Updated September, 2013
- Bangkok Hotels – My Favorites
- The Best Luxury Hotels
- The Best Boutique Hotels
- The Best Mid-range Hotels
- The Best Budget Hotels and Hostels
- The Best Hotels Near the Airport
- Hotels with Swimming Pools
- Renting an Apartment
- Airlines That Fly to Bangkok
- Suvarnabhumi Airport Transportation
- Don Muang Airport Transportation
- Buying Train Tickets
- Geting Around Bangkok
- Recommended Bangkok Taxis
- Renting a Car
- The Neighborhoods of Bangkok
- Best Time to Visit
- Best Attractions
- Best Markets
- Best Shopping Malls
- The Best Hotels for Shopping
- Bangkok With Kids
- The Best Hotels for Families
- Best Beaches Near Bangkok
- Best Day Trips
- Best Restaurants
- Best Cooking Schools
- Best Tours
- Hospitals in Bangkok
- Koh Samui Hotels – My Favorites
- Luxury Hotels
- Mid-range Hotels
- Budget Hotels
- The Best Hotels for Families
- Best Beaches on Koh Samui
- Where to Stay
- Best Time to Visit
- Getting to Koh Samui
- Flights to Koh Samui
- Train to Koh Samui
- Bus to Koh Samui
- Booking Hotels
- Advanced Booking
- Websites & Resources
- Getting Around the Island
- Hospitals on Koh Samui
- Dates for Full Moon Party
- Tips from Other Travelers
Thailand – General Advice
- The Best Beaches in Thailand
- Tripadvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards
- Getting Around
- Traveling by Train in Thailand
- Best Time to Visit to Thailand
- Thailand with Kids
- Visa and Passport Requirements for Thailand
- Costs and Budget
- Saving Money
- Recommended Vaccinations for Thailand
- Safe Drinking Water
- Travel Insurance
- Booking Hotels
Q. Bangkok Hotels – What do you recommend?
Best Luxury Hotel
Best Boutique Hotel
Best Hotel for Shopping
Best Family Hotel
Best Budget Hotel
Q. What are the best luxury hotels in Bangkok?
Bangkok is blessed with great luxury hotels – and at incredibly affordable rates compared with the five star hotels in Europe and North America. Bangkok is a great place to splurge on a 5 star hotel.
- Mandarin Oriental – Bangkok’s most famous hotel with a storied history dating to 1876. The most formal and classy of any hotel in Bangkok. The hotel has a wonderful spa and several gourmet restaurants with Le Normandie considered the best French restaurant in Bangkok.
- Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok – A fantastic pool area, large and beautiful rooms, and exemplary service. Bangkok’s best shopping malls (Central World, Siam Paragon, MBK) are within easy walking distance and Ratchadamri Skytrain station is steps away. The hotel features 2 top notch restaurants (Shintaro and Biscotti) and the city’s best Sunday brunch.
- lebua at State Tower – Home to some of the largest rooms (2 or 3 bedroom suites), best restaurants, and best views of any hotel in Bangkok. Great pool, sauna, health club, and service, as well as a central location.
- Anantara Riverside Spa & Resort Bangkok (formerly the Marriott) – The most family-friendly of the luxury hotels. Stunning grounds (the best in Bangkok) make it an oasis of calm just outside the city. An amazing swimming pool is one of many recreation options. There’s a free shuttle boat across the river to a Sky Train station. There’s also great dining at your choice of 10 restaurants and bars.
- Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit – Great location in the heart of Sukhumvit with covered overpass to the Asok Sky Train station. Professional amenities make it very popular with business travelers. The swimming pool has a jungle landscape that feels miles away from Bangkok. There’s nightly jazz at the Living Room bar.
- The Sukhothai Bangkok – A superb hotel, with good service and a large and relaxing pool area. It’s a little dated but great deals online put it in the “budget five star” category.
Q. What are the best boutique hotels in Bangkok?
Bangkok has some wonderful boutique hotels. These are 3 of the most charming.
Q. What are the best mid-range hotels in Bangkok?
Q. What are the best budget hotels and hostels in Bangkok?
These are all good value and good quality budget hotels. For more info on budget hotels in Bangkok go to cheapzebra.com/Bangkok.
Q. What are the best hotels near the airport?
Q. What hotels in Bangkok have swimming pools?
Most mid-range and luxury hotels in Bangkok have pools. For recommendedations read the best hotel pools in Bangkok.
Q. How can I rent an apartment in Bangkok?
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If you’re staying in Bangkok for longer than a week then a apartment can be an easy and convenient way to save money. AirBnB.com/Bangkok and VRBO.com/Bangkok are good places to start a general search for rentals.
Three great hotels with apartment-style rentals that have kitchenettes, cookware, and laundry.
Q. What airlines fly to Bangkok?
For flights around Southeast Asia and between cities within Thailand the following budget airlines offer the best fares.
- Air Asia (route map) — Asia’s biggest budget airline and my favorite for getting around SE Asia on a budget. Destinations include cities in: Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, Taiwan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Indonesia, Australia, China, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and London, England.
- Nok Air (route map) — Flights to many destinations within Thailand including Phuket, Surat Thani, Pai, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Udon Thani, Sakhon Nakhon, Buri Ram, Khon Kaen and Mae Hong Son.
- IndiGo (route map) — Flights from Bangkok to Delhi and Kolkata. Also flights between Singapore and Chennai.
- Cebu Pacific (route map) — Based in Manilla with flights within the Philippines and from Manilla and Clark to Bangkok.
- Tiger Airways (route map) — Flights from Bangkok to Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, and Clark, Philippines. Also flights from Krabi and Phuket to Kuala Lumpur.
- Orient Thai Airlines (route map) — Flights from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Phuket, Pai, Hong Kong, Guangzhou.
- Bangkok Airways (route map) — Flights from Bangkok to Koh Samui, Krabi, Phuket, Pattaya, Lampang, Sukhothai, Chiang Mai, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Rangoon, Singapore, Dhaka, Mumbai, Bangalore, the Maldives, Abu dhabi, Muscat, and Hong Kong.
- Jin Air — Flights between Seoul and Bangkok.
- SEAIR — Flights between Bangkok and Manilla.
Q. How do I get to and from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport?
Suvarnabhumi International Airport is 25km east of the city and well connected to downtown Bangkok and other nearby towns and beach resorts.
- Airport Rail Link – The Airport Rail Link is the cheapest and (when traffic is bad) can be the fastest way into Bangkok. You buy tickets and board the train in the basement of the airport. The Rail Link (express service) costs 150 baht and takes 15 minutes to central Bangkok. It stops at Makkasan station (transfer to the metro blue line Phetchaburi station) and Phaya Thai station (transfer to the BTS Skytrain station Phaya Thai). The slower city link (commuter service) costs 15 to 45 baht and takes 35 minutes into the city. It stops at 8 stations along the route including both Makkasan and Phaya Thai. Both lines run from 6am to 11:55pm.
- Taxi – Metered taxis are the easiest way to Bangkok. Once you clear customs and immigration, walk downstairs to the first level and you will see a taxi line outside. (Ignore anyone inside the airport that’s offering you a taxi.) Tell the clerk at the taxi desk your destination and the clerk will assign you to the next available taxi driver. Trips into the city cost between 250-400 baht, depending on your location. However, you must pay an additional 50 baht meter fare plus tolls. It’s nice to have small change to pay the tolls but if you don’t the taxi driver will pay and then add the charge to your fare. The expressway toll costs 70 baht and any other highway tolls cost between 25 and 45 baht. The ride takes between 45-75 minutes depending on traffic and location.
- Bus – Express buses no longer run from the airport to the city. There is a shuttle that runs to a bus station 3km’s from the airport with service to the city from there, but there’s little need and buses aren’t any cheaper than the rail link.
- To Hua Hin – Buses to Hua Hin from Suvarnabhumi Airport take 3 hours and cost 305 baht (schedule here). Buses arrive and depart from the Hua Hin bus station at soi 96 and from level 1, gate 8 of Suvarnabhumi Airport (down the escalators from arrivals). For hired cars Oriental Escape are reliable and offer luxury sedans, suv’s, and large vans (can fit up to 12 passengers) for between B2,700 and B3,900. There are touts in the airport that you can bargain down to about B1,500 but these people are not licensed so you’re opening yourself up to scams – or worse. A taxi to Hua Hin from the airport will run around B2,000. From Hua Hin to the airport by taxi should be about B1,200.
- To Pattaya – Buses to Pattaya from Suvarnabhumi Airport take 2 hours and cost 250 baht (schedule here). Buses arrive and depart from the Pattaya Bus Station on North Pattaya Road and from level 1, gate 8 of Suvarnabhumi Airport (down the escalators from arrivals). For hired cars Oriental Escape offer luxury sedans, suv’s, and large vans (can fit up to 12 passengers) for between B2,000 and B2,700. Walking out the door of the airport and getting a taxi will cost about B1,500. From Pattaya back to the airport it will be closer to B800.
Q. How do I get to and from Don Muang Airport?
Don Muang Airport is 25km north of Bangkok. It serves all flights for the budget airlines Air Asia, Nok Air, and One-Two-Go.
- Taxi – Get a metered, licensed taxis from the taxi desk outside arrivals. Ignore touts and limousine drivers who approach you inside the airport. Taxis will cost 300 to 400 baht including the tolls and the B50 airport fee.
- Skytrain and taxi – A little cheaper (and if traffic is bad also quicker) than taking a taxi the entire route is to take a taxi from the airport to Mo Chit Skytrain station on the Sukhumvit line – then Skytrain into the city. It works fine going to the airport as well.
- Rail – There is a train station a 15 minute walk (across an overpass) from the airport. Follow signs for Rail or the Amari Hotel. There are regular, though erratic, trains from here to Hualamphong Station in Bangkok and to cities of northern Thailand. Travel time to Hualamphong is about an hour.
- To Suvarnabhumi Airport – There is a free shuttle bus between Suvarnabhumi Airport and Don Muang for travelers with onward ticket. Show your boarding pass or ticket to dispatcher at level 2, door 3.
- To Hua Hin – A taxi from Don Muang to Hua Hin B2,500. A hired car from Don Muang to Hua Hin with Oriental Escape will be about B3,000 to B4,000.
- To Pattaya – A taxi from Don Muang to Pattaya will run about B1,700. hired car from Don Muang to Hua Hin with Oriental Escape will be about B2,200 to B3,000. Or you can take a taxi to Morchit Bus Station, costs about 100 baht, and then a bus to Pattaya for about 140 baht (schedule here).
Q. How do I buy train tickets in Bangkok?
Bangkok’s main train station is Hualamphong Station. The ticket office is located on the main concourse and is well-organized. A TV screen is stationed above each window to indicate what tickets each window sells. It’s usually possible to get a seat on the day before or even the day of travel. But trains do get fully booked during peak Thai holiday periods and the December and January high season so if you’re on a tight schedule then you should book in advance
Ticket windows 15-22 are open for advance ticket sales while the other windows are for travel in the same day. All long-distance express trains require a reservation. It can be made on the day of travel or up to 60 days in advance. Local trains to Ayutthaya and Kanchanaburi don’t require a reservation. You can book with the State Railways of Thailand by emailing them at least 15 days in advance but be patient.
