From ancient temples and decades-old markets to modern skyscrapers and mega-malls, Bangkok is an amalgamation of the old and new. The bustling metropolis came into existence just over 200 years ago and is home to 10 million people. A hotspot for backpackers, Bangkok is famous for its opulent temples, vibrant culture, cheap eats, and bustling nightlife. There is definitely something for every type of traveler here. The itinerary below is perfect for a short layover in Southeast Asia - combine it with another nearby destination or extend it to get a true feeling of what the city has to offer.

3 DAY ITINERARY

DAY 1

  • Spend the bulk of the day exploring the ruins of Ayutthaya, located a little over an hour outside of Bangkok.
  • Once back in the city, head to Chatuchak Market. Be sure to check to see what days they are open prior to heading there. Here, you can try local street food and purchase (or admire) handicrafts in one of the 15,000+ stalls.
  • If you are looking to have a nice dinner, considering making a reservation at Bo.Lan. Inspired by traditional Thai flavors, each dish is created using organic, sustainable ingredients from local vendors.

DAY 2

  • Spend the day exploring all of Bangkok’s ornate palaces and temples. I recommend getting a tour guide who can explain the history behind these landmarks. Start off the day at the Grand Palace. Afterwards head to Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Pho, grabbing lunch sometime in between. Later in the afternoon, take a boat taxi to cross the Chao Phraya River towards Wat Arun - be sure to climb to the top!
  • After your day tour, freshen up and head to Sirocco Rooftop Bar for some great views of the city, especially around sunset.

DAY 3

  • Early in the morning, head to Damnoen Saduak Floating Market for a half day excursion. Explore the different stalls and buy some handicrafts or try some of the local food. You don’t have to leave your boat if you don’t want to!
  • In the afternoon, head back to the city and to the Jim Thompson House Museum to check out the art exhibits. This is also a great place to purchase high quality silk items.
  • Later in the evening, head to Khaosan Road. Wander through the many shops that line the famous shopping street. Pop into one of the street’s many cafés for some pad thai and thai ice tea if you need a break from souvenir shopping.

LOGISTICS

VISA REQUIREMENTS

U.S. citizens carrying a tourist passport and in possession of an onward or return airline ticket do not require a visa to enter Thailand. The passport must have at least six months validity remaining to be allowed entry.  Upon entry, Thai immigration officials will place an immigration stamp in the passport permitting a 30-day stay in Thailand if arriving by air or land. For more information about other types of stays and visas, visit the US Embassy & Consulate in Thailand website. Nationals of other countries should refer to their official resources.

GETTING AROUND

We got around the city using public transportations and tuk tuks (auto rickshaws). For the day trips to Ayutthaya and Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, we had private drivers provided to us courtesy of a family friend who lives in Bangkok. I suggest checking out Viator to see different options that could work for you. It was especially nice having a private driver in Ayutthaya who took us from site to site.

LANGUAGE & CURRENCY

The official language in Bangkok is Central Thai. However, we were able to get away with speaking English in most of the tourist locations. A lot of the younger crowd could converse in English and many signs were written in both Thai and English. Additionally, a lot of the small vendors who could not speak English would use a calculator to negotiate on prices. The baht has been the official currency of Thailand since 1897 (it used to be called tical in English up until 1925). $1 USD = 31.20 Thai Baht and 1 Thai Baht = $0.032 USD. While many places take credit card, it is good to keep cash handy, especially when shopping in the streetside markets. ATMs could be found in many parts of the city.

WHERE TO STAY

I suggest finding a hotel or Airbnb in the Sukhumvit/Siam Square area. This is the more “modern” part of the city and is close to the main attractions. If you are seeking a true backpacking experience, Khao San Road is lined with several cheap hostels - this is a fun option for college students and recent grads.

HIGHLIGHTS

SIROCCO ROOFTOP BAR & RESTAURANT

Escape the sticky heat of Bangkok sixty three floors above the city at Sirocco at the lebua hotel — the world’s highest al fresco restaurant. You may recognize the restaurant as one of the filming locations from The Hangover 2. Enjoy the flavors from the Mediterranean over live music or head to the adjacent Sky Bar to enjoy carefully crafted cocktails. It’s definitely worth spending some time up here enjoying the view — especially just before sunset!

DAMNOEN SADUAK FLOATING MARKET

Known as the world’s most famous floating market, Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is a maze of narrow canals where vendors sell their goods (mainly produce) from their boats. There are also stalls along the canals where you can buy souvenirs — be sure to bargain as prices tend to be overpriced. The floating market is definitely considered a tourist trip, but is worth a visit if you have time and have never seen anything like it. Try to go as early in the morning as possible to avoid large tourist crowds.


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