will go up gradually. You’ll generally pay no more than 60 baht (£1) to travel a few miles, but do watch out for traffic jams as a surcharge will be applied. It’s not compulsory to tip, but it’s good to round the fare up to the nearest 5 or 10 baht.
4. DON’T be a chicken - eat an insect
It’s not compulsory of course, but as you stroll the hectic street markets, you’ll see all sorts of dried insects. Wok-fried and sold as snacks, expect to find a vast range of grasshoppers, worms, and all sorts of other bugs. They’re more targeted at the Chinese and Japanese tourists than we squeamish Westerners. But rich in protein and some might say, quite tasty, you might find you actually like this unusual delicacy.
5. DON’T visit the Golden Palace at peak times
As one of the Bangkok’s most popular tourist attractions, the spectacular Golden Palace is rarely free from crowds of tourists. Schedule your visit for late afternoon and not only will you avoid the scorching midday heat, you’ll also see it at its most tranquil so you can sit, meditate and find your inner zen.
6. DO treat your tootsies
If your feet need a bit of TLC, treat yourself to a pedicure. Bangkok is packed with places to get a mani/pedi and at an average of around 200 baht (£2-3) each, it’s so much cheaper than in the UK. Most places will let you drop in without an appointment but it’s best to book in advance if you’re visiting a hotel nail salon.
7. DON’T just see Bangkok at ground-level
Bangkok is huge both in personality and in height. So it makes sense to view the city from one of its many skyscrapers. Spruce yourself up and head to a sky restaurant like the Scarlett Wine Bar on Silom Road. This hipster hangout is home to cool décor, delicious international cuisine and a great wine list. And located on the 37th floor of the Pullman Bangkok Hotel G, the views across the city’s skyline will have you instagramming for hours.
8. DO visit Sukhumvit Road
Packed with shops, restaurants, street markets and bars, Sukhumvit Road is one of the longest in the world and as the heart of Bangkok, it adjoins many of the city’s streets. While some of these areas should be approached with caution (namely the red light districts of Soi Cowboy and the Nana plaza), a little bit of exploration will take you to a vast range of lively bars, upmarket hotels and quirky places to eat. Get here via the MRT or Sky Train – this sprawling boulevard will definitely fill you with surprise.
9. DO try Cabbages and Condoms
We told you Sukhumvit was anything but ordinary, so trust us, this is a real place. And as the name suggests, it’s a restaurant with a cause. Set up with the aim of raising awareness of family planning, Cabbages and Condoms is home to authentic Thai cuisine and weird condom-themed décor (which always amuses diners). Relax with a brightly coloured cocktail in the pretty lantern-filled gardens and enjoy freshly cooked salads and noodle dishes - all at a fairly reasonable price. With packaged condoms as an after-dinner gift and a similarly-themed souvenir shop too, this is hands down one of the quirkiest places you can eat.
10. DO travel to the island of Koh Samed
If you’re staying longer than a few days in Bangkok and want to explore an unspoilt side of the country, a trip to Koh Samed is a must. Head off early and an hour’s drive will take you to the coastal city of Rayong where you can take a 30 minute ferry ride over to the island. Unspoilt and filled with laid-back beach huts and an abundance of natural beauty, this national park is definitely worth a couple of nights’ stay. It’s guaranteed get you your fill of hippy luxury, beach front dining and amazing sunsets
11. DON’T go without some basic phrases
While many Thais do speak good English, not all of them will be fluent, especially if you venture away from the city. Even if you’re a bit rusty with your pronunciation, it’s worth learning a few phrases so you can get by once you’re there. Why not download a language app on your smartphone or android which you can always rely on if you get lost in translation.