There are three different classes on Thai trains. 1st class is an air-conditioned sleeping-car. 2nd class has seats and sleeper cars available, but no air-con. 3rd class has seats only and only enjoyable for shorter trips.
Q. How do I get around Bangkok?
Image credit: Wikitravel
- The Skytrain operates from 6:00am to midnight daily. There’s not a schedule but the Skytrain frequency is less than 5 minutes during peak hours (06.00 – 09.00 am. and 04.30 – 07.30 pm) and less than 10 minutes during off-peak hours. The ticket fare costs between 22 baht and 55 baht per person depending on the distance. Tickets are dispensed from ticket vending machines at all stations (most of which require change). Alternatively, ticket booths are staffed during operating hours if you need to talk to a person (they’ll usually speak some english) or need change for the vending machines. Both the ticket machines and booths can have long lineups. If you’re in Bangkok for longer than a few days you should buy a rabbit card which is a magnetic card with stored value. It’s main advantage is that it allows you to bypass the queues at the vending machines and ticket booths. It costs 300 Baht, which includes 150 Baht issuing fee, 50 baht deposit and 100 Baht stored value for spending. As you use the stored value on the card you’ll need to top it up at a ticket booth. The deposit and any unused value is refundable if you return the card to a BTS station.The track and stations are elevated above ground and all stations feature lifts and ramps for disabled passengers. Doors on the trains open and close automatically and a beeping sound warns passengers when the doors are about to close. All signs and announcements are in English and Thai. The only drawback to the Skytrain is that it doesn’t go anywhere near the airport, railway station, or Khao San Road area.
- The Bangkok bus system is intense and intimidating for newcomers. It has 108 lines and is complicated to take as a foreigner – but it is also the cheapest transportation in Bangkok. There isn’t a set bus map, drivers rarely speak English, and the stops aren’t clearly marked. If one can figure out the bus system, fares will range from 7 baht to 24 baht. Most buses run from 5am to 11pm. The night bus charges an extra 15 baht.
- The MRT/Subway mainly covers the suburbs and isn’t as useful for tourists unless they’re going to the train station (which isn’t served by the BTS). The subway uses tokens or stored value cards but these do not work on the BTS. There are interchange stations at Silom and at Asoke which connect with the BTS.
Q. Can you recommend a taxi driver for Bangkok?
- Tip: Have the phone number of wherever you’re heading. Every taxi driver in Bangkok has a cell phone and will call the restaurant, museum, hotel that you’re heading to get directions. Having the address is, ironically, not as helpful as even taxi drivers have trouble with Bangkok’s chaotic address system – especially if it’s written in english.
- Pradit is a trustworthy taxi driver who (along with his brother) has several taxis including a large van-style taxi that is good for families and groups. His phone number is 082-679-9807. He speaks good english and will act as a makeshift tour guide taking you about to the top tourist sites.
- Taxis should use the meter for short trips. If you’re hiring a taxi for the day negotiate a price before starting out. Don’t pay more than 2000baht for a full day of sightseeing. A taxi from Bangkok to Ayuthaya is about 800 to 1000baht. A taxi from Bangkok to Pattaya runs about 1000 to 1500baht.
- For taxis from the airport don’t bother pre-arranging. Go downstairs one level from arrivals and join the queue for taxis into Bangkok. There will be van-style taxis available for large groups.
- There are tuk tuks all over the place in Bangkok so I can’t see why you’d need to phone one. But if you did, Mr Bus is good. He has a large tuk tuk (it has an extra seat) that should fit 4 adults. His number is 089-523-3829.
Q. Where and how do I rent a car?
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But unless you really know what you’re doing you’re much better off hiring a car and driver. Oriental Escape is a reliable company with service to pretty much everywhere.
Q. What neighborhood of Bangkok should I stay in?
An overview of the Bangkok’s most popular and interesting neighborhoods for travelers.
- Siam Square
Siam Square is a shopping mecca, full of luxury shopping centers and bargain department stores, designer labels and trendy fashion boutiques. The small sois of Siam Square are alive with record stores, bookstores, cafes, and bars. Siam Square has by far the best shopping in Bangkok and is full of amenities, like cinemas, massage parlors, and salons. Siam Square is busy and safe at all hours. Neighborhood Attractions: MBK shopping center, Siam Center, Siam Discovery, Siam Paragon, Cenrtral World, APEX, Siam Vintage, Tokyu, ZEN.
If you want luxury hotels, top notch restaurants, and lively nightlife, Sukhumvit is the place to go. This is where many expats live and where tourists can find the top facilities in Bangkok. Many cosmopolitan clubs, and restaurants line Sukhumvit while calm and atmospheric cafes are hidden in the sois leading off the main street. The Skytrain runs the length of Sukhumvit making it easy to explore. Also, Sukhumvit is famous for two red-light districts, Nana Plaza on Soi 4 and Soi Cowboy, just off Soi 23. Prostitutes on the streets are a common sight and someone may be put off by the blatant sex industry. Neighborhood Attractions: Benjasiri Park, Khlong Saen Saeb, Soi Arab, WTF Gallery and Café, Cheap Charlie’s.
Silom is Bangkok’s Wall Street (through the day). After nightfall, the people and environment changes considerably. The skyline is lined with skyscrapers boasting the names of local and international financial institutions, law firms, and corporations. The small sois between Silom Road and Surawong Road become alive with people, street life, sidewalk stalls, and street food vendors. Tourist and locals come here to see the infamous Patpong red-light district. It’s filled with go-go bars and brothels. Luxury hotels are found along nearby Sathorn street. Neighborhood Attractions: Bangkokian Museum, Indian Hut, Daimasu Izakaya, Patpong Night Market, Sky Bar.
- Khao San/Banglamphu
Khao San Road is a 1 km stretch of shops, bars, restaurants, and street vendors and is home to the backpacker scene – though it is adding more mid-range hotels and boutiques every year. People either love it or hate it but it is well worth a visit. It’s centrally located and close to many of Bangkok’s top attractions (like the Grand Palace). If you’re arriving late at night and don’t have a hotel reservation it should be your top choice as the neighborhood stays up late and is easy to traverse on foot. The nearby sois are are offbeat arty areas that surprisingly retain a genuine Thai feel. The Skytrain and Metro don’t connect to the Khao San area, so you’ll be dependent on buses, taxis, and tuk tuks to get in and out of the area. However, amenities like ATMs, money exchanges, and internet shops are plentiful. Cheap accommodation and food is a big perk of staying here. Neighborhood Attractions: Soi Rambuttri, Baghdad Café, Gecko Bar, Mr. Yim’s, Wat Pho, Wat Arun, Poutine sans Frontieres, Santichai Public Park.
Chinese merchants moved to east bank of the Chao Phraya River in the early 1780’s, making Chinatown the oldest neighborhood in Bangkok. The neighbored was defined by trade then and still is today. These days, Chinatown isn’t set as a tourist attraction. It is a genuine Chinese neighborhood where people work and live. The streets of Chinatown are vivid and hectic – packed full of people, market stalls, and a concentration of gold shops. The only drawback is there isn’t much nightlife or amenities aimed to the typical tourist. Neighborhood Attractions: Yaowarat Road, Wat Traimit, Saphanthawong Museum, Rut and Lek Seafood, Pak-Khlong-Market.
Rattanakosin is a historical area, bordered by the Chao Phraya and canals which served as moats for the old city. Bangkok’s most revered historical attractions are located in Rattanakosin. The area is home to a plethora of Buddhist temples, palaces, monuments, and museums. Rattanakosin is relatively small and ideal for walking to explore the area. Remember to always dress appropriately for the temples: cover your shoulders and no flip flops. Neighborhood Attractions: Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Mahathat, National Gallery, Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall.
Dusit is most famous for the Dusit Zoo and for being the political center of Thailand. The neighborhood is home to the National Parliament, The Royal Palace, and wide boulevards shaded by large trees. There isn’t too much to see in Dusit besides political institutions and international organizations. One might want to visit the traditional Thai dance performances at the Dusit Palace. 10 years ago nightlife, shopping, and accommodation were nonexistent in Dusit but things are changing and the area feels like it could be the next trendy Bangkok neighborhood. Neighborhood Attractions: National Library, Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, Vimanmek Mansion, Ancient Clock Museum, Dusit Zoo.
Thonburi comprises the entire west bank of the Chao Phraya River opposite the cities center. On this side of the river is a slower, more relaxed Bangkok that gives visitors a glimpse into traditional Thai culture. Canals make their way through the relatively isolated neighborhoods. Vendors sell noodles from old Thai long tail boats and locals prefer to bicycle through the sois. The most popular tourist activity is to hire a long tail boat and explore the waterways and floating markets. The Skytrain only reaches to the Southern Khlong San area, so most of the transport in Thonburi comes from tuk-tuks or boats. Neighborhood Attractions: Khlong Bang Luang Artist Village, Taling Chan Floating Market, Princess Mother Memorial Park, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre, Wang Lang Market, Arun Ammarin Road.
Q. When is the best time to visit Bangkok?
November to February offers the best weather – though book hotels well in advance if you’re visiting during the tourist peak of mid-December to mid-January. From March to May is the hot season when the city really bakes. The wet season comes from late May until October, when Bangkok skies are overcast for large parts of the day and there can be extensive flooding.
Q. What are the best attractions in Bangkok?
Bangkok is a traveler’s paradise. Bangkokians love “sanuk” (fun), and when any of the following top attractions are mentioned in front of them, they will immediately break into a big grin and say, “sanuk maak!” (lot of fun!)
Like most Asian countries, Thailand has 2 prices for entry fees to popular tourist spots. Local Thais have to pay very low entry charges, while non-Thais are charged more – sometimes 10 times the Thai entry fee.
When visiting the Grand Palace or any of the Wats (temples), tourists must remember that tank tops, shorts, mini-skirts, sandals and flip-flops (without socks) are frowned upon at sacred sites. Most famous tourist spots do provide clothes to cover up (on paying a deposit) at the entrance, but it is best to keep this in mind before visiting such places to avoid any undue embarrassment.
Time: Daily 9am to 6:30pm
Getting there: Private taxi or rented car
Situated about a 45-minute drive from Bangkok city, Safari World is Thailand’s famous open zoo and leisure park. You have to drive among the animals in a jungle-setting, before parking the car and entering the park on foot. Highlights of the park include the Dolphin Show, Sea Lion Show, Orangutan Boxing Show, Bird Show, and the Jungle Cruise.
All shows have fixed times, so grab a map, note the timings, and plan the your route through the park accordingly. Arrive at each show about 15-20 minutes before it starts to get the best seats in the house. Nothing beats sitting right in the first few rows of the Dolphin Show when they do a somersault and drench you in cold water on a hot, baking day!
Time: Daily 10am to 5pm (7pm on National Holidays)
Getting there: Private taxi or tour package.
