Bangkok is one of those cities that has a bit of a reputation abroad. It’s the city that’s been around. But don’t let that scare you, not every day here is not everyday here is like the movie The Hangover II (unless that is your aim of course).
There’s plenty of wholesome activities on offer for any interest but that’s not focus of this particle article. Today we’re going to talk about logistics — the best way to get to the city, which areas to stay in, and how to get around the city — basically a first-timer’s guide if travel to Bangkok is in your future.
Let’s jump right in shall we?
Arriving in Bangkok
The bulk of travellers coming to Bangkok arrive at either the newer Suvarnabhumi Airport, or the older Don Mueang Airport. If given the choice, opt for Suvarnabhumi airport. It’s much grander, cleaner, and the lines are generally a lot shorter. In short, much less chaos.
While Suvarnabhumi serves larger international flights, Don Mueang caters to the budget airline crowd. There is some overlap between the two, but there is a marked difference in the vibe and energy in each.
Note also that both airports have multiple immigration lines, so if the first line you encounter is chock full of tourists, it may be worth your while to walk a few minutes more to the next section to shave some time off your wait in line. At Don Mueang not all the lines are clearly marked, so check the signage carefully, and ask one of the immigration officers milling about if you are indeed in the correct line before you park yourself there for an hour of more.
Always check beforehand what the visa situation for your nationality is before you enter any country, but most travellers to Thailand will receive 30 days visa-free to the Kingdom.
Note that when you arrive at either airport in Bangkok, head directly for one of the Immigration line-ups — you do not need to wait in the Visa on Arrival line, unless of course you are one of the nationalities that does indeed actually require a visa, or if you need to get a visa that allows for more than 30 days in Thailand.
Check with the Thai Immigration website to see which category you fall under, and if you do need to get a visa on arrival, it’s best to try apply for it online to save yourself the hassle of lingering in line limbo for potentially hours on end.
If you’re unsure if you need more than the 30-day visa, most nationalities can extend it for another 30 days by visiting an Thailand Immigration Office and paying 1500 THB (about $47 USD).
Sadly, Bangkok can be rife with tourist scams, and newcomers are generally the target. Some of the most prevalent scams involve tuk-tuk drivers.
Thailand takes tourist safety seriously, so if you do encounter any troubles, don’t be afraid to contact the tourist police. Offices can be found at either airport and throughout the main tourist areas of Bangkok.
Getting Around Bangkok
Bangkok is blessed with many transportation options, but the daily snarls can leave you waiting in traffic for sometimes hours at a time. Try to get accommodations near either the MRT (Metro Rapid Transit) — the subway, or the BTS Skytrain. They are run by separate companies, so a ticket for one will not work on another. Just be aware that if your Google Maps directions call for you to change from BTS to MRT or vice versa, you will have to change buildings and buy a separate ticket.
Uber doesn’t operate in Bangkok any more since the SE Asian operations of the ride-sharing service were bought out by Grab — Uber’s major competitor in the region. Grab offers taxis, ride-shares, and even mototaxis to get you where you are going. The app is similar to Uber, and even allows you to pay in cash if you don’t have a credit card.
If you’re travelling solo, the fastest and cheapest way to get around is motorbike taxi. You can hail one from the Grab app, or wave down one of the orange-vested drivers parked near BTS and MRT stations. Be aware that many mototaxi drivers weave through traffic, and sometimes even up on the sidewalks. Makes for a great moment if you lean towards the intrepid side.