Loud and energetic, Bangkok is modern Thailand at full capacity. Contemporary high-rise hotels with rooftop pools punctuate the skyline, and yet traditions remain as important and visible as ever, whether it’s Songkran (Thai New Year, which is celebrated with water fights on the street in the sweltering heat of April), traditional night markets and floating markets, or a sticker above a seat on the Skytrain designating priority seats for monks.
In this vibrant metropolis, you can spend the morning wandering between some of South-East Asia’s most beautiful temples and admiring Buddha statues made from jade and gold, both gargantuan and dainty in size. Then, clamber into a noisy tuk-tuk and flit across the city to Chinatown. It’s one of the city’s best spots to feast on Bangkok’s famous street food, where a few Baht rewards you with made-to-order favourites like pad Thai, best eaten immediately by the stall at a simple plastic-table-and-chair set up. World-class fine dining is easy to find, too – 17 of Bangkok’s restaurants, including U Sathorn's J'AIME by Jean-Michel Lorrain, were awarded Michelin stars for the first time in 2017.
Visitors usually begin their Thailand holiday in Bangkok, spending a few days in the city before heading onto explore more of the country including the cultural north and the swoon-worthy beaches and islands of the south.
Even getting around in Bangkok is an adventure, whether it’s in a brightly-lit taxi cab, the city’s signature tuk-tuks, by river taxi or aboard the air-conditioned and efficient BTS Skytrain. Bangkok’s main station is Hua Lamphong – a beautiful 100-year-old building shaped like an arc. The space-age Skytrain was built to relieve congestion on the city’s key thoroughfares, and the light-green Sukhumvit Line runs along high-rise Sukhumvit Road, through Siam and then on to the north of the city. The system’s dark-green Silom Line makes its way along Silom Road and on to the world-famous MBK shopping centre
Where is Bangkok?
North of the Gulf of Thailand, Bangkok sits on the Chao Phraya River. Its position in Central Thailand makes it ideal for multi-centre holidays in combination with popular destinations such as Northern Thailand and the glorious beaches of the south. From Bangkok, you can reach many destinations in little more than an hour’s flight; Chiang Mai takes 1¼ hours, and Phuket, Koh Samui and Krabi all take around an hour. Bangkok’s tropical climate means there are months of heavy rain and intense humidity; check our best time to visit guide to find out what the weather is like each month.
GMT +7 hours
• You need a full EU 10-year passport. We recommend that the expiry date is at least six months after your arrival back in the UK.
• You only need a visa if you’re staying longer than 30 days (29 nights), and you can get one from the Thai Embassy.
Theravada Buddhism. Minority religions include Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Sikhism.
• Thais revere their royal family, so never express disregard for it.
• Outward expressions of anger are regarded as crude and boorish.
• Each Buddha image - large or small, ruined or not - is considered sacred. Never climb onto one to take a photograph or do anything that might show lack of respect.
• Public displays of affection between couples are frowned upon. Westernised Thai couples may hold hands but that’s as far as it goes in polite society.
• It is considered rude to point your foot at a person or object.
The Grand Palace will be closed 01-29 October 2017 for the Royal Cremation Ceremony of His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Any visits to the Grand Palace as part of excursions or tours will be replaced by a suitable alternative. Please note roads may be temporarily blocked as a result.
No vaccinations are compulsory but some are recommended. For more detailed and up-to-date information, contact your GP or a specialised vaccination centre.
Tip porters and hotel staff if you’re happy with their service. If a service charge isn’t added to your restaurant bill, tip 10-15%.
• Dress neatly in all religious shrines - never go shirtless or in shorts, hot-pants or other scanty attire.
• Take off your shoes when entering private Thai homes, chapels that house Buddhist images, and mosques.