Bus: 188 (from Mo-Chit), 538 (from Victory Monument)
This is a super kid-friendly attraction. Best time to arrive is in the morning when it opens so you can enjoy the outdoor rides before the sun makes them unbearably hot.
Check the various show times within the park, and plan the day accordingly. Snow World can be done in the afternoon, when the outside temperature is over 100F, and inside it is freezing cold. Go-karting is next to Snow World.
Many hotels and tour operators have packages that include pick-up and drop-off, entrance tickets, and lunch. It is best to call up different tour operators and compare rates to get a good deal.
Time: Daily 8am to 5:30pm
Bus: 19, 57
Ferry: Chao Phraya Express Boat Company (daily pass THB 75)
The temple is famous for its Khmer-style prang (central tower/spire), surrounded by 4 smaller prangs on every corner, each decorated with sea shells and bits of porcelain and glass.
Best enjoyed with a local guide, as the history behind the temple is long and very interesting. It looks stunning at night when it’s beautifully lit. Don’t miss walking to the riverfront and looking at the majestically lit Grand Palace and War Phra Kaew either.
Time: Daily 8:30am to 3:30pm
Bus: 1, 2, 6, 9, 25, 32, 43, 44, 47, 53, 82, 91, 123, 508
Ferry: Chao Phraya Express Boat Company (daily pass THB 75)
While the current King Bhumibol resides at another Palace, the Grand Palace is still used for official functions and celebrations. It is the most popular tourist attraction in Bangkok, and thousands of locals and foreigners visit it round the year. The Grand Palace also houses the world-famous Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew). Photography is not allowed inside the temple, but taking pictures from the courtyard is permitted.
Pa Sak Dam + Sunflower Fields
Time: Daily 7:30am to 6pm
Getting there: Hired car or tour bus with guide is highly recommended.
Bus: 33B (from Lopburi to Wang Moung)
Pa Sak Cholasit (or Jolasid) Dam is situated about 140km outside of Bangkok, or about a 2-hour drive away. It is a very scenic and popular picnic spot. It’s very popular with Thai tourists but not so much with Westerners so if you want to get off the beaten tourist track this is a good outing. The best time to visit this dam is between November and January, when hundreds of sunflower fields along the highway to the dam are in full bloom. Most fields have guided tractor tours and sunflower themed souvenirs, which make for a camera-friendly outing for the family. The Pa Sak dam itself has a tram that takes tourists from one end of the dam to the other and back.
Time: Daily 8am to 5pm
Bus: 1, 2, 6, 9, 25, 32, 43, 44, 47, 53, 82, 91, 123, 508
Ferry: Chao Phraya Express Boat Company (daily pass THB 75)
Opposite the street from the Grand Palace, Wat Pho is the largest temple in Bangkok famous for its 46m long reclining (sleeping) Buddha covered in 24K gold leaf. English-speaking guides are available on-site, as are invigorating traditional Thai massages.
The temple architecture, murals, 108 bronze bowls, and 150 depictions of the “Glory of Rama” (based on the Hindu epic “Ramayana”) are worth a close inspection.
Siam Ocean World (Basement of Siam Paragon)
Time: Daily 10am to 9pm
A short walk from famous malls like MBK, Central Chitlom, Siam Discovery and Emporium, all situated in a straight line on Sukhumvit road.
BTS: Take Exit 5 from Siam Station straight into Siam Paragon Mall.
Bus: 15, 16, 25, 40, 48, 54, 73, 159, 183, 204, 501, 508
One of Asia’s largest aquariums, and Asia’s largest panoramic oceanarium. Tickets are expensive, but Siam Ocean World is one of the more kid-friendly attractions in central Bangkok. The petting pool and swimming with the sharks are popular attractions. It also hosts Thailand’s first 4D theater called Sanyo 4D-Xventure for a unique marine experience. One of Bangkok’s best malls is just up the escalators.
Time: Daily 9am to 5pm
BTS: National Stadium Station (Take Exit 1 and walk down Soi Kasemsan 2. The Museum will be on your left at the end of the street.)
MRT: Sam Yan Station (Take Exit toward Phaya Thai Road, and hail a cab. The museum is a 5-minute taxi ride down Phaya Thai Road.)
Bus: 11, 15, 47, 48, 73, 204, 508 (Get down at Suppha Chalasai Stadium, turn right onto Soi Kasemsan 2, and the museum will be on the left at the end of the street.)
The house is a fascinating compound comprising of 6 traditional teak houses, each containing his exquisite collection of Asian objets d’art. There is a museum, art center, souvenir shop, restaurant, café, and a banquet hall within the complex. It is a great place to visit if you want to step away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Time: Daily 9am to 4pm
BTS: Phaya Thai Station (Take Exit 4 onto Sri Ayuthaya Road and walk for 5 minutes.)
Bus: 14, 17, 38, 72, 74, 77, 159, 164, 183, 204, 513, 536, 537, 547 (Sri Ayuthaya School stop)
Suan Pakkad Palace Museum is usually covered under a half-day tour along with Jim Thompson’s house. A 5-minute drive separates the two. The complex houses 8 traditional Thai houses amidst a serene garden dotted with ponds. The houses are filled with fine arts and antiques belonging to Prince and Princess Chumbhot, as well as prehistoric antiquities, oddities, fossils and minerals.
Time: Wednesday to Sunday, 9am to 4pm
Bus: 6, 15, 32, 33, 43, 53, 82, 503 (Tha Rot Sai Sanamluang stop)
Ferry: Chao Phraya Express Boat Company (daily pass THB 75)
This is the main branch of the National Museums, and houses the largest collection of Thai art and artifacts in the country. Volunteers give free English tours, while German (Thursdays), French and Japanese (Wednesdays) tours are also given. It is a must visit for anyone interested in Thai history and culture as it has an amazing collection of paintings, Chinese war weapons, treasures, coins, masks, puppets, cutlery, clothes, among other things. Can be combined in a guided day tour with Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Pho, and Wat Arun.
Time: Visit through the day, best to start early in the morning.
Bus: Buses leave every half hour from near Mo-Chit BTS Station. Mini-buses leave from Victory Monument.
Boat: Grand Pearl Cruises offers day trips to Ayutthaya aboard large dining boats.
You can visit on a tour-bus with an English-speaking guide or grab a taxi or bus and arrange the day for yourself. The city is a historical paradise, with many temples, historical gardens, and the majestic palace ruins. You can visit the temples with one of the local tuk-tuks after bargaining with the driver for a full-day price, or you can walk to most of the temples (though be warned if you’re visiting during the mid-day heat). There are many local boats that do tours around the river and canals that surround Ayutthaya.
Q. What are the best markets in Bangkok?
Chatuchak Weekend Market
Time: Saturdays and Sundays 9am to 6pm
BTS: Mo Chit Station (Exit 1)
MRT: Kamphaeng Phet (Exit 1), Chatuchak Park (Exit 1)
Bus: 36 (from Sukhumvit) / 524 (from Si Lom)
Chatuchak is Thailand’s biggest market, and Asia’s largest weekend market. In its tiny lanes (sois) you can find a dizzying array of items like clothes, accessories, knick-knacks, household items, decorative items, antiques (real and fake), Thai handicrafts, and live animals (including endangered species).The best time to visit the market is 9am, when it opens, as the musty sois get hot, muggy, and crowded in the afternoon. The majority of shops will not accept credit cards, so keep cash handy. Bottled water, backpacks/foldable carry bags, and comfortable walking shoes are a must, as is keeping an eye out for pickpockets. There are small oases throughout the market that serve chilled soft drinks and beer, light snacks, ice-cream, and piping hot Thai food. The clock tower in the center of the market makes a good landmark and meeting place if you get separated from your friends. In 2008, a blanket smoking ban was enforced on the entire market, with a THB 2,000 fine for offenders.
Phat Pong Night Market – Silom
Time: Everyday 6pm to 1am
BTS: Sala Daeng Station (Exit 1. 2nd lane on your right called Thanon Phat Pong.)
MRT: Si Lom (Take the Si Lom exit, follow the overhead BTS tracks and cross the road. Thanon Phat Pong will be a small lane chock-full of tourists, after the Burger King.)
Bus: 4, 45, 46, 47, 109, 524
The best time to visit Phat Pong is after 9pm. It is world-famous (or infamous) as Bangkok’s red light district with its numerous “Go-Go Bars”, “Ladyboy” shows, strip clubs, and pornographic and pirated DVD-vendors. It has recently cleaned up its act to some extent, but visitors are still bombarded with skimpily clad ladyboys screaming, “Can you help me?” and touts waving pictures of naked women in your face, all the while asking you, “Sex? DVD? Massage?”. If genuinely not interested in buying a product, do not haggle with a vendor, as it might lead to a tirade of the choicest words. Phat Pong is also famous for its fake goods – from Patek Philippe watches, to Mont Blanc pens, to Louis Vuitton bags. Vendors will show you catalogs of the brand you wish to buy, and when you point to a model and agree on the price, someone will scurry into some alley and come back 5 minutes later with the replica. You can also find vendors selling local Thai handicrafts, rude t-shirts, clothes, shoes, accessories, and most notably, beautiful hand-crafted soap ornaments which the vendors make on the spot.
Time: General market open 24 hours, retail stores from 10am to 9pm
BTS: Chit Lom Station (Exit 1. Walk toward Central World, take right on Phloen Chit Road, and walk straight toward the tall Baiyoke Tower – about 10 minutes.)
Bus: 140, 183, 513
Pratunam Market is arguably Bangkok’s best and cheapest retail clothes market. The logic here is simple – the more you buy, the cheaper it gets. Situated right under Thailand’s tallest building, the Baiyoke Tower II, it is a 24-hour market, though the dynamics change throughout the day. The retail shops within the market usually operate between 10am to 9pm. Apart from clothes, you can find lots of Thai souvenirs and handicrafts too. It is very common to see foreigners buying in bulk from vendors here to sell in their own countries. Buying 3 or more units of the same item constitutes bulk buying here which entitles you to ‘wholesale’ rates, and friendly bargaining is acceptable. The only rules in this market are, no trying-on, no refunds, and no exchanges. If it gets too hot, step into the Baiyoke Tower mall for air-conditioned coolness.
Khlong Toei Market
Time: Everyday 6am to 2am
MRT: Khlong Toei Station (Take the Rama IV exit, walk for 10 minutes on Rama IV till you come to the big intersection with Narong.)
Bus: 45, 46, 72, 102, 107
Khlong Toei is Bangkok’s biggest wet market. It’s a fascinating little hidden village amidst the concrete and glass jungle of the city. This is not a touristy spot, and you will not see many Westerners here. But a walk through this market, especially after 11pm, will open your eyes to how the markets work in Bangkok. You can find everything from fresh vegetables and fruits to butchers selling all kinds of meat. Many small vendors and shops buy from Khlong Toei at wholesale rates and resell the products in business and residential districts at higher prices. Be warned though, it is not the most hygienic or picturesque place to walk through. One needs a strong stomach to see the freshly butchered meat being sorted into different cuts for different customers. The smell and sight of blood can be overwhelming. If you are really adventurous, check out the vendors selling dead rats, and all sorts of roasted or grilled critters like cockroaches, bugs, scorpions, and grasshoppers.
