Here’s how to plan the best possible trip to Thailand’s culture-rich capital.
AMONG GOLDEN TEMPLES and glitzy bars, Bangkok fuses its past with a vibrant present, with world-class cuisine and nightlife available for everyone— no matter your budget. Because of the rapid expansion in the 20th century, modern skyscrapers stand tall next to food shacks and traditional wooden huts. Cars crowd the streets alongside motorbikes and bicycles in a chaotic buzz, but the noise and the activity rarely feel overbearing.
When to Go
Bangkok is popular year-round but it’s most comfortable between November and March. That’s when the temperatures (though still hot) will be more manageable for exploring the city. In the off-season, April to October, it’s still great to visit (especially for incredible hotel deals), but be prepared for regular rainstorms and a lot of humidity.
The annual Songkran festival, a celebration of the Thai New Year, takes place in April each year and usually marks the end of the tourist high season. During the three-day festival, locals and tourists alike throw water on one another. Some of the more festival-like areas, such as Silom, turn into giant water parties with people using water guns to make the most mess. Be prepared to get wet!
What to Eat
Beyond the tourist sites, Bangkok is perhaps best known for its street food markets and roadside vendors. Thai food classics such as Pad Thai (noodles with chicken or shrimp), Som Tam (papaya salad), and Tom Yum (hot and sour soup) are available just about everywhere. And despite the ban on street food vendors announced in April 2017, many still operate along side streets, and some specific markets have still been allowed to continue running.
Souvenir to Take Home
Be mindful of what souvenirs you choose to take home from Thailand. While many Buddhist temples are happy to accept visitors from any faith, billboards throughout the country (and even on the way in from Bangkok Sukhumviit Airport) will remind you to not buy souvenirs featuring the Buddha’s likeness, as it’s considered disrespectful to the faith. Instead, look for original art and fashion from Bangkok’s many independent shopping centers, especially the Chatuchak Market open every weekend.
Sustainable Travel Tip
Bangkok’s metro and Skytrain (the BTS) is an efficient and easy way to get around the city. Trains run frequently and connect riders to all of the most important hot spots. No matter the weather, it’s a useful way to get around and avoid Bangkok’s congested traffic.
Take in spectacular panoramic views over Bangkok from the rooftop Vertigo Grill and Moon Bar, located 61 stories (198 meters) above the city. A former helipad, the rooftop offers 360-degree views with an elegant restaurant, though you can also opt to just grab a drink at the open bar. Note that there’s a “smart casual” dress code.