This post is written in collaboration with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) but all words, opinions and errors are, as always, 100% mine.


First time in Bangkok? Here are some of the best things to know before going!

UPDATE APRIL 2021: Click here to follow the current Thailand travel advice, including information on when destinations will be reopening.

I remember my first time in Bangkok vividly. Not only was it my first destination on my first time travelling to Thailand, but it was also my first time in South East Asia – and my first time visiting Asia beyond the Middle East.

I had never travelled so far east, and I arrived not really knowing what to expect. Once the jetlag subsided, it turned out to be a magical experience.

Even after years of living nomadically and travelling to all corners of the globe, my first time in Bangkok remains one of my favourite travel memories.

The only thing that could have made it a little more magical would have been to arrive more prepared. I did zero research before my first trip to Bangkok – something that I now know was a huge mistake!

Along with cities like Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, Bangkok has one of the most popular layover airports in Asia. Whether you’re jetting off to an island like Koh Samui, heading on to other popular cities or even passing through on a long-haul trip to Australia, it’s not hard to fit a long layover in Bangkok into your plans.

Even if you don’t happen to be passing through, Bangkok is the kind of city that’s worth visiting in its own right. There’s so much to see and so many things to do in Bangkok that you can visit many times over and always see something new.

Here are the things to know before your first time in Bangkok, but many of them also apply to your second, third and every other visit (because I’m sure there will be more!).


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Where to stay for your first time in Bangkok

Bangkok is a huge city! So huge, in fact, that I’d recommend visiting multiple times and dedicating each visit to a different area. It’s simply impossible to see it all otherwise.

If you’ve travelled to Bangkok before, choosing where to stay should be (fairly) straightforward. But, if this is your first time in Bangkok, where is the best place to stay?


Best place to visit in Bangkok for first timers

On your first trip to Bangkok, you want to get a true taste for the city. Therefore, it’s unlikely you’ll want to restrict yourself to just one area.

Many backpackers choose to stay in and around Khao San Road for its buzzing nightlife and convenience. And, while I do recommend visiting this lively neighbourhood during your Bangkok trip, I wouldn’t recommend staying there during your first time in Bangkok.

Instead, I would recommend heading a little further south and staying on the outskirts of Chinatown. Not only is it a great area to explore and fantastic for street food, but it’s well-connected to the other parts of the city you’ll likely want to explore.

The Shanghai Mansion is my favourite place to stay in Bangkok for a luxury stay at a minimal price. It’s close to both the MRT and the river ferry, making it easy to access all of Bangkok’s best bits. Plus, their cocktails are fantastic!


Bangkok, Chinatown District, Thanon Phadungdao Street

Bangkok hostel tips

Thailand is one of the most popular backpacker destinations in the world. As you’d expect, there’s certainly no shortage of affordable accommodation in Bangkok.

Having stayed in both hotels and hostels in Bangkok, both can provide a convenient and comfortable place to base. Given that you won’t be spending much time there, I’d probably opt for the latter – even if you’re not on a strict budget.

One word of warning, though: not all Bangkok hostels have air conditioning! And I learned this the hard way.

Bangkok can get hot and humid, and I don’t recommend skipping the air conditioning to save a few pennies. In fact, it’s well worth splurging for. Without a decent sleep, you simply won’t enjoy the city as much.


7 top first time in Bangkok tips

When someone asks me for Bangkok travel tips, I could easily talk for hours… but that wouldn’t be great for anyone. So, instead of sharing everything you could possibly want to know about visiting, here is my best advice for your first time in Bangkok.


#1 – Don’t cram too much into your first day in Bangkok

Bangkok is a huge city! It’s impossible to fit everything into a month, let alone a few days (or less).

No matter how long you plan to spend in Bangkok, rushing is the worst thing you could do. Remember how I said you’ll likely want to go back? I meant it!

Not only would it be wise to allow for delays and distractions along the way, but Bangkok is best enjoyed at a leisurely pace. Arrive with a loose plan for your first day in Bangkok, but make sure you leave room for spontaneity. You won’t regret it!


Bangkok, Thailand cityscape and highways from above at dusk.

#2 – Book at least one Thai massage

No trip to Bangkok is complete without a Thai massage, preferably on your first day to help ease any jetlag. Great for circulation, a Thai massage is more like someone putting you into assisted yoga poses than the oily relaxing experience you might associate with massage, but it will leave you feeling amazing.

Even if you arrive wide-eyed and full of energy, booking a massage early in your Bangkok trip means you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy more. And trust me, you’ll want to!


#3 – Come with cash

I’ve been pretty lucky during my years of travelling. Only once have I had any issues with money – and that was in Bangkok.

During my first trip to Bangkok, I didn’t have a traveller-friendly credit card and forgot to tell my bank that I’d be travelling abroad. Cue getting locked out of my account and spending an hour on a (very expensive) phone call to get back in before I could buy the refreshing drink I so desperately needed.