Amphawa Floating Market
Time: Fri-Sun 12 noon to 8pm
Getting there: A taxi or tour is the best way to visit the market.
Amphawa is the second biggest floating market in Thailand after Damnoen Saduak, but is located at half the distance (50 km) from the city. Even though the market starts early in the morning, the real action begins in the afternoon. It is not as crowded or photogenic as Damnoen Saduak, but at the same time, it is a bit more authentic. One will not find Europeans buying souvenirs here, but instead see Thai tourists enjoying the day with their families and friends, hence the ‘authentic’ tag. There are private residences within the market, many of which advertise homestays. Many of the boats have pulley systems hooked up with the riverbank and use this system to send up their wares in baskets and collect the money from customers. There are innumerable Thai food options available. About 100m from the river is a temple completely engulfed by the roots of an immense banyan tree. The scene is straight out of an Indiana Jones movie.
Bangkok Flower Market (Pak Klong Talad)
Time: Open 24 hours, but more popular at night
MRT: Hua Lamphong Station (Take taxi or tuk-tuk from here).
It is Bangkok’s largest wholesale and retail flower market, located near the Memorial Bridge. You can find innumerable varieties of flowers and flora-related goods (flower pots, garlands, decorative arrangements) usually sold in packs of 50 and 100 each at very cheap prices. You need very little time to explore the market. It attracts tourists mainly due to the exotic and colorful nature of its products, which are extremely photogenic. It is best to stand back and observe if you visit during peak times like pre-dawn (4am), as vendors doing brisk business have very little patience then. Prices of products fluctuate throughout the year, depending on the demand or particular varieties during festivals and important holidays like Valentine’s Day and Songkran.
Time: Everyday 10am to 10pm
BTS: National Stadium Station (Exit 4 goes straight into MBK)
MRT: Sam Yan Station (Take the Thanon Phaya Thai exit, and catch a tuk-tuk or taxi for a short 5-minute ride to MBK.)
Bus: 15, 47, 48, 73, 204, 508
MBK is arguably Bangkok’s favorite shopping destination. It is a cross between a mall and a market, as its 8 floors of air-conditioned retail, dining and entertainment scream “mall”, while its tiny shops and over-crowded passages and alleyways make one feel like they are in a market. In MBK, you can spend an entire day without leaving – there is even a movie theater and a bowling alley on the top floor with many well-known restaurants and fast-food joints (Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, Dairy Queen). The rest of the floors are filled with thousands of vendors selling bags, shoes, accessories, clothes, handicrafts, souvenirs, perfumes, electronics, food, and even furniture and bathroom fittings. Bargaining is allowed, unless mentioned otherwise, even though prices are already very low. The hidden gem of MBK is the 4th floor, which is entirely covered in hundreds of shops, counters and kiosks selling, buying, trading, repairing, and even manufacturing mobile phones of every make and brand. It is an adventure to walk the entire floor and see the workers in action.
There are forex counters where you can exchange currency, as well as ATMs, all over the mall.
Talad Bo Bae (Bo Bae Market)
Time: Everyday 6am to 6pm
BTS: National Stadium Station (Exit onto the road and take a tuk-tuk or taxi across the canal or “klong” – about 10 minutes away.)
Bo Bae market is one of Bangkok’s oldest – and largest – wholesale clothing markets. You know you are close to Bo Bae when you see tuk-tuks stuffed with huge sacks of clothing forcing their way through traffic, almost doing wheelies. Vendors from all over the world come here to place bulk orders for clothes. The stall owners at this market even provide all the facilities to export the goods. Buying just 3 pieces of the same clothing will get you wholesale rates. Apart from branded western and traditional Thai clothing, you can also find fresh fruits and vegetables, Muslim (halal) food, and fashion/costume jewelry at very cheap rates.
Time: Everyday 10am to 9pm
BTS: Chit Lom Station (Same directions as Pratunam Market. Take a left at the junction of Pratunam onto Soi Petchaburi and walk for 5 minutes. Pantip will be on your left.) or Ratchathewi Station (Exit 4. Turn right toward Soi Petchaburi and walk for 10 minutes toward Baiyoke Tower. Pantip will be on your right). It would be best to take a taxi or tuk-tuk from either of these stations.
Bus: 113, 512
Pantip Plaza is a non-descript white building that faintly resembles a mall. Inside this building is Thailand’s biggest electronics market which sells everything from computers, laptops, accessories, electronics, cameras, software, CDs, DVDs, movies, and more at wholesale prices. The entire 5 floors are littered with small and big shops buying, selling, trading, building and dismantling computers. There are two large retail outlets here, IT City and Hardware House. You can find deals, sales, and discounts on almost everything in Pantip. The dark side of the market is that a lot of counterfeit goods and pirated software and movies are also sold, not to mention touts pulling male foreigners into corners and trying to sell them “naughty DVDs”. This is a great place to find $10-$100 bargains, but you would need to think twice before spending $700 on a laptop or camera from a shop here.
Yaowarat and Phahurat (Sampeng Market)
Time: Everyday 10am to 9pm
MRT: Hua Lamphong (It’s a 15-minute walk to Chinatown, or a 5-minute taxi-ride from here.)
Bus: 48, 204
Yaowarat (Chinatown) and Phahurat (Little India) stand side-by-side in this part of old Bangkok, with the famous Sampeng Market right in the middle. The area is famous as the textile and gold hub of Bangkok. It is one of the most exciting and chaotic parts of the city. Bright red-colored Chinese shops selling gold by the pound dot the main road as you enter Chinatown. Phahurat, on the other hand, is composed mostly of the Indian Sikh community dealing in wholesale textile imports and exports. The grand Sikh Gurudwara (place of worship) is a must-see. Sampeng Market is famous for trinkets, souvenirs, handicrafts, clothes, accessories and costume jewelry. The area is filled with roadside foodstalls selling Thai, Chinese, and Indian food, as well as fresh fruits and desserts. One dessert you shouldn’t miss is “Thap Thim”, which is basically crushed ice in a bowl, covered in sweet condensed milk, with a huge choice of toppings like coconut, water chestnuts, fresh fruits, jelly, and bean curd. It is the best refreshment during a sweltering hot shopping spree.
Q. What are the best shopping malls in Bangkok?
All of these malls have huge food courts and cinemas, and are so large they could easily fuel several hours (or several days) of shopping. The 3 malls listed below and many others are located in the Siam Square neighborhood and
- Siam Paragon – Bangkok’s luxury mall. Fashion and high end shopping with shops including Gucci, Chanel, Zara, Shanghai Tang, Giorgio Armani, Versace, Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Marc Jacobs, Emporio Armani, Hugo Boss, and Prada. Linked to the smaller malls Siam Centre and Siam Discovery. Siam Ocean World aquarium, Kidzania, and a 15 theater cineplex are great for the kids. Linked to Siam BTS station.
- MBK Center – A cross between a shopping mall and a market. Lots of small vendors good for budget items and imitation goods as well as the discount Tokyu Department Store. Linked to National Stadium BTS station.
- Central World – Stores include Isetan, Zen, Toys R Us, SuperSports (athletic equipment), PowerBuy (electronics), and H&M. For amusement there are 15 movie theaters and an ice rink with skates for rent. Linked to Siam and Chitlom BTS stations but both are a 5 minute walk in opposite directions.
Q. What are the best hotels for shopping?
All of these hotels have connected access to the Siam Square malls and a BTS station.
Q. What are the best things to do with kids in Bangkok?
Bangkok has lots to keep kids entertained and engaged. Here are the highlights. (Photos of kid-friendly attractions in Bangkok.)
- Siam Ocean World – One of Asia’s largest aquariums on the bottom floor of the Siam Paragon mall.
- Lumpini Park – A great oasis of calm and green in the center of the city. A huge playground is in the center of the park.
- Dusit Zoo – A little tired but still fun. Lots of exotic animals including a Bengal Tiger, camels, elephants, alligators, kangaroos, and a variety of monkeys.
- Safari World – A huge open air zoo and safari park about an hour outside the city. Plan for a full day outing.
- Funarium – A large indoor and air conditioned playground. Perfect for the hot season.
- Kidzania – Kids ages 4 to 14 can play act out different professions from airplane pilot to doctor. Book early to gain a spot.
- Siam Niramit – An elaborate and extravagant show with elephants, dancers, costumes, and music. Kids love it.
Q. What are the best hotels for families in Bangkok?
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For a complete guide to family hotels read Samkip.com/Bangkok.
All of the hotels below (except Phra-Nakorn Norn-Len) have nice swimming pools, large suites, and a family-friendly attitude.
- Anantara Riverside Spa & Resort Bangkok (luxury) – Across the river from central Bangkok. Great pool and relaxing vibe.
- Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok (luxury) – Centrally located and steps from Bangkok’s best shopping malls. Huge pool, great food.
- Phra-Nakorn Norn-Len Hotel (mid-range) – In a quiet neighborhood north of Khao San area. Super fun and friendly. Warm colors. (But no pool.)
- Holiday Inn Bangkok (mid-range) – Large “Kids Suite” has a separate bedroom with bunk beds and fun colorful themes. Steps from Skytrain and huge Central World mall. Wonderful pool.
- Viengtai Hotel (budget) – Just off Khao San Road. Large rooms (and one huge family suite). Great pool and small kiddie pool.
Q. What are the best beaches near Bangkok?
Bangkok is only 15 miles from the Gulf of Thailand but this stretch of coastline holds little appeal to travelers in search of a beach. To find any decent sand you’ll have to go southwest to Hua Hin and Cha-Am (3 to 4 hours by bus, train, or car), or southeast to Pattaya (1.5 hours), Jomtien (1.5 hours), or Koh Samet (4 hours).
Q. What are the best day trips from Bangkok?
- Ayutthaya – This UNESCO World Heritage site is only an hour and a half north of Bangkok by bus. Ayutthaya was the old capital of Thailand until the Burmese burned it down in 1767. Ayutthaya is also home to Wat Phra Mahathat where you can see the famous Buddha head statue with a banyan tree growing around it. After exploring the old city, be sure to eat at Chao Phrom Market. This is a local market and offers authentic Thai dishes. The cheapest way of reaching Ayutthaya is by train and it is also the most scenic. The train departs daily from Hualamphong Train Station and the trip takes about 2 and a half hours. Second class seats with air-con cost 245 baht and third class is just 15 baht. Bus is the fastest way to Ayutthaya. Head to Bangkok’s Northern Bus Terminal where buses depart every 20 minutes until 8:00pm. The First class air-con ticket is 56 baht.
- Kanchanaburi – Kanchanaburi is famous for the Bridge over the River Kwai and is also home to elephant camps, the Tiger Temple, and the waterfalls of Erawan National Park. JEATH War Museum is on the old grounds of a tiny Thai temple that’s run down, but it gives visitors a sense of how the prisoners of war lived. The Thailand-Burma Railway Museum pays homage to the prisoners of war who built the Death Railway. Buses leave the Southern Bus Terminal daily, every 15-30 minutes depending on class. The ride takes about two hours and costs between 95-110 baht.
