How to Arrive in Bangkok

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The first time I landed in Bangkok back in 2010, I did everything wrong.

I was so excited, I didn’t get myself close to the schedule before I arrived.

Even though I was arriving close to midnight, I slept on the final flight there.

I gave my guesthouse address written in Thai to my driver, but he couldn’t find it and had to keep stopping and asking people where it was.

I chose a guesthouse with a windowless room that was essentially a twin bed with an extra two feet of space around it. No outlets. No wifi. No A/C. Not even a top sheet.

I didn’t sleep a wink the entire first night and basically twiddled my thumbs until 6:00 AM, when I figured it was a socially acceptable time to visit some temples.

I slept a few hours in the afternoon the first day — and didn’t sleep a wink the second night, either. I then got a nasty cold due to sleep deprivation and missed out on some social gatherings.

Kate in Bangkok

Here I am on my first day in Bangkok in 2010. I was a mess, but I was so happy just to be there.

Kate in Bangkok

Here I am on my first day in Bangkok in 2015. By this time, my tenth visit to Bangkok, I had my arrival down to a science.

Here’s how to do the same when you touch down in Bangkok:

Adjust yourself to the time zone ahead of time.

Granted, this is most difficult from the East Coast of the U.S., where we’re usually on a 12-hour time difference. But anything you can do to get yourself slightly closer to Thailand’s time zone will have you in much better shape, even if it means you’ll be sleeping fewer hours.

Hit up the ATM.

You don’t need to get cash before your trip — just hit up the ATM in the airport as soon as you land.

You also might want to visit a 7-11 and buy a bottle of water so you can break a large bills.

Get a taxi from the airport.

When you arrive in Bangkok, chances are you’re going to be exhausted and ready to just fall into bed. This is an occasion that warrants paying for a taxi, even if you’re backpacking and trying to save money.

Airport taxis have rates set, so you will be charged a meter rate. Keep in mind that depending on where you’re going, some drivers will offer to take you via highway, which will cost you extra toll fees that you will need to pay when you go through the toll booth.

Have your accommodation’s name and address ready, and pinpoint it on Google Maps.

When I first got to Bangkok, I was shocked at how often taxi drivers would have no idea where my destination was. It’s a far cry from London, where taxi drivers are required to memorize every street in the city!

It’s a good idea to have the address written in Thai as well as English — but it’s even better to have it saved on Google Maps.

Amari Watergate Bangkok

Check into an extremely comfortable hotel or guesthouse.

Why a comfortable place? Because you’ll be exhausted and sleeping at odd hours for the next few days. Having a nice place to stay can make such a huge difference. I stayed at the Amari Watergate — more on that below.

Take melatonin right before you go to bed.

I first started bought melatonin when I flew from Boston to Sri Lanka last year, knowing that I’d have a busy schedule and wouldn’t have the luxury of going at my own pace.

Melatonin is a natural supplement that helps your body realize that it’s bedtime. It’s best to take it about an hour before you go to bed, but I find that it affects me within around 30 minutes.

For the first several days, take melatonin at night — it will help you beat jet lag faster. You can get it on Amazon.

Get on a normal schedule as soon as you can.

Avoid napping! Believe me, it’s better to go to bed at 9:00 PM and sleep until 4:30 AM than to take a midday nap. Because as soon as you start midday napping, you’ll be falling asleep in the middle of the afternoon every day.

Bangkok Skyline

Pick up a SIM card. 

I always go to Siam Paragon, a luxury shopping mall near Siam Square, and visit the AIS store. AIS provides some of the best coverage in Thailand, has great data plans, and they’re used to assisting foreigners in this store.

Don’t forget to bring your passport! It’s required to get a SIM card.

Go easy on the food if you have a sensitive stomach.

When I first arrived in Asia, I went vegetarian for the first few days and gradually eased into eating meat. You might want to do the same if you’re nervous about the food. Always stick to bottled water, too!

