Bangkok is a backpacker haven and it’s commonly the initiation for aspiring backpacker travelers. You might wave your white flag when the city’s culture bit you but I’m sure you’ll enjoy its crazy vibe and offerings. I know a friend who immediately got out of Bangkok after his first night on his first-time visit to the city. Here’s a do-it-yourself Bangkok itinerary and travel guide to help first-time travelers in the city.
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THINGS TO REMEMBER
Filipinos are permitted, under the Visa Exemption Rule, to enter and stay in Thailand for a maximum of 30 days if entering via international airports and 15 days via land borders. Please take note that foreign nationals are only allowed two (2) Tourist Visa Exempt entries via land borders per calendar year. As for the immigration requirement, just show your valid passport, at least 6 months following your departure date; confirmed travel itinerary; and proof of accommodation and funds of at least THB10,000 per person or THB20,000 per family. On my few entries to Thailand, no immigration officer asked for proof of accommodation and funds. But I heard some travelers on forums that were asked randomly for that entry requirement.
Weather in Bangkok is similar to most countries in Southeast Asia. Hot season runs from March to June, rainy season from July to October, and cool season from November to February. April to May and September to October are the most humid periods in Bangkok based on historical data. Best season to visit Bangkok would be the cool months but I tell you, with the local culture, every month of the year is cool (pun intended).
Thailand’s official currency is Thai Baht (THB). You can find few currency exchanges changing THB but usually offers poor exchange rates. It’s better to bring US Dollar (USD) with you on your trip or use your ATM for money withdrawals. Just a tip, only change few THB at the airport just to cover your expenses from the airport to your accommodation. Currency exchange booths at the airport offer poor rates, similar to ATM withdrawals. Don’t worry, you can find a lot of currency exchanges and ATM machines in the city.
How to Get to Bangkok, Thailand from Manila
Philippine Airlines has three flights daily to Bangkok. On the other hand, Cebu Pacific Air offers one daily flight to the destination leaving Manila early in the morning.
Don Mueang International Airport to Mochit BTS Station
Most low-cost airlines land in Don Mueang International Airport, the airport located in the northern part of the city. It’s one of the two airports of Bangkok. A1 Yellow Shuttle Express Bus services Don Mueang and Mochit BTS Station. The bus is located just outside of the arrival hall near Gate 6. Price is THB30 and departing every hour from 7 AM to 12 MN. As of the moment, an airport train is under construction connecting the airport to Bang Sue MRT station.
Suvarnabhumi Airport to MRT/BTS
Bangkok Airport Link connects Suvarnabhumi Airport to Petchaburi BTS Station and Phayathai MRT Station. The airport link operates from 6 AM to 12 MN leaving the airport either 12 or 15-minute timings. Fare from Suvarnabhumi Airport to Phayathai is at THB45 with two ticket types; single-trip tokens and pre-paid Smart Passes. If you’re traveling in a group of more than three, it’s better to take a taxi or avail airport services from Klook.
Getting Around Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok transportation network is well-defined and connectivity of attractions is very good. Apart from the famous tuktuk as a mean of transportation, Bangkok has seven train systems, organized bus routes, and Khlong Saen Saep boat services (or public canal boats). If you’re too tired to proceed to the nearest station, you can easily flag a cab on the road. Grab and Uber also infiltrated the city making the public transportation more convenient.
4D3N BANGKOK ITINERARY
DAY 1 – Arrival, Chinatown, and Night Markets
If you’ll arrive in Bangkok early in the morning, you can immediately head out and explore while waiting for check-in. Depending on the location of your accommodation, you can consider Chinatown or Lumpini Park for a short walk. What makes Bangkok version of Chinatown interesting is the varied street-side cuisine. Lumpini Park, on the other hand, is a great place to enjoy the tranquility of Bangkok away from the bustling streets and crowded alleys.
Chatuchak Market is a must weekend market to visit. If your arrival in the city lands on a weekend, you can spend the entire afternoon disentangling the shop houses and food offerings available. The market is located near Mochit BTS Station making it very accessible to every tourist exploring Bangkok. Shop ’til you drop from more than a thousand stalls selling items from garments, accessories, handicrafts, books and collectibles, arts, and even plants. If ever you arrive on a weekday, you can still enjoy few sections of the market and some stalls selling great food. Chatuchak Park is just across the road from the market so it’s also good activity to do people watching.
End the day by splurging a bit with a dinner buffet at the Bangkok Balcony Buffet on Baiyoke’s Sky Hotel’s 81st floor. Apart from the great Thai cuisine, enjoy the evening view of Bangkok from the sky.