- Amphawa Floating Market – This isn’t a floating market for tourists but for Thais. Amphawa Floating Market is located next to the river with hundreds of shops and stalls built next to the river bank. The atmosphere is relaxed and many locals come here to shop, eat, and unwind. Don’t miss the boats selling noodle dishes. From the Southern Bus Terminal take a bus to Smoot Songkhrama then switch to a bus heading for Amphawa. You must ask locals because all the buses are in Thai. The ride only takes 15 minutes and it is obvious where to stop.
- The Bat Temple – 90 minutes from Bangkok by train and the ticket is only 20 baht. Wat Pho Bang Khla has been dubbed The Bat Temple due to the thousands of fruit bats. Besides the bats, Wat Pho Bang Khla is an interesting place. It dates back to 1767 and is lined with beautiful images of the Buddha. The Bat Temple runs alongside the Bang Pakong River and through Chachoengsao city, both are lovely places for a stroll.
- Koh Kred – A tiny island in the Chao Praya River, a few miles north of Bangkok. Only a few hundred people live on the islands, who are descendents from the Mon tribe. Koh Kred is famous for its pottery, Mon Culture and architecture. The island is quite busy on the weekends, best to get there early or on a week day. Take an Express Boat (with the green flag) on the Chao Praya River, north to Pah Kret pier. The boats run between 6:15am and 8am and 3:30pm and 6pm, every 20 minutes. The boat ride takes about an hour. At the Pah Kret pier, take another ferry boat across to Koh Kred. The total ride will cost 15 baht.
Q. What are the best restaurants in Bangkok?
- Issaya – The flagship restaurant for Chef Ian Kittichai. It’s location is in a historical colonial 1920’s Thai home in the center of Bangkok. The atmosphere has amazing ambiance and serves exceptional modern Thai dishes with a twist.
- Water Library Chamchuri – Located in Chamchuri Square on Rama 4 Road, next to Chulalongkorn University, Water Library is led by German Chef, Mirco Keller. The kitchen serves a set lunch and tasty dinner menu, as well as a wine list with over 370 labels and an extensive drink list.
- Sala Rim Raam – This outstanding Thai restaurant is part of the Mandarin Oriental but located across the river from the hotel with stunning views of the Chao Praya River. The cuisine is traditional Thai dishes and every night there is a well-regarded dance performance.
- Vertigo and Moon Bar – Located 61 floors above Bangkok, atop the Banyan Tree hotel, this rooftop lounge offers some of the best views of Bangkok. It’s one of the highest bars in the Asia Pacific and a must-visit destination. Extensive drink list and contemporary dishes.
Q. What are the best cooking schools in Bangkok?
All of these schools allow you to make your own dishes (you’ll usually pick 3 or 4 from a list) and cook them from scratch (including the curry paste). You’ll eat whatever you made at the end of the class.
Q. What are the best tours in Bangkok?
- Bangkok Food Tours – Food is the crux of all cultures and exploring Bangkok by food is one of the best ways to experience authentic Thai culture. Bangkok Food Tours takes participants to a variety of eateries and markets to truly experience this foodie paradise. The owners are Thailand born and raised, and pride themselves for knowing the story behind each menu. All tours highlight culture, as well as delicious dishes.
- Spice Roads Bicycle Tours have been running bicycle tours for over 10 years and offer an array of tours, including overnight and mountain biking tours. Bangkok is full of hidden gems and Spice Roads knows them. Day trip tour-routes include visits to floating markets, the countryside, canals, and jungle around Bangkok. If you have an extra day to spare, you can escape Bangkok. The tours reach the coastal village of Hua Hin, the jungle of Kanchanaburi, and the River Kwai. There is very little riding done within Bangkok proper so most rides are through quiet suburbs and countryside.
- Tours with Tong is a popular tour among tourists. Tong is a very passionate, enthusiastic lady who goes above and beyond (though there are other guides as well). She modifies every tour to be personal, so never hesitate to make your preferences heard. Besides doing the regular sights, she pulls away from large groups and gives you a local experience. A small drawback is that Tong is very busy and emailing and planning can take a backseat to the everyday demands of leading a tour. Be patient when waiting for an email response – and start the booking process well in advance to avoid being disappointed.
Q. What are the best hospitals in Bangkok for tourists?
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- Bumrungrad International Hospital (Sukhumvit) – Considered the best hospital in Bangkok. Phone: +66 2667 1000.
- Global Doctor Travelers Clinic (Silom Business District) – Located in the Holiday Inn Hotel. Phone: +66 2236 8442
- Siam Family Dental Clinic (Siam Square) – General dentistry, orthodontics, surgery. Phone: +08 1987 7700
Q. Koh Samui Hotels – What do you recommend?
Best Luxury Hotel
Best Hotel for Honeymooners
Best Family Hotel
Best Hotel in Chaweng
Best Hotel in Lamai
Best Hotel in Bophut
Q. What are the best luxury hotels on Koh Samui?
- Banyan Tree Samui, Lamai – Great views, fantastic pools, private beach, good restaurants. The perfect marriage of luxury and seclusion. The restaurants and nightlife of Lamai are within a short drive. Facilities: 3 restaurants; 2 bars; outdoor pool; yoga room; spa; kids’ club; gymasium.
- Centara Grand Beach Resort Samui, Chaweng – Near “the strip” in Chaweng so it’s perfect for exploring the clubs and restaurants. Top notch everything makes it many peoples reason for coming to Samui. Facilities: 5 restaurants; 2 bars; fitness center; outdoor pool and children’s pool; kids’ club; children’s playroom and playground; spa; tennis courts; watersports rentals. Facilities: 2 restaurants; bar; health club; outdoor pool; kids’ club; spa; 2 tennis court; private cruises; tropical drink and cocktail classes at the beach bar (sign me up).
- Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui – The Four Seasons is always great and the Samui resort comes with all the bells and whistles you’d expect. Tucked away in a quiet corner of the island it leaves the crowds far behind.
Q. What are the best mid-range hotels on Koh Samui?
- Coral Bay Resort, North Chaweng – In a quieter section of Chaweng with great views the Coral Bay is great if you’re looking for a bit of seclusion while still keeping Chaweng within walking distance.
- World Resort Koh Samui, Bophut – Located on the best stretch of beach in Bophut. Quiet, great breakfasts, walking distance to Fisherman’s Village (shops and restaurants) in Bophut, and very friendly staff.
Q. What are the best budget hotels on Koh Samui?
The beach huts of 30 years ago have been disappearing since the mid-’90s. There are still many cheap accommodations but they don’t lend themselves to booking in advance. In most cases you’ll need to do some walking to find them and see if they have rooms available. It’s good to see the rooms too as quality can vary dramatically in this price range. Mae Nam, North Chaweng, and Big Buddha Beach have the highest concentration of cheap accommodations. In the offseason mid-range hotels will have some phenomenal rates that don’t differ much from budget hotels. (Search here for hotel discounts.)
Q. What are the best family hotels on Koh Samui?
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Most hotels on Koh Samui have a kid-friendly vibe, so I wouldn’t stress about finding resorts that had a family focus. That said, these 6 hotels are great for families.
For more on family hotels in Koh Samui see Samkip.com/KohSamui
Q. What are the best beaches on Koh Samui?
The best beaches on Samui are found on the stretch of coast from Mae Nam (in the north) around the northeast corner of the island and down the east coast to Lamai. The south coast and west coast beaches are good for seclusion and quiet but are rocky and can turn to mudflats during low tide. Here’s the best map of Koh Samui beaches.
Note: Many beaches on Samui get quite shallow from May to October which can make swimming impractical in places.
- Bophut – One of my favorite beaches on Koh Samui. The water is not always crystal clear here and the sand is a little on the coarse side but the scenery is beautiful, the vibe relaxed, and the water calm and great for swimming. The gentle slope of the seabed makes for a shallow entrance to the water that is great for kids. There is a nice selection of boutique hotels and upscale resorts right on the beach. Nearby Fisherman’s Village is a low key collection of shops, restaurants, and bars that are fun to wander around.
- Mae Nam – The current favorite of backpackers, Mae Nam has a nice beach which is great for swimming (though the sea can be a little rough at times as it’s less protected than Bophut, Chaweng, or Choeng Mon). Lots of fun and relaxed places to eat both on the beach and on the streets back from the shore. Mae Nam is popular with longer term travelers that rent a place for a few months (enquire at the cafes or restaurants around town if you’re looking for a house to rent).
- Chaweng– The best beach on Koh Samui though not for everyone. It’s very busy, has a bit of a party atmosphere (but not hardcore by any means) and has the most hawkers of any beach on Samui. The beach in Chaweng is a 7KM stretch of sand and can roughly be broken into 3 sections.
North Chaweng: The beach is more of a lagoon and at low tide is very shallow and rocky. It’s quieter here and it’s where you’ll find a few of the budget accommodations in Chaweng – alongside some top end resorts.
Central Chaweng: A lively and fun party area. I’d still consider it family-friendly (until 10pm anyways) but don’t be expecting peace and quiet. Restaurants spill out onto the beach and as the sun sets tables appear on the sand for dinner and the music goes up a couple notches.
South Chaweng (Chaweng Noi): The nicest stretch of beach in Chaweng. The sand is perfect and the calm waters protected by a reef which makes it perfect for kids.
- Lamai – A nice option to Chaweng with good swimming year round. The sand is slightly more coarse than Chaweng but the beach is quieter and doesn’t have as many hawkers. The main strip in Lamai is filled with girly bars – not overly lude or offensive, but enough to give Lamai an ugly touristy feel that most other beach towns don’t have.
- Choeng Mon – Many visitors think this is Samui’s best beach. A beautiful crescent of soft sand and calm waters. The beach is lined with restaurants and hotels but remains much quieter than Chaweng or Lamai. Chaweng and Bophut’s Fisherman’s Village are 10 minute taxi rides in either direction if you need more dining or nightlife choices.
- Bangrak (Big Buddha) Beach – Definitely not the best of the Samui beaches but it has good budget options, a decent beach, is very close to the airport, and is the easiest place to catch a boat to Koh Pha Ngan (scheduled departures 4 times per day). Koh Faan island, with it’s huge seated Buddha, is just offshore and worth a visit.
- Emerald Cove and Lipa Noi – These 2 beaches are the nicest on the west coast of Samui. Both become unswimmable during low tide but if you’re really looking to get away from the crowds they’re good choices and have some very affordable accommodations.
Q. Where should I stay on Koh Samui?
Here’s how I would summarize the choices:
- Best nightlife: Chaweng
- Best beach: Choeng Mon, Chaweng, or Bophut
- Food and restaurants: Chaweng or Bophut
- Solitude and quiet: Choeng Mon or Emerald Cove
- Best budget choices: Mae Nam, Big Buddha, or the west coast beaches
Q. When is the best time to visit Koh Samui?
The best weather on Koh Samui is from December to March when there is little rain and lots of sun. But the rainy season (roughly May through November) can be a great time to visit. Hotel rates are slashed, the beaches are quieter, and the whole island moves at a more relaxed pace. Even during the rainy season the sun will come out on most days.