Indulge in massages.

One of my favorite things about Thailand is that Thais consider massage a normal, frequent part of staying healthy. As a result, massage is available for cheap in Bangkok — think around 250 baht ($7) for one hour.

Traditional Thai massage is done with your clothes on (they may give you loose pajama-like garments to wear). It’s a lot like assisted yoga. Personally, I’m a big fan of foot massages and get them almost every day.

Silk Weaver, Bangkok

Give yourself at least a few days in Bangkok.

Bangkok is one of my top five favorite cities in the world. You could spend weeks here discovering all that the city has to offer. If you’re a returning Thailand visitor, you probably know what you want to do, but if you’re new to Thailand, please don’t listen to people telling you to skip Bangkok. This city is beautifully chaotic and I love it for that reason.

A few of my favorite activities:

Visit Chatuchak Market. Held on Saturday and Sunday, this is the largest market in the world and they sell everything from unique clothing to fancy furniture to tiny puppies.

Hang out in Siam Square. This is where young Thais hang out and where you’ll find lots of cool shops, along with several high-end malls. Keep in mind that Asian sizes tend to be tiny, but accessories are universal!

Go to a luxury movie theater. I love SF World Cinema on top of the Central World mall, where around 700 baht ($20) buys you a pre-movie buffet with a mocktail and tons of food, a plush leather recliner, a blanket (!!), a waitress, and your choice of flavored popcorn and soda. (If you don’t want to spend the cash, you can see new releases for around 100 baht ($3)!)

Visit Jim Thompson’s house. If you love architecture, luxury, and mystery, make this a priority. Jim Thompson was an American CIA agent turned silk merchant who ended up disappearing in Malaysia. His house is near Siam Square and is like a time capsule.

Explore and chow down in Chinatown. Chinatown is one of the most distinctive neighborhoods in the city, and you can easily get lost in the mazes here. The food is excellent, too.

Visit Buddhist temples. Some good ones for first-timers are Wat Pho, the Grand Palace, and Wat Arun, which are close together and close to the Khao San Road area.

See Muay Thai at Lumpinee Stadium. Not just a sports experience, but a cultural experience unlike any other.

Enjoy Khao San Road. The backpacker center of Southeast Asia, if not the world. Fun for a wild night out, but keep in mind merchandise here costs a lot more than on surrounding streets.

Chill out on Soi Rambuttri. Close to Khao San Road but much quieter and calmer, this is actually my favorite street in Bangkok. I love getting a foot massage while having a cocktail from the mobile VW van bar.

This is just scratching the surface — there is far more to do in Bangkok than I could include in a single post!

Amari Watergate Bangkok

Staying at the Amari Watergate Bangkok

I always tell people that Bangkok and Las Vegas are the two best cities in the world for luxury hotels — there are tons to choose from and the prices are excellent.

Well, to be honest, I’ve never stayed in a luxury hotel in Bangkok until my most recent visit! A few months back, the Amari Watergate Bangkok offered me a complimentary three-night stay in exchange for some social media coverage, and I accepted it.

I really loved this hotel. And to be honest, having SUCH a nice place to stay made adjusting to Bangkok a far more pleasant experience than in recent years.

Amari Watergate Bangkok

I stayed in an Executive Suite — one of the top suites in the hotel. Executive Suites are enormous with a king-sized bed, plenty of seating, a separate sitting room with an office section, and a giant bathroom with a tub you could practically do laps in.

Amari Watergate Bangkok

Hello, New Best Friend.

Amari Watergate Bangkok

The room, as you can see, is nothing short of glorious. Some of the other room amenities include multiple TVs, fruit upon arrival (so needed!), coffee and tea, lots of bottled water, and a view over downtown Bangkok.

But what I actually enjoyed most was being on an executive floor and having access to the executive lounge, which was airy, quiet, and luxurious. Just being there made me feel like I was part of an exclusive club. They also have happy hours in the executive suite each night!

