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Thailand is one of the most visited countries in the world before the pandemic. Tourists flock to this tropical country because of its distinct culture, delicious food, affordability, and beautiful coastal destinations.
Many start their journey in Bangkok, also known locally as Krung Thep – a city pulsing with life. It has drawn all kinds of travelers over the years, whether they’re spending luxuriously or going through the backpacker banana pancake trail. This bustling metropolis is home to many temples (and more temples), bars (for all kinds of interests), restaurants, shops, malls, and other attractions that can easily fill your itinerary. The country has eased its COVID restrictions and are eagerly welcoming tourists again. Filipinos can spend the weekend or a longer trip during their stay in Bangkok.
Getting a visa
Filipinos can enter Thailand visa-free for up to 30 days. If you plan on staying longer, you can apply for an extension while in Thailand.
Get into Bangkok
Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines have regular direct flights from Manila to Bangkok. Wait for promo fares to get discounted tickets on the dates of your choice. Book months ahead to get the lowest possible price.
You have options on how to reach the city from Suvarnabhumi Airport:
Look for the Airport Rail Link station; there are signs that lead you to it or you could ask. Alight at either the Makkasan or Phaya Thai Station. Once at either one, you can take a taxi or the Skytrain to your hotel/hostel/guesthouse. Fare is around THB45 (P70).
Look for bus line S1 from the airport and then alight at one of the districts in the city center. Fare is around THB60 (P93).
An official taxi can cost you up to THB750 (P1,162) depending on where you stay.
Getting around Bangkok
You have some options on how to explore the city. You can use Grab while in the city. There are also regular taxis that can take you to where you want to go. Always ask (or insist) that the driver use the meter, because like in Metro Manila, taxi drivers will try to take advantage of tourists. The train is a convenient and affordable option to get around the city. Buy a Rabbit Card for THB200; use it whenever you take the BTS and other transport options. Top up your card with multiples of THB100 each time if you run out of load.
A unique way to explore the city is to hire a tuk tuk. The latter is just like a tricycle in the Philippines. Tourists usually pay around THB60 per ride and the price will increase depending on where you go. You should pay per ride and not per person. Another option is to take a river taxi. River taxis cost around THB10-40 depending on where you alight.
Bangkok is a bustling city with plenty to see and do. It can also serve as your base for day trips to nearby destinations or to other provinces in the country.
*This itinerary assumes you start with one full day.
After breakfast, hit the ground running by visiting Bangkok’s main sites such as the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Pho, and Wat Arun. This isn’t difficult to do because all these places are within walking distance of each other.
The Grand Palace’s construction began in 1782. After its completion, successive kings and their court lived in it until 1925. Fast-forward to today – it’s now a popular tourist attraction and is a venue for special events. You can find temples, statues, and other buildings within the palace grounds.
At the center you’ll find the Phra Maha Monthien, which is a group of important buildings that contained the residence of Thailand’s kings and the throne hall. You’ll also notice the Phra Thinang Chakri Maha Prasat with its Thai and European-influenced design.
Wat Phra Kaew is another noteworthy building within the grounds. Inside it you’ll find a statue of the Emerald Buddha, which the Thais consider sacred. After taking several photos and walking around the Grand Palace, make your way to Wat Pho which is a few minutes’ walk away. It is where you’ll find a reclining Buddha measuring 46m long.
After temple-hopping, have something to eat at the nearby restaurants and cafés before heading out to Wat Arun. The latter is also known as the “Temple of Dawn.” The main tower-like structure has colorful and detailed porcelain encrusted on its surface.
Once you’ve seen the highlights of Bangkok, you can relax, go on a river cruise, hang out in Khao San Road, Sukhumvit, Silom, or other popular spots in the city. Some of the main landmarks are lit up at night such as Wat Arun, the Grand Palace, and others.
*Dress code for temples: men should wear pants and shirts that cover their shoulders, women should wear skirts that cover their knees or pants and should also wear tops that cover their shoulders.