The weather on the west coast of Thailand (Phuket, Krabi, and Ko Phi Phi) is more erratic and tends to get more rain and storms. The weather on the Samui side is more vacation-friendly with even the rainy season being a reasonable option for a beach holiday.
That said, there can be violent storms that tend to strike from September until November. They might not stick around for long but they will deposit lots of trash on the beach and make the water rough, dirty, and unswimmable for at least a few days.
Weather Summary for Koh Samui
- December to March: Dry and hot with the sun shining almost every day. December and January are the busiest months on the island, however, and hotel rates are at their highest especially over the week of Christmas and New Years.
- April to August: Hot with some precipitation. Light rains start occurring (usually in the afternoons) in May but most days are still sunny. April is typically the hottest month of the year.
- September to November: Wet and hot. October and November are usually the wettest months on Samui. Two different monsoons hit the island over these 3 months so be prepared for at least the possibility of rough seas and stormy weather. Though many people report visiting the island for 2 weeks and not seeing a drop of rain. Hotels and resorts often have big discounts from September until early December.
Q. How do I get to Koh Samui?
Flying to Koh Samui is, of course, the fastest way to get here if you are coming from Bangkok. There are direct flights from Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Phuket, Krabi, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore to Koh Samui.
A bus and ferry combination is the least expensive way to get to Koh Samui. Next will be either train (and ferry) or a flight on Bangkok Airlines, Air Asia, or Nok Air depending on how early you book the flight, what type of ticket you buy (web fare, flexible, or non-changeable), and whether you fly into Koh Samui directly or Surat Thani on the mainland (and then take a connecting ferry). If you’re paying full fare on the air ticket then the train will be cheaper but a “web deal” or discount flight can be nearly as cheap as the train.
Generally, the overnight train is fun and enjoyable while the bus is a long miserable ride. (More info below.)
Getting from Phuket or Krabi to Koh Samui can be done by bus or hired car and then ferry (about 4 hours in total), or by a 50 minute flight on Bangkok Airways.
Q. What airlines fly to Koh Samui?
Here are the flight Options for Koh Samui:
Bangkok to Koh Samui
Bangkok Airways has up to 16 direct flights a day from the capital to Koh Samui on with fares starting at 3200 Baht and a flight time of 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Chiang Mai to Koh Samui
Bangkok Airlines has direct flights from Chiang Mai to Koh Samui with fares from $5300 Baht and a flight time of 1 hour and 45 minutes.
Phuket to Koh Samui
Bangkok Airlines has one direct flight daily from Phuket to Koh Samui that takes 50 minutes and costs from 2750 Baht.
Krabi to Koh Samui
Bangkok Airlines flies four times daily from Krabi. The flight takes 55 minutes and fares start at 2750 Baht.
Pattaya to Koh Samui
Bangkok Airlines has 2 flights daily from Pattaya to Samui taking 1 hour and 10 minutes and costing from 3690 Baht.
Kuala Lumpur to Koh Samui
Bangkok Airlines flies once daily from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The flight takes 1 hour and 40 minutes and costs from 220 MYR.
Malaysia Airlines might also have flights from KL to Samui though their website gives conflicting information about routes and availability.
Firefly has one flight daily from Subang (near Kuala Lumpur) to Koh Samui. The flight takes 2 hours and fares start at 107 MYR.
Singapore to Koh Samui
Bangkok Airlines has one daily flight from Singapore to Koh Samui (flight time 1 hour and 50 minutes and fares starting at 160 Singapore dollars.)
Silk Air has 2 daily flight from Singapore to Koh Samui.
Hong Kong to Koh Samui
Bangkok Airlines has 2 flights daily from Hong Kong to Samui. The flight takes 3 hours and 15 minutes and fares start at 2700 HKD.
Flights to Surat Thani
Surat Thani is a city on the mainland that is 50 miles and 1.5 hours by ferry or catamaran from Koh Samui. Flights to Surat Thani are usually cheaper than flights directly to Koh Samui making it an appealing option – especially when the cheapest fares to Koh Samui are sold out.
But getting from Surat Thani to Koh Samui is not as effortless as it may appear. To get to Koh Samui from the Surat Thani airport requires a 90 minutes bus ride to the ferry terminal, a wait of up to 2 hours for the ferry, and then the ferry ride itself. So even with leaving Bangkok on a 10am flight you won’t get you to Samui until 3 or 4 pm. And then another 30 or 40 minutes to get to Chaweng or the east side beaches.
If you can’t afford to fly to Koh Samui directly or are unable to find a seat then I’d recommend taking the overnight train. But it’s a toss up to Surat Thani.
Q. How do I get to Koh Samui by train?
Getting to Koh Samui by train from Bangkok involves taking a train from Bangkok’s Hualamphong station. The train portion takes between 8.5 hours and 12 hours depending on the train. From the Surat Thani you board a bus that takes you to the Don Sak ferry terminal and then the 1.5 hour trip over to Samui. The bus and ferry take about 3 hours in total. Overnight sleepers are highly recommended and should be booked at least a 3 days in advance.
Q. How do I get to Koh Samui by bus?
(If you can, take the train. It’s funner, easier, and less of a hassle.)
With bus travel you can depart Bangkok almost immediately. If you arrive into Bangkok and don’t feel like spending the night or worrying about booking a seat on the train you can go directly to the bus station and be heading south within an hour or two.
The buses go to Don Sak ferry terminal in Surat Thani. From there a 1.5 hour boat takes you across to Koh Samui (the same ferry used by the train combination ticket).
Buses take 10 to 12 hours for the ride from Bangkok to Surat Thani and then 2 to 4 more hours (depending on how long you wait for the ferry) to get across to Koh Samui.
There are 2 types of buses that travel from Bangkok to Koh Samui.
The best, cheapest, and most reliable are the public buses that leave from Sai Tai Mai terminal in the south of Bangkok. You can choose between VIP, air conditioned, and non-air-conditioned buses. They leave between 5am and 8pm. The VIP and AC buses have toilets, reserved seating, and are modern and clean.
There are also private buses (closer to a shuttle bus or van than a large public bus) that leave from Khao San Road that are only used by tourists. They are typically small, cramped, and rife with theft. They’ll typical leave only when they’re full or nearly full. The only good thing to say about them is that they are convenient if you’re staying near Khao San Road. Ask at any Khao San travel agency and they’ll sell you a bus/ferry combination ticket to Koh Samui.
Q. What’s the best website for hotels in Koh Samui?
Hotelscombined.com/koh-samui consistently has the best rates for almost all Samui hotels.
For Chaweng use this link: Hotels in Chaweng
Q. Should I book hotels on Koh Samui in advance?
For the December and January high seasons, yes. Mid-range and luxury hotels can be filled months in advance. But for other times of the year arriving without a reservation should be fine as long as you don’t mind spending some time looking for a place to stay.
For budget hotels, good deals can be found by walking from one hotel to the next (without your luggage, leave it at a cafe) and enquiring about their best rates. Be assertive and clear when asking for their lowest price but also try to appear like you’re not desperate and you’re willing to leave and look for another hotel.
Q. What are the best websites for planning a trip to Koh Samui?
These are my favorites:
Q. What’s the best way to get around the island?
Sawngthaews (photo) and taxis are the most common way to get around the island. Sawngthaews (basically, the back of a pickup with seats) do a loop around the island’s main road or go back and forth between a couple of the most popular beaches (the Chaweng-Lamai route is popular). Fares for both depend on the distance. A very rough rule would put the fare for a sawngthaew about 1/3 of what a taxi will charge. So if you have 4 people you’re likely better off with a taxi.
Q. Is there a hospital or medical clinic on Koh Samui?
For anything really serious patients will be air evacuated to the top notch hospitals in Bangkok. (Be sure your travel insurance offers medical evacuation coverage.)
The Bangkok Samui Hospital provides the best medical service on the island. It’s also expensive – another reason to have travel insurance.
The Samui International Hospital is not as fully equipped as the Bangkok Samui but is much cheaper and more than adequate for cuts, bites, colds, and anything not life threatening.
Q. What are the dates for the full moon party on Koh Phangan?
Koh Phangan is easy to get to from Koh Samui by special boats that run on the evening of the full moon party and return the next morning. For more money you can hire a private speed boat that will go and return whenever you like. Both are easy to arrange in person a day or two before the party so no need to pre-book before arrival.
- Thursday 19 September 2013
- Saturday 19 October 2013
- Sunday 17 November 2013
- Tuesday 17 December 2013
- Wednesday 25 December 2013 – not a true full moon party but a huge party all the same
- Tuesday 31 December 2013 – New Years is a big party too
- Wednesday 15 January 2014
- Saturday 15 February 2014
- Saturday 15 March 2014
- Monday 14 April 2014
- Wednesday 14 May 2014
- Thursday 12 June 2014
- Sunday 13 July 2014
- Sunday 10 August 2014
- Monday 08 September 2014
- Friday 10 October 2014
- Thursday 06 November 2014
- Saturday 06 December 2014
Tips from Other Travelers
- Recommendation for a traditional Thai restaurant in Chaweng? Sep 15, 2013
Head to either Poppies beach resort’s restaurant (right on the beach) in south Chaweng or Spirit House Thai restaurant.
We also like Spago in the centre of Chaweng – even our Thai friends think their Thai food is good!
- Car ferry to Samui Sept 14, 2013
The car ferries run from 7am to 7pm, one ferry every hour. The Seatran ferry port is also next door to the Raja Ferry port. There is no booking in advance for the ferry tickets. So be as early as possible. So if the ferry for one is fully booked, go to the other ferry port and try to get your ticket.
- Koh Samui Car and Guide Sept 16, 2013
Booked a full day tour of Koh Samui with Mr Samui and what a wonderful experience. To visit the best of Koh Samui with Mr Samui is going with someone who wants to share his great love of his home, beautiful Koh Samui Island and we did it in style in Mr Samui’s new 7 seater Toyota land-cruiser. (Mr Samui email, phone: +66890606440).
- Baby food in Koh Samui Sept 13, 2013
Best place for western baby food brands is probably “Tops” Supermarket in Chaweng. It’s a bit south of McDonalds and Burger King, right at the entrance to Al’s Resort.
I think you can find baby food at Tesco Lotus. It’s the largest supermarket in Samui, located in Ring Road, Chaweng.
- 5 Hotels in Koh Samui on Top 25 Best Hotels in Thailand Jan 31, 2013
Top 25 best hotel in Thailand : Koh Samui
Four Seasons #7
Rocky Resort #10
Mantra Resort #18
Banyan Tree #23
Tongsai Bay Resort #25
Q. What are the best beaches in Phuket?
Many beaches are beautiful but are not good swimming beaches (e.g. Rawai beach). And the monsoon season (June to October) can change even the most tranquil of beaches into a rough, windswept, and uninviting terrain.