Amari Watergate Bangkok

November in Bangkok can be a bit of a mixed bag weather-wise, and there were mostly stormy skies — but that didn’t keep some people from jumping into the pool.

Amari Watergate Bangkok

Getting a nice massage is the perfect way to settle into a new time zone, and the Breeze Spa at the Amari Watergate is excellent. You can choose a massage to reflect your mood — I went with invigorated (dreamy, serene, rejuvenated, and energized are other options). Because when you can get a massage on the street anywhere in Thailand, getting a high-end massage makes you feel pampered. I found it blissful, especially with the tea and macaron served at the end.

As for other benefits of the hotel, the location was ideal — walking distance from Siam Square and my favorite malls, making it a perfect hub for my first-day-in-Bangkok errands. You’re near the BTS, which will get you all over most of the city, and if you want to head to Khao San Road, you can take a nearby canal boat!

There’s a nice-looking gym, if you’re into that sort of thing. I wasn’t quite motivated enough to go inside!

And on my first night, I was able to experience a brand new event at the hotel — a Thai street market-inspired dining experience around the pool! I spent my time hanging out with new Thai friends and pretending not to cry from the spicier dishes. (I think they caught on when they saw how many Thai iced teas I was drinking.)

So basically, my first luxury hotel stay in Bangkok was a really wonderful experience. If you want to dip your toes into luxury travel in Asia, the Amari Watergate is a high value choice. I couldn’t have found a better way to land in my favorite Asian city.


Where to Stay in Bangkok

Essential Info: Rates at the Amari Watergate Bangkok start at 2,635 baht ($73). Executive suites start at 8,325 baht ($229). While these are luxury rates, this is very good value for money, both in Bangkok and throughout the world.

You can find other hotels in Bangkok here.

I recommend taking a taxi to and from the airport, but you can also take the BTS (Skytrain) from nearby Ratchathewi Station.

I never travel anywhere without travel insurance – you never know what will happen and having travel insurance can save you thousands in the event of an emergency. I use and recommend World Nomads.

Many thanks to the Amari Watergate Bangkok for providing me with a complimentary three-night stay, including breakfast and a massage. All opinions, as always, are my own.

What’s your favorite way to arrive in a new city?

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59 thoughts on “How to Arrive in Bangkok”

  1. I love this post! Ever since my year teaching in Thailand, Bangkok has ranked as one of my favorite cities in the world. It bums me out so much whenever I meet backpackers who dislike it — and frankly, they seem to be in the majority. You’re exactly right when you say it’s beautifully chatoic. I could spend years exploring this place and never get bored!

    1. My daughters going to Thailand in May and I’m helping research and we love your website. The only thing I found difficult was finding articles again. It could be my fault but one page gave details of where to stay in Bangkok at the Yard and can’t find that page again. We like Wild orchid villa that you stay at and also good that you say opposite to most about Bankok and not to get out straightaway. Think you give best advice for single female travellers- thanks

  2. Great post! As a frequent traveler to Asia, I am always looking for ways to reduce jet lag. Your tips are much appreciated!

  3. I love this! I have to be honest, I NEVER wanted to go to Asia (I am a Europhile forever), but it’s -15C in Moscow for the 3rd week, and it’s been a hell of a work year, so I actually just want to lay by the pool with a cocktail (which I NEVER do when I travel), and Thailand doesnt have a visa requirement for Russians!
    I am now thinking of heading over there for a week in March – I used your “best beaches” post as my guide and now and really really strongly considering your 3rd pick – plus a few days in Bangkok! This post couldnt have come at a better time, literally!

  4. This is perfect – I’m flying into BKK at the end of the month, and though I’ve been once before, I felt like I did my arrival all wrong as well. I’m all about that melatonin too.

