There's no end to transport options in Bangkok, whether you play it safe and take the efficient sky train (BTS) or the metro (MRT), opt for a taxi or go local and take a motorbike, tuk tuk, bus, ferry or canal boat. Travel in Bangkok is cheap and - for the most part - easy. However, steer clear of tuk tuks during peak hour as the pollution and heavy traffic can make for an unpleasant ride.
Bangkok's roads are difficult and scary to navigate if you're not used to them and notorious for their traffic jams. Signposts are rarely user-friendly for non-residents and parking is hard to come by, making car rental an unwise decision. That said, there are so many other transport alternatives, you won't miss being behind the wheel for a few days.
Bangkok's public transport systems have excellent coverage for tourists. While the sky train and metro have fairly limited reach by many large cities' standards, for tourist purposes, almost every major attraction is within walking distance of a station. Only the old quarter, near Khao San Road can prove trickier to reach, but taxis and ferries make an easy alternative.
Transport in Bangkok is cheap. The most extravagant way to travel is by taxi, with most long-ish journeys costing around THB100 (just over US$3). Always shun taxis that refuse to go by the meter, as they will invariably try charge you more. Tuk tuks and motorbikes often bump the price for tourists, so don't be shy to haggle a little.
When you stick to the tourist trail, you'll generally find that most locals speak more than a little English. However if you venture off the beaten track, you may find it's hard to make yourself understood. Carry a phrasebook and learn to say hello 'sa-waa-dee' and thank you 'kop khun' with a big grin and you'll go far.
Most nationalities will receive a 30-day visa on arrival when travelling by air, or 15 days when arriving by land, though these can be extended. Officially, most tourists are required to hold tickets for onward travel when they arrive in Thailand, though it's not often asked for. The law states visitors to Thailand should carry their passport at all times.
Thailand experiences a very hot, very humid and tropical climate year-round. While the north of the country has three seasons, further south in Bangkok, there are only two; wet and dry. Monsoon season runs from April to October, with September and December being the wettest. Showers can be drizzly and last all day, or be short sharp bursts.
Bangkok is truly a shopping haven, and tourists benefit from VAT returns within 60 days of purchasing, if they're vigilant about asking the sales assistants to fill out VAT refund forms in shops displaying the VAT Refund for Tourists sign. Expect your goods to be examined at the airport, and to be waiting in long queues for your refund.
Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport is the city's international link, while Don Muang airport serves only domestic flights.
From Sydney: The 7,540 km flight to Bangkok takes around 9 hours, 15 minutes direct.
From Melbourne: A direct flight takes around 9 hours, 30 minutes.
From Brisbane: Get there in around 9 hours, 20 minutes flying direct.
From Perth: Direct flights can take around 7 hours, while flights with stopovers can take upwards of 9 hours.
From Canberra: Flights will require a stopover - most often in Sydney - and flight times can bump up to around 15 hours.
Airlines including Qantas, Emirates, Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines each offer around four to five flights every day from all major airports in New Zealand and Australia, so you're bound to find a time to suit you.
Luxury transport can be arranged through companies such as Oriental Escape, who offer safe, well maintained vehicles and experienced drivers (including women) to navigate you around the city and beyond. If you have a family, ground transfers are worth investigating, due to the lack of seatbelts and other safety features in public taxis.
Thailand's rail network may be incredibly cheap, but it's also incredibly slow. In fact, it's often quicker to take a bus from Laos to Bangkok, rather than the train. However, travelling by train is safer, more comfortable (book a sleeper carriage for long journeys) and offers unrivalled views of the countryside. The main station in Bangkok, Hua Lamphong, is central and convenient.
Tourist buses arrive in Bangkok from Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia and the furthest reaches of Thailand every day. Most bus companies are very cheap, but be warned, they can often be very uncomfortable, involved in visa scams or just take a really long time. Buses are recommended for the budget conscious and fearless only.
Cycling in Bangkok seems like a terrifying prospect, unless you've discovered Bang Krachao, a lush, green and untouched corner of the city. Little known to tourists and treasured by locals, the mangrove-filled wilds of this area make a perfect escape from the city. Hop over on the ferry from Wat Khlong Toey Nut pier and hire a bike when you get there.
As unmissable as Angkor Wat in Siam Reap, you haven't seen Bangkok until you've seen the Grand Palace. Opulence at its best, this complex of buildings and temples is perhaps South East Asia's most impressive example of royal grandeur. The Grand Palace, Maharaj Pier, Chao Phraya, Bangkok
Head to any pier along the tourist trail and you can't fail to notice the touts trying to sell river cruises or on-board sunset dinners. Hop on at Tha Pra Athit, the pier closest to Khao San, and enjoy the sights of Wat Arun, the Grand Palace and the Rama VIII bridge as you bob along the Chao Praya River eating authentic Thai cuisine.
