Nuts-and-bolts information to plan your trip, plus a checklist of essentials to include when you pack and a list of links to local media
Entry Requirements: U.S. citizens need a valid passport to enter Thailand, and can stay for up to 30 days without a visa. For information, see www.mfa.go.th.
Security: Bangkok is not a dangerous city and it’s safe to walk pretty much anywhere, at any time. There is the usual array of scammers out to prey on unsuspecting visitors, however. Common sense is enough to avoid most unsavory types, but be particularly wary of tuk tuk (motorized, three-wheel taxi cycle) drivers offering to drive you around for free, and gem merchants offering a deal that sounds too good to be true.
Time: Bangkok is 12 hours ahead of U.S. eastern standard time.
Money: The currency in Bangkok is the Thai baht. One baht equals 100 satang. For conversion rates see OANDA Currency Converter: www.oanda.com/convert/classic
Phone Calls: Bangkok has nine-digit phone numbers including an initial 0, which must be dialed except when calling from outside Thailand; thus dial your country’s international access code 66 the number, dropping the initial 0.
When to Go: Bangkok has three seasons. The best time to visit is during the cool season from mid-November to mid-February, when there is virtually no rain. The hot season from mid-February to the end of May is very hot and humid, with temperatures pushing 10°F (38°C). This is followed by the rainy season, which continues in thunderous bouts on most days into November.
Getting There: Dozens of major airlines fly to and through Bangkok’s new Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK), about 15 miles (25 kilometers) east of downtown Bangkok. Bangkok’s old airport, Don Muang International Airport (DMK), has been reopened for use by low-cost carriers; buses and taxis link the two, and transport visitors to other areas of the city.
Getting Around: Open-sided tuk tuks are the classic Bangkok form of transport, but pollution and “tourist prices” mean Bangkok’s cheap, air-conditioned taxis are a better option—insist on using the meter. Peak-hour traffic can be horrendous, so using the BTS (Skytrain) or MRT (subway) is a good idea. Riverboats run regularly up and down the Chao Praya.
Tips: “Bangkok’s traffic can be rather confronting; look in every direction, even on one-way streets.”—Austin Bush, author, Lonely Planet Bangkok.
Walking Shoes or Sandals: “Comfortable sandals are a must, because you’re always taking your shoes off to enter temples or people’s homes.”—Austin Bush. Partly because the traffic is so bad, you’ll probably do a lot of walking in Bangkok so comfortable footwear is strongly recommended. “At the end of the day, get a foot massage.”—Stuart McDonald, founder, independent travel site Travelfish (www.travelfish.org).
Umbrella or Poncho: “It’s not called the rainy season for nothing, pack a small umbrella or poncho or buy one when you get there.”—Stuart McDonald.
Light Clothes: Bangkok’s humidity can be enervating and wearing light fabrics helps keep you cool. Short-sleeved shirts and shorts make sense. Note that in Thailand, shorts are usually only worn by children, athletes, and fishermen, so pack some light trousers if you’ll be meeting anyone, visiting temples, or going out after dark.
Your Cell Phone: “SIM cards are so cheap here bring your (GSM-enabled) phone and buy one (SIM card) so you can call ahead, book restaurants, send SMS.”—Mason Florence, founder and publisher, Bangkok 101 magazine.
Ear Plugs: “Bangkok’s a noisy city and, especially in the cheaper guesthouses and hotels, it can be noisy all night.”—Stuart McDonald. Ear plugs should help you get a better night’s sleep.
Manners: “Do some reading before you leave and bring your manners with you. Understanding even a little about Thai culture will go a long way to making sure you fit in and have a more rewarding trip.”—Mason Florence.
Official Bangkok government site with exhaustive list of the usual sights and facilities plus much you won’t find elsewhere. www.bangkoktourist.com
Online lifestyle magazine that covers what’s on, as well as social and cultural issues. Good reputation for recommendations. www.bangkokrecorder.com
Thorough coverage and independent ratings of Bangkok’s sights, restaurants, bars, and accommodations. Especially good for budget travelers. www.travelfish.org/location/thailand/bangkok_and_surrounds/bangkok/Bangkok
Insightful perspective regarding why things happen in Bangkok. www.2bangkok.com
Where to Eat
As the name suggests, this site lists and reviews hundreds of restaurants. www.wheretoeat-bangkok.com
American writer and photographer Austin Bush’s regularly updated blog on food in Bangkok, with recipes, reviews, and great photographs. http://www.austinbushphotography.com/blog
Bangkok Nightlife Guide
The most easy-to-use and comprehensive listing of live music, clubbing news, and events. http://bangkoktimesonline.com/en/articles/nightlife
News and current affairs from one of the city’s two main newspapers. www.bangkokpost.com
Website for one of Bangkok’s two main newspapers. www.nationmultimedia.com
Bangkok’s major daily English-language newspaper, with local, international, business, sports news, and features. The Guru magazine, published on Fridays, covers entertainment and arts. www.bangkokpost.com
Similar to the Bangkok Post, this broadsheet daily is regarded as being more independent. The Nation also has a Friday pullout section covering entertainment and the arts. www.nationmultimedia.com
High-quality monthly magazine with independent reviews of hotels, restaurants, bars, spas, and clubs, plus a guide to the city’s major sights, features on Bangkok, and a useful events calendar. www.bangkok101.com
Free, weekly magazine reviewing new and old restaurants, bars, clubs, live music, and galleries. www.bkmagazine.com
Thailand Art and Design Guide (TA&DG)
Monthly guide to what’s showing in Bangkok’s dozens of art galleries and theaters.
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