  5. I’ve never had a big desire to go to Asia. I mean, I know I’ll go eventually but it isn’t a ‘must’ for me at the moment. But then I read your blog and it makes me want to go! You inspire me, Kate. I love reading about your adventures. I’m going to Ireland in September but who knows, maybe Bangkok will end up being the trip after that.

  6. ah! wish I had read this before landing in bangkok a few years ago! We landed late at night, managed to go to bed at around 1 AM, exhausted, but still woke up around 6 am. The next day, after a bit of sightseeing, we took a nap. BAD idea. Of course, we woke up at midnight, disoriented, wondering if this was the morning or the night. Not very pleasant.

    One thing I LOVED about the first hotel we booked in Bangkok was the pool. It can get really hot in Bangkok and it reaaallly helped us to have a pool to cool us down 🙂

    Love the hotel (and executive suite!) you presented, might look into that for next time 🙂

  7. Excellent tips! I always snag a room with a good bathtub on the first night- the one in the picture is perfect ? Also getting a water with lemon juice to fight off any chance of sickness.

  8. Such a great post, I only wish I’d read it before my first trip to Bangkok! I got so confused trying to book hotels at the last minute that I ended up booking a night for the date before I actually arrived (it was my first long haul trip and maths was never my strong point). Loved the place though, especially Jim Thompson’s House and the Chatuchak market, hope to go back one day! Rach x

  9. I was just commenting on another blog that sometimes I feel like I’ve been travelling on a different planet to other people- I love Bangkok and I just can’t understand why so many people seem to hate it. There are so many cool areas to explore there!

  10. Nice post Kate, I left Bangkok yesterday, what a shame I didn’t get your tips whilst there, because I would have definitely tried SF World Cinema. Next time, because there will be a next time! I hadn’t been to Bangkok in a number of years and I was blown away by how much the city has changed, for the better, without loosing its character! The air felt so much cleaner and the Skytrain makes getting around so much easier. I agree with you, Bangkok should not be skipped, it deserves a few days, even a week. The Amari Watergate looks like a great choice, though I found a lovely boutique hotel, Focal Local, that stole my heart 🙂

  11. Actually jet lag is nothing bad. It doesn’t really matter if you sleep late and wake up late from European or US time zone because there are also so much to see at night in Bangkok. Also there is no point of waking up early when Malls and shopping center don’t open until 11 am. Also don’t need to fight the traffic with those going to work. My opinion.

  12. These are great tips! Entering a new foreign city for the first time can be crazy overwhelming, but I really like your emphasis on taking care of yourself rather than just diving in on day one.

  13. Getting on the local schedule as soon as possible is great advice. I’ve never tried melatonin before – I’ll have to check that out.

    I’ve found that going to a movie the first day is a great way to chill out, avoid the heat and stay awake during the day. That first day can be rough!

  14. This article made me even more excited about going to Bangkok this year. I’m really looking forward to it and I definitely won’t be listening to people who says just to skip Bangkok. No way.
    Great tip on the Melatonin – I use it myself. Definitely helps with my sleeping!

  15. I’m 1000% with you on taking a taxi. That’s my rule everywhere. Take a taxi from the airport. Period. Sometimes people I travel with disagree but I get really cranky if I’ve just gotten off a flight, I’m not sure where I am, and I have my bags with me. I don’t care how much it costs, I always take the taxi. I’ve even paid for portions of a taxi for friends because I refuse to take public transit when I first arrive someplace.

  16. Some great tips here Kate, I`m always surprised when fellow travellers say that they don`t like Bangkok. I absolutely love the chaos and the atmosphere!
    I would recommend getting a taxi from the airport and opting to take tolls, the traffic can be terrible in Bangkok and It`s the best way to avoid traffic jams!

  17. My first visit to Bangkok was also my visit to Asia. Ever.

    It’s fair to say Bangkok can be pretty overwhelming at first, it is such an attack on the senses. Everything is new and different, and insanely busy.

    I think once you get to know the real Bangkok and get out of Koh San Road it is a completely different experience.