While demonstrating very little Thai culture, Khao San Road is certainly an experience. On any given night, it comes alive with neon lights, crowded bars full of leery travellers and locals alike, street vendors selling market clothes, foods and - in fact - almost anything you might want to get your hands on. Loud and proud, there is nowhere quite like Khao San.
Thanon Khao San, Banglamphu.
Okay, so Mexican in Thailand may not seem like the most natural of choices, but La Monita is exceptional. Packed every night with expats-in-the-know, if you're looking for a taste of the west, this is where it's at. Generous portions, reasonable prices and mouthwatering flavours make La Monita a roaring success, despite its hard-to-find, back-alley location.
888/26 Mahatun Plaza
Ploenchit, Patumwan, Bangkok 02 650 9581
For a tasty papaya salad and other North Eastern (Issan) dishes, you can't beat Som Tam Nua. In an area where trendiness is everything, this restaurant has somehow managed to become a long-standing hit, lasting more than 10 years and still drawing crowds at peak times. Order your papaya salad (som tam) with a side of khao nieow (sticky rice), and you'll soon understand why.
Siam Square, Soi 5
02 251 4880
A mid-high end restaurant in the heart of the city, this immaculately decorated eatery makes the perfect introduction to Thai food for those who are a little reticent to hit the street side and try out their Thai skills. Impeccable service and a menu offering a huge array of Thai foods familiar and more exotic, this one is a real people-pleaser.
Sukhumvit Soi 11
02 254 2882
Newly opened and already causing a stir, The Water Library is one of Bangkok's hippest eateries, which is no mean feat in this trendy city. Exclusive, modern and international, the focus is on fantastic fusion food impeccably served.
Chamburi Square, 2nd Floor, Phaya Thai Road, Phathumwan, Bangkok
02 160 5188
Boasting big name DJs almost every month and welcoming almost every A-lister that passes through, Bed is the most exclusive club in Bangkok. Though it'll hit your pocket hard, a night in Bed is not to be missed. This high-end establishment is a place to see and be seen.
Sukhumvit Soi 11
02 651 3537
If you're looking for something a little less refined and a little more atmospheric, Saxophone makes a great option. Toe-tapping live jazz music performed by local musicians pours out every weekend, making it one of the city's best-known live bars. Beers are cheap, and the punters are predominately Thai, making it a perfect spot to experience a little Thai culture by night.
3/8 Phaya Thai Rd (BTS Victory Monument),
02 246 5472
Newly opened, Marshmallow is already making a name for itself as one of the city's chicest venues. Located in the centre of town, its refined and relaxed atmosphere makes it a great spot to start your night. Offering unusual liquors, exciting cocktails and fine wines at reasonable prices, it's bound to become a perennial favourite.
Sukhumvit Soi 11
02 254 2322
Wong's is small, smelly, cramped and cluttered. It's also hugely popular. The reason? Cheap beers, a party-loving crowd and the fact it's one of the only bars in the city that stays open late. The owner, Sam Wong is something of a local cult hero, and if you're hoping to experience Bangkok's part-loving reputation, there's a good chance you'll swing by.
Soi Sribamphen, Rama 4 Road, Bangkok
081 901 0835
Head to the old city to explore both the Grand Palace and Wat Pho, where the giant reclining Buddha is housed. As the sun sets on Bangkok, enjoy some peace from the riverside opposite Wat Arun. End the day with a well-deserved Chang at nearby Khao San Road, and watch the city transform into a party town.
Take the ferry to China Town, for a wander around some of the area's narrow pathways. Take your pick from a weird and wonderful array of restaurants and food vendors for lunch before heading out to Siam Square for a more modern approach to consumerism. The city's coolest kids meet to shop in local designer boutiques and relax at nearby shopping malls, including MBK, Central World and Siam Paragon.
Head to Chatuchak Weekend Market for a spot of retail therapy and culinary adventure in the world's largest outdoor market. You'll find everything from clothes to furniture to turtles and squirrels for sale in this enormous, sweaty maze of stalls. If you've still got some energy left after that, hit the town for some high-end fun along Sukhumvit Soi 11, where some of the city's best bars and restaurants are.
Enroll in a cooking class. There is a plethora of cooking schools to choose from in Bangkok, among them Cooking with Poo. Run by a local entrepreneur, Poo, within a city slum. You'll learn how to cook authentic Thai with all money benefiting those living in the slum. After filling up on the day's cooking efforts, finish the night of Muay Thai. Nightly fights are held at Bangkok's two traditional boxing rings: Lumphini stadium and Ratchadamneon.
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