Bangkok is much like any other big city with malls and an urban sprawl teeming with cafés, shops, restaurants, and food stalls. Spend your second day exploring the city using the Skytrain, on foot, or taking the buses. Walk around Khao San Road, Silom, and Sukhumvit (there’s also a Chinatown if you want to check it out). Some malls in the city include Siam Paragon (one of the biggest in Asia), MBK Center, Icon Siam, Siam Discovery, and others. Hang out at Lumpini Park while the city goes about its hustle and bustle. If you’re up for it, you can try a cooking class as well. There are also several other temples you might want to check out such as Wat Saket, Wat Traimit, Wat Suthat, and others. Another activity to consider is watch a Muay Thai match at Rajadamnern Stadium. You can book a seat through Klook or their website.
Consider going on a day trip for your third day; a popular choice is Ayutthaya. The latter is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to many ancient ruins. It’s an interesting place to visit for history buffs who want to learn more about Thailand’s ancient past. The ruins in the historical park are centuries old. A famous photo spot in the park is Wat Mahathat; here you’ll find a stone Buddha head peeking out from a tree’s roots. The most convenient way to visit Ayutthaya is by tour, you can book through Klook, Viator, and Getyourguide, or find a travel agency that offers packages during your stay in the city.
Alternatively, you can take the train from either Bang Sue or Hua Lamphong Station. This is a scenic option that can take more than an hour. Fare starts around THB45 and then gets pricier depending on the seat and train you board for rapid trains. Ordinary trains are cheaper at around THB15 but are slower.
Spend another day outside of the city by going on a trip to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market and other places. Located in Ratchaburi, the market is one of the most famous in the country where both locals and tourists go to shop or just watch other people shop, and the chaos of boats moving up or down the river. It’s a touristy spot with items often pricier than similar local markets. However, it’s still quite an experience seeing it up close. The convenient way to reach the market is by tour. You can book one through Klook or from the many agencies in Bangkok offering it along with other attractions.
Alternatively, you can spend a day in Hua Hin and other attractions as part of another day tour. It’s possible to visit Hua Hin by public transportation, but it takes hours to go and come back on the same day. If you have the time, it’s better to spend the night in Hua Hin instead.
Spend your fifth day returning to your favorite spots in the city or shopping and eating. If your fifth day falls on a weekend, drop by Chatuchak Market. You’ll find all sorts of items and food when you go. It’s one of the most famous markets in the city.
Add or remove places and things to do depending on your interest. Bangkok is a bustling city with its own vibe. It caters to all sorts of tourists whether they want a chill few days or a hectic itinerary full of activities. End your days bar, restaurant, or food court-hopping. Food is affordable and if you’re willing to spend, you’ll find nice places to eat and drink in. Khao San Road is a popular backpacker destination; you’ll find plenty of bars and restaurants in or just outside of it.
Scams to look out for
The pandemic may have slowed tourism in the country, but opportunists will take advantage as much as they can. I remembered my first trip to Bangkok several years ago. I hired a tuk tuk driver to take me around the city, but after I checked in and left my luggage in my hostel, he was already gone. At that time, I already paid him half of the money we agreed upon. Thankfully, I didn’t pay him the full amount, or I would’ve spent a lot of money on my first day.
Now that tourists are returning to Bangkok, you should be aware of the scams you might encounter. Here are scams you should look out for while exploring the city:
- Beware of tuk tuks parked outside of attractions, hotels, markets, and malls or any place popular with tourists. They’ll charge you an exorbitant amount of money for a short distance. A trick they’ll try is to ask you if they could stop at a shop (any kind) so they could get gasoline. Then you’ll be lured into and sweet-talked into buying something. Another version of this is they’ll offer you a tour of certain places. Then they’ll overcharge or leave you somewhere suddenly after payment.
- Watch out for the overcharging taxi scam. These drivers loiter around hotels. Since tourists see them conveniently parked outside, they board. Once their luggage is in the trunk and the car is already on moving, the driver will just overcharge for the trip to your chosen destination. They won’t use the meter, in some cases, even if the passenger insists.