  18. Nice post ! A friend told me recently that no matter what time you land, going back to eating at “proper” times of the day helps a lot with jetlag ! Didn’t have the opportunity to experience it for myself yet but why not.

  19. some great tips – and my god the amari looks decadent!

    I think it’s great advice to book a nice hotel for when you arrive in any new country, particularly after a long flight. In Bangkok you can still get really nice places for $50. great post Kate!

  20. Hi Kate!
    What times of the year have yu visited Thailand? I am a teacher from California so Thailand is a long way and I only have summer or Christmas break with enough time off to go. I was planning to go last Christmas, but it’s so difficult to book flights over the holidays. Any suggestions? Have you been during the rainy season of june-august? Would you recommend or not recommend going then? Thanks!

  21. Great post! Bangkok is my favourite city in the world. I agree with all of your tips, and think that this is a city everyone should visit in their lifetime. Totally agree about your thoughts re: massage, taxis, hotels. Can’t wait to go back! Thanks for sharing.

  22. Thanks so much for the tips! EVERY single thing I have read about how to adjust to the time difference discusses arriving during daytime, but I’ll be arriving in the middle of the night and with a fifteen hour time difference. So this was great!

  23. Good and useful advice, well except the one suggesting to print out a google map copy. I mean it’s not reallya big mistake, just useless, as there is probably not a single cab driver in the city of angels who is able to read maps

  24. I was in BK in 2014 and it took me almost 4 days to accustom to the sleep hours. Couldn’t sleep during the day, too many sites to see. I would sleep about 4 hours a night. But there is plenty of nightlife if you’re careful and plan.

  25. I really enjoyed reading this! I’m heading to South East Asia for the first time in October, I’m staying for 4 months (travelling through Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia solo, ahhh!). I fly to Bangkok and was planning to stay maybe 4 nights, I was going to stay in a hostel but I think I’ll treat my self to something slightly comfier for those first few days! Great advice!

  26. I LOVE this post!! I am actually going on my first ever backpacking trip to Thailand this summer and will be blogging about the entire trip! I can’t wait and this read has gotten me even more excited! Thank you for great content and advice, most of which will deffo come in handy for me! Looking forward to exploring the rest of your posts now…

  27. Hello,
    I will stay in Bangkok one week. Is it possible to visit ALL the temples and interesting places alone I mean by myself or should I pay for a tour??
    Any nice hotel to stay near of all the temples??? But not so expensive please ..Thanks

  28. Thank you so much for publishing this post, Kate! I’m going to to Asia for the first time in November and am arriving in Bangkok a few days ahead of my tour group. I’m a little nervous because of the language barrier, but your advice looks like it will be super helpful!

  29. This is so what I needed to read! I’m headed to Bangkok in April and was looking for practical and informative advice. Thanks so much for sharing as you made my life so much easier.

  30. Hi Kate! I am a recent college grad and designer who is excited to start a solo backpacking journey, first stop bangkok! I have never travelled outside of the US before, and am not sure how much money I should take out at the atm upon arrival? what would you suggest?

    1. Depends whether your bank charges you per transaction. I use Charles Schwab, which refunds all ATM fees, so I have the luxury of being able to withdraw for free whenever I want. Usually I would start with around $200 or so. That would be about 6000 baht.

  31. Hello, my husband and I are planning Cambodia and Thailand trip for the first time. We don’t have tickets yet and can choose November or December. I heard that there is a lantern festival that’s must see in the beginning of November, but with the comment about it being mixed weather – do you think it’s better to book in December for better weather on our first trip? Also i”m wondering if you can suggest a tentative itinerary for 2 weeks. I was thinking some place in cambodia (didn’t research yet) for a few days and then bangkok, beaches, chiang mai, chiang rai – although seems all over the map. or do you think we should just stick to 1 country?
    Thank you so much! Awesome blog, learning a lot!

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