- Patong – Located on the white-sanded western coast, Patong is the most famous and most commercial resort. With a broad 3km (2 miles) stretch of sandy beach there is plenty of opportunity for natural shade from trees as well as having parasol-protected sunbeds sited along the entire length. Its sheltered location makes it ideal for all water sports and swimming and so it is popular with families and package holidaymakers. As with all the beaches on the western side, there can be a strong undertow and any red warning flags should be heeded. Patong is also home to tourist shops, an enormous shopping mall, cinemas and a bowling alley. A plethora of day trips and activities can be found, from taking a banana boat ride, snorkelling to renting a jet ski. It can be difficult to escape away from the notorious adult themed night-life with neon lit clubs and bars advertising stripper or transvestite shows. You can find scantily clad transvestites posing for photographs with tourists in many of the side streets in Patong.
- Freedom – If you are staying in Patong and want to get away from the hustle and bustle then Freedom Beach is a good choice. Even if you did feel like trekking through the kilometre of thick jungle to get there you would not be allowed, as the land surrounding this beach is all privately owned. The only way to access Freedom Beach is by a ten minute boat ride – most leave from from Patong beach. Freedom, undoubtedly, has the best snorkelling on the island and swimming areas are clearly marked and separated from the area where longtail boats arrive and depart. There are also beach volleyball nets and small restaurants along the south end of the beach but with no jet skis or banana boats to disturb the peace, probably the best thing to do is to find a lounger, sit back and relax.
- Karon – Far less lively and busy than Patong, Karon beach is yet another long expanse of sand, which at its northern end is likened to powder snow. There is little natural shade but there are plenty of sun beds and parasols available. Hotels and restaurants are located on the opposite side of a busy adjacent road; however there are plenty of small stalls selling drinks and snacks. The road is shielded from most of the beach by a bank of sand but it can still be easily heard. All the usual water sports activities are available with some reasonable snorkelling at the southern end. Surfboards are always available although Karon is not renowned for its breakers. It does though have the reputation of being the most dangerous beach.
If you feel the need to get away from sand, Karon Park is an area a short walk away which provides jogging and cycling paths as well as a large lake with pedalos. For children and ‘young at heart’ adults, Dino Park offers a chance to play crazy golf in a prehistoric atmosphere. Away from the beach, the side streets are home to a small artisan community where you can see painters and craftsmen at work. Karon can be located 5 km south of Patong on the coastal road between Kata and Patong beaches. There are regular bus and songthaew services from Phuket town.
- Kata – The attractive twin beaches of Kata Yai (Big Kata) and Kata Noi (Little Kata) are situated to the south of Karon Beach. Protected by rocky promontories, swimming and snorkeling is relatively safe here and strong swimmers often head out to Boo Island to the coral reefs. Reputably this is also the best scuba diving area on the island. Set away from the road, both beaches are very peaceful. Kata Yai can feel a little overlooked by two major resorts but the beaches are not private and the sun loungers are available for all to use. It can be difficult to see how to get onto the beach at Kata Noi but access is down to the right and just beyond the Thani wing of the beautiful Katathani Hotel. Buses and songthaews terminate on the headland between the two beaches where, if you don’t feel like the 10-minute walk into either resort, tuk-tuks will happily transport you to your destination. You won’t find a busy nightlife or extensive shopping here but If you are missing the hustle and bustle of Patong or Karon, both are within easy reach, less than 8 km away. Three Beaches Hill (sometimes called Kata or Karon viewpoint) is often busy as it is on many tour itineraries. Located a little south of Kata Noi, it affords an impressive eight-kilometer vista (4.5 miles) of the three south west coast beaches.
- Maio Khao – On the northwest coast, 39 km from Patong, this 11km beach is set within the Sirinat National Park. The sand here is fairly coarse, but you can walk along it for hours and not see another soul. There are no beach activities on offer here but swimming is allowed. However it is wise to be careful as there is a sharp drop in the ocean floor close to the shore and you can easily get out of your depth. If your idea of fun is plane spotting then this is a good place to be as the proximity of Phuket airport makes it feel as if their landing on the beach is an imminent possibility. Between November and February, turtles arrive to lay their eggs in the warm sands. Numbers have been dwindling over recent years and care has to be taken during this time not to disturb any such activity. The northern side of the beach can be reached from Thepkrassatri Road, just before the Sarasin Bridge. The southern end is best reached from Nai Yang and through the national park (fee payable).
- Nai Thon – Nai Thon Beach has some of the squeakiest sand on Phuket. It is within the Sirinat National Park and has thus far escaped over-development. The gently sloped beach is ideal for swimming and casuarina trees abound for shelter from the sun. The beach itself is not developed but there are a few restaurants and shops just across the street. There are no organized beach activities and no equipment for hire, but people snorkel and dive among the coral at the both ends of the beach (long tail boats with take you farther offshore for even better snorkeling). Nai Thon is 28 km from Patong, on the road that connects Bang Tao beach and Nai Yan Beach. There is only one road that runs directly along this part of the coast so it is fairly easy to find.
- Surin – This 1km stretch of beach is famous for its crystal clear water, which makes it a wonderful place to swim. It’s a shame that the snorkeling here is not great although that does not stop people from having a go. With all the major water sports on offer it’s surprising that this beach is as quiet as it is. It feels like it has embraced all that is good about Patong and left behind the bits that are less pleasing. The views are fantastic with plenty of local restaurants. Surin Beach is situated south of Bang Tao and north of Kamala Beach – 14 km from Patong – and is well signposted.
- Laem Singh – Laem Singh, 7 km north of Patong, on the Patong Surim Road is not easily found. The beach is accessed down a steep, stepped path, fairly comfortable to go down but excruciatingly difficult to climb back up. However it is worth all the effort for this beach is absolutely stunning and one of Phuket’s best for swimming. Many seem to agree as, once a secret cove, it is now one of the best used beaches in the area. Foot massagers ply the beach, jet skis resound along with all the usual paraphernalia associated with a busy beach. When the sun is not shining it returns to it’s natural quiet beauty. Once a month an early evening disco is held, best suited to those who are not looking for peace and tranquility. The restaurants are a little more expensive here but understandable when you consider that their supplies also have to be brought from the hillside above. Parking at the top of the paths is available but scarce so an early arrival at this beach is recommended. 1km to the south is Hat Kamala which is more developed.
- Nai Harn – On the southernmost tip of Phuket, the waters around Nai Harn are usually calm and crystal clear, except in monsoon season when the waves become huge and thus a haven for surfers. The Samnak Song Buddhist Monastery owns most of its central and southern area and has left it pleasantly underdeveloped. Upscale beachfront and family-friendly resorts dot the area. Nai Harn is divided into three segments, the beach and park, a small village with a few shops, and Nai Harn town. Bike hire and other services can be found in the town and as it is about a twenty-minute walk to and from the beach, many people take that option. Nai Harn is 20km (12.5miles) south of Patong.
Q. Phuket Hotels – What do you recommend?
Best Luxury Hotel
Best Boutique Hotel
The Sarojin Hotel Phang Nga (in Khao Lak)
Best Hotel for Honeymooners
Best Hotel for Shopping
Best Family Hotel in Phuket
Best Hotel on Karon Beach
Best Hotel in Kata Beach
Best Hotel in Patong
Q. What are the best family hotels on Phuket?
Most of Phuket’s hotels are kid-friendly but for a detailed list of some of the island’s best hotels for families go to samkip.com/phuket.
One hotel that stands out for being kid-friendly is the Centara Grand West Sands Resort & Villas. It’s directly connected to the wonderful Splash Jungle water park (the largest water park in all of Thailand). The resort itself is a little isolated and the restaurant options get boring very quickly. But the suites are huge, relatively inexpensive, and are a short walk from a beautiful beach. 2 or 3 nights here would be a perfect treat for the kids. It’s located very close to the airport making it a good fit for the beginning or end of a trip.
Q. How do I get to Phuket?
- Flights – Flying to Phuket from Bangkok is the fastest and best way to get there. Booking early can get you tickets that aren’t much more expensive than the train. Bangkok Airways, Air Asia, and Nok Air have the most flights. There are also a few direct flights from Chiang Mai to Phuket.
- Bus – From Bangkok, you depart from the Southern Bus Terminal. You can book from travel agencies or hotels, but the cheapest is from the station. It’s highly advised to not take one of the private buses from Khao San Road. It’s best to reserve your seat in advance if you want to travel on weekends or during festivals. Buses run day and night to Phuket. After an 11- 12 hour journey, you will arrive at Phuket’s Bus Station neat the Mission Hospital. A bus ticket will cost between 630-730 baht.
- Train – Getting to Phuket by train from Bangkok involves taking a train from Bangkok’s Hualamphong station to Surat Thani. From there you take a bus or hired car to Phuket. The train portion takes between 8.5 hours and 12 hours depending on the train. The drive is an additional 2 to 3 hours. Overnight sleepers are highly recommended and should be booked at least 3 days in advance.
Q. Can you recommend a taxi driver in Phuket?
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- Mr. Tum has lots of taxis, large vans, and SUVs. He speaks good english. Contact at 087-272-0575.
- For travel north of the airport (to Khao Lak for example) email Boss at email@example.com. He carries his blackberry everywhere and replies quickly to most requests.
- For transportation from the airport to your hotel don’t bother booking in advance. Walk out the main airport doors (same level as arrivals), turn right, and walk to the taxi stand. Taxis from the airport to Patong cost 800 baht. From the airport to Karon and Kata beach is 1000 baht.
- Arrange transportation to the airport a day in advance as taxis can be tough to find even in the center of Patong and seem to vanish when you need them the most.
- Public transportation around Phuket is terrible, so resign yourself to taking taxis. Some hotels do offer free shuttle buses to and from Patong.
Q. What are the best beaches in Thailand?
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Thongtakian Beach, Koh Samui
Haad Salad, Koh Phangan
Railay Beach, Krabi
Phra Nang Beach, Krabi
Tonsai Beach, Krabi
Phi Phi Don, Koh Phi Phi
Mai Khao, Phuket
Mae Nam, Koh Samui
Bang Bao, Koh Chang
Karon Beach, Phuket
Haad Rin, Koh Phangan
Haad Yao, Koh Phangan
Chaweng, Koh Samui
Bottle Beach, Koh Phangan
Bophut, Koh Samui
Tripadvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards
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Top 15 Hotels in Thailand
- #1 Rabbit Resort, Pattaya
- #2 Layana Resort and Spa, Koh Lanta
- #3 Dhara Dhevi, Chiang Mai
- #4 The Chedi, Chiang Mai
- #5 137 Pillars House
- #6 Royal Cliff Hotels Group, Pattaya
- #7 Four Seasons Resort, Koh Samui
- #8 Casa De La Flora Resort Phang Nga, Khao Lak
- #9 The Rim Resort, Chiang Mai
- #10 Rocky’s Boutique Resort, Koh Samui
- #11 The Peninsula, Bangkok
- #12 Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok
- #13 Oriental Residence, Bangkok
- #14 Ramada Resort Khao Lak
- #15 The Shore at Katathani, Kata Beach, Phuket
Q. What’s the best way to get around Thailand?
Thailand is a long narrow country. So getting from the Bangkok or Chiang Mia to the southern islands is a good distance. Getting from one coast to the other can be done in a 2 hour drive.