- The jewelry scam involves a local striking a conversation with you. It begins with small talk about your trip, then they’ll ask if you need a ride or a tour. If you say yes to either one, they’ll take you to a gem store that sells fakes they pass on as legitimate.
- A local might tell you a particular attraction is closed for the day like the Grand Palace for some believable reason, while you’re still quite far from its entrance. They’ll then refer you to someone for a tour to other attractions that are supposed to be better or more local. Say no from the beginning unless you want to go through another gauntlet of “gem” stores.
- Bangkok is also an infamous red light district for all sorts of shows and acrobatics. The bar show scam will try to take advantage of your naughty sense of curiosity. They’ll show you some pictures and then will ask you to go upstairs to a bar. They’ll hook you in with the line, “If you don’t like it, you don’t have to pay.” Once you agree with them, you’ll be asked to buy a girl/s a drink then a show starts based on your choice from the menu. After the brief “show” you’ll be given an exorbitant bill. If you try to complain, a large man will stare you down until you pay.
The scams often involve a supposedly nice person. They start off with small talk and familiar phrases using your native language or fluent English. They’ll treat you nice first then once your guard is down, they’ll try to take advantage of you. They’ll then take you to fake travel agencies, gem shops, tailors, or others until you pay for whatever product or service.
How much will you spend?
Bangkok is a budget-friendly destination for all types of travelers. The city is a popular choice for backpackers who want to travel for a long time and still stay within their budget. If you don’t mind staying in hostel dorms, you can find a dorm bed for around P550 a night or less in backpacker districts like Khao San. Nicer hostels cost around P700+++ a night. Private rooms are also cheap if you prefer a bit more privacy. Guesthouses and some hostels even have private rooms for roughly P800 to P1,000 a night. You can get a meal at a restaurant for around P200 to P300; the fancier the place the more expensive it is. Gorge on street food or at a food court for roughly P100-P150 a meal. Entry to the Grand Palace costs THB500 (roughly P770) for foreigners; this also includes Wat Phra Kaew and the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textile. Wat Pho and Wat Arun costs THB100 (around P155) each to enter. These three are the main attractions in the city. There are other temples and museums in the city that you might want to consider.
You could also book a few day trips such as to the floating markets and/or Ayutthaya. Consider booking through Klook for the two day trips mentioned; tours are around P2,000 to P2,400 that may or may not include entrance fees. You can also book through Getyourguide. Alternatively, you can visit the many tour operators in Khao San and other parts of Bangkok. Negotiate until you get the price you want. A cooking class for a few hours costs around P1,500 to P2,000.
You could spend a daily budget of around P1,400 in Bangkok. This covers staying in a hostel dorm, eating at food courts and street food or possibly the occasional meal in a nice restaurant, taking public transportation, and the main attractions such as the Grand Palace, Wat Arun, and Wat Pho. Hike the daily average to P2,000 to P2,500 if you plan to do a day trip/s or join a cooking class. It’s possible to spend less than P1,400 a day if you strip your trip down to essentials and stay in a cheap dorm room. Sky’s the limit in Bangkok if you’re willing to spend a lot more on dining out, entertainment, and activities. The amount you spend will depend on your choice of accommodation, entertainment, activities, and food.
Budget saving tips
Bangkok is already an affordable city, but you can still save more money during your trip.
- I would recommend staying in a hostel for solo travelers. You get to meet other people, maybe even travel together during your stay in the city.
- Consider eating street food or at food courts.
- Always haggle when shopping at the market or when you hire a tuk tuk.
- Buy the day pass or the Rabbit Card if you plan on using the rail network extensively.
- Most of Bangkok’s main attractions are within walking distance of each other; walk instead of taking a taxi or tuk tuk.
Joshua Berida is a writer who loves to travel. He blogs at www.thewanderingjuan.net.
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