From street food to fine dining, cavernous shopping malls to ancient temples, cutting edge technology to Buddhist culture; Bangkok stimulates all the senses, often all at once! Not for the feint hearted, this non-stop metropolis promises excitement from sunrise to sundown.
A visit to Wat Pho Temple and the spectacular Grand Palace take visitors back to ancient Thailand where kings resided in golden rooms and paid homage to Buddha – a figure that can be seen all over the city carved from stone and jewels. Thai Buddhist culture can be observed in the crowds of locals that three times a day light candles and incense and bow before Buddha in the city’s beautiful temples.
Those looking for more ‘western’ pursuits will enjoy an unrivalled retail experience where shopping malls and vast outdoor markets vie for attention selling everything from designer labels to local crafts. Bangkok has a notorious nightlife, comprising of neon lit bars, high-end restaurants and super-clubs where people can party until dawn. Alternatively, sip a fresh coconut juice and dine on dim sum with the locals at one of the many night markets - an unforgettable experience where lively chatter meet unbelievably delicious food cooked right on Bangkok’s busting streets.
For those with the stomach for it, a spot of Muay Thai or Thai boxing might be of interest. Travelling with kids? Joe Louis Theatre holds nightly puppet theatre performances that are utterly captivating. Learn more about the country’s history in the National Museum or visit the magnificent Reclining Buddah, plated with gold and mother of pearl. If you have the nerve, hail a tuk-tuk for a hair-raising ride along Bangkok’s frenetic roads and watch the city literally fly by; past the riotous colours of the floating flower markets on the Chao Praya River and the traditional wooden stilt houses of the cockle pickers. Bangkok’s charm is impossible to resist.
The following information is correct as of August 2014 and is subject to change. Please check with the airline directly for complete accuracy.
Bangkok International Suvarnabhumi Airport or BKK is the major airport for all international flights into and out of Bangkok. The airport is approximately 16 miles east of downtown Bangkok. A rail link, regional train, super-cheap local buses and taxi services all travel regularly to and from the airport, reaching the city centre in anything from 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on traffic.
The secondary largest and most used airport is Don Muaeng but this now primarily serves domestic flights as well as low-cost airlines. This one may also be used for flights to local islands.
What you need to know
Currency: The Thai Baht (THB)
Visas: British passport holders do not require a visa to enter Thailand for a stay of up to 30 days. A valid passport is required and must be valid for the duration of stay. Other nationalities may require a visa. For more information check with a local embassy or the Foreign Office website.
Laws: Most people are aware that in Thailand the penalty for even the smallest quantity of drugs brought into the country is extremely heavy. The minimum penalty is a long prison sentence while the worst is the death penalty. It is a criminal offence to criticise the Thai Royal family with prison sentences dished out should you be overheard. The legal age to drink alcohol in Thailand is 18-20, while the smoking age is officially 16 but neither are adhered to very strictly. Smoking is permissible pretty much everywhere in Thailand.
A few hints about Thai customs; showing the soles of your feet to anyone is considered rude but shoes should always be removed before entering someone’s home. When greeting a local, do not try to shake their hand but instead place palms together as in prayer and bow. This is known as ‘Wai’.
Best Time to Visit
Bangkok is a non-stop city that is fabulous to visit all year round thanks to its regular festivals and mouth-watering street food. However, November to March is considered peak time with the weather usually a more manageable 20 Celsius and humidity is at its lowest. Unfortunately at this time prices will be at their highest. If you don’t mind the feeling of holidaying in a sauna, then May, June and September are cheaper and quieter.
Other reasons to visit are Thailand’s fabulous festivals like the Chiang Mai Flower Festival in February with its colourful floats, Chinese New Year or the Magha Puja Holy Day also in February. The traditional Thai New Year celebrates with the Songkran Festival in early April. The Rocket Festival in May, where bamboo rockets are launched into the sky to ask the gods for rainfall is one not to be missed. There are also vegetarian festivals, celebrations for the Queen’s birthday, boat races and festivals of light and even elephant round-ups in this fascinating country!