- Air – Thailand is well served by several budget airlines. Air Asia has the most flights but NOK Air, Bangkok Airways, Thai Airways, and Orient Thai have multiple routes as well.
- Train – My favorite way of getting around the country. Overnight trains from Bangkok north to Chiang Mai and south to gulf coast are convenient and authentic ways to get where you’re going. Getting to the islands and beach resorts will almost alway require a bus and/or ferry trip after you get off the ferry. These are (in theory) timed with the arrival of the train so the extra hassle and planning is usually minimal.
- Bus – Buses go everywhere around the country. The good news is you can usually jump on a bus within a few hours and be on your way with no need to book tickets days or weeks in advance like air or rail tickets. The bad news is the bus rides can be long and boring without the benefit of walking about as you can on a train. A bus to an island will typically take you right to the ferry terminal and get you on your way.
- Hired Car – These are practical and not as expensive as you might think – especially for Bangkok to Hua Hin or Pattaya or between popular tourists destinations like Phuket, Krabi, and Koh Samui. You can approach any taxi (pick the newer, nicer, and larger ones) and ask how much to get where you’re heading.
Q. What are the trains like and how do I buy tickets?
Update: Trains from Bangkok to Chiang Mai have been canceled until the end of October, 2013. Service is expected to resume November 1 but could be later.
Trains can be booked up to 60 days in advance. Except for Thai holidays and the period around Christmas and New Years, trains only occasionally sell out so it’s possible to get a sleeper right up to the day of travel and very possible to get a seat anytime (as long as you’re not picky about where you sit or what class of ticket you buy).
There are multiple ways to book your ticket: in person at Hualamphong station; through a travel agent in Bangkok; in advance through thairailticket.com (this is the official Thai Railways website but it’s not terribly user friendly so be patient); or book through ThailandTrainTicket.com (an online booking agency that will charge a small fee).
It’s easiest to book in person in Bangkok. You’ll get the most choices for train times and be able to stipulate the exact setup you want (e.g. for booking multiple sleepers) – but you run the risk of trains being sold out.
Thus, booking in advance might be required – especially if you’re on a tight schedule – but be prepared to make some compromises. Some online agencies only sell tickets for the overnight train that departs Bangkok at 19:30. (This is my favorite train for getting to Samui and has a great connection for getting on the ferry so it’s no great ordeal. But as I said above, if you want more choice then booking in person at a Thai travel agency or at the train station is best.)
In summary: if you have some flexibility wait until you’re in Thailand to book your train tickets. On your first morning walk into a travel agency and ask about booking your onward train ticket to Samui. They’ll lay out all your options and book your tickets for you. You’ll be able to stop back later that day or the next morning to grab your tickets. You should be able to get tickets that leave Bangkok within 1 day to 3 days.
If you need tickets in advance book the overnight train through ThailandTrainTicket.com. They’ll be delivered to your hotel and be waiting for you upon your arrival.
Both options are great and very reliable.
Q.What are the best months to visit Thailand?
December, January, and February are the months with the best weather throughout most of the country. If your plan is to tour the entire country then these are the best months to visit. Regional difference can be large however. Below are the best months for different parts of the country.
March, April, and May get increasingly hot. The skies are still clear but the heat can be hard to take especially in northern Thailand and anywhere not near the beach.
The rains come from June through November in most of southern Thailand (where most of the islands and beaches are). Phuket, in particular, gets rough seas and dangerous undertows from July to October. Koh Samui and the eastern coast tends to have more hospitable weather through the rainy months (though it can still get some big storms.) Often the rains won’t last for long (just a few hours a day) followed by sun – but the water will be murky and the beaches can be littered by debris during the monsoon season.
September and October are the least attractive months to visit – though you’ll find some remarkable discounts on accommodations.
If you’re in Thailand from July through October and need some beach time Koh Samet is a great choice as it doesn’t get the heavy rain like the rest of the country.
- Bangkok – December and January are the coolest driest months. The weather gets warmer through March and April when the rains start. The wet weather continues until October with the rainiest month being September. September, October and November can see flooding throughout the city.
- Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand – January and February are the best months here – especially if you’re trekking (any earlier and paths will be muddy and flooded, any later and you’ll be in the burning season and then the hot season). Farmers start burning their fields in March and by April the air can be smokey and unhealthy. The hot and then rainy season start soon after with the rains stretching into November.
- Phuket, Krabi, and the Andaman Coast – The best months to visit for a beach holiday stretch from late November until April. The weather is wet, humid, and hot from May through October. During these months the sea is often too rough to swim and visibility for snorkeling and diving is not good. Even in the rainy season you can get wonderful stretches of sun that are great for sitting by the pool.
- Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan, and Koh Tao – The best months are December to April. The rains start in May but are never intense as on the west coast so Samui makes a better choice for July and August.
- Hua Hin, Pattaya, and Koh Samet – The best year-round weather of any region of Thailand. If you’re visiting from July to October and want to avoid the rains then this is the place to be.
Q. What are the best places in Thailand for kids?
Thailand is a very family-friendly country. My top 5 destinations in Thailand for families are Phuket, Railay, Koh Samui, Hua Hin, and Chiang Mai.
Bangkok is more challenging than these 5 places but it has so much to offer kids and so many great attractions that if you have a little patience you and your kids will love it as much as my family.
- Family Hotels: These are my favorite hotels for families in Bangkok, Phuket, Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan, Railay, Pattaya, and Chiang Mai.
- Best beaches for kids: Railay, Kata Beach (Phuket), Choeng Mon (Koh Samui), Haad Salad (Koh Pha Ngan), Jomtien (much better than nearby Pattay)
- Rainy Season: No one likes the rain when on holidays but it can be a bigger disappointment to kids. Phuket, in particular, gets rough seas that make swimming unsafe for kids from July to October.
- Car Seats: Some car rental companies will have them but if it’s a necessity bring your own. Most cars (and taxis) only have seat belts in the front seats (where car seats should never be placed). So even when you have a car seat finding a car that will allow its use is an effort.
- Kid-friendly Food: Western food, from pasta to hamburgers, is widely available at all the beach resorts and in the larger cities. Fried rice and pad thai are 2 thai dishes that kids usually love.
Q. Do I need a visa for Thailand? And how long should my passport be valid for?
Citizens of these countries (which includes Canada, U.S., U.K, Australia, and most of Western Europe) can get a 30 day visa on arrival – so you needn’t do anything in advance. Citizens of other countries will need to apply in advance for the 30 day entry visa.
If you want 60 day visa (regardless of your citizenship) you’ll need to apply in advance or get the 30 day visa (as above) and then extend it once inside the country. This can be done at immigration offices in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Koh Samui, Krabi, and Phuket.
Pre-applied-for visa’s will (sometimes) begin on the date when your plane takes off for Thailand – so you can lose a day in the math and you’ll be left with 29 days and 28 nights from arrival.
Passports should have 6 months of validity remaining after your departure day. You will hear of exceptions to this rule, but to be safe have a full six months extra. For example, if you’re in Thailand from June 1 to June 15 you’d want your passport to be valid until at least December 15. Failure to have this cushion could result you not be allowed into the country. (Actually you probably wouldn’t even be able to board your flight that is heading to Thailand.)
Q. How much does it cost to travel in Thailand?
Costs vary hugely depending on your travel style, modes of transport, hotel preferences, and how much shopping you do (and where you do it).
Regardless of your budget the more you move around the more you spend. The longer you stay in one spot the more your costs will drop. Not only do you save money on transportation but you tend to find cheaper places to eat and shop and get a better deal on hotels. You can also seek out less touristy accommodations options (e.g. an apartment that rents by the week or month) that can drastically reduce your expenses.
A bare bones budget that include low-end hotels, buses or 2nd class trains without a sleeper, and street food would be about $30/person/day.
A mid-range budget that involved over-night sleeper cabins on the train, the occasional flight, restaurants for most meals, and hotels with western-style standards and maybe a swimming pool, would be in the $80 to $100 per day.
At the top-end it’s skies the limit as Thailand is home to some of Asia’s best restaurants, best hotels, and best shopping. That said, a budget of $500 day would expose you to some of the country’s best food and hotels.
Q. How do I visit Thailand on a budget?
3 Simple tips will save you a big chunk of money in Bangkok
- Eat where the locals eat. It’s easy to get a huge lunch or dinner for just a few dollars if you eat street food or at a small non-touristy restaurants. And the food is better too.
- Bargain when you shop. Making an offer – especially when shopping at one of Bangkok’s wonderful markets – is expected and encouraged. If you look like a tourist you’ll often be quoted an initial price as much as 2 or 3 times what a Thai person would pay so be aggressive as you make a counter offer.
- Book hotels online and early. Except for the cheapest guesthouses the best deals are found through hotel booking sites like Hotelscombined.com (my favorite), Agoda, or Booking.com. For budget hotels in Bangkok walk the streets of the Khao San Road neighborhood popping your head into every guesthouse you see to enquire about rooms and prices. You can also look through this list of budget hotels in Bangkok – but, as I say, the very cheapest rooms are not booked in advance and (often) require going door to door.
Q. Do I need vaccinations to travel to Thailand?
The CDC recommends the Hepatitis A vaccine and the Typhoid vaccine for all travelers to Thailand. Other vaccines (Hepatitis B, Japanese Encephalitis, Rabies, and Yellow Fever) may be recommended depending on where, when, and how long you’ll be traveling.
Our son was bit by a dog in Indonesia and had to undergo a series of multiple shots for Rabies over the following 21 days. If you get the rabies vaccine you still need after-the-fact shots but they are far fewer in number. Children are thought to be at higher risk for rabies as they tend to interact with dogs and animals more and may not report a small scratch or bite to their parents.
The CDC estimates the malaria risk in Thailand as low and describes the regions with some malarial risk as “Rural, forested areas that border Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, and Laos. Rural, forested areas in districts of Phang Nga and Phuket. None in the cities of Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Koh Phangan, Koh Samui, Pattaya, Phang Nga, and Phuket.”
In addition, most adults aren’t up to date on their routine vaccinations so pre-travel doctor’s visits are a good time to get any recommended booster shots.
Q. Is the water safe to drink in Thailand?
Generally, no. Bottled water is available pretty much everywhere. Better hotels and restaurants will often provide previously boiled drinking water that is fine to drink – but you need to ask to be sure.
Q. Should I get travel insurance for Thailand?
Yes, but check to see what your current insurance covers – sometimes it’s more than you think. A big concern is emergency evacuation (typically to Bangkok) as most insurance does not cover this and if you’re seriously hurt or sick regional hospitals will not have the resources to treat you – so a trip to Bangkok is a necessity.
World Nomads is recommended by everyone from the NY Times to Lonely Planet and has been around for years.
Q. What’s the best website for booking hotels in Thailand?
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Hotelscombined.com consistently finds the best deals and is very reliable.
Booking on the web is the easiest way to book hotels in Thailand – and you usually get the best rates online too.
These are the best links for finding hotels (and discounts):