Chinese street food sold in Bangkok Chinatown.

#4 – Save money with a Bangkok City Pass

As much as I usually favour independent exploration, Bangkok is one city where it’s well worth snapping up a city pass.

A Bangkok City Pass won’t just grant you discounted entry to some of the most popular attractions. It also includes a number of unique experiences, temple tours and access to buses for getting around.

Bangkok isn’t the easiest city to travel when it comes to the planning side of things, but haven’t a single ticket in one easy-to-use app will make your trip much smoother.

Plus, the included river cruise and Thai cooking class are two experiences that every visitor to Bangkok should have!


#5 – Make use of the varied public transport in Bangkok

Speaking of public transport, don’t be afraid to use it!

It won’t be hard to find a taxi in Bangkok, but avoid taking them where possible. The city has an excellent public transport system that’s easy to use (and much faster than taxis!). Between the Skytrain (BTS) and underground train (MRT), much of the city is easily accessible.

However, if you get the chance, don’t miss the opportunity to use Bangkok’s water transport. The Ferry Boat is the easiest way to cross the river, and are easy to spot. A little more off the beaten track, though, you’ll find the canal boats – and they’re easily the most fun way to get around!


THAILAND BANGKOK KHLONG SAE SAEB

#6 – Embrace the unusual

Bangkok is an eclectic mix, where history and tradition live alongside fun sights and unique travel experiences.

While the temples, street markets and museums are unmissable, don’t be afraid to veer off-path and discover the city’s many quirks.

I visited Bangkok after living in Chiang Mai and, having already visited the main attractions, decided to focus on the more unusual ones instead. From unicorn cafés and dinosaur parks, to 3D art museums, there are countless ways to fill the day in Bangkok – even for those of us who usually avoid the cheesier travel experiences.


#7 – Take it all in from above

No matter how fun it might be, the rooftop bar experience gets old quickly when you’ve visited a few – except in Bangkok.

Bangkok may just have the best sky bars in the world. The views are next level, even if you’ve been to countless rooftop bars before.

Yes, you’ll pay a higher price for drinks. And no, most of them won’t allow you to bring a tripod to capitalise on the travel photography opportunities.

But it doesn’t matter. There’s just something special about Bangkok’s rooftop bars. No trip to Bangkok would be complete without enjoying a sunset drink at a rooftop bar – especially your first one.


Views of Bangkok in Baiyoke Sky Hotel, Thailand's Tallest Tower

Some other things to know before going to Bangkok

I really can’t stress how far a little bit of planning will go during your first time in Bangkok, especially if it’s also your first time in Thailand.

Here are a few more things to keep in mind when planning your trip.

Entry requirements

Thailand currently allows visa-free travel to citizens of 64 countries. If your country of citizenship is on this list, you do not need to obtain a visa before arriving in Thailand.

Under the visa exemption rule, most nationalities can enjoy 30 days in Thailand without a visa (and a few can even stay for 90 days!).

If you plan to stay longer, or hold a passport from a country that isn’t on the visa exemption list, you will need to obtain a visa for your trip to Thailand.


Other entry requirements

In addition to meeting any visa requirements, you may be asked for one of several other documents on arrival in Thailand.

These include a return ticket to prove that you are flying out of Thailand within your allowed period of visit and proof of at least 10,000 Thai Baht (around $325 USD) in available funds.

Although I’ve never been asked for anything but my passport, immigration officials can ask for any of the following – and deny you entry if you fail to show them. Don’t get caught out!


Bangkok travel

Travel insurance

As with any destination, it’s always a good idea to have travel insurance. When choosing which travel insurance to buy, please make sure it covers all activities you plan on doing and has adequate coverage for any costs you may encounter.

I have been using and recommending World Nomads for years because they cover activities that other travel insurers refuse to include. Plus, they were fantastic and refunding all my expenses when I ended up in hospital and had to make a claim!

They’re a little bit pricier than other options because they give you a whole lot more. And, if this is your first time in Bangkok, it’s not worth taking the risk with anything cheap (and not really worth having it at all). After all, peace of mind is priceless!


When is the best time to visit Bangkok?

If you don’t have a date in mind already, you’re probably wondering when the best time to visit Bangkok is.

While Bangkok tends to be most popular between November and March, when the climate is milder, there’s no ‘bad’ time to visit the city.

I’ve visited Bangkok both during peak high season (December) and peak low season (May) and enjoyed it equally every time. The latter can be a great time to visit if you don’t mind a little more humidity and want to enjoy the lower off-season prices.

If you want the lowest prices of all and don’t mind a few heavy rain sessions, the monsoon season in July and August is still a great time to visit Bangkok.

If you’re visiting more of Thailand – or even flying on to another destination – I wouldn’t worry too much about the best time to visit Bangkok. You can prioritise the best time to visit the other place(s) you plan to visit because, as I can say from experience, Bangkok is an awesome city to explore at all times of year!