DAY 2 – Day Tour from Bangkok
Since shopping is a main tourist activity in Bangkok, tourist attractions are not that many. This is the reason why most tourists opt to have a day trip somewhere away from the city proper. During my first trip, we had a day trip to Ayutthaya Historical Park to visit the ruins of the old city and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are a dozen temples inside the park but the most visited one is Wat Mahathat for a Buddha head strangled by a tree. Bang Pa-In Royal Palace is also an interesting spot to visit in Ayutthaya. Discover the summer palace and explore the palace used by the Thai kings. Go back to Bangkok on a cruise on Chao Phraya River while enjoying buffet lunch onboard.
Other day trips from Bangkok to consider are the following:
- Floating Markets such as Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
- Resort town of Hua Hin for a Greek-style Santorini Park
- Kanchanaburi Tour for interesting sites like World War II cemeteries and Burma Death Railway
- Pattaya Day Tour
- Hiking trips at Khao Yai National Park
In the evening, continue to splurge some of your travel budget at Rot Fai Market, commonly called as Ratchada Train Night Market. The market brings the usual Bangkok night market vibe; bazaars, unlimited options of stuff to buy, and food and snacks. It’s located near Cultural Center MRT Underground Station and is open from Thursday to Sunday from 18:00 to 24:00, local time.
DAY 3 – Bangkok Temples and Khao San Road
Bangkok may not be an archaeological park but you can still find few temples in the city. Some of the must-sees are Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), Wat Pho (Temple of Reclining Buddha), Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), Wat Saket (Golden Temple), and Wat Traimit. You can spend the entire day hopping from one temple to another and ending the day at the infamous Khao San Road.
Khao San Road is the center of backpacking scene in Bangkok. It was even featured in the famous book “The Beach” because of this. Most travelers converge here to party, shop, unwind, meet other travelers, exchange stories, and plan the next destination on their backpacking route. Depending on what type of traveler you are, you might enjoy or be overwhelmed with Khao San Road’s hippie and chaotic vibe.
DAY 4 – Shopping Malls, Jim Thompson House, and Food Trip
Aside from being the backpacker capital of Southeast Asia, Bangkok is also a shopping paradise for tourists. A row of modern and upscale shopping malls in Rama I and Phloen Chit Roads offer fashion stores, luxury brands, bookstores, specialty stores, and lifestyle outlets. If night market and bazaars don’t fit your taste, you’ll surely love these shopping malls from MBK Center, Siam Discovery, Central World Plaza, Siam Paragon, to Terminal 21.
Before you start your shopping mall hopping, you can check out Jim Thompson House few blocks away from MBK Center. Wander around the compound and discover how Jim Thompson fell in love with Southeast Asian art and culture and how he started the Thai silk industry back in the 50s. The story of his disappearance before his 61st birthday is an intriguing topic to know on your visit at the museum. Buy some items before you head back to the airport on your flight back to the Philippines.
WHAT TO EAT IN BANGKOK
Thai cuisine is one of the highly-praised culinary experience in the region. Of course, don’t ever miss the renowned Pad Thai or stir-fried rice noodles. Side-street is the common dining area in Bangkok and this is where you could find the most exquisite meals in the city. There are also local food courts, basically available near business districts, catering the working population of Bangkok. Here, you can have several options for either lunch or dinner from appetizers, soups, rice meals, and desserts. Speaking of dessert, one of the recommended desserts in Bangkok is the sticky rice with sweet mangoes which is hard to resist.
WHERE TO STAY IN BANGKOK
Bangkok is the backpacking capital in Southeast Asia so it’s not difficult to find a place that fits your budget. Backpacker hostels dominate the accommodation options but still, hotels are great options for other types of travelers. Check the hostels I’ve tried in Bangkok.
SAMPLE EXPENSES BANGKOK ITINERARY
DAY 1 Don Mueang Airport to Mochit BTS 30 Mochit BTS to Sala Daeng BTS 44 BRB Hostel Rates 3 nights 762 Lunch 50 Lumpini Park Entrance FREE Sala Daeng BTS to Mochit BTS 44 Snacks/Desserts 30 Mochit BTS to Phaya Thai BTS 37 Baiyoke Buffet via Klook 575 BTS near Baiyoke to Sala Daeng 30 DAY 2 Day Trip to Ayutthaya via Klook 1440 Silom MRT to Ratchada BTS RT 70 Dinner 50 DAY 3 Silom to Chinatown Grab 29 Wat Trimitr 40 Snacks (Mango Sticky Rice) 30 Papaya Salad 40 Lunch 50 Wat Saket Entrance 20 Wat Pho Entrance 100 Ferry to Wat Arun RT 7 Wat Arun Entrance 50 Khao San Road to Silom Taxi 40 Dinner 50 DAY 4 Sala Daeng BTS to National Stadium BTS 26 Jim Thompson House Entrance 150 Lunch 50 Asok BTS to Sala Daeng BTS 37 Sala Daeng to Mochit BTS 44 Mochit BTS to Don Mueang Airport 30 GRAND TOTAL THB3955 (~USD125)