In a hurry? Don't want to wade through a lot of pages of information? Then just read this one. We've summarized all you really need to know about Bangkok in a nutshell. Of course, there are still links to all the details, if you want to know more.
Is it For You?
The simple answer is: Yes! It may sound a bit cliché, but Bangkok really does have something for just about everyone. Fantastic historic sights, shopping - from the latest designer goods to traditional handicrafts, world-class restaurants and some of the world's best hotels all can be found in Bangkok. One common knock against Bangkok is that it is a big city that could be anywhere. While you can't call a city of over 10 Million people anything but big, Bangkok could hardly be anywhere else. See my suggestions for what to see and do for people with specific interests.
When to go
Bangkok really can be enjoyed at just about any time of year. Traditional wisdom has it that the best time to visit is during the "cool" season from November to March, when temperatures are somewhat tolerable and the rains have stopped. However, there are a number of things to do indoors around Bangkok, and if you get an early start on the outdoor activities, you'll avoid the rain and the highest temperatures. By visiting outside the cool high season, you'll also save on hotel costs.
How to Get There
Bangkok is extremely easy to get to. Most people arrive by plane, and Bangkok is a major air hub, with flights from just about every major city on every continent. International flights land at the city's shiny new Suvarnabhumi International Airport, located about 20 kilometers from the city center. Taxis are cheap and plentiful for getting from the airport into the city.
Where to Stay
First time visitors should consider staying at one of the many riverside hotels. Staying on the river gives you easy access to the boats which are the easiest way to reach the main sights, and they can be a bit cooler with the breeze off the water. However, the hotels on the river can be a bit expensive, so if you need something cheaper, you can stay anywhere within easy walk of the Skytrain or Subway and still make your way quickly and easily to most of the sights. See our list of suggested Bangkok hotels for ideas.
Bangkok has gotten a lot easier to get around in recent years. New train systems make getting to most places you would want to go quick and easy. A number of key sights are on or near the river, so the train coupled with the express boat service will get you just about anywhere you might want to go.
What To See & Do
The list of things to see in Bangkok is almost endless. I've lived here for more than a dozen years, and I'm still discovering new things. Still, you'll want to start with the main sights: The Grand Palace, the Reclining Buddha and the Temple of Dawn. You may also wish to consider the National Museum, Vimanmek Mansion and the Jim Thompson House. For more help on this topic, see the full page on planning your trip.
Bangkok is a veritable shoppers paradise, with many large shopping malls, street markets and small boutiques. For generic shopping, head to the city's main shopping district, Siam Square. To find some local flavor, check out the weekend market. See our complete guide to Bangkok shopping for more ideas.
The currency of Thailand is the "Baht" - sometimes spelled "Bath" but pronounced to rhyme with "hot." One Baht is divisible into 100 Satang. Major credit cards are accepted by hotels and large shops, but "hard cash" is the preferred tender almost everywhere. Travelers checks are not widely accepted outside of hotels, so change them for cash at a bank exchange, which you'll find in any and every tourist destination. See our